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Louise Morgan and Otto Theis papers

Call Number: GEN MSS 80
Scope and Contents
The Louise Morgan and Otto Theis Papers document their literary and personal lives. The papers cover the period 1903-83, but the majority of the material falls within 1930-60.

Series I, Correspondence contains letters from colleagues and friends of Morgan and Theis. Louise Morgan was the recipient of the great majority of the letters. Series II, Subject Files, holds a variety of material, collected mainly by Morgan and related to contemporary literary figures. This series contains manuscripts sent to the Theises for review, research files assembled by Morgan, and business correspondence. Professional Papers, Series III, documents the couple's association with Outlook and Everyman. This series includes correspondence and research material concerning Louise Morgan's book, Inside Yourself, and a large file of book reviews by Otto Theis. The last two series, Evelyn Scott Papers and Nancy Cunard Papers, primarily consist of correspondence with the Theises and others writing to Scott or Cunard.

Series I, Correspondence, housed in Boxes 1-20, is arranged alphabetically by name and then chronologically. Photographs, third person correspondence, manuscripts, or newspaper clippings often accompany the correspondence.

Otto's early life in the United States is described in the letters of Donald Evans. Both Evans and Theis worked for newspapers in Philadelphia and New York in the first decade of the twentieth century. Evans, a poet, was the most prolific letter-writer in a group of young men who looked up to Otto, often addressing him as "Papa." Others were Norwald Shapleigh, Charles Menard, and an unknown Claude. Another important source for Otto's early life is the Evelyn Scott correspondence which includes Otto's recollections of the Scotts (Box 35, folder 841).

The next stage in Theis's life is documented in the letters of John Balderston, editor of the Outlook, and his wife Marion, which date from his early years in England.

Since the bulk of the letters in this collection are addressed to Louise, her life is much more fully documented than Otto's. Correspondence with Marion Balderston and Evelyn Pember gives a good overview of Louise's career. Fanny Holtzmann's correspondence provides insight into Louise's character. Louise and Fanny were long time friends, but in 1963 they fought over the financial problems of Gertrude Lawrence's daughter, Pamela Clatworthy (See Box 10, folder 202; Box 23, folder 531). Letters from Irene Rathbone in the 1950s and 1960s show Louise as a keen observer of the literary world.

Series I reflects Morgan's and Theis's relationships with newspapers, literary journals, and book publishers. Poultney Bigelow's letters discuss the newspaper world in general. Otto's friend Donald Evans worked for the The New York Times prior to World War II, and through the 1950s Louise and Otto had such close friends in the newspaper business as Conant Brodribb, Sanford Griffith, and Raymond Swing. Letters from St. John Ervine, F. J. Gould, and Jim Ratcliffe comment on the News Chronicle.

Information on Everyman can be found in the letters from Larry Murrow and H. R. Dent. Both A. Wyatt Tilby and J. L. Garvin comment on the journal's problems in 1933 and its changing aspect. There are interviews with J. L. Garvin, John Masefield, R. H. Mottram, and Ben Travers, and letters from contributors such as H. E. Bates, Osbert Burdett, Louis Golding, James Hanley, James Hilton, Storm Jameson, and C. Mackenzie.

Other material in Series I relates to the journal Outlook (See J. L. Balderston, Shane Leslie, and Sir Charles Ross). In 1926 Shane Leslie corresponded with the Outlook's owner, the Duke of Westminster, about the future of the journal. Eleanor Norton sent many of her poems to the paper, while Osbert Burdett, Millicent Hawes (Duchess of Sutherland), and Bertrand Russell wrote reviews.

Owners and editors of journals--Thomas Hopkinson of Picture Post and Lilliput, and John Roberts of the New Statesman, for example--communicated with the Theises. Joan Woollcombe discussed journals and newspapers in her letters to Louise.

Series I also contains information on British publishers. The majority of the Theises' correspondents were active authors whose business relationships with and opinions of publishers were freely discussed in their letters (See especially Richard Church, Nancy Cunard, Gladys Edgerton, Donald Evans, Sanford Griffith, and Evelyn Scott). Correspondence with publishers adds another perspective. Jonathan Cape's letters contain both business and personal news.

Other authors represented in Series I include Richard Aldington, Kay Boyle, Bryher, H.D., Storm Jameson, Robert McAlmon, and Dorothy Richardson. Louise recorded her impressions of these literary figures in a typescript labeled "Ellerman Recollections" and in a business journal she kept while employed by Everyman (See Box 21, folder 472; Box 27, folder 659). Other correspondents include Herbert Edward Palmer, Marguerite Steen, and Mona Wilkinson.

Otto and, to a lesser extent, Louise worked as literary agents. This part of their career is documented in the correspondence of such clients as William Cameron, Freda Mansel (pen name Snowdon Blake), Rita Morgan, George Padmore, Tony Powell-Edwards, Rhondda Rankin, Lady Aueril Sanderson, Arthur Schnitzler, and Cyril Scott. Along with letters from the author, these files usually include Otto's correspondence with the publishers and review drafts or reading notes. Louise's activities as an agent were more editorial. Her clients included George Camden, William Cameron, Frieda Hauswith Das, Halide Edib, and Raymond Swing.

Series I provides information on Louise's career in journalism. Although there is little manuscript material from her association with News Chronicle and Good Housekeeping, there is a good deal of research material, including correspondence related to children's health, education, and welfare. She corresponded with Anna Freud, who ran the Hampstead Nursery during World War II (see Box 8, folder 162-63; Box 23, folder 521-23). Materials related to Estrid Dane were probably used in an article on the doctor's work with deformed babies. Other letters about children can be found in the correspondence of Jessica Alberry, Winthrop Aldrich, Lady Joan and Polly Allen, Heda Enthoven, Margaret Lowenfeld, A. S. Neill, and Zoe Puxley. Louise's interest in health and the social welfare system is documented by correspondence with H. C. Boyde, Doris Buchanan, Lord Thomas Horder, Gwen Longmoor, Mary Sommerville, and Janet Vaughan.

Life in England during World War II is depicted in the Balderston letters. Marion Balderston urged Louise to send her son to the United States during the bombing of London. John Balderston shared Louise's concern about the lack of nutrition in the diet of British workers. The letters of Eunice Hunt, Frazier Hunt, and Mary Spender's add to the picture of life during the war years.

Louise and Otto corresponded with friends about twentieth century politics and Jewish issues. K. Wied traveled through Germany in 1938-39 and described his impressions to Otto. Jane Mead and Anne Sturge discussed Anglo-American relations in their letters. For correspondence regarding European refugees and Jewish evacuees see Adam Eppenstein in ("E" general), Paul Gelb in ("G" general), Fryn Jesse, and Lady Mountbatten. Post-World War II Jewish issues are discussed in Fanny Holtzmann's letters.

Series II, Subject Files , found in Boxes 21-26, primarily contains material about contemporary authors and subjects collected by Morgan for her writing. Many correspondents represented in Series I are found as subjects in Series II.

Morgan's association with Everyman is well documented by manuscripts of articles by H. E. Bates, Augustine Birrell, and others. Paul Bloomfield's artwork for the journal is present. Louise's notes on E. K. Chesterton, John Masefield, G. B. Shaw, and J. C. Squire relate to a series of biographies she wrote for Everyman.

Most of the material in Series II dates from Morgan's time with News Chronicle and probably concerns articles she wrote for it. The files for anthropology, Basic English, and Peculiar People contain material she collected for stories. She also created biography files, such as those for Sir John Reeves Ellerman, Dorothy Richardson, Alys Russell, and Anne de Selincourt. Her interest in health and public welfare is well documented in Subject Files (See, for instance, Pioneer Health Center and Nutrition).

Otto's career and writing are not as well documented. The business correspondence with Coco Chanel's agent is the only material related to Outlook. The files on E. A. Robinson and sea battles seem to be Otto's research material. Otto's employment by publishers is documented in the Nicholas L. Brown correspondence. Series II contains material relating to Otto's work as a literary agent, see, for example, the files for George Padmore and William Cameron.

Subject Files contain many manuscripts by British authors, including poems by Conant Brodribb, Herbert Edward Palmer, and Raymond Swing. Plays by John Balderston and Rita Morgan are in this series, along with writings of William Cameron, Catherina Godwin, Storm Jameson, and Robert McAlmon. The Theises also collected newspaper clippings, photographs, and articles relating to authors they knew. The files on Morgan and Theis in Series II contain a small quantity of personal papers.

Series III, Professional Papers , is located in Boxes 27-32 and is arranged in four sections. Everyman and Outlook contain material concerning those journals. The third section is devoted to Louise's research for Inside Yourself, and the fourth to Otto's book reviews.

The papers in the Everyman section describe the last years of the journal's life. "History," Louise's memorandum to Sir Robert Donald, the owner of Everyman provides a good overview of operations from 1929 to around 1933. The business correspondence gives a more detailed account of the decline of Everyman, and Louise's business journal documents the daily life of a literary editor. In 1931 Louise conducted a series of interviews with authors, resulting in articles (four of which are found in this collection) that were printed in Everyman and republished in Writers at Work.

Outlook is not nearly so well documented. As with Everyman records, the collection provides information on the last years of the magazine, but there is little more that business correspondence for 1925 and 1928.

The third subseries of Series III contains material about Morgan's Inside Yourself, a book about F. M. Alexander's exercise method for the disabled. The papers include Morgan's research material as well as documents relating to the promotion and reception of the book. When Louise set out to write a book on Alexander, she corresponded with him and his disciples, collected works by these trainers and works about the method, and gathered articles on posture and health. The section Correspondence Regarding Publication includes fan mail and Louise's letters to professional groups seeking endorsement of her work, as well as correspondence with publishers. After the book appeared, Lord Thomas Horder complained that he was misrepresented, and the collection contains a series of letters between Louise and the publishers about this controversy.

Theis Literary Papers documents Otto's work for publishers. The correspondence, arranged alphabetically by surname, includes letters to and from publishers, reviewers, and authors. There is extensive correspondence with Jonathan Cape and Simpkin Marshall, publishers who employed Otto as a regular reader. Letters regarding review manuscripts (which are present in the collection) have been filed with the manuscripts. The review material consists of reader reports, draft reviews, and notes by Otto, plus reviews by other people employed by Otto (such as Charles Ashleigh and Dorothy Harwood). Most of the reviews seem to have been written for Horace Liveright to examine the feasibility of republishing foreign works in the United States. Otto reviewed works by Vicki Baum, Enid Clay, Joseph Conrad, Nancy Cunard, Adolf Hitler, and many German authors.

Series III also contains some manuscript material by Louise and Otto. The article attributed to Louise is unsigned, but its style and subject matter are similar to Louise's prose.

Evelyn Scott Papers (Series IV) consist primarily of correspondence and are located in Boxes 33-35. Scott's correspondence centers on her life in France, England, Canada, and the United States during the 1920s and examines her personal relationships with Cyril Scott, Owen Merton, and John Metcalfe. A series of love letters written by Scott to Merton were sent to Louise for delivery. Letters by Scott, Merton, and Metcalfe are filed under a second series of related correspondence. Cyril Scott's letters reveal more about Evelyn than those of Metcalfe or Merton. Even after their separation, his letters to Louise and Otto contain news of and express concern for her. John Metcalfe wrote many letters to Louise and Otto about Evelyn after her death in 1963.

Evelyn, Cyril, and John also wrote about their literary endeavors. Evelyn constantly described her working moods and Cyril's and her publication hopes. Cyril's correspondence includes both personal comments on writing and business correspondence on the publication of Siren. John Metcalfe's correspondence touches on his work for Outlook.

A letter to Otto written by Louise while visiting Evelyn, Cyril, and Owen in France provides insight into their relationships. There is a manuscript by Otto describing his first meeting with Evelyn and Cyril (Box 35, folder 841). Most of the letters in the folder of other correspondents relate to Owen Merton. References to Evelyn and her circle can also be found in Series I in the letters of Esther Andrews, Bernice Elliot, and particularly Gladys Edgerton.

Series V (Nancy Cunard Papers) fills Boxes 37-38 and is divided into Cunard Correspondence and Related Correspondence and Papers. The second section contains letters to the Theises from individuals associated with Cunard. There are also drafts of poems by Cunard and papers concerning her interests.

Nancy Cunard's correspondence with the Theises chronicles her major interests, from blacks in society to fascism and the Spanish Civil War. Nancy often turned to Otto for literary advice. Letters for 1932-33 deal with her anthology Colour, and those for 1934 focus on Negro. In 1953 she discussed her plans for a book on Norman Douglas and three years later wrote about an idea for a work on authors she had known. She frequently enclosed poems in her letters, particularly in the 1960s. During the 1930s, Cunard advised many young American black authors to contact Louise and Otto and introduced them by letter. George Padmore was one who benefited from Nancy's friendship with the Theises.

The collection contains notes by Louise during the period of Nancy Cunard's confinement in the Holloway Sanatorium in 1960 and correspondence with doctors about her condition. Cunard later returned to France with John Banting, and there are letters from him to Louise describing Cunard's last years. Series I contains correspondence of others who knew Cunard. Of particular interest are the letters of Nina Conarain, Martha Gordon-Crotch, and Irene Rathbone.
Conditions Governing Access
Box 40: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.
Conditions Governing Use
The Louise Morgan and Otto Theis Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Michael Theis organized his parents' papers and sold them to William Reese Co., from which The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library purchased them in September and December of 1986 on the Edwin J. Beinecke Book Fund.
1903 - 1983
Majority of material found within 1930 - 1960
18 Linear Feet (40 boxes)
Related Names
Morgan, Louise
Language of Materials