Scope and Contents
The estate of William Lyon Phelps donated a major portion of the Phelps Papers to the Yale University Library in 1943. Thomas S. Brush donated a significant addition to the papers in memory of Katherine B. Ingersoll in 1957. Additional gifts were received from several individuals between 1955 and 1984.
The papers are arranged in five series: I. Correspondence, 1888-1944. II. Research Files, 1889-1936. III. Student Notebooks, 1878-1904. IV. Personal Files, 1883-1943. V. Family Papers, 1826-1930.
Series II is the largest in the papers. It includes seven boxes of printed volumes annotated with Phelps's notes on the works of several major English authors. The most complete notes are those on the works of Browning. The NOTES section of the series includes Phelps's lecture notes, either for his course lectures or for his public lecture series, along with occasional items of correspondence, clippings, and printed material. Most lecture notes are on specific American, English, or European novelists, playwrights, and poets, but there are also notes on more general literary subjects. The section also includes notebooks from Phelps's research at the British Museum in 1900.
Series III is composed of volumes of notes taken by Phelps during his graduate course work and research at Yale and Harvard and later studies in Germany. The notebooks record course work with Professors Wheeler, Beers, Ladd, Sumner, and Dexter at Yale, and with Professors Baker, Wendel, Royce, Child, Kittredge, and Briggs at Harvard. In addition the series includes notebooks from the Yale University Bible Club under Dr. Sanders, Phelps's 1887 honors thesis on the "Idealism of George Berkeley," notebooks on mathematics from Phelps's high school studies at Hartford Public High School, and Phelps's lecture notes from his year of teaching at the Westminster School.
Series IV includes Phelps's writings, notes, scrapbooks, student papers, and memorabilia. The articles and speeches include typescripts of Phelps's column on books, "Billy Speaks," while folders 233-246 contain mounted clippings in notebooks of Phelps's syndicated newspaper column from 1933 to 1937. Folder 247 contains a copy of Phelps's address as Hartford High School class orator, while folder 250 includes poems written by Phelps. These writings represent a limited sample of Phelps's work. Folder 231 contains additional lecture notes by Phelps and others, while folder 228 is composed of the tributes to Yale honorary degree recipients which were read by Phelps at commencement. Phelps's notes and other research material on Browning are contained in folders 226-227.
The series also includes several one act plays written by students, exam questions and students' exams, and Phelps's gradebooks. In addition the series contains memorabilia of the Metaphysicals such as invitations and parodies for their feast for the sons of John Donne at which Phelps acted as toastmaster. Folder 251 contains a scrapbook of clippings about Phelps, many of them chronicling his activities during summers spent in Huron City, Michigan.
Series V includes a small quantity of family papers, which relate primarily to Sylvanus Dryden Phelps, father of William Lyon Phelps, and to Phelps's wife, Annabel Phelps. The series contains a brief daily diary of Annabel Phelps for January and February 1899. Sylvanus Dryden Phelps's autobography of his life from 1817 to 1839 is in folder 269. Portions of this memoir are transcribed in the biographical sketch in folder 268. Poems by Sylvanus Phelps are included in folder 270. Folder 267 contains an 1841 autograph book of Hannah B.C. Phelps, whose relation to William Lyon Phelps, if any, is unclear. The volume was purchased as a gift for Phelps by a Michigan friend.
- Majority of material found within 1887 - 1943
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Immediate Source of Acquisition
10.5 Linear Feet
Biographical / Historical
- Guide to the William Lyon Phelps Papers
- compiled by Diane E. Kaplan and William E. Brown, Jr.
- January 1987
- Language of description
- Finding aid written in English.
- February 2005: Finding aid revision description not supplied.