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The letters of Eudora Welty are both personal and professional in nature. The bulk of these letters were written to five individuals:
Mary Lou Aswell, who was a fiction editor at Harper’s Bazaar when she and Welty met. Their correspondence began in 1947 and continued until Aswell died in 1984.
Frank Lyell, who was a lifelong Welty friend from Jackson, Mississippi. Lyell went on to teach English at North Carolina State University and at the University of Texas. Their correspondence spans the years 1930 to 1977, the year of Lyell’s death.
Kenneth Millar, an established mystery writer who wrote under the pen name of Ross Macdonald, and was a resident of Santa Barbara, California, when he first wrote Welty in 1970. Their correspondence continued until 1982, when Millar’s Alzheimer’s disease made it impossible.
John F. Robinson, who was Welty’s friend from their high school days together and with whom Welty was romantically involved from 1937-1952. In 1983, after Robinson’s nephew discovered a hoard of letters from Welty to his uncle, John Robinson decided that they should be returned to the author.
Diarmuid Russell, who was Welty’s agent and close friend, from 1940 until his death in 1973. Welty’s correspondence with Russell spans that period, but the collection contains her letters only from 1940-1958.
Each set of letters reveals much about Welty’s life and about her artistry.
The letters to Mary Lou Aswell are wide ranging. Of particular interest may be the ones in which Welty describes her European travels in 1949 and 1950, discusses quite frankly the years in which she cared for her ailing mother, attempts to support Mary Lou in the wake of her son Duncan Aswell’s disappearance, responds to Mary Lou’s suggestions for revising Losing Battles, and offers her opinion of the Viet Nam war.
The letters to Frank Lyell are the most numerous and show Welty’s evolution from youthful high spirits to the more familiar tempered, yet still wry sensibility. In the early letters Welty at times uses humorous pseudonyms for herself and frequently offers comic descriptions of life in Jackson or New York. Throughout the correspondence she comments on books she is reading, music (popular and classical) that appeals to her, movies she has seen, places she has visited, New York shows that have impressed her. She tells Lyell of the letters she received from William Faulkner and E. M. Forster, of her encounters with Carson McCullers, of her plans for books like The Golden Apples. She also comments on key events political events between 1930 and 1977.
The letters to John Robinson fall into two main groups. The ones from 1942 to 1945 are filled with anxiety because Robinson was serving in harm’s way during World War II. In these letters, Welty describes life on the Jackson and New York City home front, discusses her attempt to become a wartime newspaper correspondent, and urges Robinson to exercise caution in carrying out his duties. She also sends Robinson two stories that she wrote for him during the war years and that she eventually incorporated into her novel Delta Wedding. Welty’s postwar letters to Robinson reveal her attempts to help him establish a writing career and to share her understanding of the writing process. These later letters show the conflicted nature of the Welty/Robinson relationship: Welty’s discussion of the Perseus and Medusa qualities in their lives clearly anticipates the use of this mythic pattern in The Golden Apples.
After Kenneth Millar’s death, his good friend Ralph Sipper returned the letters Welty had sent to Millar. Welty first wrote to Millar before the two writers had met and expressed her admiration for his work. After their first chance meeting in New York City’s Algonquin Hotel, the two began an extensive correspondence, writing each other long letters on a regular basis for more than ten years. The letters are not love letters, but they are very loving letters. In her letters to Millar, Welty sought to provide support and encouragement when he had difficulty writing or coping with personal matters; she discussed books, friends, travels, politics; she shared her experiences of grief and her moments of triumph.
Welty’s letters to her agent Diarmuid Russell predictably include many letters about her work: the origins of her stories, her struggles to complete or revise stories, her gratitude for Russell’s editorial suggestions and for his business acumen, and her excitement when Russell succeeds in placing stories or books appear throughout the letters. The letters, however, are not merely professional. They discuss her worries about her family members and friends and her fondness for Diarmuid’s children; they report on her work in the garden, note her concerns about politics and culture, describe her travels (including her stays at the Yaddo writer’s colony, in San Francisco, and in Europe), and request Russell’s assistance for other writers. These letters show the trust, admiration, and devotion Welty had for her agent.
Note on the arrangement:
The correspondence written by Eudora Welty has been arranged alphabetically by recipient(s), and filed thereunder chronologically. Where files were arranged by Eudora Welty herself, these arrangements have been preserved. Where enclosures accompanied a letter, those groupings have been maintained, and all enclosures are filed by the recipient(s) and then by the dates of the principal item(s) of correspondence.
In some cases, approximate dates have been supplied for the correspondence by the archivists or the Welty scholar. Such information has generally been drawn from the accompanying envelopes, or from the content of the letters, and is indicated by the presence of brackets around the dates. Where the dates are unknown or partially illegible, question marks have been used. The items bearing supplied dates have been filed by these dates. If an item accompanying a piece of correspondence could better serve researchers if placed in another series (e.g. a draft of a manuscript), that material has been placed within the appropriate series and cross-references have been made on the folder of the principal piece of correspondence.
(Dates given on the list are those of the principal items of correspondence.)
|120||Andrews, Margaret - Aswell, Mary Louise (November 1956)|
|121||Aswell, Mary Louise (January 1957 - December 1966)|
|122||Aswell, Mary Louise (July 1967 - December 1973)|
|123||Aswell, Mary Louise (January 1974 – December 1981)|
|124||Aswell, Mary Louise, (January 1982 – 1984; n.d.) - Current - Garcia, Eugene|
|125||Doll, Mary – Kaye, Danny|
|126||Legg, Mary Nell - Lyell, Frank H. (October 1932 – May 1942)|
|127||Lyell, Frank H. (July 1942 – December 1947)|
|128||Lyell, Frank H. (January 1948 – December 1952)|
|129||Lyell, Frank H. (January 1953 – December 1955)|
|130||Lyell, Frank H. (January 1956 – February 1959)|
|131||Lyell, Frank H. (March 1959 – 1964)|
|132||Lyell, Frank H. (January 1965 – December 1974)|
|133||Lyell, Frank H. (January 1975 – April 1977; n.d) - Millar, Kenneth (January 1970 – December 1973)|
|134||Millar, Kenneth (January 1974 – December 1977)|
|135||Millar, Kenneth (January 1978 – November 1982; n.d.) - Robinson, John (March 1940 – July 1943)|
|136||Robinson, John (August 1943 – February 1944)|
|137||Robinson, John (March 1944 – August 1944)|
|138||Robinson, John (September 1944 – April 1945)|
|139||Robinson, John (May 1945 – August 1946)|
|140||Robinson, John (September 1946 – May 1947)|
|141||Robinson, John (June 1947 – October 1948)|
|142||Robinson, John (November 1948 – 1949)|
|143||Robinson, John (April 1950 – May 1951; n.d.) - Russell, Diarmuid (May 1940 – July 1941)|
|144||Russell, Diarmuid (August 1941 – August 1943)|
|145||Russell, Diarmuid (September 1943 – February 1947)|
|146||Russell, Diarmuid (March 1947 – March 1949)|
|147||Russell, Diarmuid (April 1949 – June 1952)|
|148||Russell, Diarmuid (July 1952 – December 1954)|
|149||Russell, Diarmuid (January 1955 – November 1958; n.d.)|
|150||Sancton, Seta Alexander - Woodburn, John|
Index of Principal Correspondents
(This list does not include correspondents whose letters were enclosures accompanying another item of correspondence).
|Principal Correspondents||Box Number|
|Aswell, Mary Louise (including some letters to Fritz Peters, and Eva Boros Brandt)||120|
|Aswell, Mary Louise||121|
|Aswell, Mary Louise (including some letters to Agnes Sims)||122|
|Aswell, Mary Louise (including some letters to Agnes Sims)||123|
|Aswell, Mary Louise (including some letters to Agnes Sims)||124|
|Babbit, Milton and Sylvia||124|
|Baer, Ellen (Mrs. Philip)||124|
|Black, Patti Carr||124|
|Charpentier, Jean (Consul)||124|
|Ebeling-Koning, Blanche T.||125|
|Fields, Joseph (including some to Jerome Chodorov)||125|
|Goodman, William B.||125|
|Graves, Gail T.||125|
|Horch, Franz J.||125|
|Husband, Deolus W.||125|
|Legg, Mary Nell||126|
|Lowry, W. McNeil||126|
|Lyell, Clarena (Mrs. G. G.)||126|
|Lyell, Frank H.||126|
|Lyell, Frank H.||127|
|Lyell, Frank H.||128|
|Lyell, Frank H.||129|
|Lyell, Frank H.||130|
|Lyell, Frank H.||131|
|Lyell, Frank H.||132|
|Lyell, Frank H.||133|
|Moore, Richard O.||135|
|New Yorker, Editors of||135|
|Pohl, Emma O.||135|
|Robinson, John F.||135|
|Robinson, John F.||136|
|Robinson, John F.||137|
|Robinson, John F.||138|
|Robinson, John F.||139|
|Robinson, John F.||140|
|Robinson, John F.||141|
|Robinson, John F.||142|
|Robinson, John F.||143|
|Russell, Diarmuid (including some letters also directed to Henry Volkening)||148|
|Sancton, Seta Alexander||150|
|Slocum, John J.||150|
|Smith, William Jay||150|
|Ticknor, William E.||150|
|Van Gelder, Robert||150|
|Vande Kieft, Ruth||150|
|Winter, William F.||150|
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