Mississippi Department of Archives and History - Archives and Record Services Division Catalog

 Basic Search
Manuscript Search
 Advanced Search Online Archives Help 

View Catalog Record

Z 0301.000
Series 29a: Correspondence by Eudora Welty.

1918 - 1994; n.d.
15.50 cubic ft.

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.

Suzanne Marrs

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.

Box List:

(Dates given on the list are those of the principal items of correspondence.)

Box number Contents
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
Andrews, Margaret 120
Ascher, Barbara 120
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
Bergman, [Alan] 124
Black, Patti Carr 124
Brickel, Herschel 124
Capers, Charlotte 124
Charpentier, Jean (Consul) 124
Comes-Winslow, Marcella 124
Cranfill, Betty 124
Creekmore, Hubert 124
Current-Garcia, Eugene 124
Doll, Mary 125
Dowling, Eddie 125
Ebeling-Koning, Blanche T. 125
Erskine, Albert 125
Ferrone, John 125
Fields, Joseph (including some to Jerome Chodorov) 125
Givner, Joan 125
Goodman, William B. 125
Graves, Gail T. 125
Gregorian, Vartun 125
Haxton, Josephine 125
Hill, Margaret 125
Hilton, Ralph 125
Holmes, Shirlee 125
Horch, Franz J. 125
Husband, Deolus W. 125
Jackson, Mrs. 125
Jones, Alun 125
Jovanovich, William 125
Kaye, Danny 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
Matthews, Paul 133
McCormick, Ken 133
Mian, Mary 133
Millar, Kenneth 133
Millar, Kenneth 134
Millar, Kenneth 135
Millar, Margaret 135
Miller, Lindsay 135
Moore, Richard O. 135
New Yorker, Editors of 135
Parks, James 135
Pitavy, Daniele 135
Plimpton, George 135
Pohl, Emma O. 135
Price, Reynolds 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
Robin 143
Rood, John 143
Russell, Diarmuid 143
Russell, Diarmuid 144
Russell, Diarmuid 145
Russell, Diarmuid 146
Russell, Diarmuid 147
Russell, Diarmuid (including some letters also directed to Henry Volkening) 148
Russell, Diarmuid 149
Sancton, Seta Alexander 150
Seldes, Tim 150
Sharp, Ron 150
Shattuck, Charles 150
Shawn, William 150
Shear, Jennifer 150
Simmons, Dorothy 150
Sims, Agnes 150
Slocum, John J. 150
Smith, William Jay 150
Ticknor, William E. 150
Van Gelder, Robert 150
Vande Kieft, Ruth 150
Volkening, Henry 150
Warram, Sarah 150
Welty, Chestina 150
Wheatley, Patchy 150
White, Mrs. 150
Wickenden, Dan 150
Wilbur, Charlee 150
Winter, William F. 150
Woodburn, John 150

Table of Contents