Special Collections Department
Letters to Elsa Barker
Manuscript Collection Number 350
Accessioned: Purchase, August 1996.
Extent: .1 linear ft. (47 items)
Content: Letters, menu cards, calling cards, program, sketch.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: October 1997, by Shanon Lawson.
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
Table of Contents
Throughout her life, Barker contributed poems, short stories, and articles to various magazines. Her twenty-year career as a novelist began in 1909 with The Son of Mary Bethel. Her first volume of poetry, The Frozen Grail and Other Poems (1910), followed soon after. In 1942, Barker won the Lola Ridge Award for her poem "The Iron Age." She also achieved success with three books of "automatic" writing: Letters from a Living Dead Man (1914), War Letters from the Living Dead Man (1915), and Last Letters From the Living Dead Man (1919). In this trilogy, Barker claimed to channel the words of a Los Angeles lawyer named David P. Hutch, who died in 1912. Other publications include a one-act labor play, The Scab, which was produced in New York and Boston in 1904-06, and Stories from the New Testament for Children (1911).
Barker lived most of her adult life in New York City. From 1910 to 1914, she lived in Paris and London; at some point during her residence, she apparently studied under Carl Jung. She also lived on the French Riviera from 1928-1930. When she died on August 31, 1954, she was one of the last surviving charter members of the Poetry Society of America.
Sources:Shepard, Leslie. Ed. Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, Vol 1. Detroit: Gale
Research Co, 1984.
"Mrs. Elsa Barker, Poet and Author." New York Times, 26 Aug., 1954: 27.
Scope and Content Note
These letters, which address both personal and professional issues, are from several of Barker's friends and associates. The collection contains several letters from Count Axel Raoul Wachtmeister, a German composer who set Barker's poem "The Frozen Grail" to music, and who helped to attract German publisher Yrsa Bang to her detective novel, The Cobra Candlestick (1928). There is also a group of letters from Barker's friend Rowena, Countess of Somerset, which provides details of England during World War II. Both writers express admiration for Barker's poetry, although both are concerned for her health during the 1930s.
Others who wrote to Barker include Vance Thompson, Russell Doubleday, Leigh Hanes, Claire de Pratz, and Ernesta Stern. The collection also contains letters from two literary societies to which Barker belonged: the New York Poetry Group, and the Poetry Society. Most of the literary discussion in the letters concerns Barker's poetry, rather than her novels or automatic writings.
Letters To Elsa Barker 1910-1948 F1 D'Esternaux, Ethelyn 1948 Nov 6 TLS 1p [n.y.] Apr 24 ALS 3p F2 Doubleday, Russell, 1872 1919 Sep 30 TLS 1p F3 Forbes-Robertson, Ian [n.y.] Jan 14 ALS 1p F4 Fox, Alice H. [n.d.] ALS 3p F5 Guthrie, William Norman, 1868-1944 1918 Dec 23 TLS 1p F6 Hanes, Leigh 1948 Apr 13 TLS 1p F7 Harre, Thomas, Everett, 1884- 1915 Oct 12 TLS 1p 1929 Jul 10 TLS 1p F8 Kiburn-Kilmer, Annie 1931 Nov 30 TLS 1p F9 Pratz, Claire de 1918 Apr 13 ALS 3p F10 Simpson, Alice Jasmine [n.d.] ALS 6p F11 Somerset, Rowena  Jan 28 ALS 2p  Dec 15 ALS 3p 1937 Jan 2 ALS 4p  Nov 23 ALS 2p [n.y.] Jan 28 ALS 4p [n.y.] Mar 31 ALS 2p [n.y.] Jul 28 ALS 4p [n.y.] Sep 29 ALS 2p [n.y.] Oct 12 ALS 4p F12 Stern, Ernesta 1919 ALS 4p Note: written in French. 1920 Dec 6 ALS 5p Note: written in French. English note from Claire de Pratz on last page. 1922 Nov 8 ALS 2p Note: written in French. F13 Tancred, F.W. 1913 Jun 2 TLS 1p F14 Thompson, Vance, 1863-1925 1915 Apr 23 ALS 2p 1915 Sep 1 Telegram 1p 1915 Nov 8 ALS 2p [1916 Jan 8] ALS 2p F15 Van Eeden, Frederick 1915 Mar 28 TLS 1p 1916 Dec 8 TLS 1p F16 Viereck, F.S. 1910 May 13 TLS 1p F17 Wachtmeister, Axel Raoul Contains ten letters, two of Wachtmeister's calling cards, and a program for a 1931 German production of "Der kalte Graal," Wachtmeister's musical adaption of Barker's poem "The Frozen Grail." 1916 Aug 23 ALS 4p 1917 Jun 12 ALS 2p 1917 Jun 13 ALS 2p 1930 Sep 3 ALS 1p 1932 Dec 25 ALS 2p 1934 Dec 16 ALS 2p 1935 Feb 13 ALS 4p 1935 Sep 18 ALS 1p Note: also includes TLS from Yrsa Bang. F17 Wachtmeister (cont'd) 1939 Dec 9 ACS 1p 1941 Feb 23 ALS 2p F18 Unidentified correspondents 1913 May 15 ALS 2p Note: Written on Author's Club stationery. [n.d.] ALS 2p Note: Signed "Estelle" F19 Miscellaneous ephemera Contains two menu cards autographed by those attending the dinners, and a pencil tracing of an Olive Herford sketch.
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