University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department




Manuscript Collection Number: 103
Accessioned: Purchase, 1983-1984.
Extent: 15.5 linear ft. (ca. 18,400 pages)
Content: Correspondence, photographs, poetry, essays, books, reviews, speeches, drafts, and ephemera.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: Originally processed in 1983, revised 1988-1991 by Anita A. Wellner.

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Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
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(302) 831-2229

Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Poet and biographer John Malcolm Brinnin was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on September 13, 1916, to John A. Brinnin and Frances Malcolm Brinnin. When he was young his family moved to Detroit, Michigan. Brinnin graduated from the University of Michigan in 1942 and within a year entered graduate school at Harvard University.

Brinnin, who was also a critic, anthologist, and teacher, taught at Vassar, Boston University, the University of Connecticut, and Harvard. He was Director of the Young Men's and Young Women's Hebrew Association Poetry Center (the 92nd Street Y) in New York City during one of the Center's most successful periods (1949-1956).

Brinnin was the first person to bring Welsh poet Dylan Thomas to the United States and was responsible for all of Dylan Thomas's reading tours in this country. Brinnin's best known work, Dylan Thomas in America, published in 1955, provides a personal memoir of Dylan Thomas's trips to America as Brinnin observed them, and carries a moving account of the period of Thomas's death in 1953. Dylan Thomas in America was made into the 1964 Broadway play, Dylan. Brinnin later narrated a motion picture, The Days of Dylan Thomas.

John Malcolm Brinnin published a number of collections of poems. Brinnin's first collection of verse, The Garden is Political, was published in 1942. Subsequent collections of poems include The Lincoln Lyrics (1942), No Arch, No Triumph (1945), The Sorrows of Cold Stone (1951), and Selected Poems of John Malcolm Brinnin (1963). Skin Diving in the Virgins, and Other Poems (1970) was Brinnin's final collection of published poetry, although he continued to tinker with a number of abandoned poems until his death.

In 1955 the Poetry Society of America awarded Brinnin its Gold Medal for Distinguished Service to Poetry. Following the publication of his Selected Poems in 1963, Brinnin was awarded the Centennial Medal for Distinction in Literature by his alma mater, the University of Michigan.

In addition to writing poetry, Brinnin edited a literary journal, Signatures (1936-1938), and compiled several anthologies of modern poetry. Brinnin's two popular works on transatlantic travel, The Sway of the Grand Saloon: A Social History of the North Atlantic (1971) and Beau Voyage: Life Abroad the Last Great Ships (1981), reflect his lifelong love of travel, particularly crossing the Atlantic on luxury liners.

John Malcolm Brinnin authored biographies of Gertrude Stein (The Third Rose, 1959) and Truman Capote (Truman Capote: Dear Heart, Old Buddy, 1986). His work, Sextet (1981), included biographical sketches of Truman Capote; Henri Cartier-Bresson; Elizabeth Bowen; Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell Sitwell; Alice B. Toklas; and T. S. Eliot. In addition, he wrote a critical work on William Carlos Williams.

John Malcolm Brinnin died at his home in Key West, Florida, on June 25, 1998.


Evory, Ann (ed.) Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series, Volume 1. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1981. p. 72.

Quartermain, Peter (ed.) Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 48: American Poets, 1880-1945, Second Series. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1986. Pp 52-57.

Stewart, Barbara. "John Malcolm Brinnin, Poet and Biographer, Dies at 81," The New York Times. 1998 Jun 30.

Scope and Content Note

The John Malcolm Brinnin Papers consist of 15.5 linear feet of material related to the writing, speaking and teaching career of Brinnin. The collection includes correspondence; photographs; books; drafts of poetry, essays, speeches, biographies, and other forms of writing by Brinnin. Additionally manuscripts by other writers, travel ephemera, and material related to the New York Poetry Center are available in the collection.

Because of his work at the Poetry Center and his compilation of anthologies of poetry, Brinnin has corresponded with most of the major poets of his time. This correspondence, contained in Series I of this manuscript collection, contains a vast amount of information on the literary life of the period and on its participants. Correspondents include John Ashbery, Elizabeth Bishop, Kay Boyle, Truman Capote, Richard Eberhart, T. S. Eliot, Kimon Friar, Denise Levertov, Robert Lowell, James Merrill, Howard Moss, Katharine Anne Porter, Bill Read, Alan Tate, Dylan Thomas, Richard Wilbur, and numerous others.

Series II consists of correspondence and material related to Dylan Thomas. Brinnin organized Dylan Thomass reading tours in America between 1950 and 1953, visited Thomas in Wales, and was present when Thomas died (while in New York in 1953 for another reading tour). The series includes letters from Dylan and Caitlin Thomas to Brinnin, several autograph poems by Thomas, Brinnin's manuscripts of Dylan Thomas in America, photographs, information on the reading tours, and miscellaneous material gathered by Brinnin on Thomas.

Series III consists of autograph and typescript manuscripts written by John Malcolm Brinnin. Included is material for most of Brinnin's published works prior to 1980. The sections of poetry are extensive and exhibit Brinnin's characteristic trait of making numerous revisions to individual poems.

Series IV consists of manuscripts of work by other writers, including Elizabeth Bishop, Tram Combs, Irving Feldman, Kimon Friar, Jean Garrigue, James Scully, Anne Sexton, and Edith Sitwell.

Series V consists of miscellaneous material related to John Malcolm Brinnin. Included are photographs, awards, travel ephemera, information about the Poetry Center, material related to speeches and lectures, printed material about John Malcolm Brinnin, and material collected by Brinnin. Of particular note is a guest book, kept by Brinnin at his home in Duxbury, Massachusetts. It contains signatures, notes, and occasional autograph poetry by a number of literary figures, including Richard Wilbur, Howard Moss, Ruthven Todd, Tram Combs, Kay Boyle, Seymour Lawrence, James Scully, Kimon Friar, John Lehman, Irving Feldman, Helen Vendler, Frank Bidart, Octavia Paz, Penelope Mortimer, and others.

Related Collections:

Other Collections Containing Material Related to John Malcolm Brinnin:

Ms 99 Brinnin letter to [Jane] (F330)

Ms 99 Brinnin letters to Samuel M. Baker, Jr. (F412)

Ms 111 Louis Untermeyer Papers (F24)

Ms 178 Tram Combs Correspondence (F1-16)

Ms 257 Collection of John Malcolm Brinnon - Kimon Friar Correspondence and Brinnin Literary Manuscripts

Series List

	Series I. 
	Literary and professional correspondence, 1930-1982  	8

1    Abbe, George - Bettis, Valerie                             8
2    Bishop, Elizabeth - Brennan, Mauve                        13
3    Broadwater, Bowden - Campbell, Joseph                     18
4    Campbell, Robert Bhain - Combs, Tram                      19
5    Comfort, Alex - Durrell, Lawrence                         24
6    Dyment, Clifford - Fraser, George MacDonald               27
7    Friar, Kimon - Fry, Christopher                           30
8    Fuller, Roy - Hersey, John                                30

	Series I. 
	Literary and professional correspondence, I - R

9    Heyen, William - Kirkup, James                            34
10   Korg, Jacob - Lowell, Robert                              38
11   Ludwig, Richard - Miller, Arthur                          41
12   Miller, Charles - Moss, Howard                            46
13   Moss, Howard - Patchen, Kenneth                           47
14   Paz, Octavio - Rauch, Basil                               50
15-16  Read, Bill     				54

	Series I. 
	Literary and professional correspondence, S - Z

17   Read, Herbert - Sichel, Pierre                            55
18   Sieveking, Lance - Stafford, Jean                         60
19   Stafford, William - Theobald, John                        64
20-25  Thompson, John Hinsdale     		67
26   Tillinghast, Richard - Whittemore, Reed                   69
27   Wilbur, Charlee and Richard - Zinnes, Harriet             74
28-30  Miscellaneous correspondence     	76	

	Series II.  
	Material relating to Dylan Thomas, 1949-1976       	   77

     1.  Correspondence between Dylan Thomas and Brinnin, 1949-
1953                                                           77
     2.  Letter from Dylan Thomas to his parents, 1950         80
     3.  Letters from Caitlin Thomas to Dylan Thomas, Brinnin,
          and Francie Brinnin, plus related items, 1950-1975   80
     4.  Letters from Mrs. MacNamara (Caitlin's mother) to
Caitlin Thomas
          and Read, 1953                                       81
     5.  Letters from Aeronwy Thomas (Dylan's daughter) to
Brinnin, 1972-1976                                             82
     6.  Letter from Llwelyn Thomas (Dylan's son) to Brinnin,
[n.d.]                                                         82
     7.  Correspondence and material related to Thomas's reading
          in America, 1950-1955                                82
     8.  Material related to Dylan Thomas's death, 1953-1955   83
     9.  Manuscripts by Dylan Thomas, 1949-1957                83
     10. Photographs related to Dylan Thomas, 1950-1953        84
     11. Material written about Dylan Thomas, 1950-1972        85
     12. Miscellaneous material related to Dylan Thomas, 1950-
1972                                                           88

	Series III.
	Manuscripts by John Malcolm Brinnin, 1930-1976 		89

	Series IV.
	Manuscripts by other writers, 1918-1981           102

     1.  Bidart, Frank, 1975                                  102
     2.  Bishop, Elizabeth, 1975-1977                         102
     3.  Campbell, Robert Bhain, 1938-1938                    103
     4.  Combs, Tram, 1954-1967                               103
     5.  Feldman, Irving, 1955-1981                           105
     6.  Friar, Kimon, [n.d.]                                 110
     7.  Garrigue, Jean, 1942                                 110
     8.  Jarrell, Randall, 1965                               110
     9.  Kallman, Chester, [n.d.]                             110
     10. Purdy, Harry, [n.d.]                                 110
     11.  Quinn, Kerker, [n.d.]                               111
     12.  Russell, Peter, 1918-1965                           111
     13.  Scott, Winfield Townley, [n.d.]                     112
     14.  Scully, James, 1961-1966                            112
     15.  Sexton, Anne, [n.d.]                                115
     16.  Shattuck, Roger, [n.d.]                             116
     17.  Sitwell, Edith, Dame, [n.d.]                        116
     18.  Waldrop, Rosemarie and Keith, 1971-1972             116

	Series V.  
	Miscellany related to John Malcolm Brinnin, 1916-1978       116

     1.  Photographs, 1943-1973                               116
     2.  Awards and honors, 1940-1978                         117
     3.  Travel ephemera, 1936-1972                           117
     4.  Material related to the YMHA - YWHA Poetry Center, 1950-
1969                                                          117
     5.  Materials related to Brinnins published works, 1942-1972
     6.  Materials related to speeches, lectures, programs, and
conferences, 1947-1971                                        118
     7.  Material published about John Malcolm Brinnin, 1936-1976
     8.  Ephemera related to Brinnin, 1916-1975               118
     9.  Miscellaneous printed material collected by Brinnin,
1920-1972                                                     118

Appendix A:  
List of printed material removed from the collection, to be cataloged
     for Special Collections, 1927-1978                       119

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