Special Collections Department
JOHN MALCOLM BRINNIN
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.
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
Table of Contents
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.
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.
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)
Page Series I. Literary and professional correspondence, 1930-1982 8 Box 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 tours 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 Page 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 117 6. Materials related to speeches, lectures, programs, and conferences, 1947-1971 118 7. Material published about John Malcolm Brinnin, 1936-1976 118 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
Last modified: 01/19/11