Special Collections Department
John Matthew O’Shea
1977 - 1991
Manuscript Collection Number: 404
Accessioned: Gift of John M. O’Shea, March 2001
Extent: .2 linear ft. (54 items)
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: March 2001, 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 Aboard 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.
John Malcolm Brinnin Letters to John Matthew O’Shea consists of fifty-four letters written by Brinnin, between 1977 and 1991, to his friend John O’Shea, who was a companion to Truman Capote during the 1970s. One of Brinnin’s letters is written on the verso of a letter written by O’Shea to Brinnin.
When the first letters available in this collection were written, Brinnin was coping with the illness of his long-time friend Bill Read, who died in June 19, 1978. In his letters Brinnin reflected on his situation and inquired about O’Shea’s life with his friend Truman Capote.
After a six-year gap, the correspondence resumed in 1984, following the death of Truman Capote. Since O’Shea resided in Florida, he and Brinnin arranged to meet during the months when Brinnin wintered in Key West. Although the letters between 1984 and 1991 mention visits, travels, and mutual friends, the main subject is Brinnin’s work on Truman Capote: Dear Heart, Old Buddy (Delacorte Press, 1986).
This collection complements thirteen letters written by John O’Shea to Brinnin, which are available in the John Malcolm Brinnin Papers (Ms 103). In those letters, written between 1977 and 1994, O’Shea mentions Truman Capote, other aspects of his personal life, and his work. A copy of the typescript for John O’Shea’s eulogy to Truman Capote, titled “The Little Tippler,” is also included in the Brinnin Papers (Series III.7, F7).
Ms 99 John Malcolm Brinnin letter to [Jane] (F330)
Ms 99 John Malcolm Brinnin letter to Samuel M. Baker, Jr. (F412)
Ms 103 John Malcolm Brinnin Papers
Ms 178 Tram Combs Correspondence
Ms 363 Edward Field Papers (Series II, F47)
Box -- Folder -- Contents
Letters written by John Malcolm Brinnin to John Matthew O’Shea, 1977-1991 F1 1977 Nov 4 ALS 1p Nov 22 ALS 1p (torn) 1978 Apr 22 ALS 2p Oct 2 TLS 2p F2 1984 Sep 20 TLS 1p Nov 22 ALS 2p Dec 1 ALS 1p Dec 22 ALS 2p F3 1985 Feb 28 ALS 1p Mar 12 ALS 1p [May 20] ALS 1p Note: Brinnin’s letter is written on the verso of an O’Shea letter to Brinnin dated May 20, 1985. Jun 2 ALS 1p Jun 5 ALS 1p Jun 25 ALS 2p Jul 8 ALS 2p Jul 29 ALS 2p F4 1985 Aug 9 ALS 1p Sep 10 ALS 2p Sep 25 ALS 2p Oct 9 ALS 2p Oct 20 ALS 3p Oct 30 ALS 2p F5 1985 Nov 13 ALS 2p Nov 22 ALS 2p Dec 8 ALS 2p Dec 17 ALS 1p Dec 22 TLS 1p Dec 24 ALS 2p Dec 27 ALS 1p F6 1986 Jan 11 ALS 2p Jan 19 ALS 1p Feb 2 ALS 1p Feb 9 ALS 2p Feb 17 ALS 2p Mar 1 ALS 1p Mar 16 ALS 1p Apr 16 ALS 2p Easter ALS 1p F7 1986 May 6 TLS 2p May 16 TLS 1p May 31 TLS 1p Jul 19 TLS 1p Nov 14 TLS 2p Nov 30 ALS 1p Dec 12 TLS 1p F8 1987 May 9 ALS 2p 1988 Aug 8 ALS 2p Nov 17 ALS 1p Dec 9 TLS 1p Dec 29 TLS 1p F9 1989 Jan 12 TLS 1p Jan 31 ALS 2p 1991 Jan 26 ALS 1p Nov 10 TLS 1p
Last modified: 01/19/11