University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

The Emily Holmes Coleman Papers

1852 - 1988
(bulk dates 1930 - 1970)

Manuscript Collection Number: 105
Accessioned: Purchases, 1988-1997.
Extent: 50 linear ft.
Content: Correspondence, diaries, poetry, stories, essays, novels, plays, photographs, clippings, passports, brochures, programs, report cards, printed material, and ephemera.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: 1989-1997 by Anita A. Wellner

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Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
(302) 831-2229

Table of Contents

Biographical Note

American poet and novelist Emily Holmes Coleman was born January 22, 1899, in Oakland, California. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1920, and in 1921 married psychologist Loyd Ring Coleman. In 1926 Emily Coleman, with her son John, arrived in Paris where she worked as the society editor for the Paris Tribune (the European edition of the Chicago Tribune). While in Paris Coleman contributed articles, stories, and poems to transition and became acquainted with others who wrote for the magazine. Coleman also worked for one year as Emma Goldman's secretary. She assisted at St. Tropez, during the period in which Goldman was writing her autobiography, Living My Life (1931). As an expatriate writer, Coleman continued to live in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s.

Although Emily Coleman's papers reveal her to be a prolific writer, her only published works were her contributions to little magazines, such as transition and New Review, and her autobiographical novel, The Shutter of Snow (1930). Based on her experiences as a victim of postpartum psychosis after the birth of her son, Shutter of Snow fictionalized her experiences as a patient in a mental hospital. Reviewers praised the novel as authentic and vivid.

Coleman's other writings also draw upon her personal experiences, particularly her strong religious beliefs. Following her conversion to Catholicism in 1944, Coleman's stories, poetry, and diary entries focused almost exclusively on her Catholic faith, which has been described as "mystical" and "fanatical."

Coleman's papers also reflect other elements of her life, for example her marriage (1940-1944) to Arizona rancher Jake Scarborough, the disavowal of this marriage following her Catholic conversion, her relationships to her son, grandchildren, and a diverse collection of friends. One particular group of friends in England, sometimes referred to as the "Hayford Hall Circle," is documented in her correspondence and diaries. Among this group were writers Djuna Barnes, John Holms, and Edwin Muir, as well as Peggy Guggenheim, Beatrix Wright, Antonia White, and others.

From 1944 until her death the focus of Coleman's attention and activities was her religious life. She became involved with the Catholic left, developed friendships with Dorothy Day and Jacques and Raissa Maritain, and lived in a number of Catholic communities. At the time of her death on June 13, 1974, Coleman was being cared for by Catholic nuns at The Farm in Tivoli, New York.


Geddes, Minna Besser. "Emily Holmes Coleman," Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 4: American Writers in Paris, 1920-1939. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1980. pp. 71-72.

Contemporary Authors. Volume 105. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1981. p. 121.

Scope and Contents Note

The Emily Holmes Coleman Papers consist of 50 linear feet of literary, personal, and family papers. Because of the inclusion of a significant collection of family correspondence, the papers span a period from 1852-1988. The earliest material begins in the 1850s, with letters between Emily Coleman's grandparents. The bulk of the collection (dating 1930-1970) reflects Coleman's life and writing. A small number of letters addressed to Emily's son, John Coleman, in the 1980s completes the collection. The correspondence includes over 31,000 pages of incoming letters and Coleman's letters to others, for example her letters to longtime friend, Phyllis Jones, and Spiritualist Gay Taylor.

The literary correspondence (Series I) includes a substantial collection of letters from Djuna Barnes, which discuss Barnes's 1930s novel Nightwood, her personal life and writing career, and their friendship. Appendix B provides an itemized list of letters written by Barnes to Coleman, Peggy Guggenheim, and Phyllis Jones. Itemized lists are also available in the appendix for the letters of George Barker, Hugh Kingsmill, Kathleen Raine, and Dylan Thomas, all of whom corresponded with Coleman.

Coleman's correspondents include other noted literary or cultural figures such as Peggy Guggenheim, Dorothy Day, Jacques Maritain, John Holms, Robert Liddell, Iverach MacDonald, Elva dePue Matthews, Mary Wesley, Alex Small, Antonia White, and Beatrix Wright.

The extensive correspondence details life among the "Hayford Hall" circle, which gathered at Peggy Guggenheim's estate of this name in England; Coleman's travels and experiences in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s; writing projects of the correspondents; philosophical discussions; romances and friendships among the group; as well as Coleman's writing and religious convictions and involvement with the Catholic left movement.

Emily Coleman's daily life and writing is chronicled in the voluminous diaries which Coleman maintained throughout her adult life. Her philosophical and religious reflections, comments on the literary work of others, thoughts on her interpersonal relationships and personal struggles, and ideas for writing projects are all detailed in these volumes. Series II includes over 19,000 pages of these diaries dating from 1929-1970.

Series III of Coleman's papers consist of her literary legacy. Her work includes drafts of her published novel, The Shutter of Snow, and of her second novel, "Tygon," which remains unpublished. Numerous unpublished plays, essays, stories, and poems are present, as are drafts of the work published in transition and New Review. Composition notebooks from Coleman's high school and college days, some notes for her "self-education," written records of her dreams, and transcripts of her "automatic writing" document her early writing and personal thoughts.

Most of Coleman's writing is autobiographical in nature, particularly her stories and poetry. For example, Coleman identified most of her stories as belonging to one of three particular periods in her life: the French, Stanbrook, and Arizona periods. Stories in the collection have been organized to reflect Coleman's designation. Additionally, over 4100 pages of Coleman's poetry exist among the papers. Appendix A provides an alphabetical index of the poems by title.

A small group of Coleman's personal documents, such as passports, an address book, social security cards, medical information, and a copy of her divorce papers from Loyd Ring Coleman, comprise Series IV.

Among Coleman's papers are also an assortment of manuscripts written by several of her friends. Manuscripts by George Barker, Djuna Barnes, Samuel Hoare, Lionel Johnson, Raissa Maritain, Edwin Muir, and others are available in Series V.

Over 760 photographs of Coleman, her family, friends, and acquaintances are present in Series VI. Family photographs, including her parents, brothers, grandparents, grandchildren, son, husbands, and numerous aunts and uncles, date from as early as 1837 and as late as the 1970s. Images of Emily Coleman from childhood through adulthood are numerous.

Photographs of many of Emily Coleman's friends and literary notables, such as Djuna Barnes, Saxe Commins, John Holms, Sonia Himmel, Dorothy Day, Charles Henri Ford, Antonia White, and Peggy Guggenheim, are available. The series also includes images of landscapes, the Hindenburg, and classical works of art. Drawings by her son or grandchildren, plus an ink drawing depicting John Holmes Coleman (by Thelma Wood, Djuna Barnes's companion) complete the series.

The Coleman family papers (Series VII) consist of correspondence between Emily Coleman and her father, John Milton Holmes; correspondence among her grandparents, aunts, and uncles; letters between her parents; and a few letters from her brothers. A passport belonging to John Milton Holmes, a journal kept by John Holmes Coleman, clippings, report cards, brochures, and a variety of ephemera are also included in this series. Descriptions of the correspondence and ephemera in this series are available in the series notes.

In 1997 a second group of Coleman's papers was acquired and is available in Box 144. The contents are listed in "Emily Holmes Coleman Supplement" (pp. 80-87). Notable correspondence added to the collection includes six long letters from Emma Goldman to Coleman, Coleman's letters to John Holms, two letters from Coleman to Djuna Barnes reflecting on their relationship, and eight letters from composer Malcolm Williamson and manuscripts of his musical adaptations of three Coleman poems.

A final draft of Coleman's unpublished novel "Tygon," as well as a notebook containing her initial outlines, notes, and character sketches for the novel, complement the previous "Tygon" drafts. Numerous drafts of Coleman's poems, particularly "The Cremation" and "The Windmill," as well as a poem written by George Barker, highlight the remainder of the supplement.

For arrangement see series notes.

Series Outline

Series I.  Personal and professional correspondence, 1919-1981 

     1.  George Barker, 1935-1964                              
     2.  Djuna Barnes to Emily Coleman, 1934-1974              
     3.  Djuna Barnes to Peggy Guggenheim, 1935-1954           
     4.  Djuna Barnes to Phyllis Jones, 1938-1981             
     5.  Raffaele Bianchetti, 1931-1934                        
     6.  Sylvio [Lorenzo] Burlamaqui-Mee to Emily Coleman, 1954-1959
     7.  Sylvio [Lorenzo] Burlamaqui-Mee to John Coleman, 1955-1958
     8.  Sylvio [Lorenzo] Burlamaqui-Mee to Phyllis Jones, 1955-1958
     9.  Loyd [Deak] Ring Coleman to Emily Coleman, 1921-1966  
     10.  Loyd Ring Coleman to John H. Coleman, 1940-1962      
     11.  Emily Coleman to Loyd Ring Coleman, 1920-1969       
     12.  Dorothy Day, 1947-1971                              
     13.  Nina Donn, 1940-1968                                 
     14.  John Farrell, 1943                                        
     15.  Wes H. and Nellie Freligh, 1949-1964                 
     16.  Eleanore Gage [Callan], 1947-1966                    
     17.  William Alexander Gerhardi, 1934-1935                
     18.  Peggy Guggenheim, 1934-1968                         
     19.  Sonia Ginsberg Himmel, 1928-1951                     
     20.  Samuel [Peter] Hoare to Emily Coleman, 1929-1973     
     21.  Samuel Hoare to John Coleman, 1938-1971              
     22.  Samuel Hoare to Peggy Guggenheim and Phyllis Jones, 1936-1956
     23.  Dorothy Holms to Emily Coleman, 1934-1947            
     24.  Dorothy Holms to Phyllis Jones, 1937               
     25.  John Holms to Emily Coleman, 1930-1932              
     26.  John Holms to Hugh Kingsmill,1919-1920               
     27.  Alice Hutin, 1955-1957                               
     28.  Martha Johnson,1951-1968                             
     29.  Phyllis Jones to Emily Coleman, 1934-1982            
     30.  Emily Coleman to Phyllis Jones, 1935-1973           
     31.  Hugh Kingsmill [Lunn], 1934-1941                    
     32.  Robert Liddell, 1960-1972                            
     33.  Iverach MacDonald, 1934-1936                         
     34.  Jacques and Raissa Maritain to Emily Coleman, 1942-1969
     35.  Jacques and Raissa Maritain to John Coleman, 1953-1962
     36.  Elva dePue Matthews, 1945-1967                      
     37.  Maryvonne Morel, 1949-1958                           
     38.  Leonard P. R., 1955-1956                             
     39.  Kathleen Raine, 1953-1962                            
     40.  Erle S. Remington, 1925-1926                         
     41.  Mary Roberts, 1948-1966                              
     42.  Annette E. Ryan, 1946-1967                           
     43.  John W. [Jake] Scarborough, 1939-1944                                                                    
     44.  George O. Schoonhoven, 1926                          
     45.  Eric and Mary Siepmann to Emily Coleman, 1935-1970  
     46.  Emily Coleman to the Siepmanns, 1956-1960            
     47.  Alex Small, 1926-1953                                
     48.  Helen M. Stansbury, 1939-1967                      
     49.  James Stern, 1942-1944                               
     50.  Jimmy Stevenson to John and Gloria Coleman, 1956-1958
     51.  Marshall E. Suther, 1943-1949                       
     52.  Gay Taylor to Emily Coleman, 1958-1971               
     53.  Emily Coleman to Gay Taylor, 1959-1970             
     54.  Geoffrey Taylor, 1953-1954                         
     55.  Dylan and Caitlan Thomas, 1937-1962                  
     56.  Emily Mosser Tompkins, 1943-1944                    
     57.  Edwin Ver Becke, 1944-1946                           
     58.  Eleanor Walker, 1944-1951                           
     59.  Antonia White [Mrs. E. A. Hopkinson], 1934-1969      
     60.  Victor White, 1948-1960                              
     61.  Beatrix [Holms] Wright, 1947-1973                    
     62.  Miscellaneous Correspondence,1937-1974              

Series II.  Diaries and journals, 1929-1970                   

Series III.  Material written by Emily Coleman, 1913-[1970s]   

     1.  Novels, 1930-1963                                   
          Shutter of Snow, 1930                               
          Tygon, [1933]-1963                                   

     2.  Prose, 1947                                           
          The Delights of Death, 1947                          

     3.  Plays, dramas and dialogues,1913-1964                 
          Abraham, 1963-1964                                   
          Adam and Eve, [n.d.]                                 
          Christ and Peter, 1952                              
          The Consequences of Circumstances, 1920             
          The Converter, 1952-1953                            
          The Corruption of the Freshman, 1913-1916           
          David, 1952                                         
          The Death of Jesus Christ, [n.d.]                   
          The Death of Samson, [n.d.]                         
          The Dialogue Between Jesus Christ & Gerard Hopkins, 1960-1963
          The Gospel of Mary, 1952                             
          Jesus and John, 1952                                
          Paul, 1952                                           
          The Strength of Thomas More, 1953-1959                                                                   
     4.  Essays, 1938-1968                                   
     5.  Stories from the French Period, 1927 and [n.d.]    
     6.  Stories from the Stanbrook Period, 1961-1965          
     7.  Stories from the Arizona Period, 1936-1941           
     8.  Other stories without location or time periods, 1920-1963
     9.  Dreams, 1959-1960                                     
     10.  "Automatic Writing," 1959                           
     11.  Composition notebooks from school days, 1913 and [n.d.]
     12.  Notes by Coleman for her self-education, [n.d.]   
     13.  Quotations, [n.d.]                                 
     14.  Poetry, 1925-1972 (See Appendix A)                   
     15.  Miscellaneous Material Written by Coleman, [n.d.]    

Series IV.  Personal miscellany:  Information about Coleman, 1928-1957

     1.   Passports issued for Emily Coleman, 1928-1957      
     2.   Miscellaneous material, [n.d.]                       

Series V.  Material written by individuals other than Coleman, 1915-1965

     1.  George Barker, 1960                                  
     2.  Djuna Barnes, 1938                                   
     3.  Raffaeli Bianchetti, 1925-1931                       
     4.  Loyd Ring Coleman, 1915-1917                        
     5.  John Coleman-Holmes, [n.d.]                          
     6.  Peggy Guggenheim, [n.d.]                             
     7.  Samuel Hoare, 1920-1921 and [n.d.]                    
     8.  John Holms, [n.d.]                                    
     9.  Lionel Johnson, [n.d.]                              
     10.  Robert Liddell, [n.d.]                               
     11.  Raissa Maritain, 1945-1965                           
     12.  Edwin Muir, 1926-1936                                
     13.  Unidentified material, 1937 and [n.d.]              

Series VI.  Photographs, 1837-1975                             
		See Appendix C for a folder list of photographs

Series VII.  Family correspondence and papers, 1852-1967       

     1.  John Milton Holmes to Emily Coleman, 1918-1951       
     2.  Emily Coleman to John Milton Holmes, 1906-1951       
     3.  General family correspondence, 1852-1967             
     4.  A Sketch of Lottie's Life by Eleanor S. Coaney, [n.d.]
     5.  Passport for John M. Holmes, 1928-1932               
     6.  Journal of John Holmes Coleman, 1951-1954             

Supplement to the Emily Coleman Papers, 1903-1988              

Appendix A.  An alphabetical list of titles of poems written by Coleman, 1925-1972

Appendix B.  Alphabetical list of itemized correspondence,1934-1981

Appendix C.  Photographs

Contents List

+ Series I.: Personal and professional correspondence

+ Series II.: Diaries and journals

+ Series III. - IV.: Material written by Emily Coleman; Personal miscellany

+ Series V. - VII.: Materials written by individuals other than Coleman; Photographs; Family Correspondence and papers

+ Supplement and Appendices: Supplement; Appendix A, List of Poems; Appendix B, List of Correspondence
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