Special Collections Department
Robert Underwood Johnson
Manuscript Collection Number: 121
Accessioned: Purchase, April 1973.
Extent: 2 linear feet
Content: Correspondence, manuscripts, notebooks, appointment books, articles, calling cards,
clippings, galley proofs, invitations, notes, receipts, telegrams, postcards, photographs, printed
material, souvenirs, addresses, essays, copyright registrations, and ephemera.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: November 1996 by Julie Witsken.
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
Table of Contents
After college Johnson became a clerk for Scribner Educational Books in Chicago. Within two years he was promoted to a position with the editorial staff of Scribner's Monthly, which later became the Century Magazine. He was again promoted in 1881 to associate editor under R. W. Gilder. Upon Gilder's death in 1909, Johnson became editor, a position he held until 1913. While at Century Publishing, Johnson co-edited the Century War Series, which was serialized in the magazine and later published in four volumes as Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. He also produced several volumes of his own poetry, including The Winter Hour, and Other Poems (1891) and Poems, published in 1902 and enlarged in 1908, 1919, and 1931. Because he regularly wrote to commemorate illustrious persons and occasions, Johnson was often referred to as the unofficial poet laureate of the United States.
Johnson was involved in numerous literary organizations. He served for many years as treasurer and then secretary of the American Copyright League, and was active in the international copyright movement. For his service in this area he was decorated by the French and Italian governments and received an honorary M.A. from Yale University. A member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and secretary of the Institute from 1903 to 1909, he became the preliminary secretary of the Academy of Arts and Letters during its formation. Johnson's devotion to literature and the arts can also be seen by his origination of the Keats and Shelley Memorial in Rome.
In addition to his literary pursuits, Johnson dedicated himself to the conservation of America's natural resources. Together with John Muir, he instigated the movement which resulted in the creation of Yosemite National Park. In 1913 he was made chairman of the National Committee for the Preservation of Yosemite National Park. He directly appealed to President Roosevelt for a conference of governors to conserve the Eastern states' forests, and was thus responsible for generating what became the White House conferences on conservation.
Another of Johnson's interests was Italy. In addition to displaying a love of the Italian arts and culture, he showed an unwavering dedication to the welfare of the country. He organized the New York committee of the Italian War Relief Fund of America, which raised a total of $225,000, and the "American Poets Ambulances in Italy," which administered aid to the Italian army during 1917. In 1920 President Wilson appointed him Ambassador to Italy. He served as ambassador until 1921.
Upon his return to the United States, Johnson remained active in many of his former organizations. He lectured and continued to write until his death in 1937. His autobiography, RememberedYesterdays, was published in 1923.
Sources:Biographical information is derived from the collection and from the New York Times 15 Oct. 1937: 23.
Scope and Content Note
Each series reflects a particular aspect or period of Johnson's life. Series I, Publishing, contains materials related to Johnson's activities while editor of the Century Magazine and to the publication of his own works of poetry. The materials, particularly Johnson's correspondence, express typical editorial concerns and describe the politics of publishing. The series is note-worthy for its documentation of the formation of the Academy of Arts and Letters. In his autobiography Remembered Yesterdays, Johnson claims to be the only person then living who was "officially and intimately connected with the history of [the Academy] in one capacity or another from its inception" (p. 439).
Series II and III contain additional evidence of Johnson's love of letters. Series II, Poetry, includes draft and printed versions of Johnson's poems. Series III, Prose, contains drafts of Johnson's prose works and notes for his speaking engagements, many of which deal with some literary topic.
The subject of Series IV, Maurice F. Egan, shared Johnson's love of letters. An American educator, editor, author, and diplomat, Egan was one of Johnson's closest friends. Like Johnson, he was active in the international copyright movement. The materials in this series present the concerns of those in American literary circles; illuminate Johnson's personal life and achievements; and offer insights into the culture and current events of Denmark. As Egan served as Ambassador to Denmark from 1907-1918, his letters to Johnson during that period also discuss diplomatic and political affairs during a turbulent time in world history.
Johnson too served as an American Ambassador. Series V, Italy, contains materials documenting Johnson's stint as ambassador to Italy from 1920-1921; his love of the Italian country, culture, and people; and his philanthropic and diplomatic efforts to benefit the people of Italy. His correspondence provides a glimpse of American foreign policy in a post-World War I world. Notes from the San Remo Conference of 1920 document the policies implemented by world leaders to create order after the war.
Series VI, Personal, contains material pertaining to Johnson's personal life. A large part of this series comprises information from and about Johnson's immediate and genealogical family, which he attempted to trace. It also includes correspondence from family and from friend Grace Litchfield; photographs, clippings, and articles about Johnson; memoirs of travel and noteworthy occasions such as seeing Lincoln at City Hall; notebooks and appointment books; and printed matter, such as a copy of Ivanhoe, which belonged to Johnson.
I. Publishing, 1879-1931 1. Correspondence, 1879-1931 2. Century Publishing Co. [1879-1913] 3. Activities and Organizations [1898-1899] 4. Autobiography (Remembered Yesterdays) and Other Publications [1913-1924] 5. Notes II. Poetry 1. Collected Poems: 1881-1922 2. Other Poems III. Prose 1. Addresses 2. Essays IV. Maurice F. Egan, 1883-1923 1. Correspondence, 1883-1923 2. Works and Awards [1887-1922] V. Italy, 1883-1923 (bulk 1919-1921) 1. Correspondence, 1918-1923 2. Tommasi Salvini [1883-1916] 3. Tourism  4. The Roma [1921-1922] 5. Ambassador, 1919-1921 6. Miscellaneous VI. Personal, 1826-1930 1. Correspondence, 1887-1930 2. Family [1826-1907] 3. Biographical [1883-1924] 4. Memoirs 5. Travel [1911-1922] 6. Photographs 7. Miscellaneous Papers [1906-1921] 8. Bound and/or Printed Material
1 Series I. Publishing, 1879-1931. Contains materials relating to Johnson's publishing activities and his term as editor of the Century Magazine. Series I.1. Correspondence, 1879-1931. Contains correspondence with various writers, publishers, dignitaries, societies, and fans. Also includes drafts, copies of letters, and notes related to them. The letters deal with editing and printing matters, works both published and in progress, and the concerns of the Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Copyright League. Particularly interesting are the correspondence (beginning with the letter of Dec. 14, 1912) between Johnson and the trustees of the Century, in which the circumstances necessitating Johnson's resignation from his editorial position are expounded; a letter from Johnson describing his meeting with President Taft regarding the launching of the Academy of Arts and Letters (Sep. 12, 1909); and a memo outlining the goals of the American Copyright League (n.d). The correspondence is arranged chronologically. F1 Correspondence, 1879-1911 (20 items) F2 Correspondence, 1912-1918 Also includes dated receipts. (23 items) F3 Correspondence, 1922-1931 (11 items) F4 Correspondence, n.d. Includes a poem dedicated to RUJ. (14 items) Series I.2. Century Publishing Co. F5 Civil War Series notes  Contains two notebooks and loose holographic notes on the arrangement of the series. (7 items) F6 Correspondence with Richard Watson Gilder, editor of the Century before RUJ 1879-1903. (10 items) F7 Death of R.W. Gilder, 1909 Contains holograph and printed forms of RUJ's tribute to his predecessor. Also includes greens from Gilder's coffin. (7 items) F8 Retirement Memorabilia, 1913 Includes newspaper clipping and announcement of RUJ's retirement from the Century. Also contains seating list and menu from the Testimonial Dinner (Dec. 11, 1913), which was attended by a number of people of distinction such as Henry Mills Alden and William Howard Taft. (7 items) F9 Transfer of the Century Photocopy of newspaper clipping recounting legal dispute regarding the transfer. Series I. 3. Activities and Organizations F10 American Copyright League, 1891 Contains a letter in French from the French Minister of Foreign Affairs conferring the Cross of the Legion of Honor Award upon RUJ for his involvement in international copyright reform. Also includes a letterhead listing League members. (2 items) F11 Academy of Arts and Letters  National Institute of Arts and Letters' Constitution and List of Members, and RUJ's holographic notes on the formation of the Academy. (3 items) F12 Dagnan-Bouvert Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, 1899 Announcement of exhibit which RUJ had proposed and supported. (2 items) Series I. 4. Autobiography (Remembered Yesterdays) and Other Publications F13 Autobiography Reviews  (3 items) F14 Autobiography Notes Holographic notes related to Remembered Yesterdays. (2 items) F15 Copyrights for Verse, 1913 Copyrights for RUJ's volumes of poetry. Also typed letters and memos regarding publishing costs. (10 items) Series I. 5. Notes F16 Miscellaneous notes and scraps Related to publishing, many on envelope backs. Also includes a typed literary note by RUJ regarding the publication of his verse volumes. (about 100 items) 2 Series II. Poetry Holograph and typed drafts as well a few printed versions of RUJ's poetry. Some poems have multiple versions, and many typed poems have holographic corrections and annotations. Several poems are also signed. Poems are arranged according to Collected Poems: 1881-1922 (1923), followed by untitled poems and poems not by Johnson. Holographic notes and other material related to the individual poems are also included. Series II. 1. Collected Poems: 1881-1922. F17 from The Winter Hour On Nearing Washington October Noblesse Oblige In the Moment of Victory F18 from Songs of Liberty Love Once Was Like an April Dawn F19 from Italian Rhapsody Italian Rhapsody F20 from Moments of Italy The Spanish Stairs The Name Writ in Water To Dreyfus Vindicated The Absent Guest The Lover of His Kind Something in Beauty Binds Us to the Good The Scar A Message Back to Youth Daphne Waters of Song 2 Series II. Poetry (cont'd) Series II. 1. Collected Poems: 1881-1922 (cont'd) F21 from Saint-Gaudens: An Ode Saint-Gaudens Also includes a galley with holographic notations. F22 Death of Saint-Gaudens Photocopied newspaper clippings regarding the sculptor's works and his death, and RUJ's notes on a speech to be given in Saint-Gaudens' honor. (8 items) F23 from Later Poems of Occasion A Memory of Brittany The Message of Fulton The Vision of Gettysburg F24 from Poems of War and Peace The Corridors of Congress F25 from Poems of the Great War Includes notes and a memo to publisher. Rheims To the Spirit of Byron The New World The Haunting Face (On the Portrait of a Child Lost in the Lusitania) Shakespeare Embattled France (Rhapsodie Francaise) F26 from Poems Chiefly of Friendship Quid Pro Quo A Song of Parting Reading Horace Gifts Oriole and the Poet A Song of Any Lover A Prayer in the Dark The President (The Panama Tolls) Constance Love-letters at Auction The Laggard Poet (To W. W.) 2 Series II. Poetry (cont'd) Series II. 1. Collected Poems: 1881 - 1922 (cont'd) F27 from Later Poems of the Great War Includes a letter to the publisher. To Paderewski, Patriot The Price of Honor (The Columbian Indemnity) To the First Gun The Sword of Lafayette To the New Russia (Published as "To Russia New and Free") The Victor of the Marne Two Flags Upon Westminster Towers Hymn for America A Song for America America in France F28 from Miscellaneous Poems A Teacher To a Poet at the Piano (K. O.) To a Student of Kant And Then? The Plea for the Defendant Carpe Diem A Little Room of Dreams To the American Poets of To-day F29 from Poems of Italy in War-Time Visions of Italy A Vision of Venezia (Published as part of "Visions of Italy") The Traitors of Caporetto To Italy Italia Redenta F30 from Latest War-Time Poems Includes family anecdote that inspired a poem. The Ship of Liberty The Flag We Love So Well Interlude (In War-Time) The Marne Listen to Your Guardian Angel The Spoils of War The Only Doll in the Valley 2 Series II. Poetry (cont'd) Series II. 1. Collected Poems: 1881 - 1922 (cont'd) F31 from Towers of Remembrance Towers of Remembrance The Beacon Fires of Italy An Epistle to Italy To the Unknown Soldier of France The Coming of Foch Heirs of Keats Shelley O Made for Love Disillusion Impromtu to a Certain Person A Thought at Fiuggi The Great Adventure Series II. 2. Other Poems F32 Titled Poems The Bardling and the Moon Farewell to My Seventieth Year The Compact of Honor A Warning to Lovers (A Hidden Valentine) To Elbridge Adams To Those Who Starve Troops of Friends The Omens of the Harvest One Cyprus On Watt's Painting Love and Death' The Lost Pleiad Seeing in the Dark Three A.M. America's Neutrality The Memory of June The Return of Nature To Miss Amy Murray, at the Harp The Chivalry of War or The Target The Great Man A Friend Invective Invectives I. On a Certain Publisher 2 F32 Invectives IV. To the Inventor of the Questionaire Invectives V. To a New Millionaire To One Who Despaired of the Republic Envoi Impromptu--on the broken limb The Isonzo (The New Blind) Second Childhood Mother Goose's Football Melodies On a lady who boasted of her high lineage Valentine to a Boy with Two Names Epistle to a Former Member of Congress F33 Untitled poems and poetry fragments Includes limerick-type poems about family members. (about 60 items) F34 Poetry not by RUJ A Bit of Foreign Exchange Initialed J.J.J. Parting Stanzas Nimrod H. Johnson in RUJ's hand Untitled for "Life" Signed P. Dant in RUJ's hand 3 Series III. Prose Contains typed and holograph drafts of Johnson's prose. Some works have multiple versions. Also includes items such as newspaper articles, notes, and correspondence directly related to the works. The works are arranged alphabetically by title. Series III. 1. Addresses F35 To the Art Section of the National Federation of Women's Clubs Holograph edition plus two typed copies, both with holographic notations. Also includes holographic notes. Dated May 26, 1916. (23 leaves) F36 To the Peace Society of New York Two copies, typed with holographic corrections. Dated Jan. 30, 1913. (38 leaves) F37 To the Phi Beta Kappa of William and Mary College Holograph draft. (5 leaves) 3 F38 Readings from My Verse Holograph draft. (4 leaves) F39 On Riley in Indianapolis Holograph draft plus note. (5 leaves) F40 To the Society of Patriotic Women Holograph draft. (2 leaves) F41 Untitled Addresses 3 holograph drafts, one of which is remarks prefatory to a reading of Shakespeare. The second is an introduction of the Commander-in-chief of the Italian Army, and the third appears to be another introduction. (11 leaves) Series III. 2. Essays F42 After Genoa: The Need for Solidarity Typed with holograph notations. Also includes photocopied newspaper clippings regarding Johnson's remarks on French policy at the Genoa Conference of 1922, a typed copy of an article in the London Morning Post regarding the same, and a typed unsigned letter to the editor of the World. (8 leaves) F43 The Alleged Decline of American Poetry Holograph draft. (2 leaves) F44 Are We Ashamed of Good Manners? Holograph draft. Also includes notes and outline. (15 leaves) F45 Common Sense in Carriage Calling Holograph draft and typed version with holograph corrections. (7 leaves) F46 Extend the Oath of Allegiance Typed with holograph notations. (2 leaves) F47 Is There Any "New" Poetry? Typed with holograph notations. (2 leaves) F48 Our Marooned Ambassadors Holograph draft and typed copy with holograph corrections. (43 leaves) 3 F49 Poetry and American Life Two copies, typed with holograph notations. Also includes holograph notes. (63 leaves) F50 Shelley and His New Found Portrait Typed with holograph notations. Also includes typed comments. (3 leaves) F51 ...Theatres for Children Typed with holographic notations. (4 leaves) F52 Wake-Up, America! Holograph outline and notes. (6 leaves) F53 Untitled Essays One holograph draft regarding pacifism, and one incomplete typed draft with holographic notations defending magazines. (13 leaves) F54 Prose fragments (5 leaves) 4 Series IV. Maurice F. Egan, 1883-1923 Contains material relating to Maurice F. Egan (1852-1924), American author, educator, editor, Ambassador to Denmark from 1907-1918, and close friend of Johnson. Series IV. 1. Correspondence, 1883-1923. Letters from Egan to Johnson, many of them extremely detailed, provide remarks on the major accomplishments of Johnson's career and help to illuminate his personal life; discuss Egan's ambassadorial duties and other diplomatic matters; and offer insights into the current events and culture of Denmark. Of particular interest are a letter recounting President Theodore Roosevelt's visit to the American Embassy in Denmark (May 10, 1910) and a letter describing the wedding of Danish royalty (Sep. 23, 1908). The letters span the dates 1883 to 1923, but curiously, no letters from 1913 to 1920 are present. Correspondence is arranged chronologically. F55 1883-1907 (7 items) 4 F56 1908-1910 (15 items) F57 1911-1912 (11 items) F58 1921-1923 (13 items) F59 n.d. (11 items) Series IV. 2. Works and Awards F60 Works, 1887-1922 Contains prose and poetry pieces, most ly printed and in the form of newspaper clippings, by Egan. The prose works deal with international copyright laws (We Want Cheap American Books from the South Bend Times, dated October 25, 1890) and diplomatic matters (Telling the Diplomatic Truth, printed in Collier's, Sep. 9, 1922). Also included are holograph epigrams written by Egan and Johnson about each other. (6 items) F61 Awards Invitation to an awards ceremony for Egan hosted by the president and faculty of the University of Notre Dame. Egan was conferred the Laetare Medal. (1 item) Series V. Italy, 1883-1923 Consists of materials documenting Johnson's interests in and time spent in Italy. Johnson traveled to Italy several times and had a deep appreciation for the country and culture. He organized several philanthropic missions to Italy, and served as U.S. Ambassador to Italy from 1920 to 1921. Series V. 1. Correspondence, 1918-1923 Contains letters and drafts dealing primarily, though not exclusively, with Johnson's activities as Ambassador to Italy. In his letters Johnson apprises the U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby of affairs in Italy, and makes recommendations regarding foreign policy. As chairman of the American Poet Ambulances in Italy, he also exhorts others to attend a benefit concert for Italian soldiers and offers thanks for their contributions. Included is a photograph of the recipient of one of his organization's aid. Correspondence is arranged chronologically. F62 Correspondence, 1918-1923 (14 items) Series V. 2. Tommasi Salvini F63 Tommasi Salvini, 1883-1916 Contains copies of newspaper clippings reporting the death of Italian actor Tommasi Salvini, whom RUJ greatly admired. Also includes a document in Italian; correspondence with publishers and photographers regarding RUJ's use of photos of Salvini; and RUJ's holograph notes. (10 items) Series V.3. Tourism F64 Tourism  Contains RUJ's holograph itinerary for sight-seeing in Rome and holograph notes on sight-seeing in Naples. In the latter, he observes the massive destruction caused by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. (2 items, 13 leaves) Series V.4. Roma F65 Roma [1921-1922] Contains two copies each of RUJ's account of his first trip on Mar. 3, 1921, in the Roma, the Italian dirigible, and of his second trip on Mar. 15, 19. All copies have holograph notations and corrections. Italy ceded the Roma to the United States in the interest of aeronautic exchange; copies of two 1921 letters from Italian officials thanking the U.S. for its preservation of the name "Roma" are also included. Also contains copies of Roma photos from the New York Tribune. 4 F66 Notes, 1919-1921 Holograph notes on a peace settlement (1919); typed notes on the opening session of Italian government (1920); and holograph notes on RUJ's audience with King Victor Emmanuel III (1921). (3 items, 23 leaves) F67 Personal notes from San Remo Conference, April 1920 Holograph. (1 item, 11 leaves) F68 Official notes from San Remo Conference, April 1920 British Secretary's typed notes with some holograph annotations by RUJ. Also includes reports on the boundaries of the state of Armenia and propositions by the French delegation regarding the Allies' declaration in connection with Germany. (11 items, 117 leaves) F69 Memorabilia, 1921 One dinner invitation. Series V. 6. Miscellaneous F70 Notes and miscellaneous scraps (10 items) 5 Series VI. Personal, 1826-1930 Materials pertaining to Johnson's personal life and printed material belonging to him. Series VI. 1. Correspondence, 1887-1930 Correspondence with family and with friend Grace Litchfield. Letters refer to major events in Johnson's professional life as well as illuminate his personal one. Noteworthy for its detail and content is a letter of Mar. 2, 1902, which describes the "greatest of the Roman Catholic functions that it was possible to see, the Jubilee of Pope Leo XIII in St. Peter's, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his election." Correspondence is arranged chronologically. 5 F71 Correspondence, 1887-1919 Includes two report cards of RUJ's grandchildren. (17 items) F72 Correspondence, 1920-1930 Includes three postcards. (23 items) Series VI. 2. Family F73 Immediate Family [1826-] Contains an article about RUJ's brother, Henry Underwood Johnson; two letters written by RUJ's great-grandfather; copies of a tribute by RUJ to his daughter-in-law; and typed family anecdotes. (4 items, 26 leaves) F74 Genealogical Family, Part I [1886-1905] Records, letters, clippings, articles, and other information serving to establish and describe RUJ's geneological roots. (28 items, 52 leaves) F75 Genealogical Family, Part II [1887-1906] (30 items, 50 leaves) F76 Genealogical Family, Part III [1893-1907] (4 items, 7 leaves) Series VI. 3. Biographical F77 Newspaper and magazine articles [1883-1924] Articles and clippings either are about or refer to RUJ. Some have holograph notations by RUJ. (15 items, 23 leaves) F78 Lectures [1913-] Announcements and notes for RUJ's lectures. (3 items, 6 leaves) Series VI. 4. Memoirs F79 Memoirs Contains holograph notes on seeing President Lincoln at City Hall; holograph notes of luncheon at a colonel's house; a photocopy of a typed memoir of life on Lexington Avenue in NYC; and holograph notes on meeting American author Herman Melville at a Talker's Club meeting in New York. (4 items, 8 leaves) Series VI. 5. Travel F80 Travels, 1911-1922 Contains accounts of RUJ's travels in France (Oct. 1921 and Apr. 1922) and London (1911) and his engagements in those countries. (2 items, 21 leaves) Series VI. 6. Photographs F81 Photographs (16 items) Series VI. 7. Miscellaneous Papers F82 Contract, sale of RUJ's land, 1906 Typed copy. (3 leaves) F83 Papers Contains business cards, souvenir tickets, a typed copy of an extract from a French magazine, and a photocopied newspaper clipping from The Morning Post, London, Apr. 22, 1921. (9 items) 6 Series VI. 8. Bound and/or printed material F84 Notebook, 1897 With holograph entries. (1 item) F85 Appointment book, 1917 With holograph entries. (1 item) F86 Appointment book, 1918 With holograph entries. (1 item) F87 Appointment book, 1919 With holograph entries. (1 item) F88 Notebook, n.d. With holograph entries. (1 item) F89 Later Poems of Occasion by RUJ Signature. (1 item) F90 Poems by RUJ Unbound and uncut signatures. F91 Virgil's First Ecologue Remembered by John Finley Chapbook. With holographic note by Finley. Dated 1917. F92 Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott With disbound cover.
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