Special Collections Department
Joyce and Aline Kilmer
Manuscript Collection Number: 142
Accessioned: Purchase, 1986.
Extent: .2 linear ft. (58 items)
Content: Letters, poems, and photograph.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: August 1998 by Anita A. Wellner
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
Table of Contents
American poet Sara Teasdale was born August 8, 1884, in St. Louis, Missouri, to merchant John Warren and Mary Elizabeth (Willard) Teasdale. After attending Mrs. Lockwood's School and the Mary Institute she was graduated from Hosmer Hall in 1903. Between 1904 and 1907 Teasdale and a group of friends published a monthly literary magazine, The Potter's Wheel, which met with success in St. Louis.
Teasdale traveled extensively and made frequent trips to Chicago, where she eventually became part of Harriet Monroe's Poetry magazine circle and met numerous other poets. After rejecting the poet Vachel Lindsay as a suitor, she married St. Louis businessman, Ernst Filsinger, in 1914. She divorced Filsinger in 1929, against his wishes.
"Guenevere" was Teasdale's first poem to be printed, appearing in Reedy's Mirror in 1907. Teasdale's first book, Sonnets to Duse and Other Poems, was published by Poet Lore in the same year. Among her other books of poetry were numerous volumes published by Macmillan, including Rivers to the Sea (1915), Love Songs (1917), Flame and Shadow (1920), Dark of the Moon (1926), and Strange Victory (1933). In 1918 Teasdale was awarded the annual prize of the Poetry Society of America and the Columbia University Poetry Society Prize (forerunner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry) for Love Songs.
Popular during the early twentieth century, Teasdale's poems appeared in numerous periodicals including Harper's, Scribner's, Century, Forum, Lippincott's, Putnam's, Bookman, and New Republic.
On January 29, 1933, having become increasingly depressed and reclusive, Sara Teasdale died of an overdose of sleeping pills. She was buried in St. Louis, Missouri.
Joyce and Aline Kilmer
Teasdale addresses the first four letters in this collection to poet and critic Joyce Kilmer. Born Alfred Joyce Kilmer on December 6, 1886, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, he attended Rutgers College (1904-1906) and was graduated from Columbia University with an A. B. in 1908. In June of the same year he married Aline Murray, step-daughter of Henry Mills Alden. Before joining the staff of the New York Times Magazine and Review of Books in 1913, he worked on the staff of the Standard Dictionary (1909-1912) and as editor of the Churchman (1912-1913).
Several collections of Joyce Kilmer's poetry were published, most notably Trees and Other Poems (1914). The title poem of this volume was published in the literary journal Poetry and attained world-wide popularity. However, Kilmer is more often remembered as a brave World War I soldier who died on July 30, 1918, during an attack of the hills above the Ourcq in France. He was honored by burial at the spot where he fell and awarded the Croix de Guerre posthumously.
The remaining fifty-three letters were written by Teasdale to Aline Kilmer, also a poet. Born on August 1, 1888 at Norfolk, Virginia, Aline Murray Kilmer, was educated at Rutgers Prep and at the Vail-Deane School in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Although she published several poems prior to her marriage, her first collection of poems, Candles That Burn, was not published until 1919. In addition to two more volumes of poetry, she wrote two children's books and Hunting a Hair Shirt (1923), a collection of brief personal essays.
Aline Kilmer died on October 1, 1941, in Stillwater, New Jersey.
Locher, Frances C. (ed.) Contemporary Authors. Volume 104. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1982. p. 466.
Mainiero, Lina (ed.) American Women Writers. Volume 2. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Company, 1980. pp. 452-454.
Malone, Dumas (ed.) Dictionary of American Biography. Volume V. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1961. pp. 373-374.
Quartermain, Peter (ed.) Dictionary of Literary Biography. Volume 45: American Poets, 1880-1945. First Series. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1986. pp. 396-405.
Scope and Content Note
Sara Teasdale's fifty-six letters written to Joyce and Aline Kilmer include two autograph poems penned by Teasdale and a photograph. Written between 1912 and 1932, most of the letters originated from her homes, first in St. Louis, Missouri, and later in New York City. Other letters are mailed from vacation sites in Santa Barbara, California; Nahant, Massachusetts; Ogunquit-by-the-Sea, Maine; Paris, France, and London, England.
Teasdale initially addressed her letters to poet Joyce Kilmer, praising his poetry, offering a copy of her book, discussing her recent work. She also mentioned the inclusion of a poem dedicated to the Kilmers' daughter Rose in her recent book. An autograph copy of this poem, "To Rose Kilmer," is enclosed in an undated letter in this collection. In another undated letter (probably written in 1917) Teasdale reflected on her affection for Rose Kilmer and mourned her tragic death.
In August 1918 Sara Teasdale wrote Aline Kilmer to offer condolences on the loss of her husband Joyce, who was killed during battle in World War I. Their friendship blossomed with time and it is obvious from her letters that Teasdale greatly appreciated Aline Kilmer's writing and depended on their friendship. Her letters convey an affection for and trust of Kilmer, as well as a need for her company. They are filled with the moods and details of Teasdale's life.
Teasdale wrote of her poetry; her travels, particularly her love for London; her enthusiasm for Aline Kilmer's poetry; current writing projects, such as the children's anthology and a book on Christina Rossetti; her daily routines; her friends Vachel Lindsey and Margaret Conklin; the thrill of meeting Virginia Woolf; and her health. Occasionally Teasdale mentioned her husband Ernst Filsinger. In 1929 she wrote to apologize to Kilmer for concealing the circumstances of her divorce until it was final.
Teasdale's letters poignantly convey her personality and battle with depression. Her letters written during the summer and fall of 1932, just prior to her death in January of 1933, reflect her ill health and despair.
In addition to her poem, "To Rose Kilmer," the collection includes an eight-line untitled poem written by Teasdale. This autograph poem, dated March 23, 1931, begins: "Take heart, for now the battle is half over." A photograph, inscribed by Teasdale to Aline Kilmer, is included in the collection. The black and white image depicts Sara Teasdale as drawn in pencil by Willy Pogany.
Related collections:Ms 099 Sara Teasdale letters to Orrick Johns (F252)
Ms 111 Louis Untermeyer Papers
Series I. Sara Teasdale letters to Joyce Kilmer, 1912-1916 F1 1912 Feb 8 ALS 7p 1912 Feb 26 ALS 2p 1915 Aug 18 ALS 5p 1916 Feb 11 ALS 4p Series II. Sara Teasdale letters to Aline Kilmer, 1918-1932 F2 1918 Aug 20 ALS 2p 1919 Mar 1 ALS 1p 1919 Mar 17 ALS 1p 1919 Jun 7 ALS 2p 1919 Nov 14 ACS 1p 1920 Sep 29 ALS 3p 1921 Jan 6 ACS 2p 1921 Nov 7 ALS 3p F3 1922 Nov 13 ALS 1p 1924 Aug 12 ALS 2p 1925 Feb 11 ALS 3p 1925 Mar 5 ALS 3p 1925 May 11 ALS 2p 1925 Jun 21 ALS 3p 1925 Aug 20 ALS 6p F4 1926 Jun 17 ALS 4p 1926 Jul 18 ALS 3p 1926 Sep 25 ALS 4p 1926 Dec 6 ALS 1p 1927 May 22 ALS 3p 1927 Jun 4 ALS 4p 1927 Oct 2 ALS 2p 1927 Dec 29 ALS 7p F5 1928 Mar 22 ALS 1p 1928 Dec 10 ALS 3p 1929 Sep 18 ALS 5p 1929 Oct 5 ALS 4p 1929 Nov 30 ALS 10p Series II. Sara Teasdale letters to Aline Kilmer (cont'd) F6 1930 May 19 ALS 4p 1930 Jun 28 ALS 4p 1930 Jul 22 ALS 3p 1930 Sep 21 ALS 7p 1930 Sep 24 ALS 6p 1930 Dec 29 ALS 4p F7 1931 Jan 9 ALS 5p 1931 Apr 25 TLS 2p 1931 Jul 7 ALS 3p 1931 Sep 12 ALS 2p 1931 Sep 19 ALS 4p Note: Folder also includes an untitled autograph poem written by Teasdale. The eight-line poem begins: "Take heart, for now the battle is half over." F8 1932 Jan 19 ALS 4p 1932 May 3 ALS 8p 1932 May 23 ALS 3p 1932 Jun 12 ALS 4p 1932 Jun 23 ALS 3p 1932 Jul 6 ALS 3p 1932 Sep 6 ALS 2p 1932 Nov 5 ALS 7p F9 [n.y.] May 11 ALS 1p [n.d.] ALS 8p Note: Written just before Joyce Kilmer left for WWI. [n.d.] Monday ALS 2p Note: Includes an enclosed autograph poem titled "To Rose Kilmer." Signed by Teasdale, the poem was written before 1915. [n.d.] Sunday ALS 1p [n.d.] ALS 1p
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