University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


Sara Teasdale
Letters to
Joyce and Aline Kilmer

1912 - 1932

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

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Table of Contents


Biographical Note

Sara Teasdale

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.

Sources:

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


Contents List

Folder -- Contents

          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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