University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


Sara Teasdale
Letters to Orrick Johns

1909 - 1914

Manuscript Collection Number: 099 F252
Accessioned: Purchase, 1985.
Extent: .1 linear ft. (44 items)
Content: Letters.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: Revised 1998 by Anita A. Wellner.

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Table of Contents


Biographical Note

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.

Sources:

Locher, Frances C. (ed.) Contemporary Authors. Volume 104. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1982. p. 466.

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

The letters of Sara Teasdale to Orrick Johns, a collection of forty-three letters from Teasdale and one letter to Teasdale from Wilfred Funk, are housed in F252 of Manuscript Collection 99. Arranged in chronological order, the autograph letters, cards, and notes range in dates from 1909 to 1914, (with fifteen undated items).

In many of her letters Teasdale praised and critiqued the poetry of the letters recipient, Orrick Johns, a friend and fellow poet. He was also editor of the literary magazine, The Mirror, in which a number of her poems appeared. It is obvious from her letters that Teasdale held Johns in high regard for his friendship and his literary work.

Teasdale wrote to Johns from various locales, including her home in St. Louis, Missouri, vacation spots such as St. Augustine, Florida, and Amalfi, Italy; as well as from New York City. In her letters Teasdale discussed her motivations for writing, her feelings about the quality of particular poems (one letter includes an eight-line poem, "Dew"), and her work in general. Her letters are filled with her observations of life, revealing her struggle with difficult feelings such as loneliness, a terror of death, and doubts about her poetry. She mentioned her admiration for the poetry of Nora French and Sappho, and expressed her enthusiasm for New York City.

Some of Teasdale's thoughts about women are revealed in a New Year's Eve, 1910, letter, in which she stated: "I sometimes think a woman has no right to do anything but lyrics--The rest somehow belongs to men. A woman, being inferior to a man in everything but delicacy and a certain emotional keenness, should follow only those arts where these two qualities count--and perhaps acting and lyrical verse are the only two. But I am mooning on a pet theory of mine."

Related collections:

Ms 142 Sara Teasdale letters to Joyce and Aline Kilmer

Ms 111 Louis Untermeyer Papers


Contents List

Folder -- Contents

F252 Letters of Sara Teasdale to Orrick Johns, 1909-1913 and [n.d.]

     1909 Apr 7          ALS       5p
          Jun 24         ALS       5p
          Nov 11         ALS       3p
     1910 Jan 24         ALS       12p
          Feb 2          ALS       2p
          Feb 12         ALS       8p
          Mar 11         ALS       2p
          Apr 14         ALS       8p
          Aug 28         ALS       6p
          Dec 13         ALS       4p
          Dec 31         ALS       6p
     1911 Jan 10         ACS       2p
          Jan 16         ACS       2p
          Mar 15         ALS       5p
          Jun 13         ALS       4p
          Oct 10         ALS       4p
          Oct 16         ALS       4p
          Oct 19         ACS       2p
          Dec 23         ALS       2p
     [1911  Dec]         ALS       4p
     1912 Jan 1          ACS       2p
          Mar 7          ALS       2p
          Apr 12         ALS       4p
     [1912] May          ACS       2p
     1912 Jun 9          ACS       1p
          Oct 3          ACS       2p
     1913 Jun 1          ACS       2p
          Dec 14         ALS       4p
     1914 Dec 27         ACS       2p   (Letter is incomplete)
     [n.d.]              ANS       1p
          Note:  Note is written on the bottom of a three-page ALS from 
          Wilfred Funk to Teasdale.
     [n.y.]    Apr 29    ALS       6p
     [n.d.]    Sunday    ACS       1p
     [n.d.]    Sunday    ALS       4p
     [n.d.]    Monday    ACS       2p
     [n.d.]    Monday    ALS       4p
     [n.d.]    Monday    ALS       2p
     [n.d.]    Tuesday   ALS       3p
     [n.d.]    Wednesday ALS       3p
     [n.d.]    Thursday  ALS       4p
     [n.d.]    Thursday  ALS       1p
     [n.d.]    Friday    ACS       2p
     [n.d.]              ACS       2p
     [n.d.]              ALS       6p   (Letter is incomplete)

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