University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

William Carlos Williams Collection

1916 - 1973
(bulk dates 1934 - 1962)

Manuscript Collection Number: 146
Accessioned: Purchases and gifts, 1972-1985
Extent: .3 linear ft.
Content: Letters, galley proof, brochure, story, articles, and poem.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: Partially processed by Stuart Dick and Tim Murray, revised July 1993 by Anita Wellner

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Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Poet and physician William Carlos Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, on September 17, 1883. After attending public school in Rutherford until 1897, Williams and his brother attended Château de Lancy near Geneva and the Lycée Condorcet in Paris for two years. Following the family's return to Rutherford in 1899, Williams commuted to Horace Mann High School in New York.

From 1902-1906 Williams studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. During these years he began his friendships with Ezra Pound, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), and painter Charles Demuth. Williams interned at French Hospital and the Nursery and Child's Hospital in New York from 1906 to 1909. In 1909 William Carlos Williams financed the publication of his first collection of poetry titled Poems.

Following his internship, he studied pediatrics for a year at the University of Leipzig. While in Europe he made several visits to London to see Ezra Pound, and during those visits met William Butler Yeats.

In 1910 he returned to begin a general practice in Rutherford, New Jersey. By 1912 he had married Florence Herman, who was the Flossie mentioned in his poems. His interactions with his patients influenced his poetry and stories throughout his life.

Another significant influence on writing was his interest in art and particularly the work of the French post-impressionists and cubists, some of which he viewed at Alfred Stieglitz's gallery "291." Many of his essays on the arts were collected in A Recognizable Image (1978).

In the 1920s a wide variety of Williams writings were published. Two prose pieces, Kora in Hell: Improvisations (1920) and The Great American Novel (1923), were followed by Spring and All (1923), a volume which combined prose and verse. His study of historical figures, In the American Grain (1925), was followed by the novel, A Voyage to Pagany (1928) and by his translation, in collaboration with his mother, of Philippe Soupault's novel, Last Nights in Paris (1929).

Throughout his career Williams displayed an allegiance to the small literary magazines and was frequently published by them. He also coedited Contact with Robert McAlmon and Marsden Hartley from 1920 to 1923. Williams's novel, White Mule (1937), was serialized in the literary magazine Pagany from 1930-1933.

During the 1930s Williams continued to write prose, fiction, and poetry, including The Knife of the Times and Other Stories (1932), January (1932), Collected Poems, 1921-1931 (1934), White Mule (1937), and Life Along the Passaic River (1938).

Although Williams wrote a variety of prose, fiction, and poetry in the next two decades, his greatest achievements were the epic poem Paterson, which appeared in five books (1946, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958); his long poem, The Desert Music (1954); Pictures From Brueghel (1962), and two important plays, A Dream of Love (1948) and Many Loves (1961).

During the last fifteen years of his life, Williams began to receive recognition for his work. In 1949 he became a fellow of the Library of Congress and in 1950 he received the first National Book Award for poetry. He was also awarded the Bollingen Prize (1953) and posthumously the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1963. He died on March 4, 1963 in Rutherford.

Biographical information on each recipient of Williams's letters is found in the series notes.


Garraty, John A. (ed.) Dictionary of American Biography. Supplement Seven 1961-1965. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1981. pp. 788-791.

Scope and Content Note

The William Carlos Williams Collection, spanning the dates 1916-1973, consists of sixty-nine letters from Williams to several individuals, including Fred Miller, Orrick Johns, Emanuel Romano, and George Kirgo. Letters from Florence Williams (wife of William Carlos) to several of these individuals, several letters written by Fred Miller, and manuscripts by Williams and Miller also comprise the collection. The letters from William Carlos Williams, written between 1916 and 1962, discuss a variety of issues and reflect his relationship to the various recipients.

In his fifty-three letters to Fred Miller, Williams offers advice and encouragement about Miller's literary work, discusses his own writing, responds to Miller's views of socialism, and comments on current events. The letters indicate that Williams was instrumental in getting Miller's Gutbucket and Gossamer published by Oscar Brown.

The eight letters written by William Carlos Williams to bookseller George Kirgo discuss the sale of copies of his books and his copies of some Hemingway volumes to Kirgo, as well as purchasing copies of books written by others. In the letters Williams also comments on his daily life. Also included with this group of letters are three letters to Kirgo from Florence Williams ordering several books and commenting on her husband's health.

The collection also includes four letters from Williams to Orrick Johns concerning Johns's writing and containing remarks about the beginnings of the Provincetown Players.

The collection of letters and manuscripts related to Emanuel Romano provide insight into Williams's interest in art. The eight letters from Williams discuss Romano's art work and his own current writing project. In addition to the Williams letters, there are two essays written by Williams describing his reactions to Romano's art and one letter from Romano in which he expresses his own attitude toward his work. One of these essays was printed in the brochure for a 1968 Gotham Book Mart (New York) exhibition of Romano's work titled "Portraits of Poets and Writers."

A set of galley proofs for Williams's collection of poems, Pictures From Brueghel and Other Poems, completes this collection.

Related collections:

Ms 103 John Malcolm Brinnin Papers

Ms 110 Pagany Archive

Ms 199 Michel Farano Papers

Arrangement Note

The collection is arranged into five series. The first four series are in alphabetical order by name of the recipient of Williams's letters. The recipients include Orrick Johns, George Kirgo, Fred Miller, and Emanuel Romano. The letters are arranged in chronological order within each series.

The fifth series is comprised of the galley proofs of William Carlos Williams's collection of poems, Pictures From Brueghel and Other Poems.

Series List

I.   Letters to Orrick Johns, 1916-1939
II.  Letters to George Kirgo, 1950-1954
III. Letters to Fred Miller, 1934-1962
IV.  Letters to Emanuel Romano, 1951-1957
V.   Williams's Pictures From Brueghel and Other Poems, [1962]

Contents List

Folder -- Contents

  Series I.  Letters to Orrick Johns, 1916-1939
          Consists of four letters from Williams to Johns.

          American poet Orrick Johns was born in St. Louis,
          Missouri in 1887.  Some of his earliest poems, "Songs
          of Deliverance," were printed by Harriet Monroe in
          Poetry, a Magazine of Verse.  His work was also
          published in Alfred Kreymborg's Others, A Magazine of
          the New Verse.  His published books included a novel,
          Blindfold, and several collections of poetry, including
          Asphalt and Black Branches.  He later was an editor of
          the New Masses.  His autobiographical Time of Our
          Lives: The Story of My Father and Myself details his
          literary work and social activism.

F1   Johns, 1916-1939

     1916 Oct 11         ALS       2 p
          Oct 30         TLS       1 p

     1939 Feb 21         TLS       1 p
          Mar 18         TLS       2 p

     Series II.  Letters to George Kirgo, 1950-1954
          Consists of ten letters from Williams to Kirgo, as well
          as four letters from Florence Williams to Kirgo.  Also
          includes a check, an envelope and a packing list which
          have no related letters.

          Bookseller George Kirgo operated Kirgo's Books-By-Mail
          from New York City and was a friend of Williams.

F2   Kirgo, 1950

     1950 Aug 24         TLS       1 p
          Sep 21         TLS       1 p
          Nov 27         check     1 p
          Dec 8          TLS       1 p
F3   Kirgo, 1951-1954
     Four of the letters are from Florence Williams to Kirgo.

     1951 [Sep 21]       TCS     1 p
          Sep 15         TLS     1 p
     [ca. 1951 Oct 15]   ANS     1 p
          Nov 23         ACS     1 p (Florence Williams to Kirgo)
          Dec 10         ACS     1 p (Florence Williams to Kirgo)
          Dec 26         ACS     1 p (Florence Williams to Kirgo)

     1953 Feb 26         ANS     1 p (Florence Williams to Kirgo
                                     on the bottom of a letter to
                                     Williams from Mrs. Klendt)
          Dec 7          TLS     1 p
     [1953 Dec 10]       AN      1 p (Note on verso of envelope)

     1954 Nov 3          TLS     1 p

     Series III.  Letters to Fred R. Miller, 1934-1962
          In addition to the letters from William Carlos
          Williams to Fred Miller, this series includes a poem
          and a story written by Miller.  Also includes several
          envelopes with no corresponding letters; a letter from
          Miller to his publisher, Oscar Baron; a letter from Ted
          Weiss to Williams; and a copy of the Massachusetts
          Review which contains an article about Williams.

          Fred Miller was an American writer, most of whose work
          was published in magazines and anthologies.  In
          addition to short stories he wrote book reviews, jazz
          criticism, poetry, and biographical profiles.  His
          friendship with William Carlos Williams spanned over
          thirty years, during which time Williams encouraged his
          writing and assisted in getting his work published. 
          The publication of Miller's Gutbucket and Gossamer was
          due to Williams assistance.

F4   Miller, 1934-1936

     1934 Jul            TLS       2 p

     1935 Feb 13         TLS       2 p
          Mar 10         TLS       1 p
          Jun 11         TLS       1 p
          Sep 26         TLS       1 p

     1936 May 8          TLS       1 p
F5   Miller, 1937-1944

     1937 Jun 18         TLS       1 p
          Sep 23         TLS       1 p

     1941 Mar 12         ALS       2 p

     1943 Jul 12         TLS       1 p

     1944 Mar 15         TLS       2 p (AN by Williams on verso)

F6   Miller, 1945 Jan-May

     1945 Jan 20         TLS       2 p
          Feb 1          ANS       1 p
          Feb 27         ALS       7 p
          Apr 1          TLS       1 p
     [1945 Apr 4]        ACS       1 p
          Apr 20         ALS       2 p
          May 25         TLS       1 p (with one page ANS)
          May 29         TLS       1 p

F7   Miller, 1945 Jun-Dec
     Also includes a letter from Ted Weiss to Williams (September
     14, 1945).

     [ca. 1945 Jun]      ALS       2 p
     1945 Jun 26         ALS       2 p
          Sep 8          TLS       2 p
          Sep 17         ALS       2 p
     [1945 Sep 23]       ACS       1 p
          Dec 11         TLS       1 p

F8   Miller, 1946 Jan-May

     1946 Jan 5          ALS       2 p
          Feb 16         ALS       2 p
          Mar 29         TLS       2 p
          May 9          ALS       2 p
     [1946 May 29]       ALS       2 p

F9   Miller, 1946 Jun-Dec

     1946 Jun 6          ALS       2 p
          Jul 9          TLS       2 p
          Jul 9          TLS       2 p (letter begun as AL)
          Jul 15         TLS       1 p
     [1946 Sep 16]       ALS       2 p
     [1946 Dec 21]       ALS       2 p

F10  Miller, 1947-1949
     Includes a typescript poem, "Where to Experience Love, If
     Not Outside a Cathedral?," written by Fred Miller and
     bearing autograph revisions by Williams.  The poem is
     enclosed in the May 20, 1949 letter, in which Williams
     discusses the poem.

     [1947 Feb 27]       ACS       1 p
     1947 Mar 28         TLS       1 p
     [1947 Jul 12]       ACS       1 p (with small bag of salt
                                       from the Great Salt Lake)
     1948 Mar 8          ALS       2 p

     1949 Apr 26         TLS       2 p
          May 20         ALS       2 p (with Ts poem by Miller)

F11  Miller, 1950-1954
     Includes one letter from Florence Williams to Miller.

     [1950] Jan 24       TLS       1 p
     1950 Oct 18         TLS       1 p
          Dec 8          TLS       1 p

     1951 Jun 13         TLS       1 p

     1953 Aug 24         TLS       1 p

     1954 Jan 28         ALS       4 p (Florence Williams to 

F12  Miller, 1957-1961
     Includes three envelopes without accompanying letters.

     1957 Aug 23         TLS       1 p
          Sep 30         TLS       2 p

     1958 Sep 3          TLS       1 p

     1961 May 2          TLS       1 p
          Jun 5          ACS       1 p (Florence Williams to

     [n.y.] Feb 8        TLS       1 p
     [n.d.]              ALS       1 p

F13  "Gutbucket and Gossamer," 1950-1962
     Typescript of Fred Miller's story, "Gutbucket and Gossamer,"
     which was published by Oscar Baron's Alicat Bookshop Press
     in 1950.  Also includes two letters from Miller to Oscar
     Baron concerning the story, and a copy of Miller's resume.

F14  The Massachusetts Review, 1973 
     A copy of the Winter 1973 issue of The Massachusetts Review
     which contains a section titled "A Williams Garland."  The
     sections consist of four articles related to William Carlos
     Williams, including portions of Man Orchid, an uncompleted
     novel on which Williams, Miller, and Lydia Carlin collaborated.
     This complimentary issue was accompanied by a note from editor
     Jules Chametzky.

     Series IV.  Letters to Emanuel Romano, 1951-1957
          In addition to the eight letters from Williams to
          Romano, this series includes a letter from Romano to
          Williams, and two manuscripts written by Williams
          concerning Romano and his work.

          Emanuel Romano was a portrait painter and friend of
          Williams.  His work included portraits of numerous
          poets and writers, including William Carlos Williams,
          Carson McCullers, W.H. Auden, Tennessee Williams,
          Marianne Moore, T.S. Eliot, and Andre Gide.

F15  Romano, 1951-1957
     Includes one letter from Romano to Williams.

     1951 Aug 23         TLS       1 p
     [1951 Sep 3]        TLS       1 p
          Nov 7          TLS       1 p
          Nov 16         TLS       1 p

     1952 Jan 11         TLS       1 p
          Mar 25         TLS       1 p

     1957 Jan 2          TLS       1 p
          Apr            TL        1 p (Romano to Williams, may
                                       be a transcription)
          Jun 25         TLS       1 p

F16  Williams's Essays Related to Romano, 1957 Mar-1968 Oct
     Includes Williams's four page typescript essay titled "The
     Broken Vase."  The cover sheet bears the statement,
     "Reflections written by William Carlos Williams on the
     paintings of Emanuel Romano March 1957."  Williams has
     signed page three of the essay. 

     Also includes a nine-page carbon typescript of Williams's
     essay on Emanuel Romano included in the brochure for
     Romano's October 3-26, 1968 exhibition titled "Portraits of
     Poets & Writers" held at Gotham Book Mart Gallery, New York. 
     Also includes a copy of the brochure.

     Series V.  Pictures From Brueghel and Other Poems
          Galley Proofs, [1962]
          This collection of poems by Williams was first
          published by New Directions in 1962.

F17  Pictures From Brueghel and Other Poems, [1962]
     Includes 58 sheets of galleys.  Removed to Galley Section of
     the Manuscript Collection.
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