Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Williams, Oscar mss., 1920-1966, consist primarily of correspondence, 1927-1966, notebooks, agreements, anthology material, poetry, and financial records of American poet and anthologist, Oscar Williams.

Williams was born in Brooklyn, New York, December 1910. He wrote poetry from an early age, winning the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 1921, yet gave up poetry to work, quite successfully, in advertising for sixteen years. In 1937 he decided to quit his advertising job, resumed writing, lecturing, and poetry readings, and through the 1940s and 50s produced a number of poetry anthologies. He originated the "Little Treasury Poetry Series" and several of his anthologies, including Little Treasury of Modern Poetry (1952) and Immortal Poems of the English Language (1964), were used as textbooks in more than 100 American colleges and universities. Williams died in New York City, December 10, 1964.

The collection is organized into the following series: I. Correspondence; II. Dylan Thomas; III. Writings by Others; IV. Writings by Oscar Williams; V. Anthologies; VI. Miscellaneous; VII. Recordings; and, VIII. Photographs. An inventory is available.

Among the correspondents in the collection are: Conrad Potter Aiken, George Granville Barker, Roy Prentice Basler, John Berryman, John Malcolm Brinnin, Richard Eberhart, Kimon Friar, Isabella Stewart Gardner, Ruth Herschberger, Edwin Honig, Archibald MacLeish, Marianne Moore, Henry Rago, Hyman Jordan Sobiloff, Wallace Stevens, Allen Tate, Peter Viereck, Robert Penn Warren, Vernon Phillips Watkins, Victor Weybright, and John Hall Wheelock.

The Dylan Thomas materials include: correspondence, 1944-1953, both to and from Thomas, some of which are originals while others are copies or photostats; several drafts of "Poem on His Birthday" published in Thomas, Collected Poems, 1934-1952 (London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1952), pages 170-173 (Lilly PR6039 .H52 A17 1952); fragments of other Thomas writings; original pen and ink drawings by Thomas: Little Girl Observes a Fish on Land, English hostess looks with scorn at unusual family, and, on its verso, Ho ho strange business; and photographs, including of Dylan Thomas and Oscar Williams on Fifth Avenue in New York, and of their portraits painted by artist Gene Derwood, Mrs. Oscar Williams.

There is a large group of writings by authors other than Oscar Williams in the collection. Some of these are original manuscripts by the author in question, while others are typescript copies, mimeograph or photocopies, and, in some cases, printed tear sheets or off-prints. Among the original manuscripts are pieces by George Barker, John Berryman, Elizabeth Bishop, Richard Eberhart, Jane Esty, Isabella Stewart Gardner, Anthony Hecht, Edwin Honig, Galway Kinnell, Sylvia Plath, Frederic Prokosch, Theodore Roethke, Delmore Schwartz, Hyman Sobiloff, May Swenson, Peter Viereck, John Hall Wheelock, Richard Wilbur, and Marguerite Young. There are also several files of unidentified author writings (although not by Oscar Williams) arranged alphabetically either by initials, if present, title, or first line.

Oscar Williams's own writings are arranged alphabetically by title, followed by untitled works arranged by first line. Manuscripts, mostly portions and fragments, as well as galleys of the anthologies follow. The reel-to-reel tapes are recordings of readings by poets and by Williams.

There are about 6300 photographs, in numerous formats, but mostly 3x4 black-and-white prints, or 35 mm slides. Almost all photographs are of guests at Williams' Brooklyn apartment. A small portion of the photographs are publicity shots of authors submitted to Williams for possible inclusion in Williams' anthologies. Prominent are photographs of Conrad Aiken, George Barker, Roy Basler, Joseph Bennett, Vivian Brasotti, Anatole Broyard, William Clark, Sarah Coxhead, Gene Derwood, Mary Jene Doutterd, Richard Eberhart, Robert Frost, Nancy Gilligan, Sandra Hochman, Edwin Honig, Margot Honig, Calvin Johnstone, Elizabeth Johnstone, Elizabeth Lambert, Claire McAllister, Rosalind Nestor, Antonio Salemme, Anita Seal, Anne Sexton, Hyman Jordan Sobiloff, Dylan Thomas, Andree Van Antwerpen, Oscar Williams, Strephon Williams, James Arlington Wright, and Jo Huntley Wright.

Gift. 1959, 1960, 1963, 1965, 1968

Collection size: 11,232 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.