Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Rosenberg mss., ca. 1938-1982, consist of letters from film critic and reviewer Pauline Kael, 1919-2001, to longtime friend Violet Rosenberg. Both women were students at the University of California, Berkeley, in the late 1930s and the correspondence begins after Violet left Berkeley but Kael was still enrolled at the university. Kael moved from Berkeley to San Francisco in mid-1940 and then to New York in late 1941 or early 1942 (she first writes from New York in February 1942), and returned to San Francisco sometime between January and August 1946. She would not return to the east coast and her eventual position as film reviewer for The New Yorker until 1965.

Most of the letters date from 1939-1947 and are addressed to Violet most often in Los Angeles. They are seldom dated by anything other than "Saturday night" or "Thursday the 10th," but many are accompanied by envelopes that have postmarks. The letters have thus been dated by using a combination of these postmarks, day or date of the week Kael has written, and specific contents. Examples of using the latter include such sentences as "Did you hear about James Joyce death today?" (January 13, 1941) and "...- the announcement of the Russo-Japanese Pact,..." along with the statement about having guests during Easter week, places that seven page letter, dated by Kael as "Tuesday nite (Wednesday morn)" as sometime in April 1941. In general the letters are filled with information about Kael's activities: films and exhibitions she attends; people she sees and meets, particularly those she knew in Berkeley that have gone to New York as well; books read; jobs held, lost, and hunted for; and her continual financial concerns. One letter, February 24, 1941, encloses a letter to Violet by Bob Horan (b. 1922) while another, February 28, 1942, encloses poems by him that Kael has copied out for her. Other enclosures include a transcript of "Thomas sonnet on crucifixion" in a 1941 letter and "...a little dime snapshot..." sent in September 1942. During the course of the correspondence Violet marries Carl Mitchell, and divorces him.

There are no letters between 1947 and 1970; the last three items, though undated by Kael and not accompanied by envelopes, have been noted by Violet as '74-76, '80? and '82. Two newspaper clippings from April 1976 California newspapers, mentioning Pauline Kael, complete the collection.

An inventory of the collection is available.

Collection size: 54 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.