Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Shawn mss., ca. 1963-1983, consist primarily of correspondence between The New Yorker editor William Shawn, 1907-1992, and the magazine's film critic Penelope Gilliatt, 1932-1993. Gilliatt was born in London and briefly attended both Queens College (London) and Bennington College in Vermont. Pursuing a career in writing she won a fiction-writing award from British Vogue and then joined the magazines staff to become its features editor. She later worked as a film critic for The Observer and early in 1967 she was asked by William Shawn to be a guest film critic for The New Yorker during the summer. During the 1960s and 70s Gilliatt submitted short stories and various articles to the magaz ine, including a profile of film director Woody Allen that was published in 1974.

During the 1970s Gilliatt alternated with Pauline Kael in six month periods as The New Yorker's film critic, as well as writing occasional book reviews and author profiles. One such article "Profile of Graham Greene" (March 26, 1979 issue) prompted charges of plagiarism by novelist Michael Mewshaw and English professor Judy Adamson, as well as complaints of "misstatements, misquotations and inaccuracies" made directly to The New Yorker by Graham Greene. The resulting news coverage of the "Profile" and charges against it led to Gilliatt "taking a leave of absence as one of The New Yorker's film critics...for reasons of health." Meanwhile Woody Allen wrote a letter to Shawn in May in complete support of Penelope Gilliatt's writing: "...we [Diane Keaton and myself] always find Miss Gilliatt's writing...quite wonderful." Although Gilliatt did not write any further film or book reviews for the magazine, she did continue to be published in The New Yorker, including a short play titled "In Trust" (January 14, 1980) that elicited comments about "...this disgraceful & idenitifiable attack on my character" from playwright John Osborne.

The collection is arranged in chronological order and includes a separate folder of clippings and inter-office notes, dating May~September 1979, relating to the Graham Greene "Profile" and The New Yorker. Three miscellaneous items relating to writings by Gilliatt complete the collection.

Purchase. 2007

Collection size: 100 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.