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James I. Merrill (AC 1947)-William S. Burford (AC 1949) Correspondence, 1945-1980 (Bulk: 1946-1947)
1 half archives box (0.25 linear ft.)

Abstract:
The bulk of the collection consists of thirty-four letters written by James Merrill to William S. Burford while they were Amherst College undergraduates. Also, six pen and ink sketches from Merrill's student days at Amherst; and two copies of the final publication of (as well as a draft of credits for) the literary journal The Medusa, which Merrill and Burford co-founded.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

There is no restriction on access to the James I. Merrill (AC 1947)-William S. Burford (AC 1949) Correspondence, 1945-1980 for research use. Particularly fragile items may be restricted for preservation purposes.

Restrictions on use:

Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections in the first instance. Washington University retains ownership of all copyrights to the letters written by James Merrill. All requests for permission and consent for use of the letters must be agreed to by the owners and the holders of copyrights to the materials that are the subject of such requests, including Amherst, as the physical owner of the original letters written by Merrill; Washington University as the holder of the Merrill copyrights; Merrill's literary executors as necessary; and the holders of the Burford copyrights, as appropriate. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Amherst College Archives and Special Collections

Biographical Note
James Ingram Merrill was born on March 3, 1926, son of Hellen Ingram Merrill (later Plummer) and Charles E. Merrill (AC 1908). Merrill prepared for college at Lawrenceville School and entered Amherst with the Class of 1947 in the summer of 1943. Merrill interrupted his studies between May, 1944 and February, 1945 when he served in the Army Enlisted Reserves. He returned to graduate in June, 1947. Merrill was on good terms with the College throughout his life, returning to teach, serve as a fellow, give readings, and participate in a variety of College events. A detailed chronology of the poet's association with Amherst and a comprehensive list of Merrill's Amherst College undergraduate courses follow:
Chronology of James I. Merrill (AC 1947) at Amherst College
1943 Summer term Matriculated; lived in Psi Upsilon House, room 6 (through May 1944)
1943 July 2 Listed in the "Class of 1947 Directory" published in The Gazette of Amherst College
1943-1944 Listed in the Amherst College Catalogue under the "Class of 1947" for the summer (July 1-Oct 13, 1943) and fall (Oct 21-Feb 9, 1944) terms
1943 Oct -1944 Feb Roomed in Psi Upsilon House, room 6
1943 Oct 1-2 Played the butler, Johann Dwornitschek, in a production of Molnar's The Play's the Thing
1943 Oct 29 Listed in the "College Directory - Winter Term" published in The Gazette of Amherst College
1943 Nov Author of "Campus Comment" in Amherst Graduates' Quarterly
1944 Feb-May Roomed in Psi Upsilon House, room 6
1944 Feb Author of "Undergraduate Comment" in Amherst Graduates' Quarterly
1944 Appears in the freshman group photograph in The Olio
1944-1945 Listed in the Amherst College Catalogue under the "Class of 1947" for the spring (Feb 17-May 31, 1944) term
1944 May 27 Entered the Army Enlisted Reserve
1945 Jan 24 Discharged from the Army 1945-1946 Listed in the Amherst College Catalogue under the "Class of 1947" for the spring (Feb 15-May 29, 1945), summer (Jun 28-Sep 19, 1945), and fall (Sep 27-Feb 2, 1946) terms
1945 Feb 15 Re-enrolled at Amherst College
1945 Feb-May Roomed in Chi Psi Lodge (to Feb 1946
1945 Feb 20 Listed in the "Amherst College Directory" published in The Jeff
1945 June 30 Listed in the "Amherst College Directory" for summer term published in The Jeff
1945 Summer term Roomed in Chi Psi Lodge
1945 Sep 28 Listed in the "Amherst College Directory" for fall term published in The Jeff
1945 Oct -1946 Feb Roomed in Chi Psi Lodge
1945 Oct 20 Mentioned in an article in The Jeff about the Orphee production ("Kirby Theatre Guild Presentation For Fall To Be Two One Act Plays")
1945 Nov 30 Mentioned in an article in The Jeff about the Orphee production ("My Heart's In The Highlands And Orphee To Open At Kirby Theatre")
1945 Dec 6-8 Played the title role in a production of Cocteau's Orphee
1945 Dec 7 Mentioned in an article in The Jeff about the Orphee production ("Casts of Kirby Theatre Plays Demonstrated Great Skill and Poise")
1945 Dec 14 Appears in the Theatre Guild photograph ("Brains Behind Guild") and the Orphee photograph ("Orphee's Best Friend") in The Jeff
1946-1947 Listed in the Amherst College Catalogue under the "Class of 1947" for the spring (Feb 4-Jun 11, 1946) and fall (Sep 25-Feb 1, 1947) terms
1946 Spring term Roomed at 24 Tyler Place [Crosby's?] (at least to Feb 1947)
1946 Feb 8 Article in The Jeff about Merrill's election as President of The Medusa ("Whicher to Read Own Works At Medusa"); Merrill also listed in "Extra-curricular Activities"
1946 May 17 Article in The Jeff about the receiving the Irene Glascock memorial poetry prize from Mount Holyoke College ("Amherst Bard Wins Holyoke Poet Prize")
1946 May 28 Mentioned in article in The Jeff about The Masquers ("Reorganization, Election Of Officers Features Return Of The Masquers")
1946 Listed as an Olio contributor in The 1946 Olio (with red paper covers), p. 35, which was produced in May of 1945 (the Class of 1946 graduated in May 1945 because the College accelerated the program due to the war)
1946 Jun Appears in Kirby Theatre Guild and The Medusa photographs in The Olio (white hardcover), pp. 60-61, p. 65
1946-1947 Fall term Roomed at 24 Tyler Place [Crosby's?]
1946 Fall Edited The Medusa with William Burford (AC 1949). The journal contained four Merrill poems: "The Broken Bowl," "From Morning into Morning," "Medusa," "The Black Swan"
1946 Dec 10 Election to Phi Beta Kappa noted in an article in The Amherst Student ("Sedelow Chosen Phi Beta Kappa Head; New Members Selected")
1947 May 14 Mentioned in an article in The Amherst Student about the Masquers productions ("Petrified Forest; Sherwood Drama To Be Followed by One-Act Plays")
1947 May 22-23 Production of The Birthday, a play in blank verse by Merrill, at Kirby Theater
1947 May 28 Received the Collin Armstrong (AC 1877) Poetry Prize
1947 May 28 Mentioned in an article in The Amherst Student about workshop dramas ("Second Series Of Workshop Dramas Presented In Kirby")
1947 In The Olio: senior photograph, p. 42; Phi Beta Kappa photograph, p. 75; The Masquers photograph, p. [80]; list of activities, p. 132
1947 Jun 15
Awarded a B.A. degree summa cum laude, English major, at the 127th Commencement. (The degree was voted by the Trustees, on May 3, 1947)
Senior honors thesis: "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu :Impressionism in Literature"
1947-1948 Listed in the Amherst College Catalogue in the "Honors" section for membership in the Phi Beta Kappa Society and as the 1947 recipient of the Collin Armstrong Poetry Prize for Eight Poems, "the best original poems in a group." Also listed under "Degrees Conferred June 15, 1947"
1950 Twenty-One Lyrics, a production of G. F. Whicher's Humanities 1- 2 course, includes Merrill's poem "The Broken Bowl"
1951 May Review in Amherst Alumni News ("Amherst Authors" section, "1942 and 1947") of Merrill's book First Poems
1951 Ten Student Poems: A Selection of Poetry Composed by Students in English 23-24, Advanced Composition, at Amherst College, 1946-1951 (Merrill's poem "The Forms of Death: I, II, III, IV")
1955 Feb 10 Article in The Amherst Student about Merrill's comedy The Immortal Husband ("Comedy By Merrill '47 Opens Soon In New York")
1955-1956
Visiting Assistant Professor of English. Taught English 21 and 22, Introduction to Literature, and English 23 and 24, Advanced Composition
Merrill lived on Market Hill Road (at Professor Walker Gibson's house while Gibson was away on leave), his campus office was in Grosvenor 26
1956 Jan Review in Amherst Alumni News of The Misanthrope by Molière,translated by Richard Wilbur '42
1956 May 24 Mentioned in an article in The Amherst Student about faculty who were leaving: Merrill was to travel the world ("Twenty-Seven Of Faculty To Leave Amherst In Next Year")
1956 Faculty photograph in The Olio, p. 25
1957 April Review in Amherst Alumni News ("Amherst Authors" section, "1947") of Merrill's book The Seraglio
1963 Jan 7 Announcement in The Amherst Student ("Poetry Here Tuesday Merrill '47 To Read") for January 8 poetry reading
1963 Jan 8 Poetry reading in Johnson Chapel
1963 Jan 10 Article in The Amherst Student ("James Merrill At Amherst") about his January 8 poetry reading
1968 Jun 7 Received an Honorary Litt.D. degree at the 147th Commencement
1972 Fall Announcement in Amherst ("Amherst Authors" section, "1947") of Merrill's book Braving the Elements
1973 Winter Article in Amherst ("James Merrill '47 Wins Bollingen Prize") about winning the prize, for Braving the Elements
1973 Dec 10 Poetry reading in Johnson Chapel
1977 Spring Announcement in Amherst ("Amherst Authors" section, "Merrill Wins Pulitzer") about winning the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, for Divine Comedies
1980 May 24 Class Day speaker for Senior Week and Commencement
1980 Summer Article in Amherst ("The man in manifesto") about his Class Day appearance
1982 Jun Sent news and photograph for the Classes of 1947 and 1948's 35th Reunion Book
1983 Spring Article in Amherst ("Amherst Authors" section, "A host true to his word") about Merrill's books From the First Nine: Poems 1946- 1976 and Changing Light at Sandover
1983 Apr 25-29
Merrill is the sixth Robert Frost Library Fellow
poetry reading on April 25
dinner and poetry reading on April 29
Friends of the Amherst College Library keepsake publication: the poem Think Tank
1983 Article in Newsletter of the Friends of the Amherst College Library about Merrill's Robert Frost Library Fellowship
1988 Jun 4 Poetry reading during Reunion Week (Classes of 1947 and 1948 combined 40th Reunion)
1988 Fall Article in Amherst ("The Senior Song") about Merrill's poetry reading at Reunion
1990 Winter Article in Amherst ("National poetry prize is awarded to Merrill") about the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, from the Library of Congress, for The Inner Room
1993 Oct 22 Book signing of Merrill's memoir, A Different Person, at the Jeffery Amherst Bookshop during Homecoming Weekend
1994 Winter Article in Amherst ("Amherst Authors" section, "Learning how to live") about Merrill's book A Different Person: A Memoir
1995 Feb 6 Merrill's death
1995 Spring Article in Amherst ("A Parnassian is gone") about Merrill's death; obituary in the "Notes" section
1997 May-Jun Obituary reprinted in the Classes of 1947 and 1948's 50th Reunion Book
2001 April 12 "A celebration of poet James Merrill: with readings of his work and remembrances by local poets," in Johnson Chapel, with related exhibition in the Archives and Special Collections, Robert Frost Library
2001 Summer Article in Amherst ("Amherst Authors" section, "Literary event of the year") about the posthumously published Collected Poems
James I. Merrill's (AC 1947) Amherst College Courses
1943 Jul 1-Oct 13 (Summer; Term 1)
English 41 (The Renaissance) with George Roy Elliott
History 1 (Introduction to the History of Contemporary Civilization) with Allen Austin Gilmore
German 1 (Elementary Course) with Manford Vaughn Kern
Greek 4 (Homer) with Francis Howard Fobes
Math 1 (Trigonometry and Analytic Geometry) with Nels David Nelson/William Jesse Newlin
1943 Oct 21-1944 Feb 9 (1943-44 Fall; Term 2)
English 42 (The Renaissance) with George Roy Elliott
History 2 (Europe From 1848 to the Present, With Emphasis on World War I and the Subsequent Period) with Lawrence Bradford Packard
German 2 (Elementary Course) with Manford Vaughn Kern
Greek 5 (Plato: The Lyric Poets) with Francis Howard Fobes
Math 2 (Analytic Geometry and an Introduction to Calculus) with William Jesse Newlin
1944 Feb 17-May 31 (1943-44 Spring; Term 3)
English 19 (English Composition) with Reuben Arthur Brower, Theodore Baird, and G. Armour Craig
German 7 (Goethe) with Otto Manthey-Zorn
Greek 6 ( The Lyric Poets: Euripides) with Francis Howard Fobes
French 37 (French Poetry Through the Parnassians) with Ralph Coplestone Williams
Philosophy 16 (Philosophical Literature) with Roger Wellington Holmes
1945 Feb 15-May 29 (1944-45 Spring; Term 4)
English 29 (Shakespeare) with Theodore Baird
German 34 (Studies in German Culture) with Otto Manthey-Zorn
French 37 (Advanced Readings in French Literature) with George Banks Funnell
Philosophy 32 (Contemporary American Philosophy) with Gail Kennedy
Biology 1 (General Biology) with Otto Charles Glaser/Hermann Joseph Muller
1945 Jun 28-Sept 19 (Summer; Term 5)
English S43-44 (Double Course, American Literature) with George Frisbie Whicher
History S3-4 (Double Course, Classical Civilization) with Charles Lawton Sherman
1945 Sept 27-1946 Feb 2 (1945-46 Fall; Term 6)
English 25 (Science and Literature in the Nineteenth Century) with Theodore Baird
English 55 (Conference Course)
Italian 15 (Elementary Course) with Reginald Foster French
Astronomy 1 (Introduction to General Astronomy) with Warren Kimball Green
1946 Feb 4-Jun 11 (1945-46 Spring; Term 7)
English 35 (Chaucer) with George Frisbie Whicher
English 56 (Conference Course)
Italian 16 (Elementary Course) with Reginald Foster French
Philosophy 18 (Ethics) with Gail Kennedy
1946 Sept 25-1947 Feb 1 (1946-47 Fall; Term 8)
English 23 (English Composition) with William Walker Gibson
English 60 (Conference Course)
Italian 33 (Dante) with Reginald Foster French
Philosophy 37 (Philosophy of Religion) with James A. Martin, Jr.

Senior Thesis: "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu: Impressionism in Literature"

Merrill completed his course work during the fall semester of 1946, which ended on Feb. 1, 1947. He was an English major. The second semester (spring) began on Feb. 3, 1947. He was awarded a B.A. degree, summa cum laude, at the 127th Commencement on June 15, 1947. (The degree was voted by the Trustees on May 3, 1947.)

Scope and Contents of the Collection
The bulk of the collection consists of thirty-four letters written by James Merrill to William S. Burford while they were Amherst College undergraduates. Also, six pen and ink sketches from Merrill's student days at Amherst; and two copies of the final publication of (as well as a draft of credits for) the literary journal The Medusa, which Merrill and Burford co-founded.

Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

There is no restriction on access to the James I. Merrill (AC 1947)-William S. Burford (AC 1949) Correspondence, 1945-1980 for research use. Particularly fragile items may be restricted for preservation purposes.

Restrictions on use:

Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections in the first instance. Washington University retains ownership of all copyrights to the letters written by James Merrill. All requests for permission and consent for use of the letters must be agreed to by the owners and the holders of copyrights to the materials that are the subject of such requests, including Amherst, as the physical owner of the original letters written by Merrill; Washington University as the holder of the Merrill copyrights; Merrill's literary executors as necessary; and the holders of the Burford copyrights, as appropriate. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

[Identification of item], in James I. Merrill (AC 1947)-William S. Burford (AC 1949) Correspondence [Box #, folder #], Amherst College Archives and Special Collections, Amherst College Library

History of the Collection

The collection was part of a larger lot of Merrill material from the estate of Jonathan Goodwin, sold at auction by Christie's in New York, on June 17, 2003. The lot was acquired by Washington University in St. Louis; the Merrill-Burford material was acquired from them, by prior arrangement, in October 2003. Merrill's letters were presented to the Amherst College Library on April 23, 2004, by the Friends of the Amherst College Library, in a ceremony celebrating the growth of the Library collection to more than one million volumes. The acquisition of the letters as the symbolic millionth accession to the Library's holdings was made possible by a gift in memory of James I. Merrill.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Amherst College Archives and Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
PO Box 5000
Amherst, MA 01002-5000

Phone: (413) 542-2299
Fax: (413) 542-2692

Email Reference Form: http://www.amherst.edu/library/archives/askus
URL: http://www.amherst.edu/library/archives

Language
English

Contents List
Series 1: LETTERS
1946-80, [n.d.?]


Series 1, Letters, 1946-80, [n.d.?] contains thirty-four letters (with two transcriptions), notes and postcards, arranged chronologically. These youthful letters, written by Merrill to William S. Burford, Class of 1949, are the core of this collection. Burford was Merrill's friend, and co-founder and co-editor of the literary magazine The Medusa. Like Merrill, Burford was a poet and teacher.

Most of the early letters were written during the 1946 summer break at Amherst. Some were illustrated by Merrill. They were written from many places, including Merrill's mother's home in Connecticut; the Merrill apartment in New York City; and Merrill's father's estate on Long Island (The Orchards). Two others were written from Merrill's father's estate in Palm Beach, Florida (Merrill's Landing) during the March 1947 spring semester break. There are five letters and postcards from Merrill's travels in Mexico, as well as later correspondence from Haiti and Italy. There are five postcards written between June 1947 and March 1948, the year after Merrill graduated. The remaining seven notes and cards, efforts to remain in touch, are scattered over a period of 28 years (1952-1980). The series includes two explanations written by Burford about Merrill's notes from 1975 and 1977, and one letter from Burford to Terry Halladay.

The student letters to Burford provide a fascinating and intimate picture of young Merrill's mind at work. The letters illustrate the importance of The Medusa in Merrill's development as a poet and writer. (See Series 3 for details.) Some contain critical analyses of the work of the journal's contributors. Others are full of details of the creation, organization, production and printing of the journal (e.g., July 20, 1946), including the frustrations of a poet who must also be a technical expert and business man.

The letters also chronicle the development of Merrill's creative work (his play in blank verse, The Birthday, and several poems) and his ability to think critically about his own literary efforts and the work of others, including Burford's writing (that of July 16, 1946, contains a detailed critique of "Floods of Origin," Burford's novel). They also include Merrill's comments on the writings of The Medusa contributors (including Anaïs Nin), and the influence of famous literary figures (Proust, Joyce, Kafka, and Henry James). He shares his own work with Burford (the letter of July 30, 1946, contains a new poem "The matriarch with eyes like arrowheads," later published as "The Flynt Eye"). While the letters include sophisticated observations about travel (to Mexico and Haiti), art (Vermeer, Diego Rivera, Frieda Kahlo), and his love of music (Mozart, Debussy), they also reflect his youthful frustration and his sense of humor: "...the whole summer is bound to be unpleasant, and to top it all off the victrola doesn't work" (June 10, 1946). On June 28, 1946 he reports that he has written 26 lines of a new poem "languidly written to the victrola."

Some of the letters show Merrill seeking his way as a poet and philosophizing about his own life and emotions. His letter of August 1, 1946, shows a sense of feeling set apart, different:

...what I wanted more than anything is [sic] the world was the inconceivable joys of "the blond and blue-eyed", the bliss of the commonplace which is so violently uncommon. Now what I wish most in respect to this is to understand it, to understand those friends of mine who live in a world of simple action, unconcerned with any of the things that move me and obsess me.... One thing I know is that I shall never be able to enter their minds, that this very wish to do so in [sic] enough to keep me out forever.... Ultimately, therefore, I am glad of the difference; I would never dare change with them, even when I most long to.

In the same vein, on August 5, 1946, he writes to Burford about his poetry and his passion for life, his involvement in it, his inability to be a passive onlooker:

Those people like Mrs. Ramsay who blessedly knit socks and watch the sea and wonder about life, placed calmly on a terrace between two oblivions — to explore their minds would be like diving through clear water past charming fish and wise shells; but neither you nor I could ever be the water, the fish and shells, who have not the slightest emotion for or against the diver. It is not inconceivable that one day we shall find in ourselves that all the contradictions and desires and angers have through their quarreling created a way of life, a way of thought, an element as lucid, revealing as many wonders as we had always imagined existing outside ourselves. We will have created our own commonplace, and whether we drown from love of it like Narcissus or find that it is an atmosphere accessible to the entire world it will be the achievement, of all others, that is most perfect personal and liberating. That (in case I die in a plane crash) is what I believe, what I honestly believe I believe; it explains, now, what I must do with my poem and with all poems.

The letters are a remarkable combination of the unguarded revelations of a young man to his friend and, at some level, an awareness that he is writing for the future. Merrill struggles with his sense of self and questions why he is not happy. His letters contain very personal details of his family life and relationship with his parents. On June 13, 1946, he writes that he is afraid of breaking with his mother, who "has a life of rich moral assurance"; "at her suggestion I am going to an analyst this summer, which, the way I feel now, can be nothing but a relief. Perhaps it is foolish, but the situation is not exaggerated, and this seems to be the only way of introducing an authority more objective than hers or mine." In the letter of July 2, 1946, he notes that the analyst is to meet with him and his mother, an event he considers "at once fascinating and frightful." He doesn't trust the analyst's promise that he will advise Merrill's mother not to interfere; Merrill is "apprehensive, even fearing that he is in league with her and will, just as things are revealing gorgeous silver linings, trap me in some terrible way." Yet in the same letter he sends Burford a poem "written during three days of optimism" and says he is painting. On September 4, 1946, Merrill reports that he is in New York City for "my 12-day analysis" and reflects on the difficult loneliness of a week spent in solitude, "something I can not [sic] yet endure." In this same letter he playfully suggests that Burford create a "legend" of Merrill: "If you will promise to build up a legend about me, however, I shall disappear into Yucatan forever; I have always longed, in a horrible way, for a legend." Two sentences later he tells Burford that "I look forward with great relish to telling my father...that I will not join Chi Psi or any fraternity and that's that and watch his fine old eyes blur and his fingers clutch his heart in a fatal attack, ha!"

Merrill's indignant frustration at being denied entry to Mexico because he was without a tourist card colors the breathless, satirical letter of August 7, 1946, in which he describes "the August Martyrdom of St. James the Harrassed." Throughout the letters there are witty sketches of social events and acquaintances. One woman is the "pleased owner of the sharpest tongue in four counties," another is described as "amiable hatchet-mouthed Grace." Several letters refer to Anaïs Nin and their personal friendship, as well as her literary work. On March 24, 1947, he offers Burford advice about Burford's quarrel with Ned (he recommends honesty), the only letter of its kind in the group.

The letters written after Merrill graduates in June 1947 are less intensely personal. The later correspondence is more superficial, though it continues on friendly terms. In November 1966 Merrill thanks Burford for sending his book of poems and responds to the poems. Again, in 1975, Merrill offers advice on Burford's new poem. The final letter of the series was written by Burford to Terry Halladay of William Reese, Company (dealers in rare books and manuscripts) about the sale of some Merrill material.

Together these letters chronicle a short and focused time in Merrill's youth and evolution as a poet. They record with dramatic flair his self-conscious reflections on life and art, his angst, frustrations, humor, joys, and most of all, his seriousness about being a poet.

TLS, 1p (with envelope 1946 Jun 10) to "Bill" from "J." Asking a favor and commenting on life with his family in New Canaan, Connecticut; his anticipation of an unpleasant summer; and the Victrola does not work.
[1946 Jun 10]

Box 1: folder 1
TLS, 1p (with envelope, 1946 Jun 14) to "Bill" from "Jim"; "mid, night." With small sketch. Includes comments about his fear of breaking with his mother; Proust; and writing The Birthday.
[1946] Jun 13

Box 1: folder 2
TLS, 1p (with ANS 1p on back of TLS, with envelope 1946 Jun 24) to "Bill" from "Jim"; Thursday. Includes comments about Proust; music; and Kafka.
[1946 Jun 24]

Box 1: folder 3
TLS, 1p (with ANS 1p on back of TLS, with envelope 1946 Jun 28) no salutation, from "J." Descriptions of Gotham Book Mart and dinner with Anaïs Nin; has written 26 lines of a new poem to the Victrola.
[1946 Jun 28]

Box 1: folder 4
TLS, 1p (with envelope 1946 Jul 2) to "William" from "J." Includes comments about seeing his analyst; Medusa; an "enclose[d]... poem written during three days of optimism" (poem was not with the letter).
[1946 Jul 2]

Box 1: folder 5
ALS, 2p (with envelope 1946 Jul 11) to "Bill" from "Jimmy." Regarding a manuscript from Burford.
[1946 Jul 11]

Box 1: folder 6
TLS, 4p (with short ANS at end) to "Bill" from "Jim"; Sunday night. Critique of Burford's manuscript "Floods of Origin."
[1946 Jul 16]

Box 1: folder 7
ALS, 2p (with envelope 1946 Jul 20) to "Bill" from "J"; Monday. About the creation, organization, and production of The Medusa.
[1946 Jul 20]

Box 1: folder 8
ALS, 2p (with envelope 1946 Jul 24) to "William" from "James." Comments about his father's home; Anaïs Nin.
[1946 Jul 24]

Box 1: folder 9
TLS, 1p (with envelope 1946 multiple cancellations] to "Bill" from "Jim. Follow-up on his comments about Burford's "Floods of Origin."
[1946 Jul 28]

Box 1: folder 10
TLS, 4p (with envelope 1946 Jul 31) to "Bill" from "J"; "Tuesday, July 30?" (question mark is Merrill's); includes poem "The matriarch with eyes like arrowheads" (later published as "The Flynt Eye"). Comments about his horror of swimming pools and sea animals; Proust; his mother reading Burford's short story "The Rehearsal."
[1946] Jul 30

Box 1: folder 11
TLS, 2p (with short autograph P.S., with envelope 1946 Aug 1) to "Bill" from "Jim." Comments about his own life, inner feelings, and the need to understand; the difficulty of knowing how to write about life's experiences.
[1946] Aug 1

Box 1: folder 12
TLS, 2p (with short ANS at end, with envelope 1946 Aug 5) to "Bill" from "Jim." Comments about new doctor; Proust; Joyce; writing a new poem; passion for life and belief in "conscious beauty"; philosophy of poetry.
[1946] Aug 5

Box 1: folder 13
ANS, Postcard to "W.S. Burford" from "J" (Brulatour Courtyard, 520 Royal Street, New Orleans). Observations about his trip to New Orleans.
[1946 Aug 7]

Box 1: folder 14
TLS, 1p (with envelope 1946 Aug 8, with short autograph introduction in pencil), no salutation or closing. Humorous letter about trying to get to Mexico; the tale of "the August Martyrdom of St. James the Harassed."
[1946 Aug 7]

Box 1: folder 15
TLS, 1p, to "Bill" from "Jim." Description of trip through mountains in Mexico.
[1946] Aug 9

Box 1: folder 16
ANS, Postcard to "William Burford" from "J" (Palacio de Bellas Artes, Teatro Nacional de Mexico). Comments on the artwork on the postcard.
[1946 Aug 10?]

Box 1: folder 17
TLS, 1p (Hotel Marqués del Valle) to "Bill" from "Jim"; "Tues." Descriptions of his trip to Mexico; comments about his analyst in New York.
[1946] Aug 13

Box 1: folder 18
TLS, 2p (with envelope [1946] Sep 4) to "Querido Guilliermo" from "Jim." Description of Mrs. Grace Yokum; plans to be in New York City for his 12-day analysis; reflections on being alone; humorously suggests Burford create a "legend" of Jim; won"t join Chi Psi fraternity and looks forward to telling his father.
[1946] Sep 4

Box 1: folder 19
ALS, 3p (with envelope 1947 Mar 19) to "Bill" from "Jim"; "Tuesday night; 9:30 A.M. Wednesday." In Florida; description of colors; comments about Anaïs Nin and Burford.
[1947 Mar 18-19]

Box 1: folder 20
ALS, 4p (with envelope 1947 Mar 24) to "Bill," no closing; "Monday"; includes drawings of palm trees. Counsels Burford on his quarrel with Ned and recommends honesty; feels like he is twelve.
[1947 Mar 24]

Box 1: folder 21
ANS, Postcard to "Bill" from "Jimmy" (Scene in Paradise, Hieroynmus Bosch, Robert Alexander Waller Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago). Responding to Burford's poems; "Amherst commencement was sunny and flyblown & I am so glad to get away"; going to Paris.
[1947] Jun 24

Box 1: folder 22
ANS, Postcard, addressed to "William Burford" from "Jim" (A Winter Home in Palm Beach, Florida). Reflections on his state of mind.
[1947 Aug 18]

Box 1: folder 23
ANS, Postcard, addressed to "Señor William Burford" from "J" (O Homem Do'Foguete). Comments on his current plans, brief observations on what he has been doing.
[1947 Sep 9]

Box 1: folder 24
ANS, Postcard, addressed to "Mr. Wm. Burford" from "Jim" (23 H. Matisse – Nature morte, Still life, Musée du Luxembourg); includes quote from an Apollinaire work. Comments about his love of Mozart; "I have reached a new level of wisdom, but who can tell."
[1947 Nov 24]

Box 1: folder 25
ANS, Postcard, addressed to "Wm. Burford" from "Jim" (15, Haiti-Milot, Ruines du Chateau de Saus-Souci, et la Chapelle restaurée, Ruins of Sans-Souci Palace and the Chapel restored); postmarked 1948 Mar 15 and 1948 Mar 18. In Haiti with mother and Jonnie Norris.
[1948] Mar 13

Box 1: folder 26
ANS, Postcard, to "Bill" from "Jim" (Lecce – Seminario Vescovile). Comments about his travels in Greece and his itinerary.
[1952] Aug 17

Box 1: folder 27
TLS , 1 p (with envelope 1966 Nov. 13) to "Bill" from "Jim." Comments about Burford's poetry.
1966 Nov 12

Box 1: folder 28
ANS, Postcard, to "Bill" from "Jim" (standard post office postcard). Comments on his travels and itinerary.
1967 Aug 22

Box 1: folder 29
TLS, 1p (with envelope 1975 Sep 12) to "Bill" from "Jimmy"; with handwritten "Ans 9/16/75" on front. Comments about a new poem of Burford's and on his feelings at seeing Burford again.
1975 Sep 12

Box 1: folder 30
ANS, 1p (with envelope 1975 Nov 6, reunited with letter) to "Bill" from "Jim"; with handwritten "Ans 12/1/75" and, in different handwriting, "J. Merrill, 2 notes" on envelope front; with handwritten "(today's letter – Montale just here: he is a marvel. I'm glad you agree)" and, in Burford's handwriting, "Montale, The Ital. poet, about whom I'd just written him" on envelope back.
1975 Nov 6

Box 1: folder 31
2p (Burford's 1980 July 28 transcription of and explanatory note for Merrill's 1975 Nov 6 ANS).
1975 Nov 6

Box 1: folder 32
ANS, Postcard, to "Bill" from "Jim" (personal stationery postcard). Comments about Anaïs Nin's death and urges Burford to set down some memories of her. Reflects on his own health.
1977 Feb 4

Box 1: folder 33
1p (Burford's 1980 Jul 28 transcription of and explanatory note for Merrill's 1977 Feb 4 ANS).
1977 Feb 4

Box 1: folder 34
ANS, Postcard, to "Bill" from "Jim" (During summer months Art Festivals attract many visitors to Mystic, Westerly, Snug Harbor, Narragansett, Wickford, Exeter, Coventry, Newport, and other communities of Southern New England). Catching up with Burford.
[n.y.] Aug 19

Box 1: folder 35
Hotel envelope, annotated: "Oklawaha River trip from Silver Springs (Fla), 1946, The West"; with printed return address from The Inn, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida; empty.
[n.d.]

Box 1: folder 36
TLS, 1p, to "Terry" from "Bill," William Burford to Terry Hallady about the sale of James Merrill material.
[1980] Aug 11

Box 1: folder 37
Series 2: SKETCHES, DRAWINGS, NOTES, AND POEM
c. 1945-47


Series 2, Sketches, Drawings, Notes, and Poem, c. 1945-47, contains six pen and ink sketches from Merrill's student days at Amherst. They combine drawings of faces and figures, both fantastic and real, with words and phrases in multiple languages, including French, English and Italian. One sheet from [c. 1945?] is the working draft of a sonnet and has a self-portrait among the sketches of individuals on the page. This self-portrait, in particular, demonstrates his ability to poke fun at himself. The sonnet is an interesting example of how the young poet was honing his skill with language and sentiment, often using a word, then crossing it out, and then selecting once again the same word, or creating and then leaving behind whole lines.

Another sheet from [1946?] titled "Medusa telegram & Masquers (Amherst's student dramatic activities society) has illustrations and calligraphy relating to Merrill's poems in The Medusa as well as a list of philosophers and the odd sketch of faces and hands. There are also illustrations and phrases, including translations from Dante and comments to friends written during class, on three sheets of Italian language exercises. The one undated manila envelope is labeled "Jimmy Merrill" and includes sketches of a man, woman, faces and a furniture plan for a room.

These sketches, the youthful doodles of a college student, illustrate Merrill's artistic skill, wit, humor, and sense of satire.

4p: p.[1], poem draft with sketches of faces and a self-portrait in margins on one half of a folded sheet of typing paper; p.[2], typed "We, the undersigned residents of Chi Psi, strongly object to the proposal that Karl Bohmer move into this house."; p.[4], manuscript note. Lower half of second leaf torn off, with tear extending slightly into first leaf.
[c. 1945?]

Box 1: folder 38
Transcription [2004 Feb] of the poem "If to begin without a word" and April 2004 keepsake from the Millionth Volume Celebration for the Amherst College Library.
[c. 1945?]

Box 1: folder 39
2p, "Medusa telegram & Masquers," half sheet of paper. Includes sketches; list of philosophers; sketches of faces, web feet and hands; illustrations and calligraphy for "The Black Swan"; "The Broken Bowl"; "From Morning to Morning" (Merrill's Medusa poems).
[c. 1946?]

Box 1: folder 40
2p, Italian language exercises, handwritten on lined notebook paper with "Merrill" at top, corrected in red pencil; sketches of faces on front and back, notes in Italian and English on verso: "Remind me to tell you about Doc. Green and Junior." "Gee whiz you look depraved." "La cose du fa Eduardo è il vino." "The thing that does Edward is wine." "Addio/Sono audate? Figero di dormire."
[1945 Sep-1947 Feb?]

Box 1: folder 41
2p, Italian language exercises - mimeograph worksheet for verb conjugation "completed", handwritten "Merrill" at bottom with phrases in English and French and sketches of faces and figures on verso: "Patience, patience,/ patience dans l'azur!/ Chaque atome de silence/ Est la chance d'un fruit mûr!" "We'll all eat at the Greeks in undershirts -"
[1945 Sep-1947 Feb?]

Box 1: folder 42
2p, large face/bust; buddha-like sketch; faces; Italian names: "Pietro Alighieri; Jacopo della Lana; Benvenieto de Mola." On half sheet of paper.
[c. 1945-47?]

Box 1: folder 43
2p, Italian 33, (Inferno - XXXI, 10-33) - mimeograph sheet of Italian class exercises with three typed poems: "Carey," "Longfellow," and "Murray." Sketches of faces, people, and a three-armed goddess with guitar; English ("Life becomes tradition") and Italian phrases ("il tremolar della marina"), and handwritten "James Merrill."
[1946 Sept -1947 Feb]

Box 1: folder 44
File folder labeled "Jimmy Merrill" with a handwritten "Mr. James I. Merrill" and sketches of a man, the back of a woman, and faces on the front cover, and a furniture plan for a room, a seated woman, and a face in profile on the back cover.
[n.d.]

Box 1: folder 45
Series 3: The Medusa
1946


Series 3, The Medusa, 1946, contains a draft of credits for the literary journal and two copies of the final publication. One of the two copies has a handwritten inscription on the front, "After the first death, there is no other[.] Dec 1946". Both copies are very fragile.

The Medusa was the literary journal co-founded and edited by Merrill and William S. Burford (AC 1949). Only one issue was ever published, in fall of 1946. Merrill and Burford spent the previous spring and summer preparing the issue. They were involved in every aspect of creating the journal, including writing, soliciting material, proofreading, design, layout and production, and printing. Merrill handled the production aspect of the journal. Although he considered having the journal published in Athens, with the help of Kimon Friar, it was printed in Northampton by the Reynolds, Metcalf Printing Company (51 Clark Avenue). Merrill was also responsible for the design and layout, as well as the proofreading.

The name was taken from a student organization (interested in writing, music, art, and film) at Amherst, although it was published independently of the College. The journal published Merrill and Burford's own work as well as the work of their friends (including Anaïs Nin), Amherst faculty members (Professors George Whicher and John Cook), and members of the college community. Contributors were: Kimon Friar, Anaïs Nin, Sprague Johnson, Janet Morgan, James Merrill, William Burford, George Whicher, John Cook, and Maya Deren.

The Medusa contains four poems by Merrill: "The Broken Bowl," "From Morning into Morning," "Medusa," and "The Black Swan." It also contains Burford's eight-page short story "The Rehearsal."

Typed draft (with handwritten annotations) of back cover credits for The Medusa.
[1946]

Box 1: folder 46
The Medusa, with inscription "After the first death, there is no other[.] Dec. 1946".
1946 fall

Box 1: folder 47
The Medusa.
1946 fall

Box 1: folder 48

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • Burford, William.
  • Merrill, James Ingram.
  • The Medusa.

Contributors
  • Burford, William.
  • Merrill, James Ingram.


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