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Personal, 1918-1980 and undated


This subseries contains Porter's extensive personal correspondence. It consists of typescript and manuscript letters, telegrams, postcards, prints of V-Mail, greeting cards, inscribed calling cards, gift enclosure cards, clippings, and casual notes to and from friends, acquaintances, lovers, fans, scholars, and coworkers. Materials extensively document Porter's personal life but also illuminate aspects of her professional life. Porter frequently rediscovered letters years after they were composed or received and annotated them with her thoughts and impressions.

Many pieces of correspondence document Porter's long friendships with individuals and couples, many of whom were prominent writers themselves. These include Kay Boyle; Cleanth and Tinkum Brooks; Malcolm Cowley; Barbara Thompson Mueenuddin Davis; Mary Louis Doherty; Kenneth Durant; Ernestine Evans; Ford Madox Ford and Janice Biala Ford; Caroline Gordon; Josephine Herbst; William and Dorothy Humphrey; George Platt Lynes; Arthur and Rosemary Mizener; Flannery O'Connor; William Jay Smith, Barbara Smith, Sonja Smith; James and Tania Stern; Kay Strozzi; Margaret Winkler; Robert Penn Warren, Cinina Brescia Warren, and Eleanor Clark Warren; Eudora Welty; Glenway Wescott; and Monroe Wheeler.

Likewise, many other groups of correspondence relate to friendships and associations Porter formed with prominent writers and artists of the twentieth century, including Samuel Barber, Miguel Covarrubias, Hart Crane, David Diamond, Angna Enters, F. O. Matthiessen, Ezra Pound, Theodore Roethke, Muriel Rukeyser, Edith Sitwell, Agnes Smedley, and Tennessee Williams.

Materials in this subgroup also concern persons she recommended for Yaddo, the Macdowell Colony, Guggenheim fellowships, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. There is also correspondence from her students at Stanford University and the University of Michigan, some written many years after she taught them. Many aspiring writers unknown to Porter sent her their work, fiction and nonfiction, seeking critiques. In some cases, Miss Porter responded. Some of those manuscripts are in Series IX. There is correspondence with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and John F. Kennedy that relates mostly to her participation in Washington, D.C., social life after the success of Ship of Fools. There is a letter of complaint to the Washington Evening Star about its social columnist's coverage of her personal life, and numerous cards from Ned Warner and the staff at the Jefferson Hotel, where she frequently stayed.

Porter's correspondence with couples is filed under both the names (i.e., Ford Madox Ford and Janice Biala Ford). If she also knew the members of a couple as individuals before they married or established a domestic partnership, they may have an individual file as well as a couple file. For example, there are separate "Eleanor Clark" and "Robert Penn Warren and Eleanor Clark Warren" files.

Scholars who interviewed Miss Porter or wrote to her in connection with their research include Alfred Kinsey, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and Alfred Crosby. Crosby dedicated his book on the influenza outbreak of 1918, Epidemic and Peace, to Porter. Others requested information on Eleanor Wylie (Stanley Olson), Yaddo (Florence Aswell), Hound and Horn and Ezra Pound (Mitzi Berger Hamovitch), her World War II correspondence (John Jamieson), her correspondence with Robert McAlmon (Victoria McAlmon), her career in Mexico (Paul North, Thomas F. Walsh), her work on the Rocky Mountain News (James L. Roberts), Carson McCullers (Margaret Sullivan), biographical information (Donald Stalling), Hart Crane (Brom Weber, Silvio Bedini), her memories of Texas (Margarita Folks), and Willa Cather (Margaret Gilson).

The subseries includes correspondence with several of her suitors and lovers: William Goyen, Alvaro Hinojosa, Jordan Pecile, J. H. Retinger, Francisco Aguilera, Sumner Williams, Herbert Schaumann, and Charles Shannon. With the exception of Goyen, Pecile, and Retinger, with whom her correspondence was quite extensive, there are few materials from these individuals. Correspondence with Eugene Pressly and Albert Erskine, two of her husbands, is in the Family-- To Porter subseries.

There is also correspondence with photographers and portrait painters, including Jill Krementz, Kenneth Hari, Rollie McKenna, Hans Beacham, and Richard Avedon. This subseries also includes some exchanges with individual fans. An exchange with one fan, Elizabeth Kaderli, became a dispute when Miss Porter learned that Kaderli intended to publish her letters in a book. The materials are arranged alphabetically by the last name of the correspondent, then chronologically within the folders; institutional affiliations and cross-references to other series, subseries, or subgroups are provided as appropriate. Subject groups, consisting of correspondence related to astrology, biographical information, housing, and medical treatments are located at the end of the subgroup; these four are arranged alphabetically, then chronologically within the folders. Related materials may be found in Series V: Personal; Series VI: Clippings; Series IX: Manuscripts of Other Individuals; Series X: Audio Recordings; Series XI: Memorabilia, and Series XII: Photographs.


  • 1918-1980 and undated

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open to the public, non-circulating, and must be used in the Special Collections Reading Room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.


10.00 Linear Feet

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742