Skip to main content
Use the right side menu to identify relevant boxes and place requests.

Reed Whittemore papers

 Collection 0104-LIT

Edward Reed Whittemore, Jr. (1919-2012) was a poet and emeritus professor of English at the University of Maryland, where he taught from 1967 to 1984. He served twice as the Poetry Consultant for the Library of Congress. The author of a major biography of William Carlos Williams, he also wrote numerous volumes of poems and essays. Whittemore's papers include correspondence, manuscripts, drafts, notes, galleys, proofs, scrapbooks, diaries, published materials, newspaper and magazine clippings, audiotapes, and photographs documenting his life, literary work, and teaching. Significant correspondents represented in the collection include Arthur Mizener and John Pauker.


  • circa 1913-1985
  • Majority of material found within 1965-1980

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

This collection contains restricted material, please check the series and folder listings for additional information.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


26.00 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Papers of Edward Reed Whittemore, Jr., contain manuscripts and correspondence documenting his career as a writer, soldier, teacher, and editor. The collection also contains clippings, photographs, printed and published materials, as well as audiotapes and one cassette of Whittemore reading his own poetry. The collection spans the dates c. 1913 to 1985. The bulk of material dates from 1965 to 1980.


Poet, literary critic, biographer, essayist, and short story writer, Edward Reed Whittemore, Jr., was born on September 11, 1919, in New Haven, Connecticut, to Margaret Carr Whittemore (died 1943) and Edward Reed Whittemore, Sr. (died 1945). The elder Whittemore, a medical doctor, and his family enjoyed a comfortable financial situation until the economic difficulties of the 1930s. The younger Whittemore received his education at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where he exhibited an early interest in literature.

After graduating from Phillips in 1937, Whittemore entered Yale University. Between 1937 and his graduation from Yale in 1941, he published many of his early short stories and poems in the Yale Literary Magazine. Nearly every issue published during his time at the Yale featured some piece by the hard-working Whittemore. One of his first published poems, which appeared in the March 1939 issue, is titled "Driver, Drive Me." Many of the poetical qualities for which Whittemore was to become known are evident in this early poem, including skillful use of enjambment, varied line length, polished versification, and a focus on personal insight and experience. As a sophomore, Whittemore and a fellow undergraduate founded the literary magazine, Furioso. This quarterly would become a legend among the "little magazines," featuring the work of many giants in twentieth century poetry. The first issue, appearing in the summer of 1939, boasted among its contributors Archibald MacLeish, William Carlos Williams, Richard Eberhart, and James Laughlin. The second issue featured five poems by Ezra Pound.

Upon completion of his bachelor's degree in 1941, Whittemore was drafted into the army. There he served first in the infantry and then as a supplies officer for the Army air corps in the Mediterranean during World War II. For his service, Whittemore attained the rank of Major and was awarded the Bronze Star. Until his discharge from active duty in 1945, he expended much of his literary energy on extensive correspondence with fellow writers and family--most notably Arthur and Rosemary Mizener and his father, Edward Reed Whittemore, Sr. During this time he also managed to produce one issue of Furioso in 1943.

In 1945, Whittemore entered Princeton University as a graduate student in History. The program did not suit his temperament, however, and he left Princeton after a year of coursework. Poetically, this was a productive time for Whittemore. In 1946, the publishers Reynal & Hitchcock published his first collection of poetry under the title Heroes and Heroines. Additionally, the production of Furioso shifted into high gear and was published regularly between 1946 and 1953 under Whittemore's editorial direction. Correspondence between the Mizeners and other members of Furioso's staff illustrate the care that went into each issue as well as some candid perceptions of the submissions.

In 1947, Whittemore took a teaching post in the English Department of Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. Although a friend, Bill [Weaver?], thought Whittemore was "bereft of [his] senses" for taking a teaching position instead of "just be[ing] a poet," Whittemore went on to become a popular teacher and was well-respected by his colleagues for the quality of his literary output. In 1951, Whittemore took leave from Carleton and briefly worked for the CIA as evinced in the national literary magazine Voyages (Washington, D.C., Spring 1970) and in correspondence with Arthur and Rosemary Mizener, Bill [Weaver?], and others.

Whittemore's years at Carleton were productive and eventful. In 1952, he married Helen Lundeen, with whom he eventually had four children, Catherine, Edward, John, and Margaret. He produced and published three collections of poetry during the Carleton years including, An American Takes a Walk (University of Minneapolis Press) in 1956, The Self-Made Man, and Other Poems (Macmillan) in 1959, and The Boy from Iowa (Macmillan) in 1962. In 1963, he published a miscellany of poems, stories, and essays entitled The Fascination of the Abomination (Macmillan). Whittemore also maintained a grueling schedule as a guest lecturer on literary topics in venues around the country. Additionally, he revived Furioso a second time in 1960 under the new title The Carleton Miscellany. It ran regularly until 1964. Although he experienced many professional difficulties because he did not hold an advanced degree, he was eventually made Chair of the English Department, a position he held between 1962 and 1964.

From 1964 to 1965, while on leave from Carleton College, Whittemore served as Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress. He was offered a second term as Poetry Consultant, but he declined the position in order to take another post in Washington, D.C., as Program Associate at the National Institute of Public Affairs. From 1966 to 1969, Whittemore managed a number of jobs including teaching at the University of Maryland and one semester as the Bain-Swiggett lecturer at Princeton University, and various appearances on the lecture circuit. In 1969, he was appointed Literary Editor for the New Republic and began teaching at the University of Maryland full-time.

Whittemore's years at the University of Maryland were marked by a greater focus on essays, journalism, and literary biography and criticism, rather than poetry. Nevertheless, he managed the publication of no less than four volumes of poetry between 1968 and 1982. These include Poems, New and Selected (University of Minnesota Press) in 1968, Fifty Poems Fifty (University of Minnesota Press) in 1970, The Mother's Breast and the Father's House (Houghton Mifflin) in 1974, and The Feel of Rock: Poems of Three Decades (Dryad Press) in 1982. In addition to his prodigious output of poems and essays for publication in periodicals, Whittemore also published three major works of nonfiction during his time at the University of Maryland. His collection of essays entitled From Zero to the Absolute was published by Crown in 1967. In 1974, he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship to finish his biography of the poet William Carlos Williams. The biography, William Carlos Williams: Poet From Jersey, was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1975 and attracted mixed reviews and controversy. Whittemore also collected several previously printed essays, which were published in 1976 as The Poet as Journalist: Life at the New Republic.

Whittemore retired from the University of Maryland in 1984, but, as professor emeritus, continued to write and publish. One collection of poetry, entitled The Past, the Future, the Present: Poems Selected and New was published in 1990 by the University of Arkansas Press. Johns Hopkins University Press also published two late nonfiction works by Whittemore, including Pure Lives: The Early Biographers in 1988 and its companion volume, Whole Lives: Shapers of Modern Biography in 1989. In 1993, the University of Missouri Press published Whittemore's Six Literary Lives: The Shared Impiety of Adams, London, Sinclair, Williams, Dos Passos, and Tate (although this book was begun in the late 1970s). In 2007, Dryad Press published his memoir, Against the Grain, The Literary Life of a Poet.

Throughout his career, Whittemore has established himself as a tireless and highly polished literary craftsman. His work has appeared in some of the most prestigious literary and cultural journals in America, including New Republic, Nation, New Yorker, Saturday Review, Sewanee Review, New York Times, Kenyon Review, Poetry, Esquire, Hudson Review, Yale Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review. He has been the recipient of numerous grants, awards, and honors such as the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award of Merit Medal (1969), National Endowment for the Arts grant (1968), Guggenheim Foundation fellowship (1974), honorary degree of Litt.D. from Carleton College (1971), and the position of Poet Laureate of Maryland (1985-1988). He currently lives in Washington, D.C.


The collection is organized as nine series.

  1. Series 1:
  2. Series 2:
  3. Series 3:
  4. Series 4:
  5. Series 5:
  6. Series 6:
  7. Series 7:
  8. Series 8:
  9. Series 9:
Series 1
Series 2
Series 3
Series 4
Series 5
Printed Matter
Series 6
Monographic Publications
Series 7
Serial Publications
Series 8
Memorabilia and Audio Tapes
Series 9

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Whittemore papers were acquired through both purchase (1985 and 1990) and donation (1990).

Related Material

Several collections both inside and outside the University of Maryland Libraries hold additional materials related to Whittemore. In addition to Whittemore's papers, the Libraries' Archives and Manuscripts Department holds the Archives of Dryad Press that includes correspondence with Whittemore (1976-1996) as well as manuscripts, printer, production, and publicity materials, and reviews for Whittemore's The Feel of Rock (published by Dryad in 1982). Copies of all of Whittemore's monographic publications are among the Special Collections holdings of the Marylandia and Rare Books Department, University of Maryland Libraries.

Five collections held at the Washington University Libraries, University of Maryland, and John West Campus Library and Conference Center, in Clayton, MO, contain correspondence with Whittemore including the papers of Isabella Gardner, John N. Morris, Howard Nemerov, Constance Urdang, and Mona Van Duyn. The Department of Special Collections at the University of Delaware Libraries in Newark, DE, have the papers of Arthur Mizener. The Library of Congress, Manuscript Division also holds two items related to Whittemore. The Yale Collection of American Literature at Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library holds the Furioso Papers, the finding aid for the collection is located at

Processing Information

This collection was first processed in May 1989. It was divided into the following six series: Series I: Correspondence; Series II: Drafts, Manuscripts, Notes, Galleys and Proofs; Series III: Personal; Series IV: Printed Matter; Series V: Clippings; and Series VI: Miscellaneous. Correspondence was loosely arranged alphabetically and material within folders had no particular order. Series II had been divided into three subseries titled By Whittemore, By Others, and Miscellaneous. Additionally, an unprocessed accretion to the collection received in 1989 and 1990 (mostly correspondence, serials, and monographs) was not integrated with the original accession.

During reprocessing in 2003-2004, both the processed and unprocessed portions of the collection were integrated. All of the correspondence was separated into its own series and arranged alphabetically by correspondent and chronologically within each correspondent heading. All manuscripts of a literary nature were separated and arranged alphabetically first by genre subheading, such as Poetry, Nonfiction, or Short Stories, then by title or brief descriptors. The Series II description contains additional information on subheadings.

Metal paperclips and staples were removed from materials, which were then housed in acid-free folders and archival manuscript boxes. Many clippings and brittle manuscripts were housed in Mylar sleeves backed with sheets of acid-free paper. Clippings not placed in Mylar sleeves were interleaved with acid-free paper. In rare cases, clippings were photocopied, and the originals retained with the copy. The three open reel audiotapes from Series VIII were reformatted (digitized) to compact disc. Each compact disc was cut into various tracks at key points in the discussions.

Guide to the Reed Whittemore papers
Processed and guide completed by Jason Stieber and Greg C. Adams, August 2004. Revised by Lara D'Agaro, August 2007.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

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