Edmund Wilson Papers

Family photographs, artifacts, and documents from the archive of the American literary critic and author.

Edmund Wilson (1895-1972), American literary critic; author of literary criticism, social criticism, history, autobiography, novels, plays, and poetry; editor and writer, Vanity Fair, The New Republic, and The New Yorker. Wilson was closely associated with major literary figures including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay, John Dos Passos, Mary McCarthy, and Vladimir Nabokov. He was married to writer Mary McCarthy, actress Mary Blair, Margaret Canby, and Elena Mumm Thornton, who edited a collection of his correspondence.

Wilson’s life and work have been documented in autobiographical writings including: A Prelude, The Twenties, The Thirties, The Forties, The Fifties, and The Sixties.  Although Wilson’s best regarded works are in literary criticism and related areas, he also produced novels, plays, short stories, and poetry.  His major writings in literary criticism and history include:

Axel’s Castle: A Study in the Imaginative Literature of 1870-1930 (1925)
The Triple Thinkers: Ten Essays on Literature (1938)
The Wound and the Bow: Seven Studies in Literature (1941)
Classics and Commercials: A Literary Chronicle of the Forties (1950)
The Shores of Light: A Literary Chronicle of the Twenties and Thirties (1952)
The Scrolls From the Dead Sea (1955)
American Earthquake: A Documentary of the Twenties and Thirties (1957)
Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War (1962)
Apologies to the Iroquois (1960)
The Bit Between My Teeth: A Literary Chronicle of 1950-1965 (1966)
Upstate: Records and Recollections of Northern New York (1971)

Correspondence of Edmund Wilson has been published in Letters on Literature and Politics, edited by Elena Wilson, and Dear Bunny, Dear Volodya: The Nabokov-Wilson Letters, edited by Simon Karlinsky. Biographical works by others include: Edmund Wilson Revisited, by David Castronovo; Edmund Wilson, by Charles P. Frank; Edmund Wilson: A Biography, by Jeffrey Myers; and Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature, by Lewis M. Dabney. Edmund Wilson: A Bibliography, by Richard David Ramsey, covers writings by and about Wilson from the beginning of his career through 1970.

The Collection

The Edmund Wilson Papers consist of correspondence, literary manuscripts, subject files, financial records, photographs, family documents, and other personal papers and artifacts documenting Wilson’s life and work.  Correspondence with literary colleagues and family, journals, and literary drafts and proofs comprise the bulk of the collection.  The papers span the years 1829-1986, encompassing early family documents through materials concerning posthumous publication of Wilson’s last books and his journals. Most materials date from the beginnings of Wilson’s literary career, circa 1920, through his death in 1972. Currently, only a portion of the Edmund Wilson Papers are available online.

Related Collections

Elena Wilson papers, YCAL MSS 188
Mary Pcolar papers relating to Edmund Wilson, YCAL MSS 189
Edmund Wilson letters to Alfred Raymond Bellinger, YCAL MSS 194
Edmund Wilson letters to Richard Hauer Costa, YCAL MSS 109
Edmund Wilson letters to William Stanley Dell, YCAL MSS 195
Reuel K. Wilson papers relating to Edmund Wilson, YCAL MSS 193