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Sara Teasdale letters to Joyce and Aline Kilmer

Identifier: MSS 0142

Scope and Content Note

Sara Teasdale's fifty-six letters written to Joyce and Aline Kilmer include two autograph poems penned by Teasdale and a photograph. Written between 1912 and 1932, most of the letters originated from her homes, first in St. Louis, Missouri, and later in New York City. Other letters are mailed from vacation sites in Santa Barbara, California; Nahant, Massachusetts; Ogunquit-by-the-Sea, Maine; Paris, France, and London, England.

Teasdale initially addressed her letters to poet Joyce Kilmer, praising his poetry, offering a copy of her book, discussing her recent work. She also mentioned the inclusion of a poem dedicated to the Kilmers' daughter Rose in her recent book. An autograph copy of this poem, "To Rose Kilmer," is enclosed in an undated letter in this collection. In another undated letter (probably written in 1917) Teasdale reflected on her affection for Rose Kilmer and mourned her tragic death.

In August 1918, Sara Teasdale wrote Aline Kilmer to offer condolences on the loss of her husband Joyce, who was killed during battle in World War I. Their friendship blossomed with time and it is obvious from her letters that Teasdale greatly appreciated Aline Kilmer's writing and depended on their friendship. Her letters convey an affection for and trust of Kilmer, as well as a need for her company. They are filled with the moods and details of Teasdale's life.

Teasdale wrote of her poetry; her travels, particularly her love for London; her enthusiasm for Aline Kilmer's poetry; current writing projects, such as the children's anthology and a book on Christina Rossetti; her daily routines; her friends Vachel Lindsey and Margaret Conklin; the thrill of meeting Virginia Woolf; and her health. Occasionally Teasdale mentioned her husband Ernst Filsinger. In 1929 she wrote to apologize to Kilmer for concealing the circumstances of her divorce until it was final.

Teasdale's letters poignantly convey her personality and battle with depression. Her letters written during the summer and fall of 1932, just prior to her death in January of 1933, reflect her ill health and despair.

In addition to her poem, "To Rose Kilmer," the collection includes an eight-line untitled poem written by Teasdale. This autograph poem, dated March 23, 1931, begins: "Take heart, for now the battle is half over." A photograph, inscribed by Teasdale to Aline Kilmer, is included in the collection. The black and white image depicts Sara Teasdale as drawn in pencil by Willy Pogany.


  • Creation: 1912-1932


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Sara Teasdale

American poet Sara Teasdale was born August 8, 1884, in St. Louis, Missouri, to merchant John Warren and Mary Elizabeth (Willard) Teasdale.After attending Mrs. Lockwood's School and the Mary Institute she was graduated from Hosmer Hall in 1903. Between 1904 and 1907 Teasdale and a group of friends published a monthly literary magazine, The Potter's Wheel, which met with success in St. Louis.

Teasdale traveled extensively and made frequent trips to Chicago, where she eventually became part of Harriet Monroe's Poetry magazine circle and met numerous other poets. After rejecting the poet Vachel Lindsay as a suitor, she married St. Louis businessman, Ernst Filsinger, in 1914. She divorced Filsinger in 1929, against his wishes.

"Guenevere" was Teasdale's first poem to be printed, appearing in Reedy's Mirror in 1907. Teasdale's first book, Sonnets to Duse and Other Poems, was published by Poet Lore in the same year. Among her other books of poetry were numerous volumes published by Macmillan, including Rivers to the Sea (1915), Love Songs (1917), Flame and Shadow (1920), Dark of the Moon (1926), and Strange Victory (1933). In 1918 Teasdale was awarded the annual prize of the Poetry Society of America and the Columbia University Poetry Society Prize (forerunner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry) for Love Songs.

Popular during the early twentieth century, Teasdale's poems appeared in numerous periodicals including Harper's, Scribner's, Century, Forum, Lippincott's, Putnam's, Bookman, and New Republic.

On January 29, 1933, having become increasingly depressed and reclusive, Sara Teasdale died of an overdose of sleeping pills. She was buried in St. Louis, Missouri.

Joyce and Aline Kilmer

Teasdale addresses the first four letters in this collection to poet and critic Joyce Kilmer. Born Alfred Joyce Kilmer on December 6, 1886, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, he attended Rutgers College (1904-1906) and was graduated from Columbia University with an A. B. in 1908. In June of the same year he married Aline Murray, step-daughter of Henry Mills Alden.Before joining the staff of the New York Times Magazine and Review of Books in 1913, he worked on the staff of the Standard Dictionary (1909–1912) and as editor of the Churchman (1912-1913).

Several collections of Joyce Kilmer's poetry were published, most notably Trees and Other Poems (1914). The title poem of this volume was published in the literary journal Poetry and attained world-wide popularity. However, Kilmer is more often remembered as a brave World War I soldier who died on July 30, 1918, during an attack of the hills above the Ourcq in France. He was honored by burial at the spot where he fell and awarded the Croix de Guerre posthumously.

The remaining fifty-three letters were written by Teasdale to Aline Kilmer, also a poet. Born on August 1, 1888 at Norfolk, Virginia, Aline Murray Kilmer, was educated at Rutgers Prep and at the Vail-Deane School in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Although she published several poems prior to her marriage, her first collection of poems, Candles That Burn, was not published until 1919. In addition to two more volumes of poetry, she wrote two children's books and Hunting a Hair Shirt (1923), a collection of brief personal essays.

Aline Kilmer died on October 1, 1941, in Stillwater, New Jersey.

Locher, Frances C. (ed.) Contemporary Authors. Volume 104. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1982. p. 466.Mainiero, Lina (ed.) American Women Writers. Volume 2. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Company, 1980. pp. 452-454Malone, Dumas (ed.) Dictionary of American Biography. Volume V. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1961. pp. 373-374.Quartermain, Peter (ed.) Dictionary of Literary Biography. Volume 45: American Poets, 1880-1945. First Series. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1986. pp. 396-405.


.2 linear foot (58 items)


Fifty-six letters from American poet Sara Teasdale (1884-1933) to the American poet and critic Joyce Kilmer (1886–1918) and his wife, poet Aline Kilmer (1888-1941) written between 1912 and 1932.


Purchase, 1986.

Related Materials in this Repository

  • MSS 0099, F0252 Sara Teasdale letters to Orrick Johns
  • MSS 0111 Louis Untermeyer papers

Shelving Summary

  • Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes (1 inch)


Processed by Anita A. Wellner, August 1998. Encoded by Thomas Pulhamus, February 2010. Further encoding by Tiffany Saulter and Lauren Connolly, September 2015.

Finding aid for the Sara Teasdale letters to Joyce and Aline Kilmer
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2010 February 19
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