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William Carlos Williams collection

Identifier: MSS 0146

Scope and Content Note

The William Carlos Williams Collection, spanning the dates 1916-1973, consists of sixty-nine letters from Williams to several individuals, including Fred Miller, Orrick Johns, Emanuel Romano, and George Kirgo. Letters from Florence Williams (wife of William Carlos) to several of these individuals, several letters written by Fred Miller, and manuscripts by Williams and Miller also comprise the collection.The letters from William Carlos Williams, written between 1916 and 1962, discuss a variety of issues and reflect his relationship to the various recipients.

In his fifty-three letters to Fred Miller, Williams offers advice and encouragement about Miller's literary work, discusses his own writing, responds to Miller's views of socialism, and comments on current events. The letters indicate that Williams was instrumental in getting Miller's Gutbucket and Gossamer published by Oscar Brown.

The eight letters written by William Carlos Williams to bookseller George Kirgo discuss the sale of copies of his books and his copies of some Hemingway volumes to Kirgo, as well as purchasing copies of books written by others. In the letters Williams also comments on his daily life. Also included with this group of letters are three letters to Kirgo from Florence Williams ordering several books and commenting on her husband's health.

The collection also includes four letters from Williams to Orrick Johns concerning Johns's writing and containing remarks about the beginnings of the Provincetown Players.

The collection of letters and manuscripts related to Emanuel Romano provide insight into Williams's interest in art. The eight letters from Williams discuss Romano's art work and his own current writing project. In addition to the Williams letters, there are two essays written by Williams describing his reactions to Romano's art and one letter from Romano in which he expresses his own attitude toward his work. One of these essays was printed in the brochure for a 1968 Gotham Book Mart (New York) exhibition of Romano's work titled "Portraits of Poets and Writers."

A set of galley proofs for Williams's collection of poems, Pictures From Brueghel and Other Poems, completes this collection.


  • Creation: 1916-1973
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1934-1962


Language of Materials

Materials 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,

Biographical Note

Poet and physician William Carlos Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, on September 17, 1883. After attending public school in Rutherford until 1897, Williams and his brother attended Château de Lancy near Geneva and the Lycée Condorcet in Paris for two years. Following the family's return to Rutherford in 1899, Williams commuted to Horace Mann High School in New York.

From 1902-1906 Williams studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. During these years he began his friendships with Ezra Pound, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), and painter Charles Demuth. Williams interned at French Hospital and the Nursery and Child's Hospital in New York from 1906 to 1909. In 1909 William Carlos Williams financed the publication of his first collection of poetry titled Poems.

Following his internship, he studied pediatrics for a year at the University of Leipzig. While in Europe he made several visits to London to see Ezra Pound, and during those visits met William Butler Yeats.

In 1910, he returned to begin a general practice in Rutherford, New Jersey. By 1912 he had married Florence Herman, who was the Flossie mentioned in his poems. His interactions with his patients influenced his poetry and stories throughout his life.

Another significant influence on writing was his interest in art and particularly the work of the French post-impressionists and cubists, some of which he viewed at Alfred Stieglitz's gallery "291." Many of his essays on the arts were collected in A Recognizable Image (1978).

In the 1920s, a wide variety of Williams writings were published. Two prose pieces, Kora in Hell: Improvisations (1920) and The Great American Novel (1923), were followed by Spring and All (1923), a volume which combined prose and verse. His study of historical figures, In the American Grain (1925), was followed by the novel, A Voyage to Pagany (1928) and by his translation, in collaboration with his mother, of Philippe Soupault's novel, Last Nights in Paris (1929).

Throughout his career Williams displayed an allegiance to the small literary magazines and was frequently published by them. He also coedited Contact with Robert McAlmon and Marsden Hartley from 1920 to 1923. Williams's novel, White Mule (1937), was serialized in the literary magazine Pagany from 1930-1933.

During the 1930s Williams continued to write prose, fiction, and poetry, including The Knife of the Times and Other Stories (1932), January (1932), Collected Poems, 1921-1931 (1934), White Mule (1937), and Life Along the Passaic River (1938).

Although Williams wrote a variety of prose, fiction, and poetry in the next two decades, his greatest achievements were the epic poem Paterson, which appeared in five books (1946, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958); his long poem, The Desert Music (1954); Pictures From Brueghel (1962), and two important plays, A Dream of Love (1948) and Many Loves (1961).

During the last fifteen years of his life, Williams began to receive recognition for his work. In 1949 he became a fellow of the Library of Congress and in 1950 he received the first National Book Award for poetry. He was also awarded the Bollingen Prize (1953) and posthumously the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1963. He died on March 4, 1963 in Rutherford.

Biographical information on each recipient of Williams's letters is found in the series notes.

Garraty, John A. (ed.) Dictionary of American Biography. Supplement Seven 1961-1965. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1981. pp. 788-791.


.3 linear foot (1 box)

1 oversize galley proof


The William Carlos Williams collection, spanning the dates 1916-1973, consists of sixty-nine letters from noted American poet William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) to several different individuals discussing a variety of issues and reflecting his relationship to the various recipients. Letters from Florence Williams (wife of William Carlos) to several of these individuals, several letters written by Fred Miller, and manuscripts by Williams and Miller also comprise the collection.


Purchases and gifts, 1972-1985.

Related Materials in this Repository

  • MSS 0103 John Malcolm Brinnin papers
  • MSS 0110 Pagany archive
  • MSS 0199 Michel Farano papers

Shelving Summary

  1. Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes
  2. F17: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize galleys


Partially processed by Stuart Dick and Tim Murray. Revised by Anita Wellner, July 1993. Encoded by Thomas Pulhamus, February 2010. Further encoding by Lauren Connolly, November 2015, and Tiffany Saulter, May 2016.

Finding aid for William Carlos Williams collection
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2010 February 25
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA