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Witter Bynner papers

Identifier: Ms-0186

Scope and Content

The Witter Bynner papers span the years 1874 to 1981, with the bulk of the material concerning the period between 1946 and 1963. The collection primarily documents Bynner's professional activities and personal life, and his relationships with fellow authors or publishers. Included are extensive correspondence, some literary manuscripts, miscellaneous materials including printed matter, clippings, several financial and legal records, and numerous photographic prints and albums. Outside of Harvard University, the primary repository for Bynner's papers, this collection represents one of the largest holdings of Bynner materials.

The textual materials in the collection were largely assembled by Dorothy Chauvenet, who replaced Henriette Harris as Witter Bynner's literary secretary in 1946. Bynner's papers have been organized into four major series, Correspondence, General Miscellany, Writings, and Photographs, and relate primarily to Bynner's literary career during the years 1943-1963. A fifth series, Dorothory Chauvenet Papers, contains materials related to her work as Bynner's literary secretary.

The correspondence typically falls between the bulk dates of 1946 to 1963, and comprises the most substantial series of the collection. Original order has been largely maintained in the subseries of General correspondence, reflecting the filing system used by Bynner and Chauvenet. Bynner's relationship with cultural and literary organizations such as The Academy of American Poets, National Institute of Arts and Letters, and The Poetry Society of America are well illustrated. His interactions with publishers such as Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. , and The John Day Co. are also depicted. Further evidence of his literary activities and concerns can be found in the letters regarding permissions to publish, and copyright. Also among the General subseries are numerous letters from personal friends, many significant authors or social figures. Significant correspondents include Horatio Colony, Richmond Lattimore, Henry Rago, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Stanley Braithwaite, John Ciardi, Louis Ginsberg, Robert Hillyer, Alfred Kreymborg, Ogden Nash, Charles Scribner, Leonora Speyer, and Idella Purnell Stone.

The two following subseries of correspondence, Photoduplicates and Typescripts, contain copies of original correspondence. Both were created for Bynner's own reference: the photoduplicates were copied from materials Bynner donated to Harvard in the 1950s and 1960s, and the typescripts apparently created for Bynner's use as he selected letters for inclusion in memoirs or other publications. Among the photoduplicates are substantial amounts of letters to and from Frieda von Richthofen Lawrence and D. H. Lawrence, Edna St. Vincent Millay, George Sterling, and Laurence Housman. Lesser amounts of materials concern a variety of important figures, such as Bernard Berenson, Willa Cather, O. Henry, William Marion Reedy, and Mark Twain. The typescripts also contain letters from a range of literary figures, including Rose Cecil O'Neill, but a greater preponderance of correspondence with family members, including Annie Bynner Wellington and Edwin Tyler Bynner.

A small amount of financial and legal documentation is found among the General Miscellany series. However, the majority of items contained in this series are of an ephemeral nature, including a guest book from Bynner's seventy-fifth birthday in 1956, an address book, and printed matter such as clippings and playbills.

The Writings series contains a number of manuscripts reflecting Bynner's efforts in both poetry and prose throughout his career, with an emphasis on his later years. Important poetry manuscript materials include several annotated and revised drafts of The Way of Life According to Laotzu, various poems from New Poems 1960, and drafts from several other works including A Canticle of Pan and Indian Earth. Bynner's prose works are represented by several short pieces on Frieda Lawrence, reviews, a typewritten draft of his unpublished novel, and a selection of materials Bynner intended for use in his memoirs. Additional literary manuscripts may be found among Dorothy Chauvenet's papers, in a subseries entitled Materials Received from Bynner.

The photographs series is divided into three subseries: Albums, Negative Albums, and Prints and Negatives. Spanning the whole of Bynner's life, they document his East Coast upbringing, tours of China and Japan, his brief tenure at Berkeley, his arrival in New Mexico, and his years in Santa Fe and Chapala, Mexico. His life in Mexico and New Mexico with Robert Hunt is well chronicled.

The final series of this collection, Dorothy Chauvenet Papers, is comprised of materials created and received by Bynner's long-time secretary. Contained within her correspondence are many letters to and from her employer, including her reports on Bynner's finances and management of his household. The most extensive subseries of this group, Materials Received from Bynner, consists of correspondence, clippings, and literary manuscripts which Bynner had given to Chauvenet. Included are a number of holograph drafts of poems, some quite early. Also included are several prose pieces, including a typescript of Journey with Genius. The final subseries of materials, Writings, contains Chauvenet's essay on her experiences working for Bynner. Also present is an extensive untitled selection of Bynner's correspondence, with introductory remarks by Chauvenet.


  • 1847 - 1981


Access and Use Restrictions

This material may be examined by researchers under supervised conditions in the Caroline Straus Research Room.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with copyright and other applicable statutes. The copyrights associated with materials in this collection created by Witter Bynner have not been transferred to New Mexico State University but are held by the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, Post Office Box 10169, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 87504. The copyright interests associated with materials in this collection created by individuals other than Witter Bynner have not been determined.

Biographical Outline

Born August 10 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Thomas Edgarton and Annie Louise (Brewer) Bynner
A.B. (Magna cum laude), Harvard University
Literary editor, McClure, Phillips and Company, New York
Assistant editor, McClure's Magazine, New York
An Ode to Harvard and Other Poems published by Small, Maynard; reissued as Young Harvard, Knopf, 1928
Advisory editor, Small, Maynard and Company, Boston, Massachusetts
Phi Beta Kappa poet, Harvard University
Lecturer on poetry and kindred subjects throughout the United States
Tiger (play)
The Little King (play)
The New World (verse)
Iphenia in Tauris (play)
Spectra (verse, under pseudonym Emanuel Morgan, with Anne Knish, pseudonym of Arthur Davison Ficke)
Grenstone Poems
A Canticle of Praise
English instructor, Students' Army Training Corps, University of California, Berkeley
Phi Beta Kappa poet, University of California
The Beloved Stranger (verse)
Snickerty Nick (play)
A Canticle of Pan (verse)
Pins for Wings (verse, under pseudonym Emanuel Morgan)
President, Poetry Society of America
Moved to New Mexico (Santa Fe)
A Book of Plays
Toured Mexico with D.H. and Frieda Lawrence
Translated Charles Vildrac's A Book of Love from French
Caravan (verse)
Cake (play)
Ran for New Mexico legislature against Bronson Cutting
The Pamphlet Poets
The Persistence of Poetry (prose)
Indian Earth (verse)
The Jade Mountain (verse translation, with Kiang Kang-Hu, from the Chinese of Three Hundred Pearls of the T'ang Dynasty)
Robert Hunt arrived in Santa Fe, began lifelong partnership with Bynner
Phi Beta Kappa poet, Amherst College
Edited The Sonnets of Frederick Goddard
Eden Tree (verse)
Guest Book (verse)
Selected Poems
Against the Cold (verse)
The Way of Life According to Laotzu (verse translation of the Tao te ching)
Member, Santa Fe City Planning Commission
Chancellor, Academy of American Poets
Take Away the Darkness (verse)
Journey with Genius, Recollections and Reflections Concerning the D.H. Lawrences
Received the Alexander Troubetzkoy Award and Gold Medal of the Poetry Society of America
Book of Lyrics
Iphigenia in Tauris, re-written and revised in Euriphides II
New Poems 1960
Litt. D., University of New Mexico
Member, National Institute of Arts and Letters
Robert Hunt died
Died June 1 in Santa Fe, New Mexico


13 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Poet, author of more than twenty-five books, and resident of Santa Fe, New Mexico, for forty-six years. The collection contains correspondence, prose and poetry manuscripts such as The Way of Life According to Laotzu, miscellaneous printed and ephemeral items, and extensive photographs including portraits by Ansel Adams, all of which primarily document Bynner's work from 1943 to 1963.

Related Material

Witter Bynner materials are located in research libraries throughout the United States. For references, see: American Literary Manuscripts, edited by J. Albert Robbins.

Separated Material

Published materials removed from the collection and transferred to the Special Collections Unit of the University Library.

Bynner, Edwin Lassetter. Agnes Surriage. The Riverside Press, Cambridge: 1886 Bynner, Edwin Lassetter. Damen's Ghost. Ticknor and Company, Boston: 1881 Bynner, Edwin Lassetter. The Begum's Daughter. Little, Brown and Company, Boston: 1890 Bynner, Edwin Lassetter. Tritans: A Novel. Lockwood, Brooks and Company, Boston: 1878 Bynner, Edwin Lassetter. Zachary Phips. The Riverside Press, Cambridge :1892 Bynner, Witter. The Little King, Tiger, Iphigenia in Tauris. Mitchell Kennerley, Boston: 1914 Hunt, Robert. The Early World and Other Poems. Villagra Bookshop, Santa Fe: 1936 Tipped-in materials have been removed from the volumes Agnes Surriage, The Little King, Tiger, and Iphigenia in Tauris, and housed in General Miscellany: Clippings and Writings: Tiger folders of the Bynner papers.
Guide to the Witter Bynner papers
Processed by Linda Blazer. Revisions and additions made by Marah deMeule, Christine E. Moreland, and Jennifer E. Zunilga.
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the New Mexico State University Library Archives and Special Collections Repository

Branson Hall
PO Box 30006
MSC 3475
Las Cruces New Mexico 88003 USA