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Dorothy Brett Papers

Identifier: MSS-494-BC

Scope and Content

This collection consists of Dorothy Eugenie Brett's personal papers from 1939 to 1977, the time of her death. Letters received by John Manchester after Brett's death in 1977 often refer to Brett and have therefore been integrated.

John Manchester, himself a painter, had his first meeting with Dorothy Eugenie Brett during the summer of 1949 in Taos. After that he stayed in contact with her until he moved to Taos in 1963 having bought a house and becoming Brett's neighbor, friend and in later years, when her eyesight failed, her assistant and helper. It was in this capacity as friend and assistant that he collected Brett's correspondence, notes, diaries and photographs (Manchester's collection of Brett paintings went to the Roswell Museum and Art Center).

The letters written to Brett over three decades represent the core of the collection (Boxes 1-3). They are in alphabetical order, where the sender could be identified. For purposes of continuity a folder of letters by Brett (Box 3, Folder 34) and a folder of letters by Frank and Barbara Waters to primarily John Manchester (Box 3, Folder 16) have been integrated. Many letters from Brett's later life were addressed to John Manchester and Brett with the intent that John will read the letters to her since failing eyesight prevented her from reading or writing the letters herself.

Due to Brett's heritage and upbringing, part of her interest was the Victorian and Edwardian periods, in which her father had an influential position. Books related to that period are stored in Box 5 while reminiscences and notes can be found in Box 4.

The collection's value lies in the completeness of papers after 1940. Although this time period does not cover the exciting times in the Bloomsbury circle nor the time she spent with Frieda and D.H. Lawrence in Taos and Oaxaca, the papers still give a glimpse of that part of her life prior to 1940, especially in her diary (1923-1924) and through some of her notes and reminiscences. The bulk of the papers, however, represent a time when Brett experienced the ups and downs of an artist and follows her during her artistic peak into old age. Photographs have been transferred to Photoarchives.

The first addition to this collection was purchased in 1989, and processed in June 1997. The addition contains correspondence, mainly from Dorothy Brett to Mae Porter and Jean Harvey Porter, as well as manuscripts/essays written by Brett discussing why she paints Indians. There is also a folder with biographical information about Brett. Photographs from this addition have been transferred to Photoarchives.

A second addition was purchased in and processed in November 1998. This addition is comprised primarily of family correspondence, the majority of which is from Brett to her nephew Lionel and his wife, Pom in England. Much of this correspondence concerns Brett's finances and the status of her artwork, with interesting commentary on politics and Taos. Later correspondence concerns Brett's old age and includes letters from "friends" in Taos expressing their concern about John Manchester taking control of Brett's finances, and documents the family's response to these concerns. Photocopies of several legal documents such as Brett's will and probate of the will are included. Finally, there is correspondence regarding Sean Hignett's biography of Brett.

Processing of a third addition was completed in August 2000. This is addition contains approximately 8 boxes of materials, including Brett and Manchester's correspondence with people, publishers, and institutions, including R. C. Gorman, Georgia O'Keeffe, and other Taos personalities. Legal documents relate to both business and personal dealings of Brett and Manchester. Gallery and exhibit materials pertain to the Manchester Gallery, inventories of Brett paintings, as well as catalogues of exhibits featuring Brett or with artwork by Brett. News clippings and articles document events and personalities in Taos and/or of interest to Brett and Manchester. Manuscripts by and about Brett include short typescripts, longer works and fragments of longer works, such as "My Strange and Beautiful Journey," "My Long and Beautiful Journey," John Manchester's, "Biography of Dorothy E. Brett," and Sean Hignett's, "Brett, from Bloomsbury to New Mexico," among others. There is also correspondence and materials relating to the re-issue of Lawrence and Brett; A Friendship. Financial documents consist of bank and income tax statements. A section of materials relates to John Manchester and his other interests. These interests include architecture, Jung, and astrology. An oversized folder contains a variety of materials.

Audio recordings of Brett reading, speaking, and being interviewed were added to the collection in December 2002. Original reel to reel recordings are located in the CSWR vault.


  • 1939-1986

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Biographical Information

Dorothy Eugenie Brett was born 1883 in London, England to Reginald and Eleanor Brett, Viscount and Viscountess of Esher. Serious studies at the Slade School of Art in London during the first decade of the twentieth century acquainted her with famous members of the Bloomsbury circle such as Dora Carrington, Katherine Mansfield, John Middleton Murry, Aldous Huxley and David Herbert Lawrence.

Despite plans by some members of the Bloomsbury group to settle together in Taos, NM, only Brett eventually joined D. H. and Frieda Lawrence in Taos, New Mexico, and in Oaxaca, Mexico as well. Although well known as a member of the triumvirate (with Frieda and Mabel Dodge Luhan) surrounding D.H. Lawrence and "of late [as] an historical character in the cast of a literary drama assiduously pursued, quoted, misquoted, and paraphrased in a thousand volumes" (Frank Waters, "A Tribute To Brett"), Brett is equally famous as a painter of international reputation. After moving to Taos and being stimulated by its natural beauties and wealth of subjects, she quickly became interested in painting the Taos Indians and their native dances.

Brett's work was influential in the building of Taos as an art colony. In his book Masked Gods, Frank Waters claims that there is something ineffable and compelling about Brett's Indian paintings. She is the only painter I have known who has blindly, intuitively caught the valid mystical component of Pueblo character. She paints their native religious rites, ceremonies, and dances in universal terms that are unmistakable (p. 275).

Together with others interested in the arts, most prominently Mabel Dodge Luhan, she was instrumental in attracting to Taos talented people who gave (and still give) Taos its nationwide reputation as an artists' colony. Dorothy Eugenie Brett died 24 August 1977, almost 94 years of age.


17 boxes (16.5 cu. ft.) + oversized folder

Related Material

Donaldson Family Letters. Center for Southwest Research. University Libraries. University of New Mexico. T. M. Pearce Papers. Center for Southwest Research. University Libraries. University of New Mexico. Frank Waters Papers. Center for Southwest Research. University Libraries. University of New Mexico. Ernest Warnock Tedlock Papers Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico Collection of Papers on Frieda Lawrence Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico Virginia Dooley papers from her personal life and business relationship with R.C. Gorman Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico Mabel Dodge Luhan Correspondence and Essays Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico Myron Brinig Memoirs Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico Oral History Interviews with Frank Waters Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico Porter-Harvey Family Papers Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico Warren Roberts Letters from Frieda Lawrence and Dorothy Brett Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico

Separated Material

Photographs and slides have been transferred to Dorothy Brett Pictorial Collection.

See list of books transferred from the collection after the contents list.

Original reel to reels stored in B3.

Master reel to reel tapes and archival cds are stored on B3

Relevant Secondary Sources

  • Brett, Dorothy. Lawrence and Brett A Friendship. Santa Fe: Sunstone Press, 1974. This is a commemorative edition of Brett's earlier work (1933). John Manchester added insightful introduction, prologue and epilogue to Brett's book.(Coronado PR 6023 A93 Z57 1974)
  • Hignett, Sean. Brett: From Bloomsbury to New Mexico. New York: Franklin Watts, 1983. So far the only complete biography on Brett.(Coronado ND 237 B842 H533 1985)

List of Books Transferred From the Collection

The following books have been transferred to UNMGL cataloguing:
Book Of The Hopi., New York: Viking Press, 1963. (Dedicated to DEB).
Colorado, New York: Rinehart and Company, 1946. (Signed, DJ).
Conversations With Frank Waters, Chicago: Swallow Press, 1971. (Dedicated to DEB, DJ).
Cuchama And Sacred Mountains, edited by Adams, Charles L. and Frank Waters, Chicago: Swallow Press, 1981. (Dedicated by Adams and Waters to JM, DJ). As Above, signed only.
Diamond Head, with Houston Branch, New York: Farrar, Straus and Company, 1948. (Not signed, Library Copy).
Earp Brothers Of Tombstone: The Story Of Mrs. Virgil Earp, New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1960. (Dedicated to DEB, DJ).
Leon Gaspard, Flagstaff: Northland Press, 1964. (Dedicated to JM, Limited Edition, #331 out of 500).
Masked Gods: Navajo And Pueblo Ceremonialism, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1950. (Dedicated to JM, Two Pieces of DJ). As Above, (Dedicated to DEB, DJ).
As Above, Japanese Translation, 2 volumes, 1950. (Dedicated to JM, DJ, Paperback). Mountain Dialogues, Chicago: Swallow Press, 1981. (Dedicated to JM, DJ).
Mexico Mystique: The Coming Sixth World Of Consciousness, Chicago: Swallow Press, 1975. (Dedicated to JM, DJ).
Midas of the Rockies: The Story Of Stratton And Cripple Creek, New York: Friede Publishers, 1937. (Signed). As Above, Chicago: Swallow Press, 1949/1972. (Dedicated to JM, DJ).
People of the Valley, Denver: Allan Swallow, 1941. (Dedicated to JM, DJ).
Pike's Peak: A Family Saga, Chicago: Swallow Press, 1971. (Dedicated to JM, DJ).
To Possess the Land: A Biography Of Arthur Rochford Manby, Chicago: Swallow Press, 1973. (Dedicated to JM, DJ).
Wild Earth's Nobility: A Novel Of The Old West, New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 1935. (Signed, DJ).
Woman At Otowi Crossing, Denver: Alan Swallow, 1966. (Dedicated to JM, DJ).
Yogi Of Cockroach Court, New York: Rinehart and Company, 1947. (Dedicated to JM, DJ).
Charles L. Adams, Frank Waters: A Retrospective Anthology, Athens: Swallow Press, 1985. (Dedicated to JM by Frank and Barbara Waters, Paperback).
Publications transferred from third addition:
Tomorrow, Autumn 1965
Comic Intent in Poe's Tales: Five Criteria, by Stephen L. Mooney
Astro Carto Graphy, illustrated by Michael S. Moore
Lonely Deer, by Joseph L. Concha
Occasional Thoughts, edited by Rev. Vincent A. Dever
It all Happened in Tombstone, by John P. Clum
Oo oonah Art, introduction by Frank Waters (special collector's edition)

Processing Information

Reel to reel tapes reformatted to cd in Dec. 2010.
Finding aid of the Dorothy Brett Papers, 1939-1986
Processed by Staff
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 494 BC::Dorothy Brett Papers)//EN" "nmu1mss494bc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131