restricted access A New Others: The Correspondence between William Carlos Williams and Mitchell Dawson
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A New Others:
The Correspondence between William Carlos Williams and Mitchell Dawson

As Alfred Kreymborg and William Carlos Williams faced the imminent demise of Others magazine, they made the acquaintance of Mitchell Dawson, a young attorney from Chicago. Throughout its four-year history, Others was never financially viable from subscriptions alone. It was originally financed by Walter Conrad Arensberg, and supported by donations from an array of writers, but in the spring of 1919, with sources of funding exhausted, Editor Kreymborg and Associate Editor Williams agreed that the July issue would be the last and that Williams would edit this final issue (Churchill, 13, 127; Mariani, 164). In its wake, their new friend Dawson proposed to found his own little literary magazine in the spirit (and possibly the name) of Others. Ultimately his efforts proved less successful than those of his predecessors but his intentions provided the basis for an intense, though short-lived, friendship with Williams. The Mitchell Dawson Papers at the Newberry Library in Chicago preserves the remnants of that friendship. It includes twenty-nine letters and ten manuscripts sent to Dawson by Williams between January 1919 and December 1921. The ten manuscripts consist of seven poems and three essays. Five of the poems ("The Widow's Lament in Springtime," "The Lonely Street," "A Goodnight," "The Nightingales," and "The Wild Orchard,") and one of the essays ("The Accident") later appeared in print but the other two poems ("A Good-morning," and "The Luciad"), two of the essays ("A New Weapon," and "Advancement of Learning"), and all of the letters remained unpublished.1 It is the goal of this article to summarize the content of this correspondence and provide a context for the four manuscripts published in this issue of The William Carlos Williams Review for the first time.

In addition to being an attorney, Dawson was a poet, columnist and author. His verse was published in the Chicago Literary Monthly, The Little Review, Others, TNT, Poetry, and The Double Dealer. For six years in the 1920s he wrote a weekly column on legal issues called "Advice of Counsel" for the Chicago Daily [End Page 121] News. He contributed articles to numerous popular magazines, including American Mercury, Harper's Weekly, Atlantic Monthly, Saturday Evening Post, and the New Yorker during the 1930s and 40s. His lone book is a tale for adolescents titled The Magic Firecracker published in 1949. As a poet, Dawson's publications in the little magazines fit very well with the work of more prominent contributors. His free verse poem "To Diverse Contemporaries," printed in the final issue of Others, is a representative example of his work's early imagist style. In its critique of "the roots of old thoughts"(13), it also reinforces the magazine's emphasis on "the new." However, Dawson's greatest legacy is his financial and legal support of other writers. For example, he was a life-long friend and legal council to Carl Sandburg and contributed to the medical expenses of Emanuel Carnevali, the radical young Italian poet addressed by Erin Templeton in this issue of The William Carlos Williams Review (137-57). In addition to the Williams documents, the Dawson archive contains scores of letters and legal documents relevant to Sandburg's life and career, numerous letters and manuscripts by Carnevali, at least a dozen letters each written by Alfred Kreymborg, Maxwell Bodenheim, Lola Ridge, Wallace Gould, and Robert McAlmon, and fewer letters from Robert Frost, Theodore Dreiser, Margaret Anderson and Marcel Duchamp among others.2 Unfortunately, only two of Dawson's letters to Williams survive among The Manuscripts and Letters of William Carlos Williams at UB.

Williams's letters and submissions to Dawson demonstrate the on-going struggle to conceive, fund, edit and manage an experimental poetry magazine in the United States at the end of the second decade. While Williams, Kreymborg and Dawson shared a common goal, they did not share a unified vision. Williams's correspondence with Dawson reveals that their friendship was dependent upon this common goal, and their friendship flourished only as long as that objective appeared attainable. During the summer and early autumn of 1919 their communiqués were frequent and passionate...