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Resources for American Literary Study 27.1 (2001) 78-112
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The John Cheever Papers at the New York Public Library's Manuscripts and Archives Division (Part 1)
Francis J. Bosha
Kawamura Gakuen Woman's University, Japan
The New York Public Library's considerable collection of John Cheever correspondence and literary papers is housed in two of the library's divisions: The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, and the Manuscripts and Archives Division. 1 I have discussed at length the Berg Collection of Cheever letters (RALS 25.1). I will focus in this article on the Cheever archives 2 that are part of four collections within the Manuscripts and Archives Division: The New Yorker Records, the Herbert Mitgang Papers, the Ecco Press Records, and the Alec Wilder Collection. Because of the great volume of these Cheever archives, I have divided this article into two parts: the first part describes The New Yorker's editorial correspondence with John Cheever through World War II to the end of the 1945. The second part, to be published in RALS 27.2, continues with the remaining editorial correspondence, from 1946, and includes the other three manuscript collections.
The enormous New Yorker Records ca. 1924-84, which the library acquired as a gift of The New Yorker magazine in 1991, runs to 875.8 linear feet, comprising 2,566 archival boxes. Of this total, only two boxes, 1302 and 1303, labeled "Eccentrics, 1969-1976," are restricted until 2050. The Records' boxes are divided into nine series groupings, as follows:
I. Editor, 1924-1984
II. Editorial Staff /Writers, 1939-1973
III. Editorial Correspondence, 1928-1980
IV. Editorial Business, 1926-1984
V. Legal and Financial Files, 1943-1983
VI. Manuscripts: Run & Killed, 1926-1984
VII. Art Works: Run & Killed, 1944-1980
VIII. Magazine Make-Up: Copy & Source, 1950-1981
IX. Non-Textual Materials, ca. 1917-1984
An on-line finding aid for this collection is available at: http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/spe/rbk/faids/NYhtml/nytoc.html [End Page 78]
The John Cheever correspondence and papers, and material relating to Cheever, are located in three of the above-noted series: I. Editor, III. Editorial Correspondence, and VI. Manuscripts: Run & Killed. The Cheever material in the Editor series is found in five boxes and consists of twenty-one letters and one memo. In Box 31 of Harold Ross's General Files is a folder containing six letters from Ross to Cheever and five letters from Cheever to Ross, dating from 1947 to 1950. In Box 35, among Ross's editorial files and correspondence with his fiction editor Gustave S. Lobrano are three letters and one memo pertaining to Cheever. Similarly, in Box 36, among Ross's editorial files and correspondence with his fact editor (and, after his death, successor) William Shawn, are two letters pertaining to Cheever. In Box 69, which contains a file of Ross's correspondence with Yank, the U.S. Army newspaper, are four letters pertaining to Cheever. In the last box of the Editor series, Box 129, among William Shawn's papers is one letter from Shawn, dated 14 September 1956 identifying Cheever, "To Whom It May Concern," as a writer for The New Yorker.
The Cheever material in the Editorial Correspondence series is found in folders filed either under Cheever's name or under that of his first literary agent, Maxim Lieber. The Cheever files are kept in thirty-eight boxes, dating from 1935 to 1980, and consist of 306 letters, memos and telegrams: of these, 110 were written by Cheever to his various editors; 160 were sent to Cheever; thirty-four concern Cheever; one is a letter from Cheever's wife, Mary, to his editor, Gus Lobrano; and one is a letter from another editor, William Maxwell, to Mary. These files also contain an eighteen-page typescript of Cheever's story, "Sergeant Limeburner" (New Yorker, 13 Mar. 1943), and a one-page fragment of a Cheever manuscript. The Lieber files that pertain to...