Main content

Daniel Hoffman letters to Judith Moffett


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Daniel Hoffman (1923-2013) was an American poet and essayist. He received his B.A. (1947), M.A. (1949), and Ph.D. (1956) from Columbia University. He taught at Columbia as well as Swarthmore College prior to beginning his career at the University of Pennsylvania in 1966. From 1973 to 1974, he was named Poet Laureate of the United States. His poems vary greatly in structure, ranging from sonnets to an epic poem about the founding of Pennsylvania; but he is best known for his work, "Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe" (1972), which his New York Times obituary describes as "an unusual study melding biography, criticism and bits of his own autobiography in a highly personal analysis of the American writer whose literary reputation is wildly diffuse." Hoffman lived primarily in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania with his wife, poet and esteemedLadies' Home Journal editor, Elizabeth McFarland. Hoffman and McFarland spent their summers in Cape Rosier, Maine, which Hoffman used as a setting for many of his poems.

Judith Moffett (born 1942) is a poet, English professor, Swedish translator, and author of twelve books, including poetry volumes, formal translations of Swedish poetry, science-fiction novels, and a creative non-fiction volume. She also published a critical study of the poems of James Merrill, with whom she shared a long friendship. Moffett was born in Louisville, Kentucky and grew up in Cincinnati prior to moving to Philadelphia to earn her doctorate in American Civilization at the University of Pennsylvania. She completed her dissertation on the work of Stephen Benét under the direction of Daniel Hoffman and went on to work at several colleges and universities in the United States and Europe, including a fifteen-year career at the University of Pennsylvania. She now divides her time between Swarthmore, Pennsylvania and her farm in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.

This collection covers the period from 1970, when Moffett was still a student at the University of Pennsylvania, to 2012, the year before Hoffman died. It includes letters and other correspondence addressed from Hoffman to Moffett, drafts and manuscripts of Hoffman's literary work, and manuscripts and a posthumously published copy of a book of poems by Hoffman's wife, Elizabeth McFarland.

Series I. Correspondence is composed mainly of letters addressed to Judith Moffett from Daniel Hoffman between 1970 and 2012, some of which include drafts of unfinished poems or clippings from newspapers, online articles, and academic journals. There are also printed copies of three emails sent from Moffett to Hoffman in 2008 and 2009, the latter of which relates to Hoffman's manuscript, Lives of the Poets, which is located in Series II.

The earliest letters, written in the 1970s, focus largely on Moffett's literary work and search for a job in academia. Hoffman also mentions James Merrill as a topic of Moffett's research and writing, and Merrill continues to pop up throughout the rest of their correspondence, until his death in 1995. Starting around 1978, the year in which Moffett began her first teaching job at the University of Pennsylvania, Hoffman begins to discuss his own writing more in his letters, although he also devotes a considerable amount of space to figuring out the logistics of Moffett's move to Pennsylvania.

Correspondence throughout the 1980s and 1990s is more sparse, with some years including only short and sporadic communications, such as Christmas cards. One notable exception is a February 18, 1995 letter regarding the death of James Merrill and including a copy of Merrill's funeral program.

Between 2002 and 2012, Hoffman started to include a number of clippings in his letters, including Hoffman's translations of French poems by Stéphane Mallarmé and Gérard Nerval, an article by Hoffman entitled "Returns from the Grave: The Spirit of Poe in Contemporary Fictions," obituaries and a memorial service program for Elizabeth McFarland (Hoffman's wife), and printed online articles on a variety of topics. During this time, Hoffman sent Moffett drafts of his own poems with more frequency than in their previous communications.

Series II includes two sets of manuscripts. The first of these isOver the Summer Water, a book of poems by Elizabeth McFarland published posthumously by Hoffman. A published copy of Over the Summer Water is also contained in the collection. The second, rather longer, set of manuscripts consists of drafts of Hoffman's unpublished 2009 bookLives of the Poets with handwritten notes and corrections by Moffett.Lives of the Poets seems to be largely autobiographical.

Sold by David J. Holmes Autographs, 2013.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Molly B. Hutt
Finding Aid Date
2014 September 4
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Collection Inventory

Request to View Materials

Materials can be requested by first logging in to Aeon. Then, click on the ADD button next to any containers you wish to request. When complete, click the Request button.

Request item to view

Box 1 Folder 1
Box 1 Folder 2
Box 1 Folder 3
Box 1 Folder 4
Scope and Contents

Includes one letter to Judith Moffett from Anthony Hecht.

Box 1 Folder 5
Box 1 Folder 6
Box 1 Folder 7
Box 1 Folder 8
1982-1984, 1989, 1992-1994.
Box 1 Folder 9
1995-1996, 1999.
Box 1 Folder 10
Box 1 Folder 11
Box 1 Folder 12
Box 1 Folder 13
Box 1 Folder 14

Over the Summer Water: Poems by Elizabeth McFarland, preface by Daniel Hoffman, draft and published copies, 2008.
Box 1 Folder 15
Lives of the Poets, by Daniel Hoffman, draft with comments by Judith Moffett, 2009.
Box 2 Folder 1-3

Print, Suggest