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Ernest Walter Martin papers relating to Lewis Mumford


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

Ernest Walter (E.W.) Martin was born in 1912 in Shebbear, Devon, England, the son of a postman and parish clerk. He studied at agricultural college in Devon for a year before moving to London to compile crosswords for the Yorkshire Post. He disliked London and returned to North Devon, lecturing for the Worker's Educational Association and writing articles for newspapers and magazines. During the 1930s he either knew or corresponded with some of the greatest thinkers of the day, among them George Bernard Shaw, RH Tawney and the American social philosopher Lewis Mumford. In his later years he was a friend of Ted Hughes, who lived twenty miles away from him.

After publishing Heritage of the West (1938), Martin wrote prolifically in the 1950s and 60s, including such works as The Secret People: English village life after 1750 (1955), Dartmoor (1958), Where London Ends (1958), The Tyranny of the Majority (1961), The Book of the Country Town (1962), The Book of the Village (1962), The Shearer and the Shorn (1965), and an edited anthology, Country Life in England (1967). He was elected a fellow of the International Institute of Arts and Letters in 1961 and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1976. In 1972, the Queen awarded him a civil list pension "for services to literature and social history". He was an honorary research fellow in rural social studies at Exeter University and, in the 1960s, won a Leverhulme fellowship at Sussex University to study the poor law. In 2001, his health began to fail, and he died in 2005.

Lewis Mumford was born on October 19, 1895 in Flushing, New York City, NY, and graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1912. He studied at the City College of New York and The New School for Social Research, but became ill with tuberculosis and never finished his degree. In 1918, he joined the navy to serve in World War I and was assigned as a radio electrician. He was discharged in 1919 and became associate editor of The Dial, an influential modernist literary journal. He later worked for The New Yorker where he wrote architectural criticism and commentary on urban issues.

Mumford's earliest books in the field of literary criticism have had a lasting impact on contemporary American literary criticism. The Golden Day (1926) contributed to a resurgence in scholarly research on the work of 1850s American transcendentalist authors and Herman Melville: A Study of His Life and Vision (1929) effectively launched a revival in the study of the work of Herman Melville. Soon after, with the book The Brown Decades (1931), he began to establish himself as an authority in American architecture and urban life, which he interpreted in a social context.

In his early writings on urban life, Mumford was optimistic about human abilities and wrote that the human race would use electricity and mass communication to build a better world for all humankind. He would later take a more pessimistic stance. His early architectural criticism also helped to bring wider public recognition to the work of Henry Hobson Richardson, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.

In 1963, Mumford received the Frank Jewett Mather Award for art criticism from the College Art Association. Mumford received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964; in 1975, Mumford was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE); in 1976, he was awarded the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca; and in 1986, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

He served as the architectural critic for The New Yorker magazine for over 30 years. His 1961 book, The City in History, received the National Book Award. Lewis Mumford died at the age of 94 at his home in Amenia, New York on January 26, 1990.

This collection contains correspondence from Lewis Mumford to Ernest Walter Martin and to Martin from W.H. Ferry, Eric Hutton, Tom Lewis, and Sir Frederic J. Osborn, concerning Mumford; and manuscripts written by Martin on Mumford's work. The correspondence as a whole concerns Mumford's thoughts on social problems related to urbanity and rural life, a planned book of essays in honor of Mumford's work, as well as Mumford's declining critical reputation in England. The manuscripts are an assessment by Martin of Mumford's development as a social theorist. There is no available record of their having been published.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Sam Allingham
Finding Aid Date
2018 August 8
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

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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.

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Scope and Contents

These letters chronicle the professional and personal relationship between Mumford and Martin, specifically concerning Martin's attempts to bring together a series of essays praising Mumford's work and the shared concern of the two men with the rapidly changing social networks of the English countryside. The letters are arranged chronologically.

1974 September 15-1982 December 26.
Box 1 Folder 1

Scope and Contents

These letters illustrate the loose social network of friends and colleagues that brought Martin and Mumford into contact. The letters exchanged after Mumford's death in 1990 also illustrate Martin's efforts to bring out a published appraisal of Mumford's work. The letters are arranged alphabetically by sender.

Ferry, W.H. , 1991-1995.
Box 1 Folder 2
Hutton, Eric, circa 1980s.
Box 1 Folder 2
Lewis, Tom, 1978-1979.
Box 1 Folder 3
Osborn, Sir Frederic J., 1966-1974.
Box 1 Folder 4

Scope and Contents

These manuscript drafts represent Martin's attempt to write a critical appraisal of Mumford social theories. There are both handwritten and typescript versions, though the development process of the manuscript (and whether all the writing is, in fact, one manuscript) remains unclear. Drafts have been delineated and arranged using Martin's existing page numbers, but there are loose, unnumbered pages in both the handwritten and typescript sections. These pages have been placed at the end of the appropriate folder. There is no readily available record of this writing ever having been published.

Manuscript drafts , after 1979.
Box 1 Folder 5
Typescript draft, after 1979.
Box 1 Folder 6

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