James T. Farrell papers
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
A second generation Irish-Catholic, James T. Farrell (1904-1979) was born to a struggling working class family in Chicago. As a young boy he was sent away to live with his grandparents to a different neighborhood in Chicago which, coupled with his parochial school education, set the tone for his writings throughout his lifetime. After enrolling in 1925 at the University of Chicago for pre-law, Farrell quickly showed a keen interest for the social sciences. However, by 1927 he decided it was his calling to be a fiction writer, drawing off of his experiences and newly formed social attitudes emulating John Dewey, Theodore Dreiser, and Leon Trotsky.
Best known for his Studs Lonigan trilogy, a series of novels published between 1932 and 1935, Farrell portrays the life of a young Irish Catholic man growing up on the streets of Chicago. Brutally realistic, the Lonigan series is revered by many historians and sociologists as one of the most accurate portrayals of everyday life for urban Irish Catholics for the time period. Despite publishing over fifty works—in addition to other forms of writing—Farrell's acclaim never could grow past the shadow ofStuds Lonigan. Farrell himself was not shy in stating his displeasure about this matter, especially as he aged, frequently complaining or lobbying to any sympathetic ear or unsuspecting correspondent. Novelist Sloan Wilson recalled Farrell as "A lion at bay, roaring defiance at publishers and editors," (Landers, A Lion at Bay, page 14). Despite his struggles—both real and perceived—Farrell continued to produce an unprecedented amount of writing, as an author as well as a correspondent and philosopher. His biographer Robert K. Landers describes Farrell as, "a writer not by nature but by force of will, and what a mighty will it must have been for the words poured forth almost without stop," (Landers, A Lion at Bay, page 15).
In addition to writing, Farrell was extremely engaged in politics and social activism as a member of the Socialist Workers Party (subsequently split to the Workers Party), as well as the American Committee for Cultural Freedom. Well after withdrawing from active participation, Farrell remained extremely lively in championing social causes which he demonstrated through personal correspondence and less formal writings. Furthermore, Farrell maintained an undying passion for the game of baseball throughout his life. In 1957 he published a collection of writings, My Baseball Diary, which was one of two baseball related books he agreed to write, however the second would not be published until well after his death. Throughout Farrell's tumultuous life, his obsession with baseball always seemed to bring out the best in his personality, even while his obsession with writing often seemingly ran him to the brink of disaster.
Farrell's personal life at times was turbulent. He was married three times and divorced twice, while infidelity was rampant throughout. His first (and third) wife, Dorothy Butler Farrell was a University of Chicago student at the time of their meeting in 1928. In April of 1931 they were secretly married, immediately setting off on a ship for a year in Paris, France. In November their son Sean was born, however after only four days the new parents received news that their son had passed away in the hospital (Landers, An Honest Writer, 104). Separation due to Dorothy's employment eventually led its way to infidelity, and in 1935 Farrell would meet his second wife, Hortense Alden, a Broadway actress.
In June of 1940, Farrell and Dorothy were officially divorced, and several months later Hortense gave birth to their first son, Kevin. In January of 1941 they were married (Landers, An Honest Writer, 237). The autumn of 1947 brought their second son, John Steven, who Farrell noted in his diary, "The little boy was born with club feet, but it is correctable," (Landers, An Honest Writer, 293). As time went on, John Steven showed severe signs of mental retardation and by 1949 was sent to Letchworth Village residential institution. He passed away in 1994, having never seen his parents again after that day in 1949, not even remembered in either parent's obituaries.
After John Steven's departure, Farrell's relationship with Kevin developed in more of a friendship than parental relationship. Hortense took great exception to this and while struggling with her own bouts of mental illness, an extremely volatile household developed. In January of 1951, Kevin was sent away to boarding school in Massachusetts. Shortly after, Farrell and Hortense divorced (Landers, An Honest Writer, 319).
By 1955, Dorothy Butler had moved back to New York for business, and quickly Farrell inquired to meet with her. "He was after me all the time, he'd call me every day at my job, my new job. And I said, 'James, I'm not going out with you unless I'm married to you. That's all.' So he said, 'Then, we'll get married,'" (Landers, An Honest Writer, 344). In September of that year, they were remarried. Financial hardship and accused infidelity on Dorothy's part with jazz violinist Leroy "Stuff" Smith, led to another separation in 1958—although they would never officially divorce. Two years later he would meet his secretary and final life partner Cleo Paturis, with whom he remained until his death on August 22, 1979.
A prolific writer, a fierce political activist, a fanatic of baseball—the legacy of James T. Farrell can be interpreted through many lenses, each giving a glimpse to the man of many faces. Despite Studs Lonigan being listed 29th on Modern Library's "100 Best Novels of the 20th Century" list, Farrell continues to be relatively unknown and unappreciated as an American fiction writer (Modern Library). Landers notes, "Despite the flurry of interest in his Centennial year, he is still a largely forgotten writer today, with even his best-known work, American classic though it may be, unknown to most Americans under sixty-five," (Landers, A Lion at Bay, page 14). Despite the neglect Farrell has received over the decades, James T. Farrell left as much material as he possibly could for the world to realize his genius. It is in that he has cemented his legacy.
Branch, Edgar M. James T. Farrell-American Writers 29: University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers. No. 29. University of Minnesota Press, 1963.
Landers, Robert K. An Honest Writer: The Life and Times of James T. Farrell. Encounter Books, 2004.
Landers, Robert K. "A Lion at Bay: The Life & Art of James T. Farrell." Commonweal 139, no. 9 (2012): 14.
Modern Library. "100 Best Novels of the 20th Century". http://www.modernlibrary.com/top-100/100-best-novels.
Wald, Alan M. James T. Farrell: The Revolutionary Socialist Years. New York University Press, 1978
James T. Farrell (1904-1979) was an Irish-American novelist and poet, best remembered by his Studs Lonigan trilogy published in the 1930s. With works spanning over five decades, Farrell produced an extensive volume of literary materials encompassing many formats. In addition to his published works, this collection exhibits the inexhaustible nature of Farrell's obsession with writing itself. Along with Farrell's wide range of famous correspondents, he made efforts to keep all mail he received. This results in a wide variety of materials of fan mail, scathing messages, organizational bulletins, solicitations, and cultural ephemera. The James T. Farrell papers include over 800 linear feet of correspondence, diaries, publications, manuscripts, and memorabilia covering many themes including literature, the arts, academia, politics, social organizations, and professional baseball .
A preliminary outline for the complete collection has been provided in this finding aid. Processing of the materials is ongoing, and this finding aid will be updated as series become available. The current available portion of the collection includes nearly one hundred linear feet of correspondence. The correspondence is arranged into three subseries. While the bulk of material is found in the general correspondence subseries, there are ten linear feet of fragments and unidentified correspondence. The fragments of letters in which the author or the recipient could not be identified; usually due to lack of a full name or other identifiable information, and in certain cases where the handwriting of Farrell or the individual was particularly challenging. There is also one linear foot of fire damaged correspondence (resulting from a fire in Farrell's apartment in 1946) which has been restricted due to the fragile condition of the material.
Notes on Arrangement
As a consequence of a censorship case in Philadelphia against Farrell's novels in 1948, Farrell made the acquaintance of E. Scully Bradley, Professor of American Civilization and later Vice-Provost of the University of Pennsylvania. Their friendship led to the donation of several of Farrell's manuscripts to the Department of Special Collections. Farrell had already sought a repository for his papers at the Newberry Library in Chicago after a 1946 fire in his apartment destroyed many manuscripts. In 1954, he decided to deposit subsequent papers at Penn, which eventually purchased most of the Newberry's Farrell collection. The agreement was finalized in 1957. Over the remainder of Farrell's life, he continuously deposited new materials but frequently requested previously deposited items to be returned for his personal use, which were sometimes returned at a later time. In addition, Farrell encouraged his friends and family to also donate their own correspondence and memorabilia to the collection. Often, Farrell would donate a carbon copy of a letter to his collection and many decades later the recipient would donate the original. In most cases it is unclear which materials belong to each donation. Due to these circumstances, this collection has been compiled through numerous contributions, from many sources, throughout many decades. This has not allowed for the preservation of an overarching original order. Every effort has been made to preserve the integrity of the collection while best assisting the researcher; however, closely related items may be found dispersed throughout the collection.
When a series of correspondence between Farrell and someone is apparently a function of a corporate body rather than strictly personal, the correspondence is arranged under the corporate body.
Because Farrell was a prolific correspondent and extended friendships to a vast array of people across many fields, the line between business and personal communication is extremely blurred. If the letter appears on official letterhead but is dealing purely with matters outside of that which is represented on the letterhead, it is filed under the correspondent's name and not the corporate body. In some cases this may mean that an individual's correspondence may be found in multiple places, however every effort has been made to document this to allow a researcher to track all correspondence regardless of function.
If a letter is a response to business correspondence from Farrell, the letter will be arranged under the recipient's name unless their affiliation with the corporate body is documented elsewhere in the collection and the letter seems to pertain to professional matters. Nevertheless, due to size of the collection, it may behoove the researcher to double check any corporate bodies associated with the individual to assure all correspondence has been located.
Often, Farrell's secretaries (notably Louise Richmond, Luna Wolf and Cleo Paturis) reply to the correspondence on his behalf. All replies from Luna Wolf can be found in the file of the individual. Cleo Paturis has a significantly larger body of correspondence in which some of her secretarial duties are included. Often, correspondents looking to reach Farrell without an address sent letters to his publishers. In turn, on occasion his publishing contacts (often James Henle and Sally Asteros) would return correspondence initially. These will remain in the file of the initial correspondent.
For individuals, researchers should perform keyword searches using the last name, first name format. Corporate bodies and institutions will be found alphabetically as they appear, such as Alfred A. Knopf Inc. under A rather than K. If a person held a distinct title or affiliation, every effort was made to include this in the description to allow for better discovery. An example of this is: Kennedy, Edward Moore (Ted Kennedy), Senator (may contain: United States Congress), which would be found as the entry on the container list.
This collection will be of value to those studying James T. Farrell as a literary figure, as well as his personal philosophies and numerous connections throughout the arts and academia. In addition, this collection also includes a wide range of materials that would be of interest to scholars researching politics and political figures of the twentieth century, social activism, censorship, and Major League Baseball players, owners, and writers.
Gift of James T. Farrell
Additional gifts include:
Martin J. Freeman 1957
Hellen Farrell Dillion April 23, 1983 and March 1994
George Gloss, Brattle Bookshop 1989
Sr. Clare Immaculate McDowell 1997
Irvin Stock 1998
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Alexis Morris
- Finding Aid Date
- 2017 May 1
- Access Restrictions
The bulk of this collection is open for research use. However, the subseries of fire damaged correspondence is restricted from access due to the fragile nature of the materials. A general inventory list of these materials can be found in boxes 310 through 312. For information about gaining access to portions of restricted items, researchers should email email@example.com.
- 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.