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Evelyn Scott:

An Inventory of Her Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Creator: Scott, Evelyn, 1893-1963
Title: Evelyn Scott Collection
Dates: 1894-1952
Extent: 19 boxes, 1 galley folder (8 linear feet)
Abstract: Drafts of published and unpublished novels, short stories, plays, and poems comprise the bulk of the papers of this American writer.
RLIN Record #: TXRC98-A5
Language English.
Access

Open for research




Acquisition

Purchases and gift, 1967-1996 (R3288, R7122, R7191, R8527, G1125, R13580)

Processed by

Sally M. Nichols, 1998

Repository:

Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin


Evelyn Scott was born in Clarksville, Tennessee, on January 17, 1893, as Elsie Dunn, the only child of Maude Thomas and Seely Dunn. Maude Thomas, Elsie's mother, was from a respected and prosperous southern family of Clarksville. Seely Dunn, Elsie's father, though born and raised in New Orleans, had Yankee parents and a more northern outlook. By the time Elsie was fourteen, Seely had made some unwise investments and the family moved to New Orleans to be near the financial support of his parents. As she was growing up Elsie struggled with reconciling the social class her mother's family represented with the life they actually lived. The transition which Tennessee was undergoing toward social and economic progress, and the pull of opposing forces in her mother's and father's outlook, combined with the ever present shadow of the Civil War, was to have a significant effect on Evelyn's development as a thinker and writer. As an only child Elsie felt lonely and misunderstood. She attended the Sophie Newcombe Preparatory School and became the youngest girl student to enroll at Tulane University. By the age of twenty she had become discouraged by her inability to make a real difference in society.

It was at this time, in 1913, that Elsie met Frederick Creighton Wellman. Wellman, twenty years her senior and married to a concert pianist, had four children by a previous marriage which ended in divorce, and was now dean at Tulane University's School of Tropical Medicine. He and Elsie shared many intellectual interests and he eventually asked her to accompany him to Brazil where he planned to collect insect specimens. They left secretly in December 1913 and by a circuitous route arrived at their destination in February 1914. It was at the beginning of this trip that both Elsie and Wellman changed their names to Scott to protect their identity, with Elsie becaming Evelyn Scott and Wellman changing his to Cyril Kay Scott. She had become pregnant with her only child, Creighton Scott, before they landed. Evelyn later wrote about their poverty and hardships in Brazil in her autobiography, Escapade, published in 1923. They remained in Brazil for six years.

When they returned to the United States the Scotts lived in New York City's Greenwich Village where Evelyn quickly embraced the Bohemian life style, as well as various lovers such as Waldo Frank and William Carlos Williams. Evelyn had submitted a few poems for publication while in Brazil and soon was at work producing a volume of poems entitled Precipitations, published in 1920, followed the next year by her first novel, The Narrow House. Both publications received mixed reviews. They were followed by Narcissus (1922) and The Golden Door (1925), which completed her first trilogy using the theme of the loveless conventional marriage.

The year 1927 also saw the publication of the first volume of her historical trilogy, Migrations, which used for its backdrop America's westward expansion. The Civil War was the background for The Wave (1929), and industrial expansion for A Calendar of Sin, (1931). The Wave is considered Evelyn's greatest critical and commercial success. In Eva Gay, an autobiographical novel published in 1933, Evelyn wrote about her youth and her involvement with Cyril Kay Scott and the artist Owen Merton before her connection with and subsequent marriage to British novelist, Jack Metcalf. Reviewers continued to maintain Evelyn's significance as an important modern writer. The year 1937 saw the publication of both another autobiography, Background in Tennessee, in which Evelyn discussed the significant effect of her Clarksville upbring on the fundamental formation of her character, and her novel, Bread and a Sword, begun fifteen years earlier, contrasting economic necessity and artistic integrity in artistic expression.

In addition to her novels and poetry, Evelyn produced four children's books, a play, numerous short stories, essays, and reviews. She wrote two additional novels, “Escape into Living,” reflections of a middle aged woman on her life, and “Before Cock Crow,” a work about the French Revolution, both of which remain unpublished. Though she lived for an additional 22 years Evelyn was unable to publish her work after 1941, due in part to its controversial nature and her refusal to accept her publishers' suggestions for changes, as well as to her growing paranoia about conspiracies directed against her. Additionally, each of her novels had a unique style which the general public found difficult to read or understand.

Late in 1925 Evelyn began a relationship with John Metcalf that was to last until her death. In March of 1928 Cyril Scott decided to formally end his common law marriage with Evelyn and obtained a divorce in Juarez, Mexico. Although John and Evelyn claimed to be married as early as 1925, they went through a legal ceremony in 1930. During World War II, when John was drafted into the RAF to train pilots, Evelyn joined him in England in 1944, and was not to return to the U.S. until 1953 when a fund, organized by Margaret DeSilver in the U.S., was set up for that purpose. Scott had found it difficult to interest publishers in her work at such a distance and, along with her growing mental instability, poverty and illness took its toll. She suffered from heart trouble and lung cancer and passed away on August 3, 1963.


Callard, D.A. Pretty Good for a Woman: The Enigmas of Evelyn Scott (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1985).

Dictionary of Literary Biography, v. 9 (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Co., 1981).

White, Mary Wheeling. Fighting the Current: The Life and Work of Evelyn Scott (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1998).


The Evelyn Scott Collection comprises 19 boxes of primarily manuscripts and correspondence ranging in date from 1894 to 1952, with the bulk covering the period when she was most actively involved in writing (ca. 1920-1941). The material is arranged in three series: I. Works, 1914-1952 (14 boxes), II. Correspondence, 1924-1942 (2 boxes), and III. Miscellaneous, 1894-1940 (3 boxes). Within each series the material is arranged alphabetically by title or author. This collection was previously accessible only through a card catalog, but has been re-cataloged as part of a retrospective conversion project.

The Works series consists of original and carbon copy typescripts of books, articles, essays, short stories, plays, and poems, many unpublished, arranged alphabetically by title. Included is a carbon copy typescript of Scott's autobiography, Background in Tennessee. The only published novel represented in the collection is Bread and a Sword, while two unpublished novels, “Before Cock Crows,” about the French Revolution, and “Escape into Living” are both present in several drafts. More heavily represented, however, are Scott's short stories, articles, and essays, most of which are unpublished. Also present are two collections of poems, one entitled “The Gravestones Wept.”

Outgoing correspondence comprises a single folder principally of typed carbon copies of letters Scott wrote to her agents, Brandt & Brandt and Hill & Peters; publishers Bennett Cerf of Random House, Charles Scribner's & Sons, and Thomas Seltzer; also the Authors' League of America, the New York Herald Tribune, and friends such as Elizabeth Ames of Yaddo, a writers' and artists' retreat in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and Marie Garland, author and financial benefactress.

Incoming correspondence includes letters concerning her literary output and that of her correspondents, as well as discussions of the work of other authors, as her circle of acquaintances held many literary friends in common. Scott carried on an active correspondence with such literary notables as Sherwood Anderson, Kay Boyle, Van Wyck Brooks, Willa Cather, Sidney Cox, John Dewey, Lovat Dickson, John Dos Passos, Theodore Dreiser, Albert Einstein, Waldo Frank, Marie Tudor Garland, Emma Goldman, Swinburne Hale, Aldous Huxley, James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Sinclair Lewis, Amy Lowell, Owen Merton, Georgia O'Keeffe, Jean Rhys, Elmer Rice, Lola Ridge, Bertrand Russell, Upton Sinclair, Frank Swinnerton, Thornton Wilder, William Carlos Williams, Morton Dauwen Zabel, and Marya Zaturenska.

Publishing houses with which she had dealings included Boni & Liveright; Jonathan Cape and Harrison Smith; Lovat Dickson & Thompson Ltd.; Harcourt, Brace; Henry Holt; Simon & Schuster; Robert McBride; Random House; Charles Scribner's & Sons; Thomas Seltzer; Harrison Smith and Robert Haas; and H.W. Wilson. Literary agents included Brandt and Brandt; A.M. Heath & Co.; Hill & Peters; Hale, Nelles & Shorr; A.D. Peters; Virginia Rice; and Willis Kingsley Wing. Included also is correspondence with magazine publishers such as Bookman, The Calendar, The Caravel, Contempo, The Dial, The Double Dealer, The Egoist, The Forum, The Literary Review, The Little Review, Opportunity, Saturday Evening Post, and The Southern Review. In addition, there are a few letters from her mother, Maude Thomas Dunn, and her father, Seely Dunn.

The Miscellaneous series contains various items relating to Evelyn Scott such as financial information, a certification of divorce, a dedication to an unidentified work, a passport, and a small holograph recipe book. Also included is a description of book contracts, royalty statements, typescript notes for a theatre story, and a document entitled, “A Precis of Events Indicative of Libel.”

Materials for Scott's mother, Maude Thomas Dunn, include items such as checks, invoices, receipts, the Record of Visitors for her funeral, her will, and two small holograph notebooks with comments about Evelyn as a small child. In addition, there are translations of two novels into English by Maude Dunn, one from French and the other from Portuguese. Items relating to Seely Dunn are a calling card and a sketch.

This series also contains an extensive correspondence by Owen Merton to his mother, Mrs. Alfred Merton (224 letters), covering the years 1909-1913. There are also 18 letters to other Merton family members during those years, and three letters to his future wife, Ruth Calvert Jenkins, as well as letters from Ruth to his mother, Mrs. Alfred Merton.

Elsewhere in the Center are twelve Vertical File folders and two Scrapbooks that contain newspaper clippings of reviews of Scott's work. There is also one box of photographs in the Literary File in the Photography Collection containing photographs of Evelyn as a baby and at various ages as she was growing up, with several at 16 years of age. Photographs of Evelyn as an adult are also included, as well as snapshots of the Gracey Mansion in Clarksville, Tennessee, the home in which Maude Dunn was raised and in which Evelyn was born.


Additional Evelyn Scott materials in the HRC may be found in the Henry E. Turlington Collection of Cyril Kay-Scott and Evelyn Scott Materials, the Jean Rhys Collection, and the John Metcalfe Collection.


Correspondents

Adamic, Louis, 1899-1951

Ames, Elizabeth, d.1977

Anderson, Sherwood, 1876-1941

Benét, William Rose, 1886-1950

Bogan, Louise, 1897-1970

Boyle, Kay, 1902-

Brooks, Van Wyck, 1886-1963

Bynner, Witter, 1881-1968

Cather, Willa, 1873-1947

Cerf, Bennett, 1898-1971

Coppard, A.E. (Alfred Edgar), 1878-1957

Dewey, John, 1859-1952

Dos Passos, John, 1896-1970

Dreiser, Theodore, 1871-1945

Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955

Endore, S. Guy, 1901-1970

Fadiman, Clifton, 1904-

Fletcher, John Gould, 1886-1950

Frank, Waldo David, 1889-1940

Gregory, Alyse, 1884-1967

Hale, Swinburne

Hillyer, Robert, 1895-1961

Hoult, Norah, 1901-1984

Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963

Joyce, James, 1882-1941

Lawrence, D.H. (David Herbert), 1885-1930

Lewis, Sinclair, 1885-1951

Lowell, Amy, 1874-1925

Lumpkin, Grace, 1892?-1980

Lyons, Eugene, 1898-

Mann, Thomas, 1875-1955

March, William, 1893-1954

Merton, Owen

Metcalfe, John, 1891-

Monroe, Harriet, 1860-1936

Moore, Marianne, 1887-1972

Nelles, Walter, 1883-1937

Nichols, Dudley, 1895-

Norman, Dorothy, 1905-

Ogden, C.K. (Charles Kay), 1889-1957

O'Keeffe, Georgia, 1887-1986

Parrish, Anne, 1888-

Perkins, Maxwell E. (Maxwell Evarts), 1884-1947

Peterkin, Julia Mood, 1880-1961

Read, Herbert Edward, Sir, 1893-1968

Rhys, Jean

Rice, Elmer, 1892-1967

Ridge, Lola, 1883-1941

Romains, Jules, 1885-1972

Russell, Bertrand, 1872-1970

Sandleir, Michael Ernest, 1861-1943

Sinclair, Upton, 1878-1968

Smith, Lillian Eugenia, 1897-1966

Stieglitz, Alfred, 1865-1946

Strand, Paul, 1890-1976

Suckow, Ruth, 1892-1960

Swinnerton, Frank, 1884-

Van Doren, Carl, 1885-1950

Van Loon, Hendrik Willem, 1882-1944

Weaver, Harriet Shaw

Wilder, Thornton, 1897-1975

Williams, William Carlos, 1883-1963

Zabel, Morton Dauwen, 1901-1964

Zaturenska, Marya, 1902-

Organizations

Peters (A.D.) Agency

Random House (Firm)

Contempo

Subjects

Novelists, American--20th century

Women novelists, American--20th century

Document Types

Christmas cards

Divorce records

Financial records

Funeral registers

Passports

Postcards

Recipes

Scripts

Wills