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William A. Bradley Literary Agency:

An Inventory of Its Records at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: William A. Bradley Literary Agency, 1923-1982
Title: William A. Bradley Literary Agency Records
Dates: 1909-1982
Extent: 245 boxes (102.9 linear feet)
Abstract: The William A. Bradley Literary Agency Records document the work and personal lives of William and Jenny Bradley as literary agents in Paris for most of the twentieth century. After William A. Bradley's death in 1939, Jenny Bradley assumed responsibility for the agency maintaining William A. Bradley as the literary agency's name until her death in 1982. Representing mostly American, English, and French authors, the William A. Bradley Literary Agency counted Ford Madox Ford, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and Richard Wright among its numerous clients.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-0491
Languages: Most material written in English and French, some correspondence in German and Italian.
Note: We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which provided funds for the processing and cataloging of this collection.
Access:

Open for research.




Acquisition:

Purchases, 1975 and 1989 (R6833, R11867)

Processed by:

Monique Daviau, Jennifer Hecker, and Catherine Stollar, 2005.

Repository:

The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center


The William A. Bradley Literary Agency was founded by William A. Bradley and his wife, Jenny Serruys Bradley, circa 1923. At its height, it was the preeminent literary agency in Paris, representing major authors on both sides of the Atlantic, cultivating new talent, and bringing European literature to a larger American audience. Characterized by Gertrude Stein in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas as "the friend and comforter of Paris authors," William Bradley handled the majority of the "Paris exiles" in the 1920s and 1930s. The Bradleys influenced the shape of modern literature by taking risks on experimental writings at a time when both American and European publishers were hesitant to pursue new and different works.

William Aspenwall Bradley was born on February 8, 1878 in Hartford, Connecticut. He graduated from Columbia University in 1899 and received his masters degree from the same institution in 1900. Bradley began his own literary career in New York, reviewing books for the New York Times and writing a book about William Cullen Bryant for the English Men of Letters series. He was also a translator and well-known for his writings on Appalachian America, having spent most of 1913 in Kentucky with the artist Walter Jack Duncan on a commission from Harper's Magazine. He was art director and literary adviser to McClure, Phillips & Co., and was later associated with the Boston Herald, American Magazine, Delineator, and The University Press .

Born in Ménin, Belgium in 1886, Jenny Serruys was the daughter of a French textile mill owner. One of five children, she grew up with an English governess and in her teens studied English literature at the University of London. She began her literary associations in Paris soon after her schooling. During World War I she served as a nurse for the Red Cross at the front in Paris and lost her first fiancé, a Frenchman, to the war. Jenny helped to run a program called "French Homes" which arranged for American soldiers to spend their leaves as the guests of French households. It was under this program that she met William Bradley, who appeared at the Serruys's Paris home in 1918 when he was serving in the war. They were married in 1921 and started the agency soon after.

William Bradley (or "Bie" as Jenny and others affectionately called him) had initially secured a job as a European scout for Harcourt, Brace & Company, and later Macmillan & Co. With these contacts, the Bradleys were able to obtain options on French writers for the American firms they had contact with. Their relationship with Alfred and Blanche Knopf, whose publishing house was new at the time, allowed both parties to work together to make French literature available in the United States and vice versa. In 1926, William Bradley was awarded the Legion d'Honneur by the French government for his promotion of French literature both as an agent and a translator.

The Bradleys had a strong marriage, but they were not without tragedy: the couple had a daughter named Marianne, born in June of 1925, who passed away in September 1928 of unknown causes.

The William A. Bradley Literary Agency, situated at their home on the Ile-St. Louis at 18 Quai de Bethune, also served as a literary salon, where they entertained their many friends, including Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, André Malraux, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The Bradleys' most famous negotiation for a client was for the sale of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein's first successful publication. Stein's relationship with the Bradleys went sour over a misunderstanding concerning an American speaking tour in 1934, which she claimed she did not want to do. Stein and William Bradley sparred, and Stein eventually fired the Bradleys as her representatives.

Also notable were the Bradleys' tumultuous dealings with Henry Miller and his book Tropic of Cancer. While William and Jenny recognized Miller's work as genius, the controversial content of the novel made it nearly impossible for the Bradleys to secure an American publisher. The Bradleys persuaded Jack Kahane of Obelisk Press in Paris to accept the novel. Kahane was apprehensive, and it took nearly two years from the book's submission before it was published in September 1934. Bradley later incurred Henry Miller's anger when he suggested that Anaïs Nin should edit her diaries for publication. Miller was insulted that Bradley would suggest any material from Nin's diaries should be cut. Bradley returned Nin's diaries and continued to serve as her agent.

In addition to their close business and personal relationships with Alfred and Blanche Knopf, the Bradleys also had very close alliances with other important luminaries from the business side of the literary world. Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier, noted Paris booksellers, suggested that William and Jenny get to know an Irish author named James Joyce. Jenny Serruys (at that time she had not yet married Bradley) became a friend and quasi-patron of Joyce, loaning him a bed and table--the table upon which he completed Ulysses. Jenny's friendship with James Joyce eventually led to her 1950 translation of Joyce's The Exiles into French. Fellow literary agent Marion Saunders was also a constant source of professional information and camaraderie.

The Bradleys also served as liaisons between publishers and freelance translators and were responsible for maintaining foreign rights for authors in both North America and Europe. Most notably, the Bradley Literary Agency represented Margaret Mitchell's European and Canadian rights for Gone With the Wind, even after Mitchell's death in 1949. Some of Jenny's translators became her close friends, especially Mina Curtiss, who wrote books about Bizet and Proust, and Herma Briffault, the wife of author Robert Briffault.

William Bradley died unexpectedly on January 10, 1939. Within days of his death, Jenny resumed operation of the agency, retaining William A. Bradley as the firm's name. Soon after, Paris and the rest of Europe were in the throes of World War II, and Bradley's business slowed down considerably.

The business continued to flourish into the 1950s and 1960s, when Jenny Bradley represented such figures as James Baldwin, Blaise Cendrars, James Hadley Chase, Arthur C. Clarke, Richard Wright, John and Helen Erskine, Patricia Highsmith, and Jean Paul Sartre. When Jenny was not hard at work in Paris, she often vacationed at her home in Cap d'Antibes in the south of France, accompanied by her dog, Kertsch.

Jenny ran the agency until her death in 1983 at the age of ninety-seven.


Ford, Hugh. Published in Paris: American and British Writers, Printers, and Publishers in Paris, 1920-1939. New York: Macmillan & Co., 1975.

Rood, Karen L. "William Aspenwall Bradley." Dictionary of Literary Biography, http://galenet.galegroup.com (accessed June 1, 2005).

Steegmuller, Francis. "Meet Jenny Bradley, a Literary Force Extraordinary." New York Times, December 11, 1960.


The William A. Bradley Literary Agency Records consist of agency correspondence with authors, publishers, and other agents, accompanied by various enclosures, such as book jackets, press clippings, typed manuscripts, financial statements, and photographs. Some personal correspondence in the records predates the formation of the agency.

The records are arranged into three series following the agency's original filing system: I. Author Correspondence, 1909-1982 (68 boxes), II. Publisher Correspondence, 1919-1981 (126 boxes), and III. Agent Correspondence, 1922-1974 (51 boxes). A correspondents index and a works index are included in this finding aid.

Among the many notable authors represented in the records are Isaak Babel', James Baldwin, Marthe Bibesco, Kay Boyle, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Blaise Cendrars, Leslie Charteris, James Hadley Chase, Winston Churchill, Arthur C. Clarke, Georges Clemenceau, Colette, Aleister Crowley, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Theodore Dreiser, Isadora Duncan, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Henri Ford, Ford Madox Ford, Radclyffe Hall, Patricia Highsmith, Sisley Huddleston, Georges Hugnet, Bravig Imbs, William Irish, James Joyce, Martin Luther King, Jr., D. H. Lawrence, Sinclair Lewis, Serge Lifar, Anita Loos, Malcolm Lowry, Salvador de Madariaga, Aristide Maillol, Curzio Malaparte, Thomas Mann, Claude McKay, Robert S. McNamara, George Middleton, Henry Miller, Margaret Mitchell, Vladimir Nabokov, Romola Nijinsky, Ezra Pound, Jean Rhys, Georges Rouault, Vita Sackville-West, Jean Paul Sartre, Dorothy L. Sayers, Upton Sinclair, Gertrude Stein, Igor Stravinsky, Allen Tate, Dylan Thomas, Alice B. Toklas, Parker Tyler, Evelyn Waugh, and Richard Wright.

The majority of the correspondence is of a business nature and is written predominantly in English and French, with some in Italian and German. Correspondence during World War II (1939-1945) is sparse due to disruptions in postal services, and includes some letters which were apparently subject to inspection by Nazi censors.

Of special note is the Gertrude Stein material, which includes letters to and from Stein and Toklas, and from Virgil Thomson, Carl Van Vechten and Lamont Johnson. This material covers the periods 1928-1934 (when Stein broke with the Bradley Agency) and 1945-1965 (which includes a few late Stein letters, most of the Toklas letters, and the posthumous publication of some of Stein's works and Toklas's cookbooks). The letters between William Bradley and Gertrude Stein reveal the somewhat adversarial relationship between the two.

The agency's original alphabetical arrangement was used for Series I. Author Correspondence. Throughout the collection, files were, for the most part, kept in the agency's original order, although standard forms of names have been supplied.

Series II. Publisher Correspondence is divided into four subseries, American, English, French, and Foreign publishers, mirroring the agency's original filing structure. The majority of the material falls into the first three divisions. Within each subseries, materials are arranged alphabetically. Particularly well-represented publishers include: Albin Michel; Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.; Bernard Grasset; Bobbs-Merrill Company; Butterworths; Calmann-Lévy; Constable; Editions Arthaud; Editions Corréa; Editions de La Table ronde; Editions du Seuil; Editions G. Crès & Cie; Editions Julliard; Les Editions mondiales; Editions Robert Laffont; Flammarion; G. P. Putnam & Co.; G. P. Putnam's Sons (American and English); Gallimard; Gérard & Cie.; Hachette; Hamish Hamilton Ltd.; Harcourt Brace & Company; Harper & Brothers (American and English); Harper & Row, Publishers; Houghton, Mifflin and Company; J. B. Lippincott & Co. (American and English); Jonathan Cape & Harrison Smith; Librairie Arthème Fayard; Librairie Stock; Little, Brown and Company; Liveright, Inc.; Macmillan Company; Plon; Presses de la Cité; Random House; John Rodker; Vanguard Press; and Victor Gollancz Ltd.

Agent Correspondence in Series III is similarly divided into three subseries, American, English, and Foreign agents. Within each subseries, materials are arranged alphabetically. Dominant among the agents represented are: A. D. Peters; Elias Alexander; Anthony Sheil Associates Ltd.; Madeleine Elise Reynier Boyd; Brandt & Brandt; George T. Bye; Curtis Brown Ltd.; David Higham Associates, Ltd.; Heath & Co. (London); Kurt E. Michaels; Harold Matson; Helmut Meyer; Paul R. Reynolds & Son; Marion Saunders; Warre Bradley Wells; and William Morris Agency.

Some of the correspondence illustrates the scope of Jenny Bradley's close personal relationships with her business associates Blanche and Alfred Knopf, Mina Curtiss, Herma Briffault, and others. For example, a receipt for the rental of a table Jenny Bradley procured for James Joyce's use during the writing of Ulysses is included in the collection.

Several works and parts of works are present in the collection, including Toklas's revised typescript of Stein's "Meditations", which remains unpublished; Patricia Highsmith's play, The Cellar; and other works by H. E. Bates, Marthe Bibesco, Blaise Cendrars, C. S. Forester, Elizabeth Goudge, L. P. Hartley, Sinclair Lewis, Serge Lifar, David Stanley Livingstone, Salvador de Madariaga, Archibald MacLeish, Curzio Malaparte, Claude McKay, Robert S. McNamara, Henry de Montherlant, and Dorothy Thompson.


Additional material at the Ransom Center concerning the William A. Bradley Literary Agency can be found in the records of A. D. Peters & Co., David Higham Associates, and Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Other Ransom Center collections relevant to William A. Bradley include those for Harpers, Frank Harris, Robert Underwood Johnson, John Lehmann, and John Rodker. More material concerning Jenny Bradley can be found in holdings for Harpers, William Humphrey, Robinson Jeffers, Carlton Lake (specifically for Sisley Huddleston and Gertrude Stein), John Lehmann, John Rodker, and Parker Tyler. Photographs of Jenny Bradley are located in the Photography Collection's holdings for the Knopf firm.


Due to size, this inventory has been divided into two separate units which can be accessed by clicking on the highlighted text below:

William A. Bradley Literary Agency Records--Series I through Series III [Part I] [This page]

William A. Bradley Literary Agency Records--Index of Works and Index of Correspondents [Part II]


Correspondents

Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Bibesco, Marthe, 1886-1973.

Boyle, Kay, 1902- .

Bradley, Jenny Serruys.

Bradley, William Aspenwall, 1878-1939.

Céline, Louis-Ferdinand, 1894-1961.

Charteris, Leslie, 1907- .

Chase, James Hadley, 1906- .

Clemenceau, Georges, 1841-1929.

Colette, 1873-1954.

Crowley, Aleister, 1875-1947.

Doyle, Arthur Conan,Sir, 1859-1930.

Dreiser, Theodore, 1871-1945.

Duncan, Isadora, 1877-1927.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott (Francis Scott), 1896-1940

Ford, Charles Henri.

Ford, Ford Madox, 1873-1939.

G. P. Putnam's Sons.

Hall, Radclyffe.

Harper & Brothers.

Highsmith, Patricia, 1921- .

Houghton, Mifflin and Company.

Huddleston, Sisley, 1883-1952.

Hugnet, Georges, 1906-1974.

Imbs, Bravig, 1904-1946.

Irish, William, 1903-1968.

J. B. Lippincott & Co.

Joyce, James, 1882-1941.

Knopf, Alfred A., 1892-1984.

Knopf, Blanche W., 1894-1966.

Lewis, Sinclair, 1885-1951.

Lifar, Serge, 1905- .

Macmillan & Co.

Miller, Henry, 1891- .

Mitchell, Margaret, 1900-1949.

Nabokov, Vladimir Vladimirovich, 1899-1977.

Nijinsky, Romola de Pulszky.

Pound, Ezra, 1885-1972.

Random House.

Rouault, Georges, 1871-1958.

Sartre, Jean Paul, 1905- .

Stein, Gertrude, 1874-1946.

Stravinsky, Igor, 1882-1971.

Toklas, Alice B.

Waugh, Evelyn, 1903-1966.

Wright, Richard, 1908-1960.

Subjects

Authors, American--20th century.

Authors, English--20th century.

Authors, English--Correspondence.

Authors, French--20th century.

Authors and publishers.

Literary agents.

Literature, Modern--Translations.

Publishers and publishing--France.

Document Types

Contracts

Financial records