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University of Texas at Austin

James Jones:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Jones, James, 1921-1977
Title: James Jones Papers
Dates: 1890-1981 (bulk 1941-1978)
Extent: 153 boxes (64 linear feet), 16 galley files, 5 oversize flat files
Abstract: The papers contain Jones' manuscripts, proofs, film scripts, correspondence, financial records, photographs, works in manuscript by other persons, and biographical materials. Also included are most of his shorter prose writings and personal material such as address books, appointment books, various ID records, and a collection of family history materials including a large collection of photographic prints and negatives.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-02222
Language: English, and a few letters in French or German
Access: Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Purchases and gifts, 1964-1996 (R2254, R2382, G8110, R9451, G1686, G4001, G5067, R13361, R13397, G10501)
Processed by: Bob Taylor, 2002

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

James Ramon Jones was born to Ramon and Ada Blessing Jones on November 6, 1921. He enlisted in the United States Army upon graduation from high school in his native Robinson, Illinois, in 1939 and was sent to Hawaii, where he served in the 27th Infantry. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 Jones studied at the University of Hawaii while awaiting his regiment's combat assignment. At the end of 1942 his unit landed on Guadalcanal, where he was wounded in January 1943.
Transferred to a military hospital in Memphis for extended treatment, Jones received an honorable discharge from the army in 1944 and returned to Illinois to live with Lowney Handy and her husband Harry. Jones began to pursue a literary career, moving to New York in early 1945 to attend New York University. There he met Maxwell Perkins of Scribner's and was sufficiently encouraged to submit a novel entitled "They Shall Inherit the Laughter" in early 1946. Perkins turned the manuscript down but gave Jones an advance on a story idea about the pre-WWII army in Hawaii.
Back in Illinois, Jones wrought his army experiences into a novel, From Here to Eternity, published by Scribner's in 1951. The astonishing critical and popular success of Eternity launched his career, and virtually guaranteed a market for his subsequent work. Part of the proceeds from Eternity were used by Jones to help the Handys establish a writers' colony in Marshall, Illinois.
After his marriage to Gloria Mosolino and the publication, to mixed reviews, of Some Came Running, Jones left Illinois for New York and, eventually, Paris, where the couple settled in 1959. Their Paris sojourn became an extended residence, and James and Gloria were central figures in the postwar European literary scene. In the early 1960s Jones published The Pistol and (in continuation of Eternity) The Thin Red Line. He also began a subsidiary career as a script writer for motion pictures.
Responding to an attractive multi-book contract offer from Dell, Jones left Scribner's at the end of 1964. In the following years he published Go to the Widow-maker and The Ice-cream Headache and Other Stories, but work on the final volume of his military trilogy was interrupted twice to produce The Merry Month of May and A Touch of Danger. In the years after 1964 Jones served as a European talent scout for Dell and spent considerable time critiquing and encouraging young writers.
Following a reportorial trip to Viet Nam in early 1973 Jones published Viet Journal and began to think seriously of a return to the United States. In 1974 he accepted a one-year teaching position at Florida International University in Miami, and wrote the text for the illustrated history WWII. At the end of his FIU tenure, James Jones moved to Sagaponack, Long Island, and began again to work on Whistle, the culmination of the story begun with From Here to Eternity. Struggling with increasing health problems, Jones worked in 1976 and early 1977 to complete Whistle. Following his death on May 9, 1977, his friend Willie Morris added an outline of the unfinished final chapters of the novel, which was published in 1978.


Garrett, George. James Jones. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984.
Hendrick, George, ed. To Reach Eternity: the Letters of James Jones. New York: Random House, 1989.
MacShane, Frank. Into Eternity: the Life of James Jones, American Writer. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1985.

Scope and Contents

James Jones' papers span the years 1890 to 1981 and embrace manuscripts, proofs, correspondence, financial records, photographs, personal documents, works in manuscript by other persons, and biographical materials. The papers are largely in their original order, particularly those created between the early 1960s and 1974. The materials are arranged in six series: Series I. Works, 1945-78; Series II. Correspondence, 1930-81; Series III. Personal Papers, 1890-1978; Series IV. Works by Others, 1948-78; Series V. Lowney Handy and the Writers' Colony, 1942-57; and Series VI. Printed Matter, 1944-76.
The Works Series comprises nearly a third of the papers and includes manuscripts of Jones' books from Go to the Widow-maker on, as well as numerous film scripts and most of his shorter prose writings. For most of the later novels discarded and retyped pages, along with notes and plotting ideas are present; for several of these works annotated galleys are also held. Of the earlier novels, Some Came Running and The Pistol are present in typescript, the former novel including some "notes on characters." There are film adaptations by James Jones of The Pistol and The Thin Red Line.
The Correspondence Series represents almost half of the Jones papers and contains his working personal and professional correspondence as well as files on travel, entertainment, housing, and avocational interests. The majority of these files (from about 1959 to 1974) are in their original order, and those files post-1974 have been arranged insofar as possible to continue this pattern. Much of his earlier correspondence was placed by James Jones in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.
Jones' correspondents include his brother Jeff and aunt Mollie Haish, fellow writers (William Styron, Irwin Shaw, and Willie Morris particularly), film people, lawyers, agents, and editors. Avocational correspondents include ocean divers, knifemakers, artists, and military men. Carbons of many of James Jones' letters are interfiled with the correspondence. The carbons vary from the perfunctory but polite to the expansive and frank, depending on available time and the extent to which the correspondent piqued Jones' interest.
The Personal Papers series includes a large group of address books, appointment books, various ID records, as well as a collection of family memorabilia and family history materials. A large collection of photographic prints and negatives, as well as art works of Kaylie and Jamie Jones as youngsters, is present. Detailed tax and financial records for the years 1964-74 are found in the series and are retained in their original organizational scheme.
The Works by Others series includes manuscripts by friends and contemporaries of James Jones, including biographical material on him. Many of the works are novels, but short stories, poetry, nonfiction, and essays are present. Biographical pieces on Jones, together with an extensive group of interviews (printed and typescript) conducted with him from 1951 onward are arranged in separate subseries. In a number of cases these interviews appear never to have appeared in print in their present form.
The series on Lowney Handy and the Writers' Colony embraces a small and mixed collection of correspondence, records, and clippings. The material is too scant to document any aspect of the colony or its creator's life but does serve--more than anything else--to provide a window on Lowney Handy's opinions and unique personality.
A collection of printed matter in the form of periodical and newspaper issues, together with various clippings and fragments comprises the final series of the James Jones Papers.
Sound recordings, including Florida International University class discussions and several interviews, have been withdrawn to the Sound Recordings Collection. The Vertical File retains various theatrical programs and art exhibition catalogs, as well as publications on funeral industry procedures and minor publications removed from the papers.
Other repositories that have significant James Jones holdings include the University of Illinois at Springfield, where the original manuscript of From Here to Eternity and the papers of the Handy Writers' Colony are to be found. The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library holds the manuscript of "They Shall Inherit the Laughter," along with the publication file of Some Came Running.

Series Descriptions

Series Descriptions