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Millicent Dillon:

An Inventory of Her Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Dillon, Millicent 1925-
Title: Millicent Dillon Papers
Dates: 1905-1990
Extent: 15 boxes, 1 oversized folder, 17 cassette tapes, 1 videotape
Abstract: This collection contains Dillon's notebooks, index cards, typescripts, correspondence, photographs, cassette tapes, and clippings, much of which relates to the biography A Little Original Sin: The Life and Works of Jane Bowles and her other writings about Jane Bowles' life and works. The collection also contains materials Dillon collected by Paul and Jane Bowles, including Jane Bowles' notebooks, typescripts, correspondence, photographs, and legal documents, and Paul Bowles' correspondence and clippings.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-01167
Language: Most material in English
Access: Open for research. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials. Part or all of this collection is housed off-site and may require up to three business days’ notice for access in the Ransom Center’s Reading and Viewing Room. Please contact the Center before requesting this material:

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Purchase, 1990; Gift, 1991
Processed by: Katherine Mosley, 1992

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Millicent Dillon was born Millicent Gerson in New York City on May 24, 1925. Upon receiving a degree in physics from Hunter College in 1944, she held a series of technical-scientific positions. She worked as a junior physicist on a government project at Princeton University from 1944 to 1945. In 1946, she worked as a technical assistant for Standard Oil Company, and she again served as an assistant physicist on a government project at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, during the following year. From 1947 to 1948, she served as a staff writer for the Association of Scientists for Atomic Education in New York and then worked as a physicist at Northrup Aircraft. From 1949 to 1952, she worked as a caseworker for a social welfare program in Hawthorne, California. At the age of 40, Dillon enrolled in the creative writing program at San Francisco State University. After receiving a master's degree in 1966, she taught creative writing as a professor of English at Foothill College in Los Altos, California, for five years. From 1974 to 1983 she was an academic writer for the Stanford University News and Publications office. Since 1983 Dillon has been a freelance writer in fiction, biography, and drama.
Dillon is best known for her works concerning writers Jane and Paul Bowles. Among these are a biography A Little Original Sin: The Life and Works of Jane Bowles (1981); a collection of letters, Out in the World: Selected Letters of Jane Bowles 1935-1970 (1985); and a biography You Are Not I: A Portrait of Paul Bowles (1998). She also edited The Viking Portable Paul and Jane Bowles (1994). Her other works include Baby Perpetua and Other Stories (short stories, 1971); The One in the Back is Medea, (novel, 1973); After Egypt: Isadora Duncan and Mary Cassatt (biography, 1990); The Dance of the Mothers (novel, 1991); Harry Gold (novel, 2000); four plays; and additional short stories, essays, and reviews in numerous publications. She is the recipient of a number of honors and awards, including five O. Henry awards in fiction. She also received a Guggenheim Fellowship. Additional information about Millicent Dillon may be found in Contemporary Authors New Revision Series (Gale Research Company, 1984).
Jane Auer Bowles was an author who published only one novel, Two Serious Ladies (1943); one play, In the Summer House (1954); and a book of short stories, Plain Pleasures (1966). The Collected Works of Jane Bowles (1966) combined her works in one volume. My Sister's Hand in Mine (1978) is an expanded edition of The Collected Works. A posthumously published collection of stories and letters, Feminine Wiles, appeared in 1976.
The only child of Sidney and Claire Stajer Auer, Jane Stajer Auer was born February 22, 1917, in New York City. The Auer family moved to Woodmere, Long Island, when Jane was ten years old. Upon her father's death in 1930, Jane and her mother returned to New York City. In 1932, they moved to Leysin, Switzerland, for Jane to receive treatment for tuberculosis of the knee. After returning to New York in 1934, Jane decided to be a writer; her first work, Le Phaéton Hypocrite (manuscript lost), was completed in 1936. Jane married the writer-composer Paul Bowles on February 21, 1938. Following their marriage, they travelled to Latin America and Europe and briefly resided in New York. After 1948, they lived in Tangier, Morocco, but continued to make frequent visits to Europe, Latin America, and the United States. Although both were homosexual and they often lived apart, the Bowleses' marriage endured until Jane's death in 1973. Among their wide circle of friends and acquaintances were literary, musical, and theatrical figures, such as Tennessee Williams, Libby Holman, William S. Burroughs, Peggy Guggenheim, and Virgil Thomson. Another important figure in Jane Bowles's life was her Arab housekeeper and lover, Cherifa.
Jane Bowles's active period as a writer only lasted for about ten years; she had always experienced difficulty in writing, but by 1950 this difficulty, worsened by alcohol, had become a complete writer's block. In 1957, at the age of 39, Jane Bowles suffered a severe stroke which left her with acute aphasia and vision impairment. She made several attempts at writing but was unable to complete any work. She also became heavily dependent on alcohol and prescription drugs. By 1967, her mental and physical health had deteriorated so that Paul Bowles placed her in a psychiatric hospital in Málaga, Spain. The following year she was moved to the Clínica de los Angeles in Málaga. In 1969, she returned to Tangier for four months but had to be readmitted to the convent hospital. She became increasingly blind and unresponsive before she died on May 4, 1973. More information about Jane Bowles may be found in Millicent Dillon's A Little Original Sin: The Life and Works of Jane Bowles (Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1981).
Paul Frederick Bowles, who was born December 30, 1910, in New York City, was the only child of Claude Dietz and Rena Winnewisser Bowles. Bowles began writing short stories and composing music as a child, and he was only a teenager when his surrealist poetry was published in the magazine transition. Bowles briefly attended the University of Virginia but dropped out in 1929 and moved to Paris. This began over forty years of nearly constant traveling for Bowles, who once said of himself that he was addicted to movement. He returned to the University of Virginia in the spring of 1930, but left again after one semester to study music under Aaron Copland. In 1931, Bowles returned to Europe. From Paris he went to Berlin and then, at Gertrude Stein's suggestion, he went to Tangier, Morocco, for a time. After returning to the United States, Bowles studied with Virgil Thomson. In 1937, Bowles met author and playwright Jane Auer; they were married the following year. The Bowleses eventually settled in Tangier, although both travelled often throughout North Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the United States. At one point Paul even owned Taprobane, an island in Sri Lanka.
Paul Bowles became a celebrated composer during the 1940s, providing the musical scores for such noted plays as My Heart's in the Highlands (1940), South Pacific (1943), and The Glass Menagerie (1945). He also composed the scores for ballets, including Yankee Clipper. At the same time, Bowles wrote travel books on America, Mexico, France, India, and North Africa. From 1942 to 1945, he worked as a music critic for the New York Herald-Tribune. He wrote translations from French and Spanish for View, and his translation of Jean-Paul Sartre's Huis Clos was published as No Exit in 1946. After reading his wife's Two Serious Ladies (1943), Bowles was inspired to write fiction. He contributed short stories to Harper's Bazaar, View, Mademoiselle, and Partisan Review. Bowles's first novel, The Sheltering Sky (1949), was a best-seller, and it remains his most critically acclaimed work. Over the next decade, Bowles wrote three more novels and developed a reputation as an existential novelist. In 1956, he began translating Moroccan literature. In the 1960s and 1970s, Bowles primarily translated Moghrebi novels, short stories, and folk tales in collaboration with Mohammed Mrabet. He also returned to writing poetry. In 1970, he founded the literary magazine Antaeus with Daniel Halpern. Jane Bowles's mental and physical health deteriorated after she suffered a stroke in 1957, and she spent the final years of her life in a hospital in Spain before dying in 1973. During those years, Paul Bowles ceased to write fiction. In the years since his wife's death, Paul Bowles has remained in Morocco; he has received two NEH fellowships and has begun writing fiction again. More information about Paul Bowles is in his autobiography Without Stopping (Putnam, 1972).
The Harry Ransom Center purchased a portion of the Millicent Dillon papers in 1990 and received the remainder of the collection as a gift from Dillon in 1991.

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents

The Millicent Dillon collection consists of her notebooks, index cards, typescripts, correspondence, photographs, cassette tapes, and clippings, as well as materials by Paul and Jane Bowles she collected, including Jane Bowles's notebooks, typescripts, correspondence, photographs, and legal documents, and Paul Bowles's correspondence and clippings. The collection centers around Dillon's writings about Jane Bowles's life and works, primarily the biography A Little Original Sin: The Life and Works of Jane Bowles (1981). Millicent Dillon was introduced to Jane Bowles's work by Virginia Sorensen Waugh in 1973, the year of Bowles's death. In 1976, Dillon presented a paper on Bowles's novel, Two Serious Ladies, at a conference on unknown women writers and subsequently decided to write the biography of Jane Bowles. She wrote to Jane Bowles's husband, writer-composer Paul Bowles, and received his cooperation. Drafts and photocopies of her letters to him, as well as the originals of letters he wrote to her, are a highlight of the collection. Their correspondence continued well after the book was completed; the 170 letters date from 1976 to 1990. A fellowship grant from the NEH enabled Dillon to finance her research for the biography, and her fellowship application is present in the collection. Dillon travelled to Morocco three times to interview Paul Bowles, and her cassette tapes and notebooks from the interviews are part of the collection. Dillon also contacted Jane's relatives, friends, and acquaintances. The voluminous correspondence that resulted includes one or more letters by Brion Gysin, Patricia Highsmith, Dione Lewis, Miriam Levy, James Merrill, Edouard Roditi, Gordon Sager, and Virgil Thomson. Dillon also travelled to New York, Mexico, London, Spain and California to interview those who had known Jane well; Dillon's interview notebooks fill nearly three boxes. Besides providing information about Jane Bowles, the correspondence and interview notebooks document Dillon's research process. Dillon examined the Paul Bowles and Jane Bowles collections at the HRC, and her notes taken at the Center reflect her thoughts on Jane Bowles's work. During her exhaustive research for the biography, Dillon gathered original letters and photocopies of letters written by Jane Bowles, some of Bowles's notebooks and typescripts, and numerous photographs. Dillon also obtained Jane Bowles's birth and death certificates, as well as other documents relating to Jane Bowles and her family, and was given some of Paul Bowles's correspondence.
A list of all correspondents found in the Millicent Dillon collection is located at the end of the inventory.
More manuscripts by Paul Bowles and Jane Bowles may be found in the Center's Paul Bowles, Harpers, Charles Henri Ford, and Peter Owen collections.

Series Descriptions

Series I. Millicent Dillon, 1935-1990 (bulk 1976-1981), 13.5 boxes
The first series is the product of Millicent Dillon's research on and works about Jane Bowles. The series is arranged by work and is divided into three subseries: A Little Original Sin, Out in the World, and Other Works By Millicent Dillon Regarding Jane Bowles and Her Works.
The first subseries documents the production of Dillon's biography of Jane Bowles, A Little Original Sin: The Life and Works of Jane Bowles (Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1981). The subseries begins with Dillon's application for and receipt of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which partially financed her research for the biography. Her proposal for the biography describes her intentions for the book and outlines her research plans. Dillon wrote and visited Jane Bowles's husband, Paul, and their friends and acquaintances; the resulting correspondence and interview notes are present. Contact sheets of photographs taken by James Kalett, the Harper & Row photographer who accompanied Dillon to Spain and Morocco, contain images of Dillon, Paul Bowles, and others. Dillon also visited the Harry Ransom Center and studied the Center's Paul Bowles and Jane Bowles collections. Dillon transferred the information from her interview notes and research notes onto index cards and arranged them chronologically by periods in Jane's life. Dillon then began writing the biography, and its evolution can be followed in the manuscripts. She first wrote sections of the biography in notebooks. From the notebooks she typed a first draft. Photocopies of various versions of a second draft reveal Dillon's revision process. The final draft of the manuscript includes the Author's Note, Afterword, Chronology of Jane Bowles's Life, List of Jane Bowles Publications, Citations, and Acknowledgements. Correspondence regarding the book is divided into pre-publication correspondence and post-publication correspondence, with August 2, 1981, as the dividing date. Pre-publication correspondence includes Dillon's research queries and the answers she received, while post-publication correspondence shows the reactions her book generated. Interviews with Dillon and reviews that appeared in various publications also reveal critical response.
The second subseries is organized around the collection of Jane Bowles's letters that Millicent Dillon edited, Out in the World: Selected Letters of Jane Bowles 1935-1970 (Black Sparrow Press, 1985). The subseries begins with photocopies of some of Jane Bowles's correspondence and a few of Dillon's notes regarding the editing of the letters. While Dillon's work on the book of letters is not as well documented as her work on the biography, a typescript manuscript of the book does include Dillon's holograph revisions. Among the correspondence regarding the book are letters exchanged with Paul Bowles between December 1981, and July 1985. Published reviews of the book complete the subseries.
The third subseries, Other Works by Millicent Dillon Regarding Jane Bowles and Her Works, contains Dillon's manuscripts of essays about and reviews of Jane Bowles's works. The manuscripts include "Essential Quandaries,"  "Experiment as Character,"  "The Three Exiles of Jane Bowles," and reviews of My Sister's Hand in Mine and Two Serious Ladies. Within correspondence regarding other works is correspondence with Paul Bowles from September 1985 to June 1990.
Series II. Jane Bowles, 1905-1977 (bulk 1960-1968), 14 folders
The second series contains original Jane Bowles material gathered by Dillon. Of two notebooks with handwritten manuscripts, one is an untitled novel and poem; the other, titled "Camp Cataract," contains explanatory notes by Millicent Dillon. Typescript fragments of "Everything is Nice,"  "Going to Massachusetts," and "Red O'Shaugnessy" are present, with a photocopy of the typescript autobiography Bowles submitted to the H.W. Wilson Co. in 1968. The original, corrected typescript of "Camp Cataract" includes handwritten notes by Dillon. Bowles's original correspondence includes a letter to Cherifa, letters to Paul Bowles, and letters to and from her mother, Claire Fuhs. Also present are letters to and from Libby Holman and Carson McCullers, as well as one or more letters to or from John Ashbery, Florence Codman, Virginia Sorensen, and others. Information about the 1951 production of In the Summer House can be found in a photocopy of the production agreement and photocopies of correspondence between Bowles's agent, Audrey Wood, and Jasper Deeter and Richard Houser of Hedgerow Theatre. Legal documents include Jane's birth and death certificates, her father's will, her parents' marriage license, and her parents' and grandmother's death certificates. Photographs and contact sheets of photographs of Jane and Paul Bowles, alone and with friends, are present. The notice of Jane's death which appeared in the New York Times on May 31, 1973, and a videotape of Jane, a Dutch play about Bowles, complete the Jane Bowles series.
Series III. Paul Bowles, 1959-1986 (bulk 1960-1969), 3 folders
The third series contains Paul Bowles's correspondence with Isabelle Gerofi, Katharine Hamill, Larbi Layachi, and others, his letters to Jane Bowles, and published interviews and reviews of his books. Paul Bowles's letters from Jane Bowles are located in the Jane Bowles series, and his voluminous correspondence with Millicent Dillon, dating from 1976 to 1990, is located in the Millicent Dillon series. The Millicent Dillon series also contains cassette tapes of interviews with Paul Bowles. Images of Paul Bowles are among photographs in the Jane Bowles series.

Related Material

Books removed to HRC book collections:
Ibsen, Henrik. The Wild Duck, The League of Youth, Rosmersholm. New York: The Modern Library. With signature of Jane S. Auer.
Lichtenberger, Andre. Mon Petit Trott. Paris: Librairie Plon, 1926.
Plessis, Frederic. Les Bucoliques. Paris: Librairie Hachette, 1932. With signature of Jane Auer.
Artwork Removed to HRC Art Collection:
Nine bound sheets of drawings by Cherifa.
Sound Recordings:
Paul Bowles interview cassette tapes (formerly box 16) were transferred to the Sound Recordings Collection.

Index Terms


Ashbery, John.
Beauvoir, Simone de, 1908-1986.
Bissinger, Karl.
Bohning, Elizabeth Stafford (Edrop), 1915- .
Brown, Andreas.
Carver, Raymond.
Chace, William M.
Charhadi, Driss ben Hamed.
Codman, Florence.
Copland, Aaron, 1900-1990.
Davie, Donald.
Dewson, James.
Diamond, David, 1915-2005.
Fainlight, Ruth.
Faulkner, Robert E. F.
Fuhs, Claire.
Gerofi, Isabelle.
Grissman, Carla.
Groffsky, Maxine.
Grosser, Maurice, 1903-1986.
Guggenheim, Peggy, 1898-1979.
Gysin, Brion.
Halpern, Daniel, 1945- .
Hamill, Katharine.
Hawkes, John.
Henry, Rex.
Herbert, David, 1927-1996.
Highsmith, Patricia, 1921-1995.
Hoershelman, Natasha Von.
Holman, Libby.
Lerman, Leo, 1914-1994.
Levy, Miriam Fligelman.
Lewis, Dione.
McBey, Marguerite.
McCarthy, Mary, 1912-1989.
McCullers, Carson, 1917-1967.
McCullough, Frances Monson, 1939- .
MacMillan, George.
Malin, Irving.
Merrill, James Ingram.
Miller, Jeffrey, 1943- .
Mrabet, Mohammed, 1940- .
Purdy, James.
Roditi, Edouard.
Rorem, Ned, 1923- .
Roux, Yvonne.
Sager, Gordon.
Sillitoe, Alan.
Smith, Oliver, 1918-1994.
Sorensen, Virginia Eggertsen, 1912-1991.
Stevens, Roger L.
Stewart, Lawrence D. (Lawrence Delbert), 1926-2013.
Temsamany, Mohammed.
Thomson, Virgil, 1896-1989.
Vidal, Gore, 1925-2012.
Vursell, Hal D.
Wanklyn, Christopher.
Williams, Tennessee, 1911-1983.
Wood, Audrey, 1905-1985.
Yeager, Ira H., 1900-2001.


Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Harper & Row, Publishers.
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, inc.
National Endowment for the Humanities.


Bowles, Jane Auer, 1917-1973.
Bowles, Paul, 1910-1999.
Authors, American.


New York City
Málaga (Spain)
Leysin, Switzerland

Document Types

Birth certificates.
Curricula vitae.
Death certificates.
Reviews (Criticism).

Millicent Dillon Papers--Folder List