Thomas Merton Collection

Abstract

The Thomas Merton Collection (dated 1949-1971, undated; 0.45 cubic feet; 1 box) comprises an artificial collection of American Catholic monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton related manuscripts and correspondence.

Descriptive Summary

Title
Thomas Merton Collection
Date
1949-1971, undated (inclusive)
Creator
Merton, Thomas
Extent
0.45 Cubic Feet
Subjects
Trappists
Authors, American -- Kentucky.
Monks.
Arrangement
Collection is arranged by format and subject into three series: Correspondence, Jonathan Greene, and Manuscripts.
Finding Aid Author
Megan Mummey
Preferred Citation
2006ms071: [identification of item], Thomas Merton Collection, 1949-1971, undated, University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center.
Repository
University of Kentucky

Collection Overview

Biography / History
Thomas Merton, the son of two artists, was born in 1915. He attended Columbia University in New York, obtaining B.A. and M.A. degrees. In 1938 he converted to Catholicism and in December 1941 joined the Trappist monks. Merton served as Master of Scholastics and as Master of Novices at the order's monastery in Kentucky, Our Lady of Gethsemani, before being allowed to live as a hermit in 1965. A prolific writer, Merton won acclaim for his books, poems and articles, beginning with the publication of the autobiographical Seven Storey Mountain in 1948. Merton often circulated his writings among his acquaintances for criticism before publication. Among this group from 1951 to 1968 were Carolyn and Victor Hammer of Lexington, Ky., and the then director of the University of Kentucky libraries, Lawrence Thompson. In the 1960s he was known for his concerns about social issues such as peace and civil rights. He also promoted ecumenism between Catholics, other Christians, and non-Christians. He died on December 10, 1968, of accidental electrocution while at a conference in Bangkok, Thailand.
Scope and Content
The Thomas Merton Collection (dated 1949-1971, undated; 0.45 cubic feet; 1 box) comprises an artificial collection of American Catholic monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton related manuscripts and correspondence. The correspondence contains individual letters and correspondence with Thomas Merton. The Jonathan Greene series contains letters and manuscripts sent to Greene from Merton mainly concerning writings submitted for publication in Merton's publication, Monks Pond. Additionally, this series contains correspondence with Carolyn Hammer and manuscripts relating to the forward and printing of Early Poems.

Restrictions on Access and Use

Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open to researchers by appointment.
Use Restrictions
The physical rights to the materials in this collection are held by the University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center.

Contents of the Collection

Correspondence, 1962-1967

Thomas Merton letter to Cid Corman, 1962 April 21

  • Box 1, folder 1
Scope and Contents

Writes to Corman that he found the Ponge issue of Origin"very interesting." He notes that "I read his PINE WOODS with great curiosity and pleasure. To me the earlier notes had some fine things which more and more tended to get pushed out as he worked it into 'poetic' form, and in the poems everything was lost. Very French." Merton was referring to the issue featuring poet Francis Ponge (1899-1968). Merton also states that he has started a small magazine of his own, Monks Pond, and solicits anything that Corman would wish to send. The receipient of the letter, Cid (Sidney) Corman (1924-2004), was an American poet, translator, and editor and the founder in 1951 of Origin Magazine.

To top

Thomas Merton letter to Don Gold, 1964 July 18

  • Box 1, folder 2
Scope and Contents

Discusses a proposed article about the Abbey of Gethsemani and the Abbot's opposition to it.

To top

Thomas Merton correspondence with Walter Lowenfels, 1967

  • Box 1, folder 3
Scope and Contents

Two letters exchanged between Thomas Merton and writer Walter Lowenfels. Lowenfels' letter mentions an enclosed poem (not present) and Merton's letter includes two enclosed poems Hopeless and Felons and A Round and a Hope for Smithgirls

To top

Thomas Merton letter to Lewis Mumford, 1965 September 24

  • Box 1, folder 4
Scope and Contents

Note thanking Mumford for attending the Victor Hammer retrospective.

To top

Thomas Merton letter to Richard Tobin, 1966 October 18

  • Box 1, folder 5
Scope and Contents

This letter from Thomas Merton to Richard Tobin discusses the translation of The Plague by Albert Camus, a play not the novel.

To top

Jonathan Greene, 1968-1971, undated

Scope and Contents

The Jonathan Greene series contains letters, notes, and cards from Thomas Merton (1915-1968) to Jonathan Greene (1943- ), editor, author poet, and publisher. The majority of the letters regard writings submitted for publication in Monks Pond. The series also contains an eight page typescript of an early version of "Chilam Balam", which appeared in "The Geography of Lograire" (1969); and translations in Merton's hand from Rene Char including Celebrating Giacometti, Septentrion, Fighters, At the Gates of Aerea, Come Dance in Barionies, Faction du Muet, and Convergence of the Many. These translations first appeared in the Unicorn Journal and then in The Collected Poems. Included with these are Jonathan Greene's transcriptions in his hand plus photocopies of the original French and photocopies of the original typescript sent off to Unicorn Press. In addition, the collection contains manuscript matter for the Foreward to Merton's EARLY POEMS, a copy of the forward set in type, two letters and a card from Carolyn Reading Hammer (1911-2001), and a photocopy from Jonathan Greene concerning the Forward.

Thomas Merton letters to Jonathan Greene, 1968

  • Box 1, folder 6
To top

Carolyn Hammer letters and manuscripts, 1971

  • Box 1, folder 7
To top

Chilam Balam typescript, circa 1969

  • Box 1, folder 8
To top

Rene Char poem translations by Thomas Merton and Jonathan Greene, undated

  • Box 1, folder 9
To top

Manuscripts, 1949-1965

Tears of the Blind Lion galley proof, 1949

  • Box 1, folder 10
To top

Emblems of a Season of Fury galley proofs, 1969

  • Box 1, folder 11
To top

Seasons of Celebration galley proofs, 1965

  • Box 1, folder 12
To top

UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center is open Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm. Appointments are encouraged but not required. Schedule an appointment here.

Researchers must have an SCRC Researcher Account to request materials. View account set-up and use instructions here.

Questions? Contact SCRC via our Contact Form.

You may come across language in UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center collections and online resources that you find harmful or offensive. SCRC collects materials from different cultures and time periods to preserve and make available the historical record. These materials document the time period when they were created and the view of their creator. As a result, some may demonstrate racist and offensive views that do not reflect the values of UK Libraries.

If you find description with problematic language that you think SCRC should review, please contact us at SCRC@uky.edu.

UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center is open Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm. Appointments are encouraged but not required. Schedule an appointment here.

Researchers must have an SCRC Researcher Account to request materials. View account set-up and use instructions here.

Questions? Contact SCRC via our Contact Form.

Requests

No items have been requested.



  1. Schedule an appointment. Face masks are required for non-vaccinated individuals.

  2. Submit a request for SCRC materials.



You may come across language in UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center collections and online resources that you find harmful or offensive. SCRC collects materials from different cultures and time periods to preserve and make available the historical record. These materials document the time period when they were created and the view of their creator. As a result, some may demonstrate racist and offensive views that do not reflect the values of UK Libraries.

If you find description with problematic language that you think SCRC should review, please contact us at SCRC@uky.edu.