Thomas Merton letters to Clifford Shaw

Descriptive Summary

Title
Thomas Merton letters to Clifford Shaw
Creator
Merton, Thomas
Extent
0.1 Cubic Feet
Subjects
Trappists
Poets, American -- 20th century.
Arrangement
Collection is arranged chronologically.
Finding Aid Author
Processed by: Archives Staff ; machine-readable finding aid created by: Eric Weig
Preferred Citation
66m28: [identification of item], Thomas Merton letters to Clifford Shaw, 1959-1964, 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 letters to Clifford Shaw (dated 1959-1964; 0.1 cubic feet; 15 items) consists of correspondence between Thomas Merton and Clifford Shaw of Evansville, Indiana, and Louisville, Kentucky. Most of the letters concern arrangements for Shaw's visit to the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky (Nelson County). Shaw was interested in setting some of Merton's poems to music. Merton writes about his work, Selected Poems of Thomas Merton and about his religious beliefs by way of encouraging Shaw who was apparently ill at the time. There is also a signed copy of Merton's Boris Pasternak and the People with Watch Chains and a typescript of Merton's poem Love winter when the plant says nothing, which appeared in the volume, Emblems of a Season of Fury. One of the letters mentions William Blake's poem, The lamb which was set to music by Shaw at the request of singer, Eileen Farrell. Merton signed all the letters with his monastic name, Father Louis. Attached to many of the cards and letters is an explanatory note about each items context written by Clifford Shaw.

Restrictions on Access and Use

Conditions Governing Access
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

Thomas Merton letters to Clifford Shaw, 1959-1964

  • Box VF-47, folder 1
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Researchers are encouraged to request collections at least 48 business hours in advance for retrieval. Questions? Contact us at https://libraries.uky.edu/ContactSCRC.