Thomas Merton Collection


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

Thomas Merton Collection
Merton, Thomas
0.45 Cubic Feet
Authors, American -- Kentucky.
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.
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
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
Writes to Corman that he found the Ponge issue of Originvery 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.
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Thomas Merton letter to Don Gold, 1964 July 18

  • Box 1, folder 2
Discusses a proposed article about the Abbey of Gethsemani and the Abbot's opposition to it.
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Thomas Merton correspondence with Walter Lowenfels, 1967

  • Box 1, folder 3
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
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Thomas Merton letter to Lewis Mumford, 1965 September 24

  • Box 1, folder 4
Note thanking Mumford for attending the Victor Hammer retrospective.
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Thomas Merton letter to Richard Tobin, 1966 October 18

  • Box 1, folder 5
This letter from Thomas Merton to Richard Tobin discusses the translation of The Plague by Albert Camus, a play not the novel.
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Jonathan Greene, 1968-1971, undated

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
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Carolyn Hammer letters and manuscripts, 1971

  • Box 1, folder 7
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Chilam Balam typescript, circa 1969

  • Box 1, folder 8
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Rene Char poem translations by Thomas Merton and Jonathan Greene, undated

  • Box 1, folder 9
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Manuscripts, 1949-1965

Tears of the Blind Lion galley proof, 1949

  • Box 1, folder 10
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Emblems of a Season of Fury galley proofs, 1969

  • Box 1, folder 11
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Seasons of Celebration galley proofs, 1965

  • Box 1, folder 12
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