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"A Catastrophe as Poetic Justice"

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Series 2: Writings forms the largest part of the collection, and it is here that LLES as poet, essayist, novelist, short story writer, playwright, historian is revealed. While most of the manuscripts in this series are those of LLES, TMS's literary writings are also included. Another selection of writings is attributed to John Kent, Leolyn's pseudonym. The pseudonym may also represent the Spelmans' combined writings.

Childhood writings show that LLES's creative inclinations came early to her (Box. 16). TMS also looked to a life in music and art, and the Spelmans complemented each other with their love of the arts and their attention to writing. The prodigious amount of materials in this series is the result of their long life together, a life in which they enjoyed both time and inspiration for their interests.

Published and unpublished works are included in the series; drafts of poems, novels, stories, plays, operas, and histories are both holographic and typescript. Much of LLES's holographic writings were on her signature blue writing paper. Many of the papers are untitled, pages are missing from the novels and stories, but some accuracy in pagination and order has been restored. Where possible, manuscripts have been arranged under the published titles.

The first part of the series (Boxes 1-5) includes writings of LLES. Published and unpublished works are contained beginning with parts of The Agnostics (published in Italy in 1969) and chapters for other titled works. Most of these are incomplete, but they are imaginative in style and subject. Another of her published works, Three Priests (published in Italy in 1969), is included in Box 7 where the manuscript is attributed to John Kent. (It is possible that many of the writings in this series are the combined work of husband and wife. Their advice and suggestions to one another can only be a matter of speculation.) A long collection of stories follows, some are titled, and others are assigned title by character are place. These stories range too in place, time period, and characterization. Perhaps LLES devoted herself very simply to the concept of writing, because she did experiment and found some success with each genre she attempted. Along with novels and stories, she also wrote plays, and at least one of her plays, Queen Zenobia, was published very early in 1908. LLES's characters were royals, glamor girls, socialites, and sweepstake players that she designed to fit into theatrical tragedies, comedies, and satires.

LLES's most noticeable success as a writer was through her poetry. As early as 1912, her poetry was being published in Life. Later she was published in Theatre Magazine, Art and Archaeology, Century, and The Bodleian. She published several volumes of poetry including Sleep-Book (1910), The Closed Book (1910), and the later volumes, Fauns at Prayer (1922), Byways to Crossroads (1926), and Thistledown (1927), all of which were reviewed favorably. In Box 4 are copies of these published volumes, and in Box 5 is a scrapbook containing her magazine poetry and many of her reviews. Notebooks in this series (Box 6) contain her poetry from 1907 until the 1950s.

She wrote from the various locales where she was living, and it is particularly interesting to see the way in which she translated the countryside of Italy into poetry that formed Hills of Arcetri (1921). Much of the manuscript poetry known to be published has been separated by volume title. Often there are duplicates in typescript. LLES later experimented with free verse that formed one of the last volumes, Epilogue (1969). Some of these untitled poems are included in Box 15. A poignant volume of holographic poems written for TMS (Box 16) is further evidence of the deep affection between the Spelmans.

Timothy Mather Spelman is most often described as an American composer, but along with LLES he wrote plays, operas, and stories. A small representation of his work, that is writings attributed solely to him, is included in Series 2 in Box 16. It must be noted again that a substantial amount of literary writings in this series may be the Spelmans' collaborative effort. The John Kent materials (also in box 16) exemplify the collaboration. TMS items include the titled works, "Babakan, "Manhattan," "The Two-pointed Triangle," and "Such Stuff as Dreams."

Arranged after TMS items is a selection of stories and novels, published, unpublished, for which the author is given as John Kent. The first of the John Kent stories was collected in Episode in Luxor published by Brentano's, NY, in 1929. Holographic, typescript copies of the stories are filed in Box 16. In Box 17 are another group of short stories that were intended to be published under the title "Stories from a Life Class." No evidence of publication was found. Longer works intended as novels are also part of the John Kent materials. Included is the manuscript for Three Priests, credited to John Kent, and later published (1969) with LLES as author. Other novels in Series 2 credited to John Kent are "Heritage" and "The Martial Years." These lengthy books may have been intended to form one very sprawling novel covering several periods of American history.

If it is true that her interest in writing moved from shorter works to the grand epic events in history, then the final items in Series 2 describe an extraordinary project undertaken by LLES in the later period of her life. She planned to write a history of France beginning with Roman Gaul and continuing to at least the 12th century. Some planning and research may have begun as early as the mid-1940s when she began reading books for reference in French history. She greatly admired and acknowledged the influence of the noted 19th-century historian, Jules Michelet (1798- 1874), author of Histoire de France (1845). LLES wrote that Michelet's writings held "a series of magnificently right conclusions drawn from frequently incorrect premises." (See LLES's introduction in Box 21). LLES was prepared to correct and improve upon the Frenchman's history.

In Boxes 21-24 are a series of notebooks and papers that detail the extensive research begun by LLES for the French history she intended to title "A Mirror for France." Here are notebooks with regional descriptions, biographical sketches of French rulers, and notes on the Roman occupation, national architecture, military confrontations, and the influences of the Church.

Most important in this series (Boxes 25-26) are the notebooks and folders that contain LLES's finished chapters for "A Mirror for France." Her written work reveals the serious attention given to an imposing project. Completed are Chapters 1-XIII of a proposed twenty-chapter volume. An outline for "A Mirror for France" and chapter titles are filed preceding Chapter I in Box 25.

In a sketch written for the [Harvard] Class of 1913's 25th Anniversary Report, TMS included his wife when he wrote: "Wherever we have been we have worked hard and constantly." The depth of the Spelman's commitment to the literary life is clearly found in Series 2.

Dates

  • 1907-1969

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This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Contact Special Collections for more information.

This collection is open for use.

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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

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The Sheridan Libraries
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Baltimore MD 21218 USA