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Eleanor Turnbull papers

Identifier: MS-0055

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Scope and Contents

Collection consists of correspondence, translations of Spanish poetry, notes, and personal items. Most of the collection dates from the 1930s through the 1950s, and deals with Turnbull's work as a translator. Among her correspondents were John Ciardi and Archibald MacLeish. Her translations include the works of Pedro Salinas, Miguel de Unamuno, and Gabriela Mistral. The collection contains the manuscript of her "Ten Centuries of Spanish Poetry," as well as material from some of Turnbull's other published works. The personal material includes childhood momentos, writings, photos, and an album of picture postcards from Spain.

The papers present a picture of the work of a translator from the late 1930s to the mid-1950s. They include many of Turnbull's notes and typescripts of translations, as well as correspondence with poets, critics, and scholars. Approximately one third of the collection deals with her final work, Ten Centuries of Spanish Poetry (1955). There are notes, reviews, and a complete typescript of the work, as well as letters relating to the book from people such as John Ciardi, poet and critic, and Leo Spitzer of Johns Hopkins. The collection contains typescripts of two other works by Turnbull, The Christ of Velazquez, by Miguel de Unamuno (1951) and Poems by Miguel de Unamuno (1950). There are a number of reviews of The Christ of Velazquez, due to its controversial handling of the subject. There is a printed copy and a few typescripts of the poem, To the Bay Bridge, by Jose Carrera Andrade (1941).

Turnbull's earliest works, Lost Angel and Other Poems (1938) and Truth of Two and Other Poems (1940), were translations of the poetry of Pedro Salinas. These books received the notice of many well-known literary figures. Turnbull received letters relating to these works from Walter de la Mare, Robert P. Tristram Coffin, Lascelles Abercrombie, and Archibald MacLeish. The collection also contains a small amount of material relating to each of Turnbull's other published works: Zero, by Pedro Salinas (1947); Contemporary Spanish Poetry (1947); and Sea of San Juan, by Pedro Salinas (1950). This material consists mainly of promotional literature and reviews.

The collection contains a substantial amount of Turnbull's translations that were not published. Over half of this unpublished material are notes and typescripts of the poetry of Gabriela Mistral. Other unpublished translations include works by Jorge Guillen, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, and Pedro Salinas.

The Turnbull family's interest in Sidney Lanier is documented in this collection. The items relating to Lanier are largely material relating to events honoring him. There is a program of the 1888 memorial to Sidney Lanier inscribed by Mary Day Lanier, typewritten notes for a presentation by Elizabeth Lanier on Sidney given at Turnbull's home in 1931, and programs to the 1940 and 1942 commemorations held at The Johns Hopkins University. Included with Mrs. Lanier's 1931 notes are the answers Sidney Lanier gave in 1874 to certain questions that were to reveal "The Mental Photograph of Sidney Lanier." In preparation for the 1931 Lanier program, Turnbull consulted the Library of Congress Music Division for a list of Lanier poems which had been set to music. A copy of W.R. Whittlesey's reply is in the correspondence.

The personal series includes examples of Eleanor Turnbull's early writings in the form of notes from a parlor game. The series contains the June, 1887 issue of The Acorn, the magazine published by her brother, Edwin. There is biographical information on Miss Turnbull, including the text of a lecture, by Damaso Alonso, entitled, "Eleanor Turnbull and Spanish Poetry." Also included in this series are a photograph of Miss Turnbull (1940), a bibliography of her work, and an album of picture postcards from Spain.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1874 - 1960
  • Creation: 1874 - 1992


Conditions Governing Access

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

Collection is open for use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical Note

Eleanor L. Turnbull was born in 1875 into a wealthy and prominent Baltimore family. Her father, Lawrence Turnbull, was a prosperous merchant and lawyer, and a man of literary and cultural interests. Her mother, Francese Litchfield Turnbull (1844-1927), wrote novels and poetry and was active in the Baltimore Woman's Literary Club, serving as president for seven years. Together, the Turnbulls established a poetry lectureship at The Johns Hopkins University and befriended and promoted the poet, Sidney Lanier (1842-1881).

Eleanor Turnbull grew up with her brothers and sister (Edwin, Percy, Bayard, and Grace) in the La Paix neighborhood of Towson, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore, as well as at the Turnbull home on Park Avenue. The Turnbull children were encouraged to express themselves, and they responded by such activities as building a miniature stone church at La Paix and publishing a juvenile magazine, The Acorn (1886-1887). Along with them, Eleanor was educated by private tutors. She studied piano and French, among other subjects, and translated some French poetry into English.

In 1922, Eleanor Turnbull took a short course in Spanish in preparation for a trip to Spain. Fifteen years later she translated some poems of the eminent Spanish poet, Pedro Salinas, in anticipation of his poetry lectures at Johns Hopkins that year. Salinas was impressed with her efforts. She then enrolled in the Summer Language School at Middlebury College, Vermont, and began translating more Spanish poetry. She returned each summer to the college to sharpen her language skills.

Eleanor Turnbull published nine books of Spanish poetry. In addition to her translation work, Eleanor Turnbull gave readings of and lectures on Spanish poetry at the Pratt Library. She also continued the family tradition of boosting the reputation of Sidney Lanier. Eleanor Turnbull died in 1964, survived by her sister, Grace.


2.3 Cubic Feet (4 legal size document boxes, 1 flat box (15.5 x 12 x 3 inches), 1 over-sized folder)

Language of Materials



Eleanor L. Turnbull was a poet and translator born in Baltimore in 1875. The Collection consists of correspondence, translations of Spanish poetry, notes, and personal items. Most of the collection dates from the 1930s through the 1950s, and deals with Turnbull's work as a translator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was a gift of Eleanor Turnbull, circa 1960. Poems of Sally Bruce Kinsolving added June 1999, accession number 93-94.24.

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Margaret L. Lambooy in 1989.

Eleanor Turnbull papers
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA