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Randall Jarrell Papers

Identifier: MSS 0009

Scope and Contents

The Randall Jarrell Papers date from 1929 to 1969 and contain manuscripts, photographs, teaching materials, biographical materials, correspondence, galley proofs, binding samples, dust jackets, tape recordings, motion picture film (transferred to VHS tape, 1995), microfilm and news clippings.

Randall Jarrell Manuscripts - Manuscripts and typescripts were given in no particular order. When it was possible to determine, earliest drafts were placed first in the folder arrangement. The number of leaves is noted following each title. Jarrell gave these manuscripts between 1955 and 1960. The collection begins with manuscripts and typescripts of original poems by Jarrell in box 1, followed by translations of poetry written in other languages in box 2. Boxes 3 and 4 contain typescripts and manuscripts of Jarrell's criticism work. Box 5 is a translation of Goethe's Faust, Part I; originally written in German, this translation is arranged in the collection in order of scene progression, with unidentified materials in the last folder of box 5.

Randall Jarrell as a Teacher - Jarrell's own copy of his Selected Poemsused for poetry readings is found here along with final exam questions, grade books kept in long-hand in Italian blank books, and copiously annotated teaching copies of the poetry of Robert Frost and T.S. Eliot.

Randall Jarrell Literary and Biographical Materials - This section is an artificial collection gathered from various sources during the 1950s and 1960s. It includes photocopies of some of Jarrell's early writings for the Hume-Fogg High School yearbook, The Echo, and Vanderbilt University's humor magazine, Vanderbilt Masquerader; some correspondence, awards, reminiscences, tributes; the files created during the planning of the UNC Press dinner honoring Jarrell as the 1961 recipient of a National Book Award for poetry; the manuscript and typescript of Robert Penn Warren's speech delivered at the UNC Press dinner; memorials to Jarrell and a copy of his death certificate. Also found here are photographs documenting Jarrell's professional and home life.

Randall Jarrell News Clippings - 440 items. The bulk of the collection are reviews of Jarrell's publications including Blood for a Stranger; Complete Poems; Little Friend, Little Friend; Lost World; Pictures From an Institution;Poetry and the Age;Sad Heart at the Supermarket; Selected Poems; Seven-league Crutches; Third Book of Criticism; Woman at the Washington Zoo. Also included are notices of upcoming publications, reprints of poems, excerpts of his books and approximately fifteen articles. Topics of the articles include a description of Jarrell's visit to San Francisco, excerpts of a speech given by Jarrell, a description of Jarrell's participation in Duke's Literary Celebration, the announcement of Jarrell's appointment as Library of Congress consultant, Jarrell's remarks upon accepting the National Book Award, and excerpts from the UNCG Chancellor's speech at the dedication of the Jarrell Lecture Hall. Reel to reel tape on some of Jarrell's criticism of authors is included in the collection.

The collection also contains some reel to reel and audio cassette tapes of Randall Jarrell reading his poetry.


  • 1915 - 1969


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information. Please see our Sensitive Materials Statement.

Biographical or Historical Information

Randall Jarrell (1914-1965) was born in Nashville, Tennessee, to Owen and Anna Campbell Jarrell. Jarrell spent his early childhood years in California and in Nashville, and attended Hume-Fogg High School in Nashville as a teenager. While at Hume-Fogg, Jarrell played tennis and participated in dramatics and journalism.

In the fall of 1932, Jarrell enrolled at Vanderbilt University. While at Vanderbilt, Jarrell wrote for and eventually became editor of the Vanderbilt Masquerader, the campus humor magazine. He earned his bachelors degree after only three years by taking summer classes at George Peabody College (now Vanderbilt Peabody College). While at Vanderbilt, Jarrell studied under professors John Crowe Ransom and Robert Penn Warren, both of whom became renowned American poets.

Jarrell returned to Vanderbilt for graduate school and supplemented his income by grading papers for two of John Crowe Ransom's classes. Jarrell befriended Peter Hillsman Taylor and Robert Lowell while at Vanderbilt; both Taylor and Lowell would become acclaimed writers. Jarrell would follow Ransom to Kenyon College in 1938, then take a teaching position at the University of Texas the next year. While at the University of Texas, Jarrell met Mackie Langham, a fellow English instructor, and the two were wed in 1940.

While Jarrell published his first poems in the "May 1934" edition of The American Review, his first book of poetry, Blood for a Stranger, was not published until 1942. His second book of poetry, Little Friend, Little Friend, was published by Dial in 1945; at the time, Jarrell was serving a brief stint with the Army Air Corps. In 1946, Jarrell left the Army and accepted an invitation from The Nation editor Margaret Marshall to temporarily serve as literary editor in her place.

Jarrell relocated to New York to serve as editor of The Nation. While in New York, he taught at Sarah Lawrence College and befriended political theorist Hannah Arendt; Arendt was originally from Germany and gave Jarrell credit for teaching her how to appreciate English language poetry. After his year with The Nation was over, Jarrell accepted a teaching position at the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina in Greensboro (now the University of North Carolina - Greensboro), where Peter Hillsman Taylor was already teaching. Jarrell would remain on Woman's permanent faculty until his death.

As Jarrell's career went on, he became the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1946, and published his fourth book of poetry,The Seven-League Crutches, in 1951. Jarrell took leave from Women's College and taught at Princeton University in 1951. In 1952, Jarrell would lecture at Indiana University and the University of Illinois before returning to North Carolina. Also during the early 1950s, Jarrell and Mackie Langham separated, and Jarrell married Mary von Schrader.

In the fall of 1953, Jarrell focused on writing criticism. He published his only novel, Pictures from an Institution, in 1954. In 1956, Jarrell began a two-year stint as Poetry Consultant for the Library of Congress. During his tenure with the Library of Congress, Jarrell would write only four new poems and produce a few translations of works by Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke.

In 1958, Jarrell returned to Women's College to resume teaching. After returning, he published Woman at the Washington Zoo in 1960, this work received the National Book Award for poetry in 1961 and the University of North Carolina's Oliver Max Gardner Award in 1962. Jarrell also began writing children's books in the early 1960s, publishing The Bat-Poet in 1963 and The Animal Familyin 1965. These children's works were illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

Jarrell published his last book of poetry, The Lost World, in 1965. On October 14 of that year, Jarrell was struck by a motor vehicle on a dark road in Chapel Hill and died instantly. He is buried in Guilford College, North Carolina, not far from the home he shared with his second wife, Mary. One of his children's books,Fly By Night, was published posthumously in 1976.


6.05 Linear Feet (15 boxes)

Language of Materials



Randall Jarrell (1914-1965) was a poet and professor of English at Woman's College (now UNCG).

The Randall Jarrell Papers date from 1929 to 1969 and contain manuscripts, photographs, teaching and biographical materials, correspondence, galley proofs, binding samples, dust jackets, tape recordings, audiovisual materials, microfilm and news clippings.

Arrangement Note

The Randall Jarrell Collection is organized into the following series and subseries. 1. RANDALL JARRELL MANUSCRIPTS 1.1 Manuscripts of Randall Jarrell Poems 1.2 Translations of Poetry 1.3 Criticism 1.4 Translation of Goethe's Faust 2. RANDALL JARRELL AS A TEACHER 2.1 Photographs of Life and Career 2.2 Teaching Materials 3. RANDALL JARRELL BIOGRAPHICAL AND LITERARY MATERIALS 3.1 Tributes, Honors and Memorials 3.2 Galley Proofs and Dust Jackets 3.3 Publicity Items 3.4 Literary Works on Film 4. NEWS CLIPPINGS 5. AUDIO-VISUAL MATERIALS

Method of Acquisition

Gift of Multiple Sources in Multiple Acquisition Dates. Main donors include Randall Jarrell, the UNCG Class of 1969, Illinois State University professor Ray Lewis White and former UNCG librarians Charles M. Adams and Jerrold Orne.

Related Materials

More Randall Jarrell papers at the New York Public Library. See also the Modern American Poetry project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Offensive Language Statement

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Repository Details

Part of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives Repository

P.O. Box 26170
320 College Ave.
Greensboro NC 27402-6170 US