Finding aid created by: JEJ
Date: Aug 1970
|31 Mar 2008||converted to EAD (MRC)|
Overview of the Collection
|Creator:||Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.|
|Title:||Thomas Merton Papers|
|Quantity:||1.8 linear ft.|
|Abstract:||Papers of the American author, poet, Trappist monk. Articles, essays, poems, and ten notebooks (1963-1967).|
|Repository:||Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010
Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was born in Prades, Pyrennes-Orientales in France, the son of artist Owen Heathcote and Ruth Jenkins Merton. He attended schools in France, England, and the United States, receiving his B.A. (1938) and his M.A. (1939) from Columbia University.
After a brief period teaching English at Columbia (1938-1939) and St. Bonaventure (1939-1941), Merton entered the Cistercian Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, where he was ordained as Father M. Louis in 1949. He served as Master of Scholastics (1951-1955) and Master of Novices (1955-1965) at the monastery.
Most of Merton's writing dates from his years at Gethsemani. To one of his correspondents he has suggested that he accomplished very little writing of importance prior to his conversion in 1938. He further stated that his productive years should be divided into three periods: from 1938 to his ordination in 1949, "that is up to Seven Storey Mountain, Waters of Siloe, etc, when I suddenly got to be well known, a best seller, etc,"; a middle period lasting "until somewhere in the early sixties" and ending with Disputed Questions, after which he "began to open up again to the world"; and a third period resulting in works like Seeds of Destruction, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, and Chuang Tzu. With reference to this last period, Merton believed that he was (in 1966) "evolving further with studies on Zen and a new kind of experimental creative drive in prose, poetry, satire, etc."
With respect to his reputation, Merton acknowledged "a lot of critics, particularly among Catholics...Most of them are put of by the fact that I sound at times like a Catholic Norman Mailer. I get on better with non-Catholics, particularly the younger generation, students, hippies, etc." He regretted that many readers knew him only from his earlier "ascetic, conservative, traditional, monastic" publications. In retrospect, he wished that he had never "bother[ed] to write about one third" of the inspirational books.
Thomas Merton wrote several books for New Directions, Harcourt, and Farrar, Strauss, as well as numerous articles for publications such as Commonweal, Blackfriars, Catholic Worker, Collectanea Cisterciensia, Harper's, Sewanee Review, Saturday Review, Jubilee, and other periodicals. Among his poetry titles are Thirty Poems (1944), Figures for an Apocalypse (1948), and Emblems of a Season of Fury (1963). Religion and theology titles include What is Contemplation (1948), Thoughts in Solitude (1958), and Life in Holiness (1963). He also wrote essays, collected in Disputed Questions (1960) and New Seeds of Contemplation (1962), among others. His translations include The Wisdom of the Desert (1960) and Selections from Clement of Alexandria (1963). Other well-known titles include The Seven Storey Mountain (1948), The Sign of Jonas (1953), and Breakthrough to Peace (1962).
Though he tried to shed his reputation as a "spiritual writer," he admitted in 1963 that his work, "both poetry and prose, represents a monastic view of life and implies a rather strong criticism of prevailing trends towards global war, totalism, racism, spiritual inertia, and crass materialism. This criticism is not something I want to repudiate, though I regret an occasional note of acerbity."
In the 1960s Merton was increasingly drawn into a study of the Eastern mystics and domestic issues of war and racism. He died on December 11, 1968 while attending an interfaith conference in southeast Asia.
The Thomas Merton Papers consists almost entirely of writings from the last five years of Merton's life.
The small batch of outgoing Correspondence contains mostly "open letters" intended for general circulation and a few of Merton's addresses. The collection also includes transcriptions of three Interviews and a few reproductions of his Artwork.
Merton's Writings, the majority of the collection, includes several articles and essays, book reviews, a copy of Disputed Questions, a brochure prepared for a Cistercian abbey in Colorado, introductions and prefaces for books by other authors, notebooks dating from 1963 to 1967, several poems, and four issues of the literary quarterly, Monks Pond, which he founded and edited in 1968. Articles and poems are generally in printed, mimeograph, or typescript form, sometimes annotated and revised.
The ten spiral-bound notebooks contain hand-written notes from Merton's readings of other writers, including Simon Weil, Rilke, Maritain, Schiller, Eckhart, McLuhan, Harrington, Sartre, Hernandez, Artaud, Faulkner, Kafka, and others, with a particular emphasis on Camus. Merton also jotted personal reminders and drafts of poetry among the pages of these notebooks.
Correspondence is arranged chronologically, preceded by the three addresses in alphabetical order by title. Writings are arranged by type and within that by title.
The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.
Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.
Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968 -- Archives.
American literature -- Catholic authors.
Genres and Forms
Preferred citation for this material is as follows:
Thomas Merton Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
Gift of Thomas Merton, 1968.
|Box 1||"Cold War Letters" undated|
|Box 1||"Miscellaneous/undated" undated|
|Box 1||"An Exchange of Letters on Monastic Questions" 1962|
|Box 1||1965-1968 (4 folders)|
|Box 1||Reproductions, with commentaries ca. 1968|
|Box 1||Transcripts of interviews 1967-1968|
|Box 1||Japanese and Indian printed booklets ca. 1968|
|Articles and essays|
|Box 1||"Latin America and Spain in the Poetic World of Thomas Merton," Revue de Litterature Comparée undated|
|Box 1||"Cables to the Ace, or, Familiar Liturgies of Misunderstanding" 1968|
|Articles and essays|
|Box 1||"The Angel and the Machine" 1965|
|Box 1||"The Answer of Minerva: Pacifism and Resistance in Simon Weil" undated|
|Box 1||"Answers on Art and Freedom for Miguel Grinberg" undated|
|Box 1||"Apologies to an Unbeliever," Harper's Magazine 1966|
|Box 1||"An Approach to Creativity" 1960|
|Box 1||"Blake and the New Theology," The Sewanee Review Apr 1968|
|Box 1||"Christian Culture and Oriental Wisdom" (fragment) undated|
|Box 1||"Christianity and Race in the U.S." undated|
|Box 1||"The Climate of Monastic Prayer" 1965|
|Box 1||"Creative Silence" 1968 - draft A and draft B|
|Box 1||"Danish Non-Violent Resistance to Hitler" undated|
|Box 1||"Day of a Stranger" undated - draft A and draft B|
|Box 1||"The Death of God and the End of History" undated|
|Box 1||"Dom Vital at Gethsemani" Aug 1966|
|Box 1||"Easter Homily," Argus Communications 1967|
|Box 1||"Events and Pseudo-events: Letter to a Southern Churchman," Katallagete Summer 1966|
|Box 1||"Florence, 1966" 1966|
|Box 1||"Franciscan Eremitism," The Cord Dec 1966|
|Box 1||"Gandhi and the One-Eyed Giant," Jubilee Jan 1965|
|Box 1||"The Hot Summer of Sixty Seven," Katallagete|
|Box 1||"Is Buddhism Life Denying?" (appendix) undated|
|Box 1||"Isaac of Stella: An Introduction to Selections from His Sermons" undated|
|Box 1||"Liturgical Renewal: The Open Approach," The Critic Dec 1964|
|Box 1||"The Meaning of Malcolm X," Continuum May 1967|
|Box 1||"Monachism Bouddhique: le Zen," Collectanea|
|Box 1||"Monastic Peace" 1958|
|Box 1||"The Monk Today," Monde et foi Nov 1966|
|Box 1||"Neither Caliban nor Uncle Tom," Liberation undated|
|Box 1||"News of the Joyce Industry," Sewanee Review Jul 1968|
|Box 1||"Nhat Hanh is my Brother" undated|
|Box 1||"Note on the New Church at Gethsemani," Liturgical Arts undated|
|Box 1||"Notes on the Future of Monasticism" undated|
|Box 2||"Notes on Love," Frontier 1967|
|Box 2||"Notes on Prayer and Action," undated|
|Box 2||"The Other Side of Despair: Notes on Christian Existentialism" 1965|
|Box 2||"Peace and Protest" 1965|
|Box 2||"Pleasant Hill: A Shaker Village in Kentucky, 1809-1910" undated|
|Box 2||"The Poorer Means: A Meditation on Ways to Unity" 1965|
|Box 2||"Pre-Benedictine Monachism: Syria, Persia, Palestine" 1964|
|Box 2||"Prophetic Ambiguities: Milton and Camus," Saturday Review 1966|
|Box 2||"Renewal and Discipline in Monastic Life" 1968|
|Box 2||"For a Renewal of Eremitism in the Monastic State" 1965|
|Box 2||"A Sermon of Isaac of Stella" undated|
|Box 2||"Seven Words" 1966|
|Box 2||"The Solitary Life: A Letter of Guigo" 1963|
|Box 2||"The Spiritual Father in Desert Tradition," Cistercian Studies undated|
|Box 2||"Statement on Clerical Celibacy" 1967|
|Box 2||"The Stranger: Poverty of an Anti-Hero" Unicorn Review 1968|
|Box 2||"The Street is for Celebration" undated|
|Box 2||"Three Saviours in Camus," Thought undated|
|Box 2||"War and the Crisis of Language" undated|
|Box 2||"Zen and the Birds of Appetite" 1968|
|Box 2||"The Zen Koan," The Lugano Review 1966|
|Box 2||Book reviews 1964-1967|
|Box 2||Disputed Questions 1960|
|Box 2||"Come to the Mountain: New Ways and Living Traditions in the Monastic Life" 1964|
|Box 2||Introduction and prefaces 1967-1968|
|Box 2||Inventory of work in progress|
|Box 3||"Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander" 1965|
|Box 3||Memoranda undated|
|Box 3||1964 [?]|
|Box 3||1966 (4 folders)|
|Box 3||1967 (2 folders)|
|Box 3||"Angels Again" undated|
|Box 3||"Elegy for Father Stephen" undated|
|Box 3||"Epitaph for a Public Servant: In Memoriam - Adolf Eichmann" undated|
|Box 3||"Found Macaronic Antipoem" undated|
|Box 4||"The Great Men of Former Times" undated|
|Box 4||"Hopeless and Felons" undated|
|Box 4||"Man and Master" undated|
|Box 4||"Origen" undated|
|Box 4||"Paper Cranes" undated|
|Box 4||"Prayer to Saint Anatole" undated|
|Box 4||"The Prospects of Nostradamus" undated|
|Box 4||"Reading Translated Poets, Feb. 1" undated|
|Box 4||"Reflections on Love" 1966|
|Box 4||"Rilke's Epitaph" undated|
|Box 4||"A Round and a Hope for Smith Girls" undated|
|Box 4||"Le Secret" undated|
|Box 4||"A Song from the Geography of Lograire" undated|
|Box 4||"For the Spanish Poet Miguel Hernandez" undated|
|Box 4||"Tonight There is a Showing of Champion Lights" undated|
|Box 4||"A Tune for Festive Dances in the Nineteen Sixties" undated|
|Box 4||"Western Fellow Students Salute with Calypso Anthems the Movie Career of Robert Lax" undated|
|Box 4||"Why Some Look Up to Planets and Heroes" 1963|
|Box 4||"With the World in my Blood Stream 1966|
|Box 4||"Early Poems" 1940-1942|
|Poetry and prose|
|Box 4||Cables to the Ace, or, Familiar Liturgies of Misunderstanding ["Edifying Cables"] 1966, 1967, 1968|
|Box 4||Quarterly, Monks Pond spring, summer, fall, winter 1968|