Collection ID: YCAL MSS 197

Collection context


Luhan, Mabel Dodge, 1879-1962
The Luhan collection consists of letters, manuscripts, photographs, and personal papers documenting the life and work of Mabel Dodge Luhan. There is correspondence with psychoanalyst Abraham Arden Brill, Dr. Eric P. Hauser, and friend and assistant Walter Willard Johnson. There are smaller groups of letters to Charlotte Becker and Robert Edmond Jones, as well as incoming letters from John Reed. Writings include drafts of several manuscripts: typescript carbon drafts of "Hildegaard" and Una and Robin; a holograph draft of Edge of Taos Desert; a holograph and typescript draft of the unpublished "Family Affairs"; holograph and typescript drafts of Movers and Shakers; the original holograph manuscript of the unpublished novel "Water of Life"; and the first draft of Winter in Taos.There are early photographs of Luhan, photographs of friends, including Dorothy Brett and Robinson and Una Jeffers, and photographs of Luhan's homes in Taos, New Mexico, and Florence. Personal papers include the painting of Luhan by Mary Foote.
3.97 Linear Feet


Acquisition information:
The Mabel Dodge Luhan Collection was acquired through various gifts and purchases dating from 1954.
Rules or conventions:
translation missing: en.enumerations.resource_finding_aid_description_rules.beinecke manuscript unit archival processing manual
Scope and Content:

The Mabel Dodge Luhan Collection consists of letters, manuscripts, photographs, and personal papers documenting the life and work of Mabel Dodge Luhan. The collection spans the years 1885-1984.

The collection is housed in seven boxes and organized into seven series according to provenance: Charlotte Becker Purchase, Edmund R. Brill Gifts, Margaret Heyman Gift, Walter Willard Johnson Purchase, Richard B. Streeper Gift, Carl Van Vechten Gifts, and Material from Other Sources. Boxes 6-7 contain Oversize and Restricted Fragile material respectively.

Series I, Charlotte Becker Purchase, is organized into four subseries: Correspondence, Writings of Mabel Dodge Luhan, Photographs, and Other Papers.

This series consists of various material acquired by Becker, a native of Buffalo, dating from late 19th century photographs of Luhan to 1940. The Correspondence consists entirely of incoming letters and postcards from Luhan and Walter Willard ("Spud") Johnson. There are numerous postcards from Luhan, many from abroad, and a few letters, dating from the 1930s, discussing family, friends, and book projects. In addition, there are a few articles, at least one of which ("Women Who Seek...") does not appear to duplicate material in the Mabel Dodge Luhan Papers (YCAL MSS 196).

Series II, Edmund R. Brill Gifts, is also organized into four subseries: Correspondence, Writings of Mabel Dodge Luhan, Photographs, and Other Papers.

The bulk of the Correspondence in Series II consists of letters between Luhan and Dr. Abraham Arden Brill, one of the first practicing psychoanalysts in the United States. Luhan started analysis with Brill in 1916, and the two maintained a long working relationship and friendship. Most letters date from the 1930s, during which time Luhan put out Lorenzo in Taos and Intimate Memories. Luhan's letters to Brill touch on her work and experience, psychoanalytic and Freudian concepts, and friends. Brill's letters (carbons) provide interpretations of feelings and actions described in Luhan's letters, impressions of Luhan's writings, including an account of her analysis ("Psychoanalysis with Dr. Brill"), and considerable encouragement.

The Correspondence includes several postcards from John Reed to Luhan, dating from 1917, and several letters from others regarding D. H. Lawrence, most dating from the 1930s, including third-party letters to and from D. H. and Frieda Lawrence.

Other noteworthy items in this series include a watercolor painting by Luhan in Other Papers and corrected, typescript carbon drafts of the manuscripts "Hildegarde" and "Una and Robin" in Writings of Mabel Dodge Luhan.

Series III, Margaret Heyman Gift, consists of 14 photogaphs arranged alphabetically by the name of the person(s) portrayed. There are photographs of Mabel and Tony Luhan, Dorothy Brett, Robinson and Una Jeffers, Mrs. Abraham Arden Brill, and Mrs. Marcus Babcock Heyman.

Series IV, Walter Willard Johnson Purchase, is organized into three subseries: Correspondence, Writings of Mabel Dodge Luhan, and Other Papers.

The bulk of the correspondence, six of seven total folders, consists of original letters from Luhan to Walter Willard or "Spud" Johnson. Johnson co-edited a small publication in Santa Fe entitled Laughing Horse, to which Luhan contributed articles in the 1920s. He also worked as a secretary to Luhan. Luhan's letters to Johnson date from 1927-58, include many brief postcards, telegrams, and notes, and cover work and personal matters. A few letters are addressed both to Johnson and Witter "Hal" Bynner. Letters between Luhan and others are arranged in choronological order in the folder "Other Correspondence."

Writings of Mabel Dodge Luhan, housed in boxes 2-5, includes several pieces of writing that cannot be found in the Luhan Papers (YCAL MSS 196). There are incomplete drafts of several longer writings: a holograph draft of Edge of Taos Desert; a manuscript, in holograph and typescript, of the unpublished "Family Affairs"; holograph and typescript drafts of Movers & Shakers; the original holograph manuscript of the unpublished novel "Water of Life"; and the first draft, corrected, of Winter in Taos. In addition, there are manuscripts of several shorter articles and narratives. Presumably these manuscripts came into Johnson's possession when he worked for Luhan.

Series V, Richard B. Streeper Gift, consists of four folders of correspondence between Luhan and Dr. Eric P. Hausner. Letters date from 1946-58 and deal largely with matters of physical health and family, though in one letter, dated "Nov. 12, 1954," Luhan mentions her essay "Doctors: Fifty Years of Experience."

Series VI, Carl Van Vechten Gifts, is organized into two subseries: Photographs and Other Papers.

The Writings subseries includes four pieces of writing by Luhan and a typescript copy of Gertrude Stein's famous essay, "Portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Villa Curonia." There are two printed articles, "Georgia O'Keeffe in Taos" and "The Santos of New Mexico," which cannot be found in the Luhan Papers (YCAL MSS 196), and a bound typescript draft of Chapter V of European Experiences entitled "Portrait of the Villa Curonia." This bound draft includes photographs of Luhan and the Villa Curonia by painter Jacques-Emile Blanche.

Photographs contains photographs of Mabel and Tony Luhan, the Villa Curonia, and "Los Gallos," Luhan's property in Taos.

Series VII, Material from Other Sources, consists of single items from other sources, including Patricia Ward Biederman, Black Sun Books, Alfred Dasburg, Elizabeth W. DeHuff, Edward J. Foote, Anton V. Long, and Lawrence Clark Powell. The series is organized into four subseries: Correspondence, Writings, Photographs, and Other Papers. There are two original letters from Luhan, one to Robert Edmund Jones, printed articles on Luhan by Biederman, Eya Fechin, and Powell, a couple photographs, including a poloroid image of a pencil drawing of Luhan by Maurice Sterne.

Oversize material, housed in box 6, contains items from Series I, Series II, and Series VI. Restricted Fragile material is housed in box 7.

Biographical / Historical:

Mabel Dodge Luhan was a major cultural figure in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. She is best known as a patron of the arts and writer, author of a multi-volume autobiographical work and books on D. H. Lawrence, Taos, and Taos area artists. There is considerable scholarship on Luhan, and there are book-length biographical studies by Emily Hahn (1977), Winifred Frazer (1984), and Lois Palken Rudnick (1984). Summary information is available in the standard print and online biographical resources.

The following chronology provides dates for key events and publications:

1879 February 26, born in Buffalo, New York to Charles F. Ganson and Sara McKay Cook

?-95 attends St. Margaret's Episcopal School for Girls in Buffalo

1895-96 attends Miss Graham's School in New York City

1896-97 attends Chevy Chase School in Washington, D.C.

1900 marries Karl Kellog Evans

1902 birth of son John Ganson Evans; death of Charles F. Ganson

1903 death of Karl Kellog Evans

1904 travels to Paris; meets and marries Edwin Sherrill Dodge

1905 moves to Villa Curonia, Florence

1911 meets Gertrude and Leo Stein

1912 Gertrude Stein writes "The Portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Villa Curonia"; moves to New York City

1913-14 presides over salon; contributes to the International Exhibition of Modern Art and Paterson Strike Pageant

1915 contributes to the formation of the Elizabeth Duncan School in Croton-on-Hudson, New York

1916 undergoes therapy with Smith Ely Jelliffe, Emma Curtis Hopkins, and Abraham Arden Brill; formally divorced from Edwin Sherrill Dodge

1917 writes for newspapers; marries Maurice Sterne; moves to Taos, New Mexico

1918 meets Antonio Lujan; acquires property ("Los Gallos") in Taos

1922 contributes to campaign against Bursum Bill; formally divorced from Maurice Sterne; hosts D. H. and Frieda Lawrence

1923 marries Antonio Lujan

1924 publication of "Ballad of a Bad Girl"

1925-26 corresponds with members of Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff's circle and invites Gurdjieff to relocate to New Mexico

1926 hosts Paul Strand and Rebecca Salsbury James

1929 hosts Georgia O'Keeffe, John Marin, and Ansel Adams; performance of Witter Bynner's Cake by Santa Fe Players

1932 publication of Lorenzo in Taos

1933 publication of Background, first volume of Intimate Memories

1935 publication of European Experiences, second volume of Intimate Memories

1935 publication of Winter in Taos

1936 publication of Movers and Shakers, third volume of Intimate Memories; donates property ("La Posta") to Taos for new county hospital

1937 publication of Edge of Taos Desert, forth volume of Intimate Memories

1947 publication of Taos and its Artists

1951 donates papers to Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

1962 August 13, dies in Taos, New Mexico

Processing information:

The Mabel Dodge Luhan Collection contains material related to Mabel Dodge Luhan acquired through gifts and purchases from sources other than Mabel Dodge Luhan. This material was formerly classed as Za Luhan and Za L968.


Beinecke Rare Book Library
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New Haven, CT 06511, USA