Columbia University Libraries Acquires Major Addition to Tennessee Williams Collection

The new material includes heavily annotated typescripts of Williams’ later plays including Out Cry (1971), Red Devil Battery Sign (1975), Vieux Carré (1977) and A House Not Meant to Stand (1981). Also in the archive are nearly 200 pages of typescript pages, mostly annotated, of Williams’ early draft of his raucous Memoir, the unpublished precursor to his Memoirs, published in 1975.

Correspondence in the newly added materials includes unsent postcards written by Williams to his sister Rose; a letter to Craig Anderson regarding his play Creve Coeur and actress Olive Deering; and to his attorney discussing the production of Out Cry.

In 1994, the Libraries purchased the contents of Williams’ Key West home. The manuscripts in that archive are primarily from the early 1960s through his death in 1983, the period that begins with Night of the Iguana (1961) and ends with his unfinished Gideon’s Point.

“This addition is particularly important because it relates to Williams’ later work, the strength of RBML’s holdings,” said Jennifer Lee, Curator for Performing Arts at RBML.  "Much of his later work was dismissed by the critics, but deserves to be reexamined today."

Correspondence to Williams in the newly acquired archive includes letters from Laurence Olivier, Paul Bowles, Cheryl Crawford, Elia Kazan, Lillian Gish, Kate Medina, and various agents including Audrey Wood. Olivier, in a 32-page letter on the subject of Streetcar Named Desire, wrote: “You must know that I think ‘Streetcar’ is a really great play.” He continues: “Now about the cuts ... I honestly think the play is a little long,” but regarding one of Vivien Leigh’s speeches, he wrote: “Vivien does it quite beautifully and if you cable me to cut it I’ll cut my bloody throat.”

Other material in the new archive includes a typed poem with annotations, “Wolf’s Hour,” signed, dated 1974; a typed note signed T.W. and also dated 1974, possibly relating to Red Devil Battery Sign: “Having broken deep into myself with Out Cry, in this long, difficult play coming next, I move back out and I think to an audience large enough to support it. Next moves are not in my hands: I must wait to see them. And how long is the question;” and a document signed by Williams in 1976, granting Donald Windham permission to publish his letters for the price of one dollar.

The new material will be added to the Tennessee Williams papers already available in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Those interested in viewing it should contact the department: or 212-854-5590.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 11 million volumes, over 150,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers. The Libraries employs more than 500 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: