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Agnes Boulton Collection of Eugene O'Neill

Finding aid created by Miriam B. Spectre
Copyright 1998 by the Yale University Library.

PROVENANCE

Purchased from Agnes Boulton and from her estate, 1963 and 1971.

OWNERSHIP & LITERARY RIGHTS

The Agnes Boulton Collection of Eugene O'Neill is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

CITE AS

Agnes Boulton Collection of Eugene O'Neill. Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

RESTRICTIONS ON ACCESS

This collection is open for research. Restricted Fragile in box 7 may only be consulted with permission of the appropriate curator. Preservation photocopies or photographic prints for reference use have been substituted in the main files.

PROCESSING NOTES

Historically, the Eugene O'Neill Papers at Beinecke were comprised of a number of accessions unrelated by provenance and classified as Za O'Neill. These materials were processed between 1997 and 1998; at that time, they were separated by provenance into four collections: Eugene O'Neill Papers (YCAL MSS 123); Eugene O'Neill Collection (YCAL MSS 124); Agnes Boulton Collection of Eugene O'Neill (YCAL MSS 122); and Eugene O'Neill, Jr. Collection (YCAL MSS 126).

AGNES BOULTON (1893-1968)

Agnes Boulton, who was Eugene O'Neill's second wife and a writer of popular novels and short stories, was born on 19 September 1893. After Boulton and O'Neill met in New York City in the fall of 1917, they moved to Provincetown early in 1918, and were married on 12 April. They spent the fall and winter at Boulton's house in West Point Pleasant, New Jersey, and then in May 1919 moved to the former Coast Guard station (Peaked Hill Bar) in Provincetown, which was purchased for them by O'Neill's father from the writer Mabel Dodge Luhan. On 30 October 1919, their son, Shane Rudraighe, was born in Provincetown.

In the fall of 1922, the O'Neills moved to Brook Farm in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and then two years later, to Bermuda. Their daughter, Oona, was born in Bermuda on 14 May 1925. The family divided their time between Brook Farm and Bermuda (where they later bought a house, Spithead). In the summer of 1926, they rented a cottage in Belgrade Lakes, Maine, where they were visited by Boulton's daughter from her first marriage, Barbara Burton, and by O'Neill's son from his first marriage, Eugene O'Neill, Jr. It was in Belgrade Lakes that O'Neill renewed his acquaintance with Carlotta Monterey, who had starred in the 1922 New York production of his play The Hairy Ape. From that point on, O'Neill divided his time between New York and Bermuda, and between Carlotta and Boulton. In 1928, O'Neill made his choice and left on 10 February with Carlotta for Europe. Boulton tried to save the marriage, but she and O'Neill finally divorced in July 1929.

Boulton later remarried, but she and her third husband were subsequently separated. Boulton died on 25 November 1968 in West Point Pleasant, New Jersey. For further information, see Agnes Boulton's memoir, Part of a Long Story (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1958). For further information about Eugene O'Neill, see the biographical timeline in the Eugene O'Neill Papers (YCAL MSS 123).

DESCRIPTION OF THE COLLECTION

The Agnes Boulton Collection of Eugene O'Neill principally consists of material that dates from the period of Agnes Boulton's and Eugene O'Neill's marriage. There is also some correspondence concerning Boulton's life after their divorce. The collection includes correspondence, writings of Agnes Boulton and of Eugene O'Neill, diaries of Agnes Boulton and of Eugene O'Neill, financial and legal documents, and photographs. The papers span the years 1910 to 1959, but the bulk of the material is from 1920 to 1927. The collection is organized into three series: Correspondence, Writings, and Personal Papers, and is housed in seven boxes.

Series I, Correspondence, is organized into three subseries: General Correspondence, Family Correspondence, and Third Party Correspondence. Each subseries is arranged alphabetically. The first subseries, General Correspondence, contains mostly incoming letters to Boulton and O'Neill; folders that also contain letters from Boulton or O'Neill (penciled drafts, typed carbons, or typed originals) have been noted in the container list. Letters from people not listed individually may be found in "letter" general files.

The general correspondence is a mixture of professional and personal. There are letters requesting permission from O'Neill to perform his plays, and letters from the American Play Company (O'Neill's agent) regarding his plays, as well as letters from the O'Neills' governess, Fifine Clark; correspondence regarding Boulton's divorce from O'Neill (letters to Boulton from her lawyer, Arthur F. Driscoll, and from O'Neill's lawyer, Harry Weinberger); and letters from Frederick Parsell Hill, the architect who worked on Spithead, the O'Neills' house in Bermuda. Correspondence from the period following Boulton's divorce from O'Neill is in this series as well, including an exchange of letters with Max Wylie regarding Boulton's book, Part of a Long Story (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1958), in which she describes two years (1917-1919) of the time she spent with O'Neill. Their correspondence also concerns Wylie's book, Trouble in the Flesh, a novel based on O'Neill's life, which was also published by Doubleday, in 1959.

The second subseries, Family Correspondence, contains letters of the Boulton family (Boulton's sisters, Cecil Boulton Fisk and Margery Boulton; and her brother-in-law, Edward Fisk) and of the O'Neill family (O'Neill's sons, Shane Rudraighe and Eugene, Jr.; his daughter, Oona; and his third wife, Carlotta Monterey O'Neill). The correspondence between Boulton and O'Neill consists mostly of telegrams (with mention of homesickness, missing each other, and travel arrangements). There is a letter from O'Neill's brother, James, Jr. to O'Neill regarding their father's health, and three letters from O'Neill's mother, Mary Ellen Quinlan O'Neill, to Boulton and O'Neill about Peaked Hill Bar and about Shane. The third subseries, Third Party Correspondence, contains a few exchanges, including a letter from the actress Mary Blair to the O'Neills' governess, Fifine Clark, about hiring Clark, and two letters between Shane Rudraighe O'Neill and his governess, Fifine Clark.

Series II, Writings, is organized into three subseries, Agnes Boulton, Eugene O'Neill, and Others. The Agnes Boulton subseries contains typescript carbon copies of notes and short personal writings by Boulton, mostly about her marriage to O'Neill. These copies were probably made either by Boulton or by Max Wylie from Boulton's penciled notes (which are not in this collection) while she was working on Part of a Long Story. The Eugene O'Neill subseries contains typescripts and carbons of ten early poems by O'Neill, which date from 1910 to 1915; some are undated. There is a typescript of the third act of The Guilty One, a play that was a collaboration between O'Neill and Boulton. In addition, there is a typescript carbon copy of O'Neill's introduction to White Buildings by Hart Crane, which was probably typed by Boulton or Wylie from the original typescript (now housed in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library). There is also a fragment of a character study by O'Neill called "Ole Oleson's saga." The final subseries contains a typescript carbon fragment of Robert Frost's play, "A Way Out."

Series III, Personal Papers, is organized into three subseries, Diaries, Financial and Legal Materials, and Photographs. The first subseries, Diaries, contains two diaries by Boulton, as well as her loose diary notes. The first diary is from 1925 but also contains some entries for 1927; the second diary is from 1928. In both diaries, the entries are sporadic and mainly cover Boulton's activities and thoughts, with some notes on O'Neill. The loose diary notes date from 1919 to 1925 and are mostly her thoughts on her life and on O'Neill. This subseries also contains O'Neill's diary for 1925, which contains notes on his writing, as well as on his activities. O'Neill's practice seems to have been to copy a group of diaries over a five-year period into a single five-year work diary. These five-year work diaries are located in the Eugene O'Neill Papers (YCAL MSS 123). O'Neill's note in the front of the work diary for 1924-28 (see YCAL MSS 123, box 78, folder 1437) states that the diary for 1925 was reconstructed "from memory + few records, diary of that year having been stolen + sold by former wife." The 1925 diary to which he refers is the one located in this subseries.

The second subseries, Financial and Legal Materials, consists mostly of bills (for books, clothing, telegrams, and medical expenses). In addition, the files contain legal documents regarding O'Neill and Boulton's homes (Brook Farm, Ridgefield, Conn.; Peaked Hill Bar, Provincetown, Mass.; and Spithead, Bermuda Islands) and their divorce.

The third subseries, Photographs, includes several informal snapshots of O'Neill, as well as pictures of O'Neill's and Carlotta's dogs, Ben and Blemie; Shane and Oona's nanny, Fifine Clark ("Gaga"); Kathleen Millay; and a view of the drive at Chateau du Plessis, where O'Neill and Carlotta lived in France from 1929 to 1930.

 

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