Harvard University

The Houghton Library

Cambridge, MA

Collection: The Literary Papers and Correspondence of Robert Lowell

Collection ID: Collection# bMS AM 1905

NUCMC: MS 81-586

Arrangement: The letters related to Flannery O’Connor can be found in “Folder (882-89) December 1973: O’Connor, Flannery 1925-1964, 8 Letters to Robert Lowell (1954)-1960 & (n.d.)” and “Folder (1999) December 1973: O’Connor, Flannery 1925-1964, 1 Letter to Caroline Gordon, 1954.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Lowell met O’Connor while they were in residence at Yaddo in the fall of 1948. O’Connor, Lowell, and writers Elizabeth Hardwick (Lowell’s future wife), and Edward Maisel all eventually left Yaddo in February 1949 after Lowell accused frequent Yaddo guest Agnes Smedley of communist activities (HB 11).

There are eight letters from O’Connor to the Lowells ranging from February 1950 to February 1960. Four are addressed to “Cal” and four to “Cal and Elizabeth.” All eight of these letters appear in The Habit of Being.

O’Connor’s letters to the Lowells are generally conversational and full of news. She describes her early days at Andalusia, her visits with Robert and Sally Fitzgerald, paintings on which she is working, and her trip to France and Rome. O’Connor also shares news about Caroline Gordon and Allen Tate, her memories of Iowa City and Yaddo; makes brief comments about Paul Engle; and discusses her two novels, Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away. Not present in the collection, but mentioned in the letters, is a photograph O’Connor sent to the Lowells of herself with her self-portrait. In a number of the letters she invites the Lowell family to visit her in Georgia.

Also found in this collection is a single letter from O’Connor to Caroline Gordon dated December 1957, most of which is published in The Habit of Being. In this letter O’Connor discusses decisions she is making about “The Enduring Chill”; her plans to visit the Cheneys; medication she is taking for lupus; and a lecture the Gossetts attended concerning the use of “the grotesque” in southern literature.

Collection: The Papers of John Hawkes

Collection ID: Accession # 68M-107

NUCMC: MS 81-537

Arrangement: The O’Connor letters are found in the series entitled, “Letters to John Hawkes”: “Folder (164): O’Connor, Flannery 30 Letters, 1958-1964” ; “Folder (165): O’Connor, Regina Cline, 1 Letter, 1964”; and “Folder (243): Hester, Betty, 1 Letter to Flannery O’Connor, 1960.” Other papers related to Flannery O’Connor may be found in the “Manuscripts by John Hawkes” series in “Folder (318): Flannery O’Connor’s Devil.”

John Hawkes was an author and professor of English at Harvard and Brown University. O’Connor first met Hawkes and his wife Sophie in 1958 when they came for a visit at Andalusia. A few years later, Hawkes wrote a rather controversial article about O’Connor entitled “Flannery O’Connor’s Devil,” published in the March 28, 1962 issue of Providence. O’Connor wrote to Hawkes to express her appreciation for the article. It appears that while the two authors did not always agree on philosophical matters, they respected each other’s work and occasionally exchanged work-in-progress for the other’s comment.

The Hawkes collection holds thirty letters from O’Connor to Hawkes dating from July 1958 to May 1964. Twenty-three of these letters are included in The Habit of Being. In her earliest letter to Hawkes, O’Connor comments on Faulkner and mentions that she likes Hawkes’s books. Hawkes apparently sent O’Connor an unpublished version of The Lime Twig, which she read and admired. As their friendship developed, O’Connor introduced Hawkes to her friend Betty Hester. In one letter O’Connor describes Hester’s writing to Hawkes and mentions that she has sent Hester a draft of Hawkes’s novel The Lime Twig.

O’Connor also mentions lectures she was giving (including a description of her trip to the University of Chicago); students who visited her at Andalusia and conversations she had with them; Wise Blood; religion in the South; her friendship with De Vene Harrold; reviews of The Violent Bear It Away; news of Andrew and Edna Lytle; and a local character from middle Georgia known as “The Goat Man.”

O’Connor discusses her work in progress with Hawkes and sends him the galleys of her novel The Violent Bear It Away. Of particular interest is a letter in which she defines her view of evil and the Devil for Hawkes and defends her belief that her writing is not influenced by the Devil. Both writers discuss the Devil, the Devil in relation to Rayber (a character in The Violent Bear It Away), evil in O’Connor’s short stories, and “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” O'Connor also mentions her views of writing a novel versus a short story and comments on how she creates characters.

Near the end of her life, O’Connor made plans to visit Boston College and Brown University. Hawkes helped O’Connor make her travel arrangements for the spring of 1964. O’Connor’s letters reveal her disappointment when she had to cancel the trip because of her poor health.

The Hawkes collection also includes a marked-up copy of Hawkes’s essay “Flannery O’Connor's Devil” and an acknowledgment card from Regina Cline O’Connor to Hawkes after O’Connor’s death.

An item of particular interest in the Hawkes collection is a two-and-a-half page letter from Betty Hester to O’Connor dated October 30, 1960. The letter contains Hester’s comments on the galley proofs of Hawkes’s The Lime Twig. O’Connor apparently forwarded the letter to Hawkes.