Princeton University

Special Collections

Princeton, NJ

Collection: Flannery O'Connor Letters to Ashley Brown

Letters between O’Connor and Ashley Brown. Brainard and Frances Neel Cheney introduced O’Connor to Brown in 1953 while they were visiting the Cheneys (Stephens 7). The two quickly became correspondents and friends. They were also mutual friends of Caroline Gordon, on whose work Brown had written his dissertation.

The collection contains thirty-eight letters from O’Connor ranging from January 1958 to June 1964, eight of which are published in The Habit of Being. Most of the letters are conversational and about people Brown and O’Connor both know: Brainard and Frances Neel Cheney, Robert and Sally Fitzgerald, Caroline Gordon, Madison Jones, Katherine Anne Porter, and Allen Tate. O’Connor and Brown suggest books to each other and comment on others they have read. She also describes events at Andalusia, including an African-American funeral she attended for “Henry,” one of the farmhands. O’Connor also mentions her trip to France and Italy and a visit with Sally and Robert Fitzgerald. She briefly describes Paris and the variety of religious objects she noted for sale in Lourdes. Many of O’Connor’s letters contain invitations for Brown to visit Andalusia and recall a visit Brown had with Caroline Gordon there.

O’Connor also mentions people who came to visit her at Andalusia, a sesquicentennial pageant and celebration in Milledgeville, a set of antique bookshelves she purchased, the publication and reviews of The Violent Bear It Away, the translation of some of her stories into French, lectures she gave, honorary degrees she received, and a new car she and her mother purchased. Near the end of her life she mentions her illness. Her final letter to Brown is a handwritten letter from her hospital bed at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta in which she describes a recent visit from Caroline Gordon, and wishes Brown good travels in Brazil.

Collection: Allen Tate Papers

Collection ID: MSS: CO106

NUCMC: MS 61-839

Arrangement: The O’Connor letter is found in Box 46, folder 19

Allen Tate was a poet, editor, novelist, critic, and a member of the Fugitive group of southern authors; he was also twice married to writer Caroline Gordon (“Tate”). O'Connor knew Allen Tate through her friendship and professional relationship with his wife. There is a single letter in the Tate Papers from O’Connor, dated September 1955, in which she asks to use his name as a reference for her Guggenheim Fellowship application.

Collection: Caroline Gordon Papers.

Collection ID: MS: CO052.

Arrangement: The Flannery O’Connor correspondence is found in “Box 35,” “Folder 18.” In addition, photographs of O’Connor may be found in “Box 45,” “Folder 9.”

Gordon was a novelist and short story writer, critic, and respected teacher. She and her husband, Allen Tate, converted to Catholicism in 1950 (“Tate”). Flannery O’Connor first wrote to Gordon in 1951, when she asked Gordon to read her manuscript of Wise Blood. Early in her writing career O’Connor considered Gordon’s comments valuable and regularly sent Gordon manuscripts of her works before they were published (CW 1245).

In one letter, dated December, 1962, O’Connor mentions meeting Walker Percy in New Orleans; a lecture she planned for early 1963; a visit from Ashley Brown; and a visit from Italian critic, Claudio Gorlier. The collection also contains an undated portion of a letter in O’Connor’s handwriting of which the first page, or more, is missing. The remaining portion mentions Katherine Anne Porter’s travels and comments that an unnamed person would do well at Conyers (probably the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia).

Also of interest in this collection is a draft of “Parker's Back,” with very few notations.

Collection: Story Magazine and Story Press Records

Collection ID: MS: CO104.

Arrangement: The O’Connor correspondence is in “Box 118,” “Folder 5.”

Whit Burnett was an editor and owner of STORY Magazine, a magazine in which O’Connor never published. There is a single letter to Flannery O’Connor from December 1959 in which Whit Burnett asked her if she would be interested in submitting a story to the magazine for a payment of $50.