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Collection Overview

Thorp, Margaret Farrand, 1891-1970 and Thorp, Willard, 1899-1990
Willard Thorp and Margaret Farrand Thorp Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1886-1981 (mostly 1930-1970)
33 boxes and 14.1 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-33


Consists of material which reflects the long careers of American educators, authors, and literary critics Willard and Margaret Thorp. Willard's papers (1923-1981) include correspondence, writings, class lecture notes, documents, journals and diaries, printed matter, photographs, and papers of others during his writing and teaching years at Princeton University. Margaret's papers (1917-1960) include writings, correspondence, journals, notebooks, and family sketchbooks and photographs.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of papers reflective of both Willard and Margaret Thorp's careers as authors and critics, Willard's years as a professor of English at Princeton University, and Margaret's early career in journalism. The bulk of the collection dates from the years (1930-1970) when they published the majority of their articles, reviews and books, gave their speeches, and when Willard taught his classes and was acting chairman of Princeton's English Department.

Willard's papers consist mainly of correspondence with professional colleagues; friends, particularly Allen Tate and Caroline Gordon, but also including T. S. Eliot, William Meredith, James Meriwether, Robert Penn Warren, Robert Lowell, Archibald MacLiesh, and John Berryman; organizations, such as the Modern Language Association, and the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni; and publishers of his works, including the American Book Company, Charles Scribner's Sons, and the J. B. Lippincott Company. Much of the correspondence relates to books he wrote or contributed to, such as Modern Writing, The Lives of Eighteen from Princeton, Great Short Works of American Realism, and A Southern Reader. There are also manuscripts of articles and speeches Willard wrote, as well as class lecture notes of the courses he taught at Princeton (1932-1967), miscellaneous material regarding a senior poetry seminar, several diaries, publisher's contracts, photographs, printed matter, papers of others, and four recording of conversations with Thorp. Included is an album of original poems dedicated to Willard by seven Princeton poets, presumably his former students. A later accession consists of over 100 offprints of articles by contemporary literary scholars and critics; many of these pamphlets are inscribed to Thorp.

Margaret's papers consist of drafts of Charles Kingsley, 1819-1875 and Female Persuasion: Six Strong-Minded Women, speeches, articles, notebooks, correspondence with Allen Tate and Caroline Gordon, Vivienne Heigh (Mrs. T. S. Eliot), family letters and correspondence with her publishers, and family sketchbooks and photographs.

Collection Creator Biography:

Thorp, Margaret Farrand, 1891-1970

Margaret Louise Farrand Thorp (1891-1970), scholar, author, critic, and journalist, was born in East Orange, New Jersey, on December 3, 1891. She graduated from Smith College in 1914, received her M.A. from Smith in 1926, and her Ph.D. from Yale in 1934.

After receiving her B.A., Margaret worked on the staff of The Independent under the editorship of Hamilton Holt. A firm believer in the cause of the Allies, she was eager to get to France to serve in any way she could. The American Fund for French Wounded accepted her, and in late October 1917 she sailed for France on the Rochambeau. Once there, she edited The Weekly Bulletin issued by the Fund Cooperating with the American Red Cross for circulation in the United States. (Alice B. Toklas was one of its frequent contributors.) In her spare time Margaret worked in the canteens and as an unofficial nurse's aide in several hospitals. In March 1918 she transferred to the American Red Cross where she continued to do publicity work until after the Armistice. She was also a special correspondent to the Newark Evening Times and wrote faithfully in her own journals, recording all her experiences.

After returning from France, between 1921 and 1929, Margaret was Director of Publicity and Assistant Professor of English at Smith College. Also during this time she was a regular contributor to such publications as The Smith Alumnae Quarterly, the Christian Science Monitor, Scribner's Magazine, and the New York Evening Post. In 1929 she went to Yale to earn her Ph.D., and on June 12 of the following year married Willard Thorp, then an assistant professor at Princeton University.

Although Margaret did not continue teaching after her marriage, she continued to pursue her writing career. In 1937 she published Charles Kingsley, 1819-1875 with Princeton University Press. In 1969 Yale University Press published her popular film study, America at the Movies. In 1944 she collaborated with Willard on a textbook, Modern Writing, followed by another biography, Female Persuasion: Six Strong-Minded Women in 1949. Later writings include Neilson of Smith (1956), The Literary Sculptors (1965), and Sara Orne Jewett (1966).

In 1957 Smith College made Margaret Thorp an honorary Doctor of Letters. She died in Princeton on October 2, 1970, at the age of 79. She was a niece of Beatrix Farrand, Princeton's landscape artist.

Thorp, Willard, 1899-1990

William Willard Thorp (1899-1990), literary historian, editor, educator, author, and critic, was born on April 20 in Sydney, New York. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Hamilton College in 1920, received an A.M. the following year from Harvard, and his Ph.D. in 1926 from Princeton University. That year he joined the faculty of Princeton and advanced from instructor of English in 1926 to the Holmes Professor of Belles Lettres in 1952, and was chairman of the English department from 1958-1963.

During his years at Princeton, Willard Thorp published a number of books, innumerable literary reviews and essays in philogical journals, and established himself as an editor. Included among his books are The Triumph of Realism in Elizabethan Drama (1928), Lives of Eighteen from Princeton (1946), A Southern Reader (1955), and American Writing in the 20th Century (1960). One of his best-known essays is "The Well of English, Now Defiled, or, Why Johnny Can't Write," a humorous piece with serious undertones in which Thorp laments the state of affairs of college writing. He edited with Howard Lowry the Oxford Anthology of English Poetry (Oxford University Press, 1935), and with various others edited Herman Melville, Representative Selections (American Book Company, 1938), and the widely-used Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (Oxford University Press, 1948), Literary History of the United States (first published in 1948), and Great Short Works of American Realism (Harper, 1968).

Aside from his literary accomplishments and his popularity with undergraduates, one of Willard Thorp's greatest contributions to Princeton University was the development in 1942 of the special program in American civilization, now called the American Studies Program. He directed this for the first thirteen years, and strove to bring American civilization to light through studying culture, institution, intellectual tradition, and relationships among groups. The program grew until it included faculty and undergraduates from nine cooperating departments. One of the special interest courses taught by Thorp in this program was "The Age of Dryden."

Willard Thorp also kept busy traveling to various universities as a visiting professor. He went to the University of Virginia in 1947, was the Anderson Visiting Professor at the Rice Institute in 1952-1953, and taught summers at the University of Hawaii, University of Washington, Seattle, and Duke University.

Thorp retired from Princeton University in 1967, remaining in Princeton until his death at age 90 in 1990. He was honored in 1972 with the establishment of the Willard Thorp Thesis Prize in American Civilization, and in 1978 was awarded an L.H.D.

1899 Born in Sidney, New York, on April 20 1920 A.B., Hamilton College 1921 A.M., Harvard University 1921-1924 instructor, then became assistant professor, Smith College 1926 Ph.D., Princeton University 1926-1928 instructor in English, Princeton University 1928 published The Triumph of Realism in Elizabethan Drama, Princeton University Press 1928-1939 assistant professor, Princeton University 1930 married Margaret Farrand on June 12 1931-1932 Fellow, American Council of Learned Societies 1932 published Poetry of the Transition, 1850-1914 with Thomas M. Parrott, Oxford University Press 1934 published Songs from the Restoration Theater, Princeton University Press 1935 published Oxford Anthology of English Poetry with Howard Lowry, Oxford University Press 1936 summer professor, University of Hawaii 1938 published Herman Melville, Representative Selections, American Book Company 1939-1944 associate professor, Princeton University 1944 published Modern Writing with Margaret Farrand Thorp, American Book Company 1944 professor, Princeton University 1944-1949 Fellow of American Letters, Library of Congress 1946 published Lives of Eighteen from Princeton, Princeton University Press 1947 Honorary Litt. D. from Hamilton College 1948 published Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, Oxford University Press 1950-1957 member of the editorial board, American Literature 1952 Holmes Professor of Belles Lettres, Princeton University 1952-1953 Anderson Visiting Professor, Rice Institute, Texas 1954-1957 executive council, Modern Language Association 1955 published A Southern Reader, Alfred A. Knopf 1958-1959 president, American Studies Association 1958-1963 chairman, Department of English, Princeton University 1960 published American Writing in the Twentieth Century, Harvard University Press 1960 L.H.D. from Kalamazoo College 1966-1967 Guggenheim fellow 1967 retired from Princeton University 1968 published Great Short Works of the American Renaissance, Harper 1968 published Great Short Works of American Realism, Harper 1990 died in Princeton, February 15, at 90 years old

Collection History


Willard and Margaret Thorp both donated their works to Princeton University in installments over the years 1948-1989; when Margaret died in 1970, Willard donated her work as well as his own. A small amount of material in Willard's correspondence and documents sections are photostats (the location of the originals is unknown) and, for preservation purposes, some old newspaper clippings have been Xeroxed and the originals destroyed.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Jennifer Lindabury and Karla J. Vecchia in 1993. Finding aid written by Jennifer Lindabury and Karla J. Vecchia in 1993.

Finding aid updated by Faith Charlton in 2020 to elucidate Margaret Farrand Thorp's role as one of the collection's creators per inclusive description-related work.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Willard Thorp and Margaret Farrand Thorp Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
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Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-33