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Collection Overview

Martin, Homer Dodge, 1836-1897
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Homer Dodge Martin and Elizabeth G. Martin Letters to William Crary Brownell
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1 box and 0.2 linear feet
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1


Consists of personal letters by the American landscape painter Homer Dodge Martin and his wife, Elizabeth G. Martin, to friend and editor William Crary Brownell and his first wife, Virginia Shields Swinburne.

Collection Description & Creator Information


The collection consists of postcards and letters by Homer Dodge Martin and his wife, Elizabeth G. Martin, to their friends William Crary Brownell and his first wife, Virginia Shields Swinburne. Posted from different cities where the Martins were traveling or living, the letters are personal in nature. Some date from England in the 1870s when Homer met Whistler and, later, when he was commissioned by Century Magazine to sketch in George Elliot's country. There are letters from Concord, Massachusets, where Martin was sent by Scribner's Monthly to make the illustrations for The Homes and Haunts of Emerson. Included are several letters dated between 1882 and 1886 when the Martins lived at Villerville in France. The letters discuss Homer's paintings, including "Ontario Sand Dunes," Elizabeth's poetry and writings, and their desperate financial situation. They could not afford to buy eye glasses for Homer, had many creditors, and needed to ask Brownell for a loan. Two of Homer Dodge's letters contain sketches in pencil and in ink. In the letter dated September 25, 1896, Elizabeth writes to Brownell about her husband's deteriorating health and about the growth in his throat, which was later discovered to be cancer of the throat.


The letters are arranged chronologically.

Collection Creator Biography:

Martin, Homer Dodge, 1836-1897

Homer Dodge Martin was an American landscape painter. His earlier works are in the style of the Hudson River School, while his later work shows the influence of the Barbizon School. He was elected as an associate of the National Academy of Design in New York in 1868. In 1861 Martin had married Elizabeth Gilbert Davis, a woman of cultivation and ability, who was able to help the family's meager budget with her writing. During a trip to Europe in 1876, he made friends with, and was influenced by, the painter James McNeill Whistler. Homer's paintings were not selling well, and in order to obtain an income, he did illustrations for Scribner's Monthly and for the Century Company. Between 1882 and 1886 the Martins lived in Villerville in France. However, Homer was still not successful in selling his paintings and his wife was not getting paid for her literary work. The Martins eventually ran out of money and had to borrow from their friend William Crary Brownell. In 1887 the Martins returned to New York, where Homer's health and eye sight steadily deteriorated, and in 1896 he was diagnosed with cancer of the throat. His last years were spent in St. Paul, Minn., where, nearly blind, he painted "Adirondack Scenery" from memory. It was only after his death that he became famous and his paintings were being forged.

William Crary Brownell, a literary and art critic, was born in Westport, Mass. After graduating from Amherst College in 1871 he became a reporter with the New York World, and then an editor. He had many literary and artistic friends, among whom was Homer Dodge Martin. From 1879 to 1881 he was on the staff of the Nation. He was married in 1878 to Virginia Shields Swinburne, who died in 1911, and in 1921 he married Gertrude Hall, a poet and translator. In 1888 he became editor and literary adviser with Charles Scribner's Sons, a position which he retained until his death, forty years later.

Collection History


Letters were a gift of Mrs. William Crary Brownell on June 11, 1934 .

Custodial History

The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Dina Britain on July 5, 2006. Finding aid written by Tenley Eakin on July 7, 2006. Folder inventory added by James Clark '14 in 2012.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Credit this material:

Homer Dodge Martin and Elizabeth G. Martin Letters to William Crary Brownell; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1