Contents and Arrangement

16 Letters from James Agee to Olivia Saunders, 1932-1938

1 folder

Collection Overview

Collection Description & Creator Information


The collection consists of selected letters of James Rufus Agee, the American poet, author, journalist, and film critic. There are sixteen letters which Agee wrote to Olivia Saunders whom he met as an undergraduate at Harvard University and married in 1933. These are love letters in which Agee is trying to persuade Saunders to marry him. They were written after Agee graduated from Harvard and became a reporter, then staff writer, for Fortune magazine. In 1936 Fortune commissioned him to do a major study of the rural South's agricultural life. However, he was not able to accomplish it. Instead, he devoted himself to a prolonged literary and documentary "study" of the three families he had come to know best, and the result was Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941). There are two letters to his wife (1936) from that period when he was in Alabama trying unsuccessfully to work on his "study." In these letters, he complains to his wife regarding his inability, but also asks her not to repeat any of that information. In addition, there is one letter to Olivia Saunders' mother, dated May 1932.

Collection History

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.

Archival Appraisal Information:

No appraisal information is available.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Conditions for Reproduction and 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:

16 Letters from James Agee to Olivia Saunders; James Agee Letters, C1329, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

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Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1