Collection MSG 993 - Leon Edel Collection

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Leon Edel Collection

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approximately 25 m of textual records

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Biographical history

Leon Edel is a noted authority on the critic and novelist, Henry James. Edel won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award in 1963 for the second and third volumes (Henry James: The Conquest, 1870-1883 and Henry James: The Middle Years, 1882-1895) of the five volume biography on Henry James completed in 1972. He wrote widely on James but his psychoanalytical approach to the art of biography is also patent in his works on Willa Carther, Henry David Thoreau and Edmund Wilson. Edel grew up in Saskatchewan, Canada, and at the age of 16 he relocated with his family to Montreal where he graduated from McGill University (B.A. in 1927 and M.A. in 1928). At McGill he read English, became interested in James Joyce and Virginia Woolf and co-founded the McGill Fortnightly Review. He received a doctorate from the Sorbonne in 1932 and in Paris he met Edith Wharton, a friend of Henry James, who helped him obtain a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1936. In 1939 he returned to North America where he worked as a journalist first in Canada and then in New York. From 1943 to 1947 Edel was an intelligence officer in the US Army. In 1952 he joined New York University as a visiting professor. In 1955 he was appointed as Professor of English and in 1966 he took up a position created for him: Henry James Professor of English and American Letters. In 1972 he moved to the University of Hawaii, where he taught until 1978. His was married to Bertha Cohen from 1935 to 1950. He then married Roberta Roberts, 1950-1979 and in 1980, Marjorie Sinclair.

Custodial history

The bulk of materials came from Leon Edel in three major deposits in 1990, 1995, and 1999. The final series contains ephemera related to Edel that were purchased in 2020.

Scope and content

The collection consists of correspondence, research files, manuscripts, journals, and ephemera created and accumulated by writer and scholar Leon Edel, who was notably the editor and biographer of Henry James as well as Edmund Wilson.

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