A collection of correspondence from the estate of Matthew Bruccoli (1931-2008), a professor, researcher and editor known for his lifelong interest in and scholarship on F. Scott Fitzgerald, has been donated to the Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin. The collection was a gift from Bruccoli’s widow, Arlyn Bruccoli.
Bruccoli taught at the University of Virginia, Ohio State University and, for the majority of his career, the University of South Carolina. He wrote more than 50 books of literary biography and criticism about Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway alone, while also publishing widely on such authors as John O’Hara, Thomas Wolfe, Raymond Chandler and Joseph Heller.
Bruccoli edited numerous works of literature and letters, including those of his former professor, Vladimir Nabokov. Beginning in 1978 and working with Richard Layman and C. E. Frazer Clark Jr., Bruccoli helped produce the “Dictionary of Literary Biography” (DLB), a definitive literary encyclopedia consisting of nearly 400 volumes to date.
As a teenager, Bruccoli’s interest in Fitzgerald was piqued one afternoon while driving in the backseat of his parents’ car when he heard the radio broadcast of Fitzgerald’s short story “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz.” His initially thwarted attempt to find any of Fitzgerald’s books in his high school library only deepened his quest. That he finally located a copy of “The Great Gatsby” a week later, he has said, “ruined” his life, for he has been “reading the book ever since.”
Most of the collection materials concern Bruccoli’s work on the DLB and his research and writing on Fitzgerald and Hemingway.
There are several hundred pages of corrected proofs and correspondence related to writers’ biographical entries for DLB. Writers represented in the collection include Eric Ambler, Stanley Burnshaw, John Cheever, Umberto Eco, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Alan Furst, David Hare, Seamus Heaney, Richard S. Kennedy, William Kennedy, Doris Lessing, Norman Mailer, David Mamet, Bernard Malamud, Henry Miller, Toni Morrison, Iris Murdoch, Tim O’Brien, Harold Pinter, Salman Rushdie, William Styron, Tom Wolfe and Richard Yates, among others.
There are two folders of John Updike materials, which include photos, Bruccoli’s correspondence with Updike, a typescript of an introduction on Nabokov that is heavily corrected in Updike’s hand, and proofs and correspondence related to Updike’s DLB entry.
The collection includes Fitzgerald ephemera and letters from various Fitzgerald and Hemingway family members, including Scottie Fitzgerald Lanahan (Fitzgerald’s daughter), Sunny Miller (Hemingway’s sister) and Mary Hemingway (Hemingway’s fourth wife).
There are letters to Jerry Weingart from Scottie Fitzgerald Lanahan in which she suggests Weingart speak with Edmund Wilson and Judge John Briggs about her father, about whom Weingart was writing. A postcard from Lanaham mentions that Compton Mackenzie’s book “Sinister Street” influenced Fitzgerald when he was writing “This Side of Paradise.”
Bruccoli corresponded with various writers during his research for his book of Fitzgerald’s correspondence, “Notebooks,” and there are letters from S. J. Perelman, P. G. Wodehose, Glenway Wescott (to Lanahan), Archibald MacLeish, Allen Tate and Thornton Wilder, all regarding Fitzgerald.
The collection also includes letters related to Bruccoli’s work on Hemingway, including correspondence from Alvah Bessie, Nathaniel Benchley, Hadley [Hemingway] Mowrer and Lillian Ross.
The correspondence in the Bruccoli collection dates from 1968 to 2006, with the greatest concentration from the mid-1970s to the 1980s.
The materials will be accessible once organized and housed.
High-resolution press images of a selection of the new materials are available.