Samuel Beckett collection
Scope and Contents
The Samuel Beckett collection at the John J. Burns Library comprises seven distinct collections of Beckett-related material including manuscripts and typescripts by Beckett, correspondence with Beckett, ephemera, photographs, and publications by and about Beckett.
The Samuel Beckett-Calvin Israel collection is primarily Beckett manuscripts and publications, but also includes theater programs, audiovisual material, and ephemera spanning 1929 to 1981.
The Samuel Beckett-Robert Pinget letters document the friendship between Beckett and Pinget and demonstrate Beckett’s support for Pinget’s literary career. Both authors worked with the publisher Jerome Linden at Editions de Minuit and each translated a work written by the other – Pinget converting Beckett’s All That Fall into French and Beckett translating Pinget’s La Manivelle into English. These and other business-related matters are well documented in the letters. There are also many letters of an exclusively personal nature.
The Samuel Beckett-Barney Rosset collection includes manuscripts representing three decades of Beckett's writing, annotated copies of plays, stories, and other works, letters and cards from Beckett to Rosset discussing the author's life and work, and Grove Press business and financial records relating to Beckett's career. Included is a manuscript of the early, unpublished play Eleutheria written in French. The focus of the correspondence is primarily business and publishing aspects of the literary world; however, as their friendship developed, the correspondence became increasingly personal.
The Judith Schmidt Douw collection of Samuel Beckett letters and Judith Schmidt Douw Letters together document a correspondence between Beckett and Judith Schmidt (later Schmidt Douw) from 1956 to 1984. The letters deal with professional matters relating to Grove Press and Beckett's works and also concern the personal relationship between Beckett and Schmidt Douw.
The Alan Schneider-Samuel Beckett collection is primarily composed of correspondence between American stage director Alan Schneider and Samuel Beckett, with some additional correspondence between Schneider, Thornton Wilder, and others; also included are manuscripts and other material relating to Beckett's Film and a translation of Waiting for Godot by Thornton Wilder.
- Beckett, Samuel, 1906-1989 (Person)
Language of Materials
Materials in this collection are primarily in English, with some French and German.
Restrictions on access
Collection is open for research.
Restrictions on use
Copyright interests have not been transferred to Boston College.
Biographical Note: Samuel Beckett
Samuel Barclay Beckett was born on Good Friday, April 13, 1906, in Foxrock, Ireland, near Dublin. He studied modern languages at Trinity College in Dublin and graduated in 1927. The following year, Beckett went to Paris, where he quickly became acquainted with a group of avant-garde artists, including James Joyce. There, Beckett taught English at the École Normale Superieure in Paris for two years before returning to Trinity College to teach French in 1930. He left Trinity College after one year to travel through Europe. Beckett settled in Paris, France in 1937, and lived there for most of the rest of his life.
During World War II, Beckett joined an underground resistance group. He was forced to flee from Paris to unoccupied France in 1942 because of the threat of arrest by the German Gestapo. Hiding in the village of Roussillon in Southern France, Beckett worked as an agricultural laborer until the war ended in 1945, at which time he returned to Paris and began his most productive creative period.
As a poet, Beckett made his debut in 1930 with “Whoroscope,” followed by a collection of essays, Proust (1931), and one of his short stories, "More Pricks than Kicks" (1934). His career as a novelist began in 1938 with the publication of Murphy. After the war, Beckett wrote the trilogy of novels Molloy (1951), Malone Meurt (1951, “Malone Dies”), and L’Innommable (1953, “The Unnamable”). He also wrote plays during this period, including Eleutheria and Waiting for Godot. Upon its first performances in France and then America, Waiting for Godot brought Beckett international fame. Beckett translated Waiting for Godot into English himself - something he would do for almost all his work - and it was published by Grove Press in 1953. In the succeeding years Beckett avoided the limelight and dedicated his life to his work, which was continuously published by Grove Press in America during his lifetime. He made his only trip to the United States in 1964 to be present at the shooting of the film he had written entitled Film. Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969.
Beckett died in Paris on December 22, 1989.
"Beckett, Samuel." Encyclopedia Britannica Online, February 3, 2016. Encyclopædia Britannica (Accessed April 3, 2020).
Knowlson, James. Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.
"Samuel (Barclay) Beckett." In Gale Literature: Contemporary Authors. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2005. (Accessed April 3, 2020). Gale Document Number: GALE|H1000006745.
Biographical Note: Calvin Israel
Calvin Israel was an associate professor of English at the State University of New York at Geneseo. He began his relationship with Beckett by writing a magazine article to publically correct an encyclopedia error concerning Beckett’s work. Beckett read the article and initiated a correspondence with Israel. After a 1976 meeting with Israel in Paris, Beckett sent him manuscripts and other materials. Israel also began a personal collection of Beckett’s work and sent many of his purchases to Beckett to be signed. Israel died in 1984, after which his collection of Beckett materials passed to his wife Joann.
Biographical Note: Robert Pinget
Robert Pinget was born in 1919 in Geneva, Switzerland. As a young man, he studied and practiced law. He became dissatisfied with his legal career, however, and moved to Paris and enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts to study painting in 1946. Gradually he discovered his interest in writing and became ensconced in the Nouveau Roman (or “New Novel”) literary movement led by authors such as Alain Robbe-Grillet and Marguerite Duras. He published his first book, the collection of short stories Entre Fantoine et Agapa, in 1950. Although his unconventional style made publishers leery, Pinget’s works were aided by endorsements from renowned French writers Alain Robbe-Grillet and Albert Camus. Pinget met Samuel Beckett in 1953, and they forged a friendship that became important to Pinget both personally and professionally. Beckett translated Pinget’s La Manivelle into English and Pinget, in turn, translated Beckett’s All That Fall into French. L’Inquisitoire, published in 1962 and translated into English as The Inquisitory in 1966, is perhaps Pinget’s best known work. Robert Pinget died in 1997 in Tours, France.
"Pinget, Robert." Encyclopedia Britannica Online, August 21, 2019. Encyclopædia Britannica (Accessed April 3, 2020).
Henkels, Jr., Robert M. Robert Pinget: The Novel as Quest. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1979.
"Robert Pinget." In Gale Literature: Contemporary Authors. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2003. (Accessed April 3, 2020). Gale Document Number: GALE|H1000078446.
Biographical Note: Barney Rosset
Barnet (“Barney”) Lee Rosset was born in Chicago in 1922. He attended Swarthmore College, University of California, Los Angeles, and the New School. Although he had no background in publishing, he acquired the nearly-defunct Grove Press in 1951. During his tenure at Grove, the publishing house was pivotal in the introduction and publication of avant-garde writers. Rosset was the first to publish Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in the United States in 1954, and later published the works of Absurdist playwrights Eugène Ionesco and Jean Genet. Rosset and Beckett maintained their close friendship after the sale of Grove in 1985 until Beckett’s death in 1989. Rosset has remained committed to protecting Beckett’s legacy. Under Rosset, Grove also published The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer.
"Barney Rosset, Courting Literary Controversy." National Public Radio (April 18, 2009). http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102070224
"Rosset, Barney." In Encyclopedia Britannica Online, June 13, 2011. Encyclopædia Britannica (Accessed April 3, 2020).
McGrath, Charles. "Barney Rosset: The publisher who fought Puritanism, and won." The New York Times, September 24, 2008.
Biographical Note: Judith Schmidt Douw
Judith Schmidt Douw was born Judith Schmidt in 1926. She began working at Grove Press in 1955. Although she was officially Barney Rosset's secretary, the small staff at Grove Press dictated duties beyond her official job title. It was during her time at Grove Press that Douw and Samuel Beckett began a correspondence that grew from a professional correspondence to a personal one. They met for the first time when Douw traveled to Paris in 1959. While at Grove Press she also became friends with Alan Schneider, Beckett's friend and American director of his only foray into cinema, Film (1964). In 1965 Schmidt traveled to Europe to represent Grove Press, Beckett, and Schneider at film festivals screening Film. Judith Schmidt married John de Peyster Douw in 1970. That same year she left Grove Press to work on the presidential campaign of Eugene McCarthy.
Biographical Note: Alan Schneider
Alan Schneider was born in a suburb of Kharkov, Ukraine in 1917, the year of the Russian Revolution. On July 4, 1923, the Schneiders emigrated to America. His parents, Leo Victor Schneider and Rebecka Malkin Schneider, were both physicians specializing in tuberculosis. Schneider attended Johns Hopkins University with the intention to study theoretical physics, but transferred to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, to study political science and literature. Once in Madison, he actively pursued the theatre. In 1940 he attended Cornell University, where he received an MA in Literature and the Dramatic Arts. In 1956 Schneider began a lifelong artistic partnership with Beckett when he agreed to direct the American premier of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. In 1964 he directed Beckett’s Film, for which Beckett visited New York. Throughout his career as a director, Schneider was committed to teaching and directing student productions. He served as assistant professor of speech and drama at the Catholic University of America from 1941 to 1952 and as professor of theatre arts at Boston University from 1972 to 1979, was the director of the Juilliard School Theatre Center from 1975 to 1979, and from 1979 until he died he was professor of drama and head of the graduate directing department at the University of California, San Diego. Schneider suddenly died in 1984 when he was struck and killed by a motorcycle in London. He had just mailed a letter to Samuel Beckett.
"Register of Alan Schneider Papers – MSS 103." Mandeville Special Collections Library University of California, San Diego. https://library.ucsd.edu/speccoll/findingaids/mss0103.html
22.25 Linear Feet (58 containers)
The Samuel Beckett collection at the John J. Burns Library is composed of seven distinct collections of Beckett-related material including manuscripts and typescripts by Beckett, correspondence with Beckett, ephemera, photographs, and publications by and about Beckett.
This collection is arranged in seven series: I. Samuel Beckett - Calvin Israel collection; II. Samuel Beckett - Robert Pinget collection; III. Samuel Beckett - Barney Rosset collection; IV. Judith Schmidt Douw collection of Samuel Beckett letters; V. Samuel Beckett - Judith Schmidt Douw collection; VI. Alan Schneider - Samuel Beckett collection; VII. Other Beckett-related material.
The Samuel Beckett - Calvin Israel collection was purchased from George Robert Minkoff, Inc., in 1991. The Samuel Beckett - Robert Pinget letters were purchased from Gekoshi in 2001. The Samuel Beckett - Barney Rosset collection was purchased from George Robert Minkoff, Inc., in 1993 and 1996. The Judith Schmidt Douw collection of Samuel Beckett letters was purchased from Schmidt Douw in 2006. The Samuel Beckett - Judith Schmidt Douw collection was a gift from Schmidt Douw in 2006. The Alan Schneider - Samuel Beckett collection was purchased in 1994 from multiple sources. Other materials were a combination of gifts and purchases, 1991-2008.
For further research
Emory University maintains a register of the location of Samuel Beckett letters. This resource may help researchers locate additional original correspondence by Samuel Beckett held in publicly available archives. Beckett Location Register https://beckett.library.emory.edu/
In 2011 the various Beckett holdings at the John J. Burns Library were rehoused and the materials collectively described in this single finding aid. In most cases, the rehousing did not disrupt the previous arrangement.
The collections and materials brought together in this finding aid are those previously known as: --Calvin Israel – Samuel Beckett Collection --Robert Pinget – Samuel Beckett Collection --Barney Rosset – Samuel Beckett Collection --Judith Schmidt Douw Letters to Samuel Beckett --Judith Schmidt Douw Collection of Samuel Beckett Letters --Alan Schneider – Samuel Beckett Collection
Added to these collections, for the ease of description and access, were a few small pieces of Beckett-related material not connected to any larger Beckett collection.
- Beckett, Samuel, 1906-1989 (Person)
- Schneider, Alan, 1917-1984 (Person)
- McGovern, Robert F. (Person)
- Apfelbaum, Charles (Person)
- George Robert Minkoff, Inc. (Organization)
- Lowery, Robert G., 1941- (Person)
- Cohn, Ruby (Person)
- Glenn Horowitz Bookseller (Organization)
- Lee, Vera, 1923- (Person)
- Casey, William Van Etten, 1914- (Person)
- Donovan, Charles F. (Charles Francis), 1912- (Person)
- Swift, Viveca Jean (Person)
- Gekoski (Firm) (Organization)
- Douw, Judith Schmidt (Person)
- Samuel Beckett Collection
- George R. Fuir, SJ, 1991; Tina McCusker, 2000; Christopher Kamerbeek, 2002; Scott Peterson, 2006; Mark Roskoski; and Amy Braitsch, Elise Franklin, Sarah Hills, and Katie Lyle
- November 2011
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository
John J. Burns Library
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Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States