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Joyce Kilmer papers

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS83
The Joyce Kilmer Papers consists of three categories of material: correspondence, manuscripts, and printed material (which includes newsclippings, photographs, and music scores set to Joyce and Aline Kilmer's poems). The letters in this collection include those from Joyce Kilmer to Aline Kilmer (total, 44), to his young son Kenton (total, 4), and to friends such as Rev. James J. Daly, S.J. and to Rev. Charles O'Donnell, C.S.C. Other correspondence is that of Joyce Kilmer's mother, Annie Kilburn Kilmer to friends William L. Lanahan and Dorothy Tyrrel, as well as of Kilmer's father, Frederick Barnett Kilmer. In addition, some 50 folders contain correspondence from notable writers and poets to the Kilmers, including: Anna Hempstead Branch, John Bunker, Witter Bynner, Theodore Maynard, and Harold T. Pulsifer.

An interesting aspect of the collection is the original royalty statements from the publishers of poems by Joyce and Aline Kilmer. Autograph manuscripts, as well as typed carbons of poems by Joyce Kilmer include Holy Ireland, Try a Tin Today, lectures, and essays on other poets. Manuscripts by other authors include those of John Bunker, Rev. James Daly, S.J., and Rev. Charles O'Donnell, C.S.C. The xerox copies of theses (also included) by Sister M. Arthemise Dalton, O.P. and of Sister Roberta Marie Sherry, S.N.D. de N. both provide biographical information on Aline Kilmer. Additionally, the color facsimile of the diary of Col. William Donovan should also be noted, particularly for the transcription of Joyce Kilmer's poem, "The Peacemaker," copied into Colonel Donovan's book.

The collection is completed by newsclippings about Joyce Kilmer (primarily obituaries), as well as of Aline Kilmer and other members of the family. Black and white photographs of individuals include Fr. Daly, Fr. O'Donnell, Margaret Widdemer, and William Butler Yeats.

The Croix de Guerre medal presented to Kenton Kilmer on behalf of his father is included along with a photostat of the citation.

(See Synopsis for further details on arrangement of the collection.)

* * * * * * * *

Bulk Dates: 1917-1941 Span Dates: 1907-1980 Extent: 2 linear feet, 4 boxes + 1 oversized item (photostat citation for JK's Croix de Guerre).

Provenance: Gift of Kenton Kilmer, 1981, 1984 and 1989.


Series: 1. Correspondence I: Letters by Joyce Kilmer (Box 1, Folders 1 51) This is Part I of the Correspondence Series, containing correspondence from Joyce Kilmer to his wife Aline Kilmer, his son Kenton Kilmer, friends such as Rev. James J. Daly, S.J. and Rev. Charles L. O'Donnell, C.S.C.

Folders 1:1 1:44. Correspondence from Joyce Kilmer to Aline Kilmer. The date span of the letters is from 1907, before his marriage, through 1918, a few months before he was killed. Folders 1:45 1:48. Correspondence from Joyce Kilmer to Kenton Kilmer. Written from France during the former's military service in WWI, from October 1917 through July 1918. Folders 1:49 1:58. Other correspondence is to Rev. James J. Daly, S.J. as well as to Rev. Charles L. O'Donnell, C.S.C.

Series: 2. Correspondence II: Letters by the Kilmer Family (Box 1, Folders 59 72) This is Part II of the Correspondence Series. Included is correspondence by Joyce Kilmer's mother, Annie Kilburn Kilmer, as well as by his father Frederick Kilmer.

Series: 3. Correspondence III: Individual Correspondence (Box 2, Folders 1 50) This is Part III of the Correspondence Series and is comprised of alphabetically arranged correspondence from notable individuals who were friends or associates of the Kilmer family. Many of the correspondents are writers and poets of some renown.

Series: 4. Correspondence IV: Alphabetical Series (Box 2, Folders 51 54)

This is Part IV of the Correspondence Series and consists of miscellaneous correspondence to the Kilmer family, arranged alphabetically by correspondent.

Series: 5. Correspondence V: Publisher Files (Box 3, Folders 1 16)

This is Part V of the Correspondence Series. Included is correspondence from individuals requesting permission to set and publish music to poems by both JK and AK; correspondence from publishers of the Kilmer's poetry, such as the George H. Doran Company, Doubleday, Doran and Company, and G. Schirmer (publisher of the music scores of the poetry). In addition, this part includes royalty statements for both JK's and AK's poetry.

Series: 6. Manuscripts I: Joyce Kilmer (Box 3, Folders 17 26)

This is Part I of the Manuscripts Series which consists of manuscripts by Joyce Kilmer. Arrangement is alphabetical by title.

Series: 7. Manuscripts II: Works by Others (Box 3, Folders 27 32; Box 4, Folders 1 5)

This is Part II of the Manuscripts Series, and consists of manuscripts sent to the Kilmers by other writers and poets. Arranged alphabetically by author.

Series: 8. Printed Matter & Photographs (Box 4, Folders 6 19)

This series consists of copies of published music scores of JK's poems; and articles and newsclippings about JK and his family. Also included are photographs of such notable figures as Rev. James J. Daly, S.J., Rev. Charles L. O'Donnell, C.S.C., Margaret Widdemer, and William Butler Yeats. ABBREVIATIONS

ACS Autograph card signed

ALS Autograph letter signed

AMs Autograph manuscript

AMsS Autograph manuscript signed

b/w black and white (photograph)

MSS Manuscript(s)

n.d. no date

TL Typed letter

TLS Typed letter signed

TMs Typed manuscript

TMsS Typed manuscript signed

AK Aline Kilmer

AKK Annie Kilburn Kilmer

JK Joyce Kilmer

KK Kenton Kilmer


  • 1907-1980
  • Majority of material found within 1917-1941

Collection-level Access Restrictions

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.


1.88 Linear Feet (5 boxes)

Biographical notes

Alfred Joyce Kilmer was born on December 6, 1886, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was the son of Frederick Barnett Kilmer, a chemist with Johnson and Johnson pharmaceutical company, and of Annie Kilburn Kilmer, a poet. Joyce Kilmer attended Rutgers College (1904-1906) and was graduated with an A.B. from Columbia University, New York, in 1908. In June of that year, he married Aline Murray whom he met while they were attending Rutgers Preparatory School. Kilmer was editor of the school paper and collaborated with Miss Murray on literary projects. She was the daughter of Kenton Murray and Ada Foster who later married Henry C. Mills Alden, editor of Harpers Magazine. Mrs. Murray also wrote poetry and was published frequently by the New York Times. In 1907, Aline Murray was graduated from Vail-Dean School in Elizabeth, New Jersey, a year before her marriage to Joyce Kilmer, in 1908.

The year following his marriage, Joyce Kilmer taught high school Latin in Morristown, New Jersey. He and his wife then moved to New York City, where, after a round of random employment, he joined the staff of the Standard Dictionary (1909-1912). During this period, he also did considerable occasional writing for magazines. After a year as literary editor of the Churchman, a publication of the Episcopal Church of which he was a member at the time, Kilmer was hired by the New York Times Sunday Magazine Section and Review of Books (1913). During the fall of that year, Joyce and Aline Kilmer converted to Roman Catholicism.

Besides his work for the Times, Joyce Kilmer wrote for the Literary Digest and Current Literature; he wrote prefaces to books including Hilaire Belloc's Verses (1916) and Thomas Hardy's Mayor of Casterbridge (1917); and lectured extensively on contemporary literary matters. Kilmer's major book publications include:

Summer of Love (The Baker & Taylor Company, N.Y., 1911) Trees and Other Poems (George H. Doran Company, N.Y., 1914) The Circus and Other Essays (L.J. Gomme, 1916) Main Street and Other Poems (George H. Doran Company, N.Y., 1917) Literature in the Making (a series of interviews with literary personages) (Harper & Bros., 1917) Dreams and Images (Boni and Liveright, N.Y., 1917; later published as Joyce Kilmer's Anthology of Catholic Poets, 1939)

For a full listing of publications by Joyce Kilmer, see the National Union Catalog Pre-1956 Imprints, pp. 27-29.

When the United States joined the First World War, Joyce Kilmer enlisted. He had originally joined the Officers' Reserve Training Corps, but resigned to enlist in the 7th Regiment, National Guard, New York. In July 1917, the 7th Regiment was mustered into Federal service. At this time, Kilmer transferred to the 165th Regiment (originally known as the "Fighting 69th") of the 42nd ("Rainbow") Division, which he accompanied to France (October 1917) as senior statistician. With him was Father Francis P. Duffy who served as regimental chaplain and with whom Kilmer became close friends during their time abroad.

For a time, Kilmer worked in the adjutant's office, but in April 1918, he requested a transfer to the Regimental Intelligence Section. Many of his letters to Aline Kilmer describe his time in this section, working in dugouts, camping in various locations of the French countryside, of which Rouge Bouquet is memorialized in his poem of the same name. On July 30, 1918, during the American advance through the Soissons-Marne-Rheims salient, the first battalion of the 165th Regiment attacked a village held by the Germans in the hills above the Ourcq river, near Seringes. Kilmer was sent ahead of the battalion with the Intelligence Section. He was later found in the woods, shot through the head by an enemy bullet. He had originally volunteered to assist Col. W.J. Donovan as a replacement for Lieut. Oliver Ames, who had just been killed.

Kilmer's bravery was honored by burial near the place where he fell. He was reburied with fellow officers at the American Military Cemetery of Fere en Tardenois. Later, the French government was to present the Croix de Guerre in Kilmer's honor to his mother Annie Kilburn Kilmer, his widow Aline Kilmer, and to his son Kenton Kilmer (December 21, 1918). Joyce Kilmer had entered the 165th Regiment as a private and had been promoted from corporal to sergeant.

Joyce and Aline Kilmer had five children: Kenton, Rose (who died at age four), Deborah (aka. Sister Michael, O.S.B.), Michael (who died in 1927), and Christopher (aka. Kipper). After Kilmer's death, the family remained in Larchmont, New York where they had moved in 1917 while the former went through military training in Plattburgh and Camp Mills, Mineola, Long Island, prior to his departure for France. Eventually, Aline Kilmer was to move the family back to New Jersey. They resided at Englewood Cliffs during the period approximately from 1926 to 1929. After that, Aline Kilmer was to retire at last to Stillwater. She survived her husband twenty-three years.

A poet in her own right, Aline Kilmer published several volumes of verse, as well as of prose:

Candles that Burn (George H. Doran Company c.1919) Vigils (George H. Doran Company, c. 1921) Hunting a Hair Shirt and Other Spiritual Adventures (George H. Doran, c.1923) The Poor King's Daughter and Other Poems (George H. Doran Company, c.1925) Emma, Nicky and Greg (George H. Doran Company, c.1927) Selected Poems (Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1929) A Buttonwood Summer (Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1929, 1930)

Aline Kilmer died on October 1, 1941, at her home in Stillwater.

Kenton Kilmer currently resides in Vienna, Virginia with his wife, poet Frances Frieseke. They are the parents of ten children. Mr. Kilmer attended Georgetown University from 1930 to 1931, although he obtained his A.B. from St. Mary's College in Kansas. He would later acquire his Master's degree from Georgetown University in 1931. Two of Mr. Kilmer's sons are also Georgetown University alumni, Nicholas J. Kilmer, A.B. 1962, and Hugh Kilmer, a former student of the Graduate School.

A number of biographical works are available on Joyce Kilmer. Of the most notable are those by his mother, Annie Kilburn Kilmer and by Robert Cortes Holliday, editor of the Bookman magazine, family friend and Joyce Kilmer's literary executor.

Memories of My Son, Sergeant Joyce Kilmer, by Annie Kilmer (Brentano's Publishers, N.Y., 1920) Joyce Kilmer: Poems, Essays and Letters, by R.C. Holliday (Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1918, 1940)


Gift of Kenton Kilmer, March 1980; Gift of Miriam A. Kilmer, Decmber 2004 (GTM 041212).
Joyce Kilmer papers
Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections
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Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository