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John Gilland Brunini Papers

Identifier: GTM-821027

Scope and Contents

The Brunini Papers offer an interesting, inclusive day-by-day account of the life activities of a Catholic writer during a sixty-year period (1915 to 1977). His literary aspirations, his manuscript rejections, and his everyday activities (i.e., '"when writing you work yourself up emotionally") are covered in-depth in the Correspondence section of the papers (Boxes 1, 2, 3, 4, 11, and 12). Brunini's letters also present an interesting sidelight into local New York sights and scenes during this period, i.e. Cosmos & Lotos Club activities (1939 & July 23, 1943 letters respectively); various reactions to contemporary "talkies" and plays (Cohan's "Gambling" Sep 5, 1929 & K. Hepburn's "Philadelphia Story" June 25, 1939); and "bootlegging" activities. Political and economic events are discussed as well (Hoover, public opinion, & "Upward trend" Oct. 10, 1931 letter). Noteworthy parts of the correspondence deal with American Catholicism (pre-Vatican II) on this everyday level.

The attitudes and practices of America's Catholics, through the life of John G. Brunini, are fully explored in the correspondence. The changes of Vatican II are discussed in the correspondence between J.G. Brunini and his brother, Bishop J.B. Brunini. Brunini mentions many notable Catholic authors in his correspondence: Sigrid Undset (Aug. 25, 1936 letter), Willa Cather (Oct. 12, 1940 letter), Theodore Maynard (April 11, 1935), and William Thomas Walsh (May 21, 1935 letter. Fr. Talbot called his work, Out of the Whirlwind, the "greatest American Catholic novel"). Catholic publications such as Commonweal and America are also mentioned (New York attitude towards Commonweal, Oct. 26, 1929 letter and "a bone to pick with Fr. Parsons" of America, Sep. 1, 1931). Of interest is the August 28, 1946 letter mentioning the late Haile Selassie's request of the Jesuit Superior General to send Jesuits over to teach English, and only teach English. Non-Catholic writers are also mentioned: William Faulkner's activities in Mississippi (Edmund Brunini to JGB, "Sunday"), Harris Dickson & his portrayal of blacks in Scarlet Sister Mary (August 11, 1929), Robert Benchley incident (Sep. 7, 1929), and Margaret Mitchell (July 24, 1936), just to name a few. The above mentioned people and events are a few highlights of the contents of this collection, a collection which offers in-depth glimpses into the life of a Catholic writer from 1915 to 1977.

The bulk of the Brunini Papers consist of correspondence from J.G. Brunini to his mother covering the period from 1915 to 1947. The letters to his parents between 1915 to 1919 when J.G. Brunini attended Georgetown College form one of the more interesting parts of the correspondence. The remaining correspondence consists of letters from J.G. Brunini to his family and their letters. Found among this group is some correspondence from Bishop Joseph B. Brunini of the Natchez-Jacksonville See in Mississippi and Dr. John J. Meng, former president of Hunter College. Miscellaneous correspondence contain some letters from prominent individuals. The correspondence section covers Boxes 1, 2, 3, 4, 11, and 12.

Manuscripts of John G. Brunini's literary endeavors (i.e. books, poetry, articles) form the second section of The Brunini Papers. Included within this section are manuscript versions of his best known work, Whereon to Stand. This series also contains John Gilland Brunini's autobiography. Boxes 4, 5, 6, 9 ,and 10 comprise this section.

The Subject Section contains noteworthy materials on the Temple of Religion (regarding religious participation at the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair) of which Brunini was an active participant and the Lotos Club (social club for literary lights in New York) of which J.G. Brunini was a member. Photographs of some of the Lotos Club dinners are also contained in this section. Box 7 contains the subject section.

List of the contents of Box 8 (Oversize) can be found on the last page of the Finding Aid.


  • 1915 - 1977


Conditions Governing Access

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.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of the materials being used, establishing who the copyright owner is, locating the copyright owner, and obtaining permission for intended use.

Biographical Note

John Gilland Brunini, editor and poet, was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi on 1 October 1899, the son of John B. and Blanche E. (Stein) Brunini. Brunini attended St. Aloysius College, Vicksburg, and then went on to Georgetown College, Washington, D.C. He received his A.B. degree in 1919 and in 1939 received an honorary degree from Georgetown. Brunini filled various editorship positions throughout his career. He was editor of Spirit: A Magazine of Verse, he served on the Editorial Staff of Commonweal from 1928-1931, and he was contributing editor of Commonweal from 1938 to the mid-1950s. Brunini was also executive secretary of the Catholic Poetry Society of America. Brunini was engaged as a roving reporter for various New York journals from 1924-1928, frequenting the criminal courts beat during his tenure as reporter. Besides his very active literary career as writer and editor, Brunini was involved with the Temple of Religion project as its executive director, secretary of the board and director of Religious Participation of the New York World's Fair during the years 1937 to 1941. He was a member of the Civil Defense Volunteer Office, Mahattan Neighborhood Defense Council for one year, 1942 - 1943. From 1945 to the mid-1950s, he was executive director of the Park Association of New York City. He is best known for The Mysteries of the Rosary (1932) and Whereon to Stand (1946). He was an active member of the Lotos Club of New York City. John Gilland Brunini died on May 5, 1977. For additional biographical information on J.G. Brunini, see The NY Times May 12 1977, Section II, p. 10 col. 6.


12.95 Linear Feet (12 boxes)

Language of Materials


Metadata Rights Declarations


The collection is arranged in four series: correspondence, manuscripts, subjects, and oversized materials.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of John J. Meng, 1982. Additional material (correspondence regarding "Whereon to Stand") transferred from Catholic Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi in 1995.

Processing Information

The documents have been placed into archival boxes and folders.

John Gilland Brunini Papers
Anna T. Zacharija, Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections, Washington, DC.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Revision Statements

  • 2022: Addenda added by Scott S. Taylor

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057