New Finding Aid | George Wickes modern literature research collection

Special Collections and University Archives is pleased to announce a new finding aid published for the George Wickes modern literature research collection (Coll 485). The finding aid is available on Archives West.

George Wickes taught at the University of Oregon for almost fifty years, during which time he wrote several books about and with Henry Miller, Americans in Paris, and a biography of Natalie Barney. This collection holds all materials pertaining to his work on those individuals.

[George Wickes modern Literature research collection , Coll 485 , Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon]

About George Wickes

Born January 6, 1923, in Antwerp, Belgium, Professor George Wickes, due to his mother’s heritage, spoke French as a first language. He served with the United States Army and later with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which later evolved to become the CIA, acting as a spy in Vietnam after World War II, at one time having a bounty on his head. His time in the army lasted from 1943 to 1946, after which he attended college on the GI Bill, graduating from the University of Toronto in Canada in 1944, followed by his Masters in Arts at Columbia University in 1949, and his Ph.D. in Philosophy in 1954 from University of California, Berkeley. He began his illustrious teaching career at Duke University for three years, followed by a move to Claremont, California to become one of the founding faculty members of Harvey Mudd College, at where he remained for twelve years. Professor Wickes was awarded a one-year appointment at the University of Oregon beginning in 1970, and remained in that post for almost fifty years, despite his initial retirement in 1993, he remained teaching until 2015. He is 95 years of age at present and still living, with his wife a professor, Louise Westling, in Eugene, Oregon.

George Wickes was a friend of Henry Miller’s, writing a book about him (Henry Miller: Down and Out in Paris, 1974), and edited several volumes of correspondence between Henry Miller and other individuals.  Another notable individual, about whom George knew, communicated with, and wrote, was Natalie Clifford Barney, the subject of George’s book, The Amazon of Letters: The Life and Loves of Natalie Barney, 1976.

Henry Miller, born December 26, 1891, was a prolific writer, the author of such notable texts such as Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, Quiet Days in Clichy, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch, and many more. Many knew Miller for his surrealist style, with an unapologetic crudeness at times, beauty in simplicity at others. Miller was also a painter of watercolors, enjoyed this escape from his writing, especially during his final years in Big Sur, California. He died June 7, 1980.

Natalie Clifford Barney, born October 31, 1876, is best known for holding her literary salon for over 60 years, located at 20 rue de Jacob, in Paris. Natalie was born in Dayton, Ohio, but relocated permanently to Paris. Natalie Clifford Barney was a notable writer and lesbian, well known for her many love affairs, including that of with Dolly Wilde (niece of Oscar), Romaine Brooks, Renee Vincent and many others. She wrote several books in French, and only one in English language, though she spoke both languages fluently. George Wickes obtained her blessing for his manuscript prior to her passing February 2, 1972.

Content of the collection

Henry Miller series includes:

  • Published texts written or inscribed by Henry Miller, other volumes by individuals who knew Henry Miller well, and had written books about him.
  • Correspondence and draft manuscripts by/to Henry Miller, or correspondence about Henry Miller by Brassaï and Anaïs Nin to George Wickes/Henry Miller.
  • Postcards, newspaper clippings, audiotape materials, microfilm, self-portraits, Walter Lowenfels interviews about Henry Miller.
  • Large number of documents/drafts and research materials relating to the following manuscripts: Americans in Paris, Letters to Emil, Lawrence Durrell & Henry Miller: A Private Correspondence, and Henry Miller and James Laughlin: Selected Letters.

Natalie Barney series includes:

  • Correspondence to and from Natalie Barney, photographs of Natalie Barney and compatriots, and many publications annotated by George Wickes about Natalie Barney, written by herself, people of that era or fellow researchers.
  • Notes and interviews with various individuals who knew or lived in period of Natalie Barney, who spoke with George Wickes prior to publication of Amazon of Letters.
  • Photocopies of relevant books, book reviews, clippings, notes, academic correspondence, permissions correspondence, dust jackets, petition for historic site, translations and transcriptions, and more.

George Wickes’ personal papers includes:

  • Correspondence with publishers, friends from the era such as Aldous Huxley, Ursula K. LeGuin, Kay Boyle, other letters relating to projects such as Paris Review, Frederic Mistral and others.
  • George Wickes’ personal CV, resume and profile, newsletters he featured in, manuscript illustrations, Aldous Huxley papers, Paul Bowles oral history.

Notes from processing the collection

There were many notable discoveries, such as a photograph of Ernest Hemingway with Sylvia Beach, as well as one of Ernest Hemingway inside the famous bookshop, Shakespeare and Company in Paris. Another was a photograph of the drawing inside Sylvia Beach’s copy of The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was truly remarkable how many monumental individuals George Wickes corresponded with over the years, some that stunned me were personal letters from Ursula K. LeGuin, T.S. Eliot’s wife, Thornton Wilder, Eudora Welty, and many more. One item that many may find fascinating is an audio recording of George Wickes’ interview with Janet Flanner.

Some of the Natalie Barney material was undated, so estimating an approximate date range was a challenge at times. I quite enjoyed restructuring the collection, organizing it in a clear, concise manner.

–Danica Alexander, Processing Archivist

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