M. Clark Chambers Kay Boyle collection

Biographical and Historical Notes

M. Clark Chambers

M. Clark Chambers received a BA in German literature from the University of Oklahoma and was an avid collector and sometimes dealer in modern first editions. He spent 15 years researching and compiling the bibliography of Kay Boyle that forms the core of this collection. He researched in libraries from Berkeley and Palo Alto to the Library of Congress. He lived in Dallas, Texas and died on October 16, 2009.

Kay Boyle

Born on February 19, 1902, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Kay Boyle has been known for her work and achievements as a poet, short story writer, novelist, journalist, teacher, and political activist. One of the most prominent American expatriates during the 1920s and 1930s, much of Kay Boyle’s work reflects the influences of that literary circle.

Kay Boyle’s first contribution to a national publication was a letter to the editor, published in Harriet Monroe’s Poetry: A Magazine of Verse in 1921. By 1922, with the support and encouragement of her mother, Boyle moved to New York City and began working for the fashion writer Margery Welles. Later that year she began working for Lola Ridge, the American editor of Broom, an art and literary magazine published by Harold Loeb in Rome and later in Berlin. While working in New York, Boyle had contact with many literary persons and developed her writing. In January of 1923, her poem, “Morning,” was published in Broom.

In 1922 Kay Boyle married a French exchange student, Richard Brault. A 1923 visit to meet Brault’s family in Brittany, France, turned what was to have been a brief visit into a twenty-year stay in Europe. During her years in France, Boyle was associated with several innovative literary magazines and became acquainted with many of the literary figures writing for them. Her writing appeared in issues of This Quarter, edited by Ernest Walsh, and transition, edited by Eugene Jolas. Through these editors and others she associated with such writers as James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, Robert McAlmon, Emanuel Carnevali, and Harry and Caresse Crosby. It was the Crosbys’ Black Sun Press that published Kay Boyle’s first book of fiction, Short Stories, in 1929. Crosby also published her translation of the first chapter of Rene Crevel’s Babylone as Mr. Knife and Miss Fork in 1931.

In respect for her friendship with Emanuel Carnevali, Kay Boyle made a commitment to see to the posthumous publication of his autobiography. Her promise was realized in 1967, when The Autobiography of Emanuel Carnevali was published. She compiled it from bits and pieces of writing Carnevali had sent through the ten years of their friendship.

Robert McAlmon was Boyle’s lifelong friend. Being Geniuses Together, 1920-1930, McAlmon’s memoirs, was revised by Kay Boyle in 1968, with several supplementary chapters that chronicle her own experiences during the 1920s and 1930s.

By the summer of 1928, Kay Boyle had met Laurence Vail, who was then Peggy Guggenheim’s husband. They were married in 1932. In addition to three children of their own, Boyle also cared for Vail’s two children from his marriage with Peggy Guggenheim, and her own daughter by Ernest Walsh, Sharon. Many of Boyle’s experiences during the 1920s found expression in her novels, Plagued by the Nightingale (1931), Year Before Last (1932), Gentlemen, I Address You Privately (1933), and My Next Bride (1934).

In 1934 Boyle compiled an anthology which was to have been titled “Short Stories 1934.” The original idea for the anthology to gather 365 single-page stories to represent the year 1934 in fictional accounts. The anthology was eventually published in 1936 as 365 Days and included 97 stories by Boyle. Other contributors to the anthology included Nancy Cunard, Charles Henri Ford, Langston Hughes, James Laughlin, Robert McAlmon, Henry Miller, William Saroyan (who originally submitted 365 stories), Parker Tyler, and Emanuel Carnevali.

The White Horses of Vienna and Other Stories, also published in 1936, was a significant collection of Boyle’s short stories. The title story won the O. Henry Short Story Award for 1935. She continued to write short stories throughout her life, including a late collection, Life Being the Best and Other Stories (1988).

In her later years Kay Boyle was recognized for her political activism. Fostered by her mother in the belief that privilege demanded social responsibility, she championed integration, civil rights, the ban of nuclear weapons, and America’s withdrawal from Vietnam.

Kay Boyle died December 27, 1992, at the Redwoods, a retirement community in Mill Valley, California.

Sources

Maritine, James J. (ed.) American Novelists, 1910-1945. Part I. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 9. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1981. Pages 83-92.

Quartermain, Peter (ed.) American Poets, 1880-1945. Second Series. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 48. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1986. Pages 45-51.

Rood, Karen Lane (ed.) American Writers in Paris, 1920-1939. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 4. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1980. Pages 46-56.

Scope and Contents

The M. Clark Chambers Kay Boyle collection consists of materials collected by Chambers during the fifteen year process of compiling and researching his bibliography of her work. It consists of books and periodicals containing works by Boyle, reviews of her work, interviews, and other material. A great deal of the material is in the form of photocopies. There is also a small group material pertaining to the research and composition of the bibliography as well as a small group original Boyle work and Boyle related ephemera.

The collection is divided into six series. The largest portion of the collection is series one, Materials appearing in the bibliography. This series includes a number of original periodicals the earliest which dates to the 1920’s. The majority of the material, however, consists of photocopies of the material. The series is divided into subseries organized to follow the order established by Chambers in his bibliography. Subseries A, Contributions and first appearances in books and pamphlets, consists of a single item and corresponds to the B items in Chambers’ bibliography. Subseries B, Contributions to periodicals, consists of original issues and photocopied articles of Boyle’s numerous periodical publications. It corresponds to the C items in the bibliography. Subseries C, Articles about or reviews of Boyle appearing in periodicals, consists of photocopies and original issues. It corresponds to the J items of the bibliography. Subseries D, Audio and video recordings, consists of a small group of audio and video tapes of Boyle being interviewed and/or reading her work. These correspond to the L items of the bibliography.

Series II, Materials not appearing in the bibliography, contains a small number of items that were part of the collection but which do not appear in the bibliography. Of particular interest are four open audio reels containing what appear to be recordings of a conference on Boyle dating from the late 1980’s.

Series III, Drafts of bibliography, consists of a number of drafts of the bibliography, many containing autograph revisions, as well as undated drafts of a number of entries.

Series IV, Research materials, consists of a small group of materials that appear to have been gathered and used by Chambers in the compilation of the bibliography. It consists of correspondence, mostly requests to libraries and publications for copies of articles, color photocopies of the dust jackets for a number of Boyle's works, a photograph of Boyle that was used as the frontispiece for the bibliography, and a group of undated research notes.

Series V, Kay Boyle materials, contains material by Boyle that collected Chambers that came with the collection. It consists of two subseries. The first, Subseries A, Original Boyle materials, consists of a number of original Kay Boyle works. Several items are particular interest. One is a typewritten statement by Boyle, dated 1970, concerning the events around the dismissal of Baron Joseph von Franckenstein, her partner and husband from 1939 until death in 1962, from a post-war position with the State Department as a consequence of a McCarthy loyalty hearing. Boyle was blacklisted as a consequence as her own loyalty was questioned as well. There are also a number of drafts for a poem titled "Earthquake" that appear to completely document its creative development from initial idea to finished broadside. The subseries includes a copy of the broad side. There are also two newsletters, April and November of 1990, from the Redwoods retirement community where Boyle lived in her last years that contain what may be her final published poems. Subseries B, Boyle related ephemera, consists of material such as a program for a play that Boyle's daughter, Katy Vail, appeared in, a program from Boyle's memorial, copies of papers given at MLA sessions on Boyle, and other similar material.

The final series, VI, Material unrelated to Boyle, consists of various material included with the collection not touching on Boyle or the bibliography. The largest part of the series is a number of issues of the British journal Kingdom Come. Boyle's appearances in the first few issues of the journal are included in the series I.