Sinclair Lewis letters

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sinclair Lewis

Intimate letters written by, Nobel Prize-winning author, Sinclair Lewis can be accessed by browsing by collection under St. Cloud State University Archives � Sinclair Lewis Letters to Marcella Powers.


The world now has a closer look into the personal life of Nobel Prize-winning author and Sauk Centre, Minn., native Sinclair Lewis through a newly published collection of 262 letters and one poem written between 1939 and 1947 to his most intimate friend at the time.

This is the first time this collection has been published and it is the first comprehensive collection of primary source text material of Sinclair Lewis available on the Web. This large body of Lewis’ private writings offers scholars, historians and others interested in Lewis new insight into the day-to-day life and creative processes of the world-famous writer and important figure in Minnesota’s history. February 7 marks the 125th anniversary of his birth.

The letters, owned by St. Cloud State University’s Archives and Special Collections, were digitized and published on the Web through the Minnesota Digital Library. They are available and fully searchable on the Minnesota Reflections Web site and can be accessed by browsing by collection under St. Cloud State University Archives – Sinclair Lewis Letters to Marcella Powers.

Lewis wrote the letters to his mistress, Marcella Powers, whom he met in Cape Cod during rehearsals of “Ah, Wilderness” in 1939, when Lewis was 54 and Powers 18. He wrote them between 1939 and 1947, detailing experiences ranging from his travels to his time at the University of Wisconsin, University of Minnesota and University of Minnesota-Duluth. He discussed the articles, short stories and novels he was writing, especially his novels “Cass Timberlane” (1945) and “Kingsblood Royal” (1947).

The collection provides glimpses into the author’s everyday life and insight into his emotions and dreams, including his wish to settle down with Powers on a small farm. Many of the letters address his longing and love for Powers. Their correspondence ended shortly after she married Michael Amrine in 1947.

St. Cloud State University purchased the letters in 1996 from Mary Branham, who inherited them as part of the estate of Marcella Powers. Powers died in 1985. By making the letters publicly available, the university is providing an important collection of primary source documents for Sinclair Lewis scholars worldwide. The letters serve as a valuable resource of information about Lewis as a person through his own words. They are viewable as text and as JPEG 2000 files in their original hand- or typewritten forms.

Lewis wrote more than 100 of the letters while in Minnesota cities including Albert Lea, Brainerd, Duluth, Excelsior, Grand Marais, Minneapolis and St. Paul. The others were written in places such as Madison, Wis., Los Angeles, New Orleans, Seattle and New York City.

The letters are being governed by copyright by the estate of Sinclair Lewis. People may read the letters online and may use them for educational purposes, but any other use will require permission from Lewis’ lawyers.

Sinclair Lewis was born in Sauk Centre, Minn., in 1885. He first made a major stir on the literary scene with his sixth novel, “Main Street,” published in 1920, and won the 1926 Pulitzer Prize for the novel “Arrowsmith” but turned it down. In 1930, he became the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. He died in Rome in 1951 and is buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Sauk Centre.

The St. Cloud State University Archives maintains the corporate memory of St. Cloud State by preserving and making available university records and publications of long-term value. Materials in the Archives document the university’s development and serve as a convenient source of reliable information about university programs, people, policies and property. The University Archives also makes available special collections such as the Minnesota Authors Manuscripts Collection and the Don Boros Theatre Collection.

The Minnesota Digital Library Coalition works with organizations across the state to help them digitize their photo, map, document and sound collections. Then the Minnesota Digital Library makes those digital copies freely available through Minnesota Reflections, a constantly growing collection of more than 40,000 digital objects.

Contact Marian Rengel, Minnesota Digital Library Coalition outreach coordinator, at (320) 308-5625, or Tom Steman, St. Cloud State University Archivist, at (320) 308-4753, for more information.

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