Merrill, James, 1926-1995

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1926-03-03
Death 1995-02-06
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

James Merrill was an American poet, playwright, novelist, and short-story writer.

From the description of James Merrill collection of papers, 1965-1994. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122626315

From the guide to the James Merrill collection of papers, 1965-1994, (The New York Public Library. Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature.)

James Ingram Merrill was born in New York City on March 3, 1926, and grew up in Manhattan and Southampton. He received his B.A. from Amherst College in 1947. His books of poetry include: First Poems (1951); Nights and Days (1966), which won the National Book Award in Poetry; Braving the Elements (1972), for which he won the Bollingen Prize; Divine Comedies (1976), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize; Mirabell (1978), which won the National Book Award in Poetry; and The Inner Room (1988), for which he won the first Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry awarded by the Library of Congress. His other published works include essays, novels, plays, and a memoir, A Different Person (1993). Merrill died of a heart attack on February 6, 1995.

From the guide to the James Merrill papers, 1944-2010, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

James Ingram Merrill (1926-1995), American author and poet, was born in New York City on March 3, 1926 to Charles Merrill and Hellen Ingram Merrill. Merrill attended Amherst College, graduating in 1947 after serving briefly in the United States Army during World War II. Following graduation, Merrill taught at Bard College for a year before turning to writing and publishing. His 1966 collection of poems, NIGHTS AND DAYS, won the National Book Award. He earned numerous awards for his poetry, including the Bollingen Prize for BRAVING THE ELEMENTS (1972), the Pulitzer Prize for DIVINE COMEDIES (1976), and a second National Book Award for MIRABELL (1978). Merrill died of AIDS on February 6, 1995.

From the description of James Ingram Merrill collection, 1923-2000. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 85016122

James Ingram Merrill (1926-1995) was an American poet.

From the description of James Ingram Merrill papers, 1944-2009. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702158761

American poet; b. 1926.

From the description of Papers, 1942-1990. (Washington University in St. Louis). WorldCat record id: 26089983

James Ingram Merrill was born on March 3, 1926, son of Hellen Ingram Merrill (later Plummer) and Charles E. Merrill (AC 1908). Merrill prepared for college at Lawrenceville School and entered Amherst with the Class of 1947 in the summer of 1943. Merrill interrupted his studies between May, 1944 and February, 1945 when he served in the Army Enlisted Reserves. He returned to graduate in June, 1947. Merrill was on good terms with the College throughout his life, returning to teach, serve as a fellow, give readings, and participate in a variety of College events. A detailed chronology of the poet's association with Amherst and a comprehensive list of Merrill's Amherst College undergraduate courses follow:

  • 1943 Summer term: Matriculated; lived in Psi Upsilon House, room 6 (through May 1944)
  • 1943 July 2: Listed in the "Class of 1947 Directory" published in The Gazette of Amherst College
  • 1943 - 1944 : Listed in the Amherst College Catalogue under the "Class of 1947" for the summer (July 1-Oct 13, 1943) and fall (Oct 21-Feb 9, 1944) terms
  • 1943 Oct - 1944 Feb : Roomed in Psi Upsilon House, room 6
  • 1943 Oct 1 - 2 : Played the butler, Johann Dwornitschek, in a production of Molnar's The Play's the Thing
  • 1943 Oct 29: Listed in the "College Directory - Winter Term" published in The Gazette of Amherst College
  • 1943 Nov: Author of "Campus Comment" in Amherst Graduates' Quarterly
  • 1944 Feb - 1944 May : Roomed in Psi Upsilon House, room 6
  • 1944 Feb: Author of "Undergraduate Comment" in Amherst Graduates' Quarterly
  • 1944: Appears in the freshman group photograph in The Olio
  • 1944 - 1945 : Listed in the Amherst College Catalogue under the "Class of 1947" for the spring (Feb 17-May 31, 1944) term
  • 1944 May 27: Entered the Army Enlisted Reserve
  • 1945 Jan 24: Discharged from the Army 1945-1946 Listed in the Amherst College Catalogue under the "Class of 1947" for the spring (Feb 15-May 29, 1945), summer (Jun 28-Sep 19, 1945), and fall (Sep 27-Feb 2, 1946) terms
  • 1945 Feb 15: Re-enrolled at Amherst College
  • 1945 Feb - 1945 May : Roomed in Chi Psi Lodge (to Feb 1946
  • 1945 Feb 20: Listed in the "Amherst College Directory" published in The Jeff
  • 1945 June 30: Listed in the "Amherst College Directory" for summer term published in The Jeff
  • 1945 Summer term: Roomed in Chi Psi Lodge
  • 1945 Sep 28: Listed in the "Amherst College Directory" for fall term published in The Jeff
  • 1945 Oct - 1946 : Feb Roomed in Chi Psi Lodge
  • 1945 Oct 20: Mentioned in an article in The Jeff about the Orphee production ("Kirby Theatre Guild Presentation For Fall To Be Two One Act Plays")
  • 1945 Nov 30: Mentioned in an article in The Jeff about the Orphee production ("My Heart's In The Highlands And Orphee To Open At Kirby Theatre")
  • 1945 Dec 6 - 8 : Played the title role in a production of Cocteau's Orphee
  • 1945 Dec 7: Mentioned in an article in The Jeff about the Orphee production ("Casts of Kirby Theatre Plays Demonstrated Great Skill and Poise")
  • 1945 Dec 14: Appears in the Theatre Guild photograph ("Brains Behind Guild") and the Orphee photograph ("Orphee's Best Friend") in The Jeff
  • 1946 - 1947 : Listed in the Amherst College Catalogue under the "Class of 1947" for the spring (Feb 4-Jun 11, 1946) and fall (Sep 25-Feb 1, 1947) terms
  • 1946 Spring term : Roomed at 24 Tyler Place [Crosby's?] (at least to Feb 1947)
  • 1946 Feb 8: Article in The Jeff about Merrill's election as President of The Medusa ("Whicher to Read Own Works At Medusa"); Merrill also listed in "Extra-curricular Activities"
  • 1946 May 17: Article in The Jeff about the receiving the Irene Glascock memorial poetry prize from Mount Holyoke College ("Amherst Bard Wins Holyoke Poet Prize")
  • 1946 May 28: Mentioned in article in The Jeff about The Masquers ("Reorganization, Election Of Officers Features Return Of The Masquers")
  • 1946: Listed as an Olio contributor in The 1946 Olio (with red paper covers), p. 35, which was produced in May of 1945 (the Class of 1946 graduated in May 1945 because the College accelerated the program due to the war)
  • 1946 Jun: Appears in Kirby Theatre Guild and The Medusa photographs in The Olio (white hardcover), pp. 60-61, p. 65
  • 1946-1947 Fall term: Roomed at 24 Tyler Place [Crosby's?]
  • 1946 Fall: Edited The Medusa with William Burford (AC 1949). The journal contained four Merrill poems: "The Broken Bowl," "From Morning into Morning," "Medusa," "The Black Swan"
  • 1946 Dec 10: Election to Phi Beta Kappa noted in an article in The Amherst Student ("Sedelow Chosen Phi Beta Kappa Head; New Members Selected")
  • 1947 May 14: Mentioned in an article in The Amherst Student about the Masquers productions ("Petrified Forest; Sherwood Drama To Be Followed by One-Act Plays")
  • 1947 May 22 - 23 : Production of The Birthday, a play in blank verse by Merrill, at Kirby Theater
  • 1947 May 28: Received the Collin Armstrong (AC 1877) Poetry Prize
  • 1947 May 28: Mentioned in an article in The Amherst Student about workshop dramas ("Second Series Of Workshop Dramas Presented In Kirby")
  • 1947: In The Olio: senior photograph, p. 42; Phi Beta Kappa photograph, p. 75; The Masquers photograph, p. [80]; list of activities, p. 132
  • 1947 Jun 15: Awarded a B.A. degree summa cum laude, English major, at the 127th Commencement. (The degree was voted by the Trustees, on May 3, 1947) Senior honors thesis: "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu :Impressionism in Literature"
  • 1947 - 1948 : Listed in the Amherst College Catalogue in the "Honors" section for membership in the Phi Beta Kappa Society and as the 1947 recipient of the Collin Armstrong Poetry Prize for Eight Poems, "the best original poems in a group." Also listed under "Degrees Conferred June 15, 1947"
  • 1950: Twenty-One Lyrics, a production of G. F. Whicher's Humanities 1- 2 course, includes Merrill's poem "The Broken Bowl"
  • 1951 May: Review in Amherst Alumni News ("Amherst Authors" section, "1942 and 1947") of Merrill's book First Poems
  • 1951: Ten Student Poems: A Selection of Poetry Composed by Students in English 23-24, Advanced Composition, at Amherst College, 1946-1951 (Merrill's poem "The Forms of Death: I, II, III, IV")
  • 1955 Feb 10: Article in The Amherst Student about Merrill's comedy The Immortal Husband ("Comedy By Merrill '47 Opens Soon In New York")
  • 1955 - 1956 : Visiting Assistant Professor of English. Taught English 21 and 22, Introduction to Literature, and English 23 and 24, Advanced Composition Merrill lived on Market Hill Road (at Professor Walker Gibson's house while Gibson was away on leave), his campus office was in Grosvenor 26
  • 1956 Jan: Review in Amherst Alumni News of The Misanthrope by Molière,translated by Richard Wilbur '42
  • 1956 May 24: Mentioned in an article in The Amherst Student about faculty who were leaving: Merrill was to travel the world ("Twenty-Seven Of Faculty To Leave Amherst In Next Year")
  • 1956: Faculty photograph in The Olio, p. 25
  • 1957 April: Review in Amherst Alumni News ("Amherst Authors" section, "1947") of Merrill's book The Seraglio
  • 1963 Jan 7: Announcement in The Amherst Student ("Poetry Here Tuesday Merrill '47 To Read") for January 8 poetry reading
  • 1963 Jan 8: Poetry reading in Johnson Chapel
  • 1963 Jan 10: Article in The Amherst Student ("James Merrill At Amherst") about his January 8 poetry reading
  • 1968 Jun 7: Received an Honorary Litt.D. degree at the 147th Commencement
  • 1972 Fall: Announcement in Amherst ("Amherst Authors" section, "1947") of Merrill's book Braving the Elements
  • 1973 Winter: Article in Amherst ("James Merrill '47 Wins Bollingen Prize") about winning the prize, for Braving the Elements
  • 1973 Dec 10: Poetry reading in Johnson Chapel
  • 1977 Spring: Announcement in Amherst ("Amherst Authors" section, "Merrill Wins Pulitzer") about winning the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, for Divine Comedies
  • 1980 May 24: Class Day speaker for Senior Week and Commencement
  • 1980 Summer: Article in Amherst ("The man in manifesto") about his Class Day appearance
  • 1982 Jun: Sent news and photograph for the Classes of 1947 and 1948's 35th Reunion Book
  • 1983 Spring: Article in Amherst ("Amherst Authors" section, "A host true to his word") about Merrill's books From the First Nine: Poems 1946- 1976 and Changing Light at Sandover
  • 1983 Apr 25 - 29 : Merrill is the sixth Robert Frost Library Fellow poetry reading on April 25 dinner and poetry reading on April 29 Friends of the Amherst College Library keepsake publication: the poem Think Tank
  • 1983: Article in Newsletter of the Friends of the Amherst College Library about Merrill's Robert Frost Library Fellowship
  • 1988 Jun 4: Poetry reading during Reunion Week (Classes of 1947 and 1948 combined 40th Reunion)
  • 1988 Fall: Article in Amherst ("The Senior Song") about Merrill's poetry reading at Reunion
  • 1990 Winter: Article in Amherst ("National poetry prize is awarded to Merrill") about the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, from the Library of Congress, for The Inner Room
  • 1993 Oct 22: Book signing of Merrill's memoir, A Different Person, at the Jeffery Amherst Bookshop during Homecoming Weekend
  • 1994 Winter: Article in Amherst ("Amherst Authors" section, "Learning how to live") about Merrill's book A Different Person: A Memoir
  • 1995 Feb 6: Merrill's death
  • 1995 Spring: Article in Amherst ("A Parnassian is gone") about Merrill's death; obituary in the "Notes" section
  • 1997 May - 1997 Jun : Obituary reprinted in the Classes of 1947 and 1948's 50th Reunion Book
  • 2001 April 12: "A celebration of poet James Merrill: with readings of his work and remembrances by local poets," in Johnson Chapel, with related exhibition in the Archives and Special Collections, Robert Frost Library
  • 2001 Summer: Article in Amherst ("Amherst Authors" section, "Literary event of the year") about the posthumously published Collected Poems
  • 1943 Jul 1-Oct 13 (Summer; Term 1): English 41 (The Renaissance) with George Roy Elliott History 1 (Introduction to the History of Contemporary Civilization) with Allen Austin Gilmore German 1 (Elementary Course) with Manford Vaughn Kern Greek 4 (Homer) with Francis Howard Fobes Math 1 (Trigonometry and Analytic Geometry) with Nels David Nelson/William Jesse Newlin
  • 1943 Oct 21 - 1944 Feb 9 (1943 : English 42 (The Renaissance) with George Roy Elliott History 2 (Europe From 1848 to the Present, With Emphasis on World War I and the Subsequent Period) with Lawrence Bradford Packard German 2 (Elementary Course) with Manford Vaughn Kern Greek 5 (Plato: The Lyric Poets) with Francis Howard Fobes Math 2 (Analytic Geometry and an Introduction to Calculus) with William Jesse Newlin
  • 1944 Feb 17 - May 31 (1943 : English 19 (English Composition) with Reuben Arthur Brower, Theodore Baird, and G. Armour Craig German 7 (Goethe) with Otto Manthey-Zorn Greek 6 ( The Lyric Poets: Euripides) with Francis Howard Fobes French 37 (French Poetry Through the Parnassians) with Ralph Coplestone Williams Philosophy 16 (Philosophical Literature) with Roger Wellington Holmes
  • 1945 Feb 15 - May 29 (1944 : English 29 (Shakespeare) with Theodore Baird German 34 (Studies in German Culture) with Otto Manthey-Zorn French 37 (Advanced Readings in French Literature) with George Banks Funnell Philosophy 32 (Contemporary American Philosophy) with Gail Kennedy Biology 1 (General Biology) with Otto Charles Glaser/Hermann Joseph Muller
  • 1945 Jun 28-Sept 19 (Summer; Term 5): English S43-44 (Double Course, American Literature) with George Frisbie Whicher History S3-4 (Double Course, Classical Civilization) with Charles Lawton Sherman
  • 1945 Sept 27 - 1946 Feb 2 (1945 : English 25 (Science and Literature in the Nineteenth Century) with Theodore Baird English 55 (Conference Course) Italian 15 (Elementary Course) with Reginald Foster French Astronomy 1 (Introduction to General Astronomy) with Warren Kimball Green
  • 1946 Feb 4 - Jun 11 (1945 : English 35 (Chaucer) with George Frisbie Whicher English 56 (Conference Course) Italian 16 (Elementary Course) with Reginald Foster French Philosophy 18 (Ethics) with Gail Kennedy
  • 1946 Sept 25 - 1947 Feb 1 (1946 : English 23 (English Composition) with William Walker Gibson English 60 (Conference Course) Italian 33 (Dante) with Reginald Foster French Philosophy 37 (Philosophy of Religion) with James A. Martin, Jr.

Senior Thesis: "A la Recherche du Temps Perdu: Impressionism in Literature"

Merrill completed his course work during the fall semester of 1946, which ended on Feb. 1, 1947. He was an English major. The second semester (spring) began on Feb. 3, 1947. He was awarded a B.A. degree, summa cum laude, at the 127th Commencement on June 15, 1947. (The degree was voted by the Trustees on May 3, 1947.)

From the guide to the James I. Merrill (AC 1947)-William S. Burford (AC 1949) Correspondence, 1945-1980, 1946-1947, (Amherst College Archives and Special Collections)

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Subjects:

  • Poets, American--20th century
  • Poets, American--20th century--Correspondence
  • National Book Awards
  • Poets, American--20th century--Archives
  • Authors, American--20th century--Archives
  • American poetry--20th century
  • Poetry
  • American literature--20th century

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  • Poets

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