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Archive of Raymond Chandler

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The letters and papers which make up the Chandler collection on deposit at the Bodleian Library were, with the exception of one series of letters (Brandt & Brandt, see below), formerly in the possession of Mrs. Helga Greene, Chandler's English literary agent after 1956. They were deposited in the Library in 1983.

The material in Mrs. Greene's collection derives from two principal sources: that is, from Chandler's own correspondence and work files of the 1940s and 1950s, which were given into Mrs. Green's care after Chandler's death, and from the business files of the Helga Greene Literary Agency.

Chandler's files were originally kept for him by his business manager, S. Stapleton ('David') Tyler, and by his secretaries, most notably Juanita Messick. They were arranged by subject for the most part (e.g. 'Banks', 'Household', 'Social') and were stored in square-cut manilla folders, identified by typed labels - see Dep. Chandler 70. They contained top copies of letters to Chandler, carbon copies of his replies, and what appear to be typed transcripts of letters, mostly from Chandler, taken from folders labelled 'Reading Files'. Also included were typed extracts and abstracts of letters made by S.S. Tyler, who annotated many of the documents. (Annotations typically take the form of notes in blue crayon, with number and letter codes included - for example, 'SS - Gen. B150'). Tyler's filing system was eccentrically complex and involved separating parts of letters, cutting them up, and duplicating them for refiling. His filing charts will be found at Dep. Chandler 37, fols. 21-23 et seq. and Dep. Chandler 58, fol. 117.

The bulk of the collection, however, consists of material generated by the Helga Greene Literary Agency during the course of business dealings involving Chandler and his work, 1956-1977. The papers are mainly correspondence and royalty statements, together with typescripts of posthumous literary publications. Early literary manuscripts were also found in the Agency's files, but they presumably came into Mrs. Greene's possession after Chandler's death.

Between 1959 and 1962 Mrs. Greene also collaborated with Dorothy Gardiner and Kathrine Sorley Walker in producing a selection of Chandler's letters, Raymond Chandler Speaking (London, 1962). During the course of compiling this book, many photocopies of original letters - mainly from Chandler - were made, especially of correspondence involving his publishers Hamish Hamilton, Houghton Mifflin and Alfred Knopf. They take two forms: prints on brown, wet-process paper, now extremely fragile; and prints on white copying paper. There is also a quantity of photocopies of typed extracts from letters, as well as a few typed transcripts of letters on yellow wove paper.

In addition to the papers formerly in the possession of Helga Greene, a further series of letters from one of Chandler's American literary agents, Brandt and Brandt, was added to the deposit in 1984. They were given by Mr. Carl D. Brandt via Mr. Graham C. Greene, and are described at Dep. Chandler 17-25. The term 'Chandler papers' should be understood to include the documents which came from Helga Greene (incorporating Chandler's own files), and correspondence with and about Chandler generated by Brandt and Brandt.

Unless otherwise stated, all documents are typescript.

A fuller list of Chandler's correspondents will be found in Frank MacShane The Life of Raymond Chandler (London, 1976), pp.ix-xiii. The following are brief chronological lists of Chandler's main business and legal correspondents as represented in the collection.

Agents and publishers:
  1. Sydney A. Sanders, 1939-1946. New York literary agents. Their English representative was Innes Rose of Messrs. John Farquharson. Sanders and Rose placed The Big Sleep with Alfred Knopf and Hamish Hamilton in 1939.
  2. Alfred Knopf Inc., 1939-1948. New York publishers of Chandler's first four novels. Chandler corresponded with Alfred and Blanche Knopf.
  3. Hamish Hamilton Ltd., 1939-. London publisher of Chandler's work. Chandler corresponded with Hamish ('Jamie') Hamilton and Roger Machell.
  4. H.N. Swanson Inc., 1943-1958. Hollywood agents, recommended by Joseph Sistrom. Chandler corresponded with H.N. Swanson ('Swanie') and Edgar ('Eddie') Carter.
  5. Brandt & Brandt, 1948-1952. New York literary agents, replacing Sydney Sanders. Chandler corresponded with Bernice Baumgarten and Carl Brandt.
  6. Ray Stark, of Famous Artists Corporation, 1949-1950. Brandt & Brandt's Hollywood agent, who briefly superseded H.N. Swanson.
  7. Houghton Mifflin Co., 1948 -. Boston publishers who succeeded Knopf as Chandler's American publisher. Chandler corresponded with Paul Brooks, Hardwick Moseley and Dale Warren.
  8. Curtis Brown Ltd., 1955-1956. English literary agents who acted for Chandler after he left Brandt and Brandt.
  9. Helga Greene Literary Agency, 1956-. Chandler's agents after Curtis Brown. The letters are mainly to and from Helga Greene, and are predominantly a business rather than a personal correspondence.
Legal and financial:
  1. Leroy Wright, Chandler's American lawyer, c.1950-1959.
  2. A.J. Clissold, Chandler's English accountant with the firm Shipley, Blackburn, Sutton and Co., and later in business by himself, 1955-1959.
  3. Michael Gilbert, Chandler's English solicitor with the firm Trower, Still & Keeling, c.1955-1959.
  4. George A. Peterson, Chandler's American accountant, c.1945-1959.
General Business:
  1. When Chandler left the Sydney Sanders agency in 1946, he engaged S.S. Tyler as his business manager and retained H.N. Swanson as agent for books and films. Tyler was effectively his manager for only two years, until the need for an experienced New York literary agent led Chandler to join Brandt & Brandt in 1948.
  2. Throughout his working life Chandler had a succession of secretaries, the most long-serving of whom was Juanita Messick, 1950-1953.

Dates

  • 1880-1985, n.d.

Extent

8.69 Linear metres (79 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

English

Conditions Governing Access

Certain material is closed. This is indicated in the catalogue.

Readers must complete and sign a form agreeing to the terms and conditions of use laid down by Philip Marlow (BVI) Limited.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark, e.g. Dep. Chandler 1, fols. 1-2.]
Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

Dep. Chandler 1-84; Dep Chandler adds. 1-5

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 12244, 12245, 12667

Overview

Papers of Raymond Chandler (1888-1959), writer, 1880-1985

Biographical / Historical

Raymond Chandler was born in Chicago in 1888 and moved to London with his mother in 1895, after the divorce of his parents. He was enrolled at Dulwich College as a day student in 1900, where he studied both classics and modern languages. After leaving school in 1905 he spent a year in Paris, followed by several months in Germany, in order to improve his languages and prepare for the English Civil Service examinations. He returned to England in 1907 and became a naturalized British subject on 20 May 1907. After passing his exams he was employed as a clerk in the Admiralty. However, he stayed for only six months before resigning in order to try and earn his living as a literary journalist, working first for the Daily Express, then for the Westminster Gazette and the Academy. He was not successful, and in 1912 he returned to America and settled in California.

After a variety of jobs, he trained as a book-keeper and worked in Los Angeles until 1917, when he enlisted in the Canadian army. He served in France with the British Columbia Regiment, was wounded, and eventually discharged in 1919. He returned to Los Angeles and began work in the Dabney Oil Syndicate, first in the accounting department, then later as auditor and finally as Vice-President. In 1924 he married Cissy Pascal.

Cissy Pascal (1870-1954) was born Pearl Eugenia Hurlburt. She married: 1. Leon Brown Porcher, 1897, divorced 1904; 2. Julian Pascal (the stage name of the concert pianist and composer Goodridge Bowen) 1911, divorced 1919; 3. Raymond Chandler, 1924-1954. She was eighteen years older than Chandler.

Chandler remained in the oil business for twelve or thirteen years, during which time he seems to have written nothing except for a few pieces of occasional verse. He was dismissed by Dabney in 1932, at the age of forty-four, chiefly because of his heavy drinking. With the help of an allowance from Edward Lloyd, Chandler spent the next twelve months teaching himself to write short stories, using the so-called 'hard-boiled' school of detective fiction as his model. In 1933 'Blackmailers Don't Shoot' was published by Joseph T. Shaw in Black Mask magazine, the first of Chandler's many contributions during the next five years to Black Mask and Crime Detective Magazine. In the Spring of 1938 he began work on a full-length novel using one of his Black Mask characters, Philip Marlowe, as a first-person narrator. The Big Sleep was published in 1939 and was an immediate success. It was followed by Farewell My Lovely (1940), The High Window (1942), The Lady in the Lake (1943), The Little Sister (1949), The Long Good-Bye (1953) and Playback (1958), together with several collections of short stories and articles for magazines. In 1943 Chandler began a fraught connexion with Hollywood when he collaborated with Billy Wilder on the screenplay for Double Indemnity (Paramount, 1944), the first of several assignments which also included The Blue Dahlia (Paramount, 1946) and Strangers on a Train (Warner Brothers, 1951).

In 1954 Cissy Chandler died, and although Chandler published Playback in 1958 he wrote very little in his remaining years. After an abortive suicide attempt in February 1955, he travelled to England and spent the next three years living partly in London and partly in La Jolla. It was a period marked by tax and nationality problems, by a succession of difficulties involving his relationships with women, and by bouts of hospitalization. Chandler died in La Jolla on 26 March 1959 and is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, San Diego.

Arrangement

Because of the various provenances of the Chandler papers and the different filing systems involved, the collection has now been completely reorganized. It falls into three parts: Literary papers (Dep. Chandler 1-16); Correspondence, business and personal papers (Dep. Chandler 17-70, 82-84); Working papers (Dep. Chandler 71-81). Each series contains material from the various sources, with notes on provenance and format given in the accompanying catalogue description for individual entries. In particular, photocopies of original letters made for Dorothy Gardiner, 1959-1962, have been interfiled in the correspondence, business and personal papers series (Dep Chandler 17-70, 82-84) of the archive. (Transcripts and extracts made by and for Gardiner are at Dep. Chandler 75-76). Every attempt was also made, not always successfully, to reunite parts of letters separated or cut up by S.S. Tyler.

Many of the papers have been annotated by Helga Greene and Dorothy Gardiner in the course of their work on Chandler's letters. They were also used by Frank MacShane for The Life of Raymond Chandler (London, 1976) and for his edition of the Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler (New York, 1981). The 'R.C. files' he refers to in the Life (p.275) are those papers subsequently deposited in the Bodleian in 1983: that is, excluding the Brandt archive, which MacShane consulted at source. MacShane's 'R.C. files' should not be confused with the descriptive term 'Raymond Chandler's files' as used in this catalogue to refer to files generated by Chandler himself, including files kept for him by S.S. Tyler and 'Reading Files'.

Gardiner's and MacShane's books are the standard works on Chandler, together with M.J. Bruccoli, Raymond Chandler: a descriptive bibliography (Pittsburgh, 1979) - see Dep. Chandler 81. Since this catalogue was written in 1988, subsequent publications include Tom Hiney Raymond Chandler (1997) and Tom Williams A Mysterious Something in the Light (2012).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The majority of the papers formerly in the possession of Helga Greene, Chandler's English literary agent after 1956, were deposited in the Library by Graham C. Greene in 1983 (Dep. Chandler 1-84). A further series of letters from one of Chandler's American literary agents, Brandt and Brandt, was added to the deposit in 1984 and is integrated with the main deposit at Dep. Chandler 17-25. Smaller acquisitions were added to the deposit between 1999 and 2009 (Dep. Chandler adds. 1-5).

Related Materials

A major collection of Chandler's papers is housed at the Department of Special Collections, Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles. For other manuscript holdings, see MacShane, Life, pp. 275-276.
Title
Catalogue of the archive of Raymond Chandler, 1880-1985
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid prepared by Judith Priestman
Date
1988; EAD version 2014
Language of description
English
Sponsor
Conversion to EAD supported by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Contact:
Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom