Ransom Center Acquires 21 Unpublished J. D. Salinger Letters

Ransom Center Acquires Unpublished J.D. Salinger Letters

J.D. Salinger may have led a private life, but even a century’s time couldn’t hide the extent of his talent. UT’s world-class humanities archive, the Harry Ransom Center, expanded its Salinger Collection last week with 21 never-before-seen letters by the famously reclusive author.

“Salinger’s letters offer a number of glimpses of his thinking and why he stopped publishing new work and withdrew from public life,” says Ransom Center director Steve Enniss.

The archive suggests that Salinger’s distaste for the publication process was one reason for his secretive nature. In one letter, Salinger admits “publication tends, for me at least, to put all work still in progress in dire jeopardy … I distrust the finality of publication.”

Although Salinger preferred to stay out of the public eye, he was confident in his ability to produce great literature. His letters express unwavering self-assurance. “Oh, but I’m good,” he writes in one letter. “It will take time to convince the public, but it shall be done.”

The earliest of the letters was written during Salinger’s single semester as a student at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa. Dating back to 1938, the letters have weathered nearly 80 years.

Most of the 21 letters were written by Salinger to a friend and former schoolmate named Ruth Smith Maier. The letters that she and Salinger exchanged over their 4o-year-friendship are filled with nostalgia, describing happy college days, marriage, and parenthood.

This is not the first time that the Harry Ransom Center has made Salinger’s writings available to researchers. The center has been collecting Salinger manuscripts for more than 40 years. According to Enniss, UT-Austin is one of only a few universities in the nation to count original Salinger manuscripts among its holdings.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons


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