Roger Asselineau Walt Whitman Collection

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Roger Asselineau Walt Whitman Collection


  • 1842-2002; Undated (Creation)


3 boxes (15 linear inches)

Name of creator


Biographical history

Himself a poet and translator of World War I British poets' works, Roger Asselineau led the scholarly world for decades as a champion of scholarly work about the 19th-century American poet, Walt Whitman. Asselineau's interest in American poetry is reputed to have been inspired by his experiences with the French Resistance during World War I, aiding American airmen to escape from occupied France. Asselineau himself only escaped being executed by the Nazis for his work in the French Resistance forces by the American invasion of Paris. Asselineau's life-long appreciation and admiration of American poets' advocation of beliefs in liberty and individuality may have developed during this time.

Asselineau published his first book of poems, Traduit de Moi-Même under the name Robert Maurice in 1949, but other volumes of his mostly free-verse poetry were subsequently published under his own name. As a poet, he had a particularly sensitive ear for the difficulties and complexities, often not at first apparent, in translating Walt Whitman's poetry.

Asselineau was active in Whitman scholarship up until his death on July 8, 2002, in Paris, France. Asselineau's own major work about Whitman was a critical biography, begun as his dissertation at the Sorbonne, L'évolution de Walt Whitman aprés la premiére édition des Feuilles d'herbe, first published in Paris by Didier in 1954, then in a two-volume English translation, The Evolution of Walt Whitman (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1960-62), and finally in a slightly expanded edition, again titled The Evolution of Walt Whitman, with a foreword by Ed Folsom, by the University of Iowa Press in 1999.

Asselineau was an original member of the Advisory Editorial Board for The Collected Writings of Walt Whitman, which was organized in 1955 to oversee the publication of an authoritative edition of all of Whitman's writings. Long a professor at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, Asselineau attended many conferences and was active in bringing Leaves of Grass to world attention, particularly encouraging translators to send him new editions of the poem. Asselineau was also active on the editorial board of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review and wrote many reviews of scholarly works for several journals.

Asselineau was a close friend as well as fellow Whitman scholar to Gay Wilson Allen and became a friend and mentor to all of the major Whitman scholars, biographers, and translators of the twentieth century.

Asselineau was also a noted scholar of the American 19th-century poet Edgar Allan Poe and published many articles and books on other American literary figures including Washington Irving, Crèvecoeur, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Frost, Sherwood Anderson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Theodore Dreiser, Jack London, and Tennessee Williams. Many of Asselineau's reviews appeared in the journal Etudes Anglaises.

In 1987 Asselineau was made an Honorary Member of the Modern Language Association of America, an honor proposed by Whitman scholar, Jerome Loving, in association with Daniel Hoffman.

Asselineau's wife was named Paule, and he had a daughter named Claire.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

This consists, aside from the group of 900 or so monographs collected by Asselineau, chiefly of correspondence, accompanied by handwritten drafts of reviews written in ink or pencil by Asselineau on slips of paper, apparently placed in the relevant book on his shelf as a file. The correspondence and draft of reviews are often associated with clippings, photographs or snapshots, offprints, programs, newsletters, and a few postcards.

Most of these manuscript materials were found in the process of cataloging the monograph collection, apparently filed by Asselineau in volumes of his monograph collection, usually related to the author of the book into which he inserted the materials over a period of years. A title page of the relevant book into which the manuscript materials were found inserted is now clipped to the materials in the collection folder and the call number of the book written on the photocopied title page in pencil. Also present are musical scores of adaptations of Whitman's poetry, and quite a few copies of the Walt Whitman Circle quarterly newsletter, published by composer and Whitman enthusiast, Robert Strassburg.

Series 1 includes notable correspondents such as Gay Wilson Allen, V. K. Chari, Betsy Erkkila, Ed Folsom, Donald D. Kummings, Jerome Loving, Robert Strassburg, and Leandro Wolfson.

Series 2 consists of a bound manuscript book entitled "Walt Whitman on Burns and a Portrait Gallery of Walt Whitman". The book measures 21 cm by 13 cm and is bound in green half-calf with marbled boards. According to a letter pasted into the book, it was apparently purchased by Roger Asselineau on August 20, 1942, from Alfred F. Goldsmith of New York, NY. Twenty-seven leaves of the manuscript book are filled with mostly photographic portraits of Walt Whitman, a few obviously cut from published works, and one leaf containing a section from a page of a handwritten manuscript in pencil and ink, labeled "Rough draft of a page in 'Robert Burns as poet and person' in November Boughs (p. 61)." Twenty other leaves of the book are left blank.

Series 3 consists of four folders with programs, offprints, and newspaper clippings collected by Asselineau. Contains manuscripts with commentary and suggestions (1856-2000), programs, announcements and catalogs (1963-2000), and clippings collected (1962-1992) regarding the life of Walt Whitman, his writings, collections, and offprints.

Series 4 contains over 900 monographs collected by Asselineau, these materials are cataloged separately in the Library of Congress classification and housed in the Cushing repository stacks as part of the Lit/Whitman collection. These monographs include first editions of Walt Whitman's works, particularly Leaves of Grass, many translations of the poem into an incredible variety of languages, biographies, and other scholarly works. The breadth of Asselineau's scholarly activity and acquaintance is well represented by the amount of correspondence and other memorabilia which was found inserted into these volumes.

System of arrangement

This collection is organized into the following four series:

  • Series 1. Correspondence. 1896-2001

    • Arranged alphabetically by the correspondents' last names.
  • Series 2. Manuscript Book. Undated

  • Series 3. Programs, Offprints, and Clippings. 1856-2000

  • Series 4. Monographs collected by Asselineau. listings not included in this finding aid, please refer to the main University Libraries catalog

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These materials are housed at an off-site facility and can take a minimum of 7 business days for retrieval.

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Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Languages of the material

  • English

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© Copyright 2019 Cushing Library. All rights reserved.

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