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Claude Fredericks Collection of James Merrill Papers

Identifier: MS-MS-ms157

Collection of James Merrill manuscripts, inscribed books, photographs, ephemera, publications and realia. All materials belonged to Merrill's close friend, Claude Fredericks, an American poet, playwright, printer, writer, and a professor of literature at Bennington College.


  • 1950-1994


Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use

Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.

Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.

If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)


2.00 linear feet

3 boxes

Biographical Information

Claude Fredericks was born in Springfield, MO in 1923 and grew up with dreams of heading to New York City and beyond. He was always interested in reading, plays, journaling, and symphony concerts. In his youth he frequently traveled to Europe, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

At 17, Fredericks started college at Harvard in 1941. Although he matured through his studies during his time at Harvard, he dropped out after a year and a half, admitting his time there was spent primarily writing poems and in his journal, and attending concerts. After Harvard he moved to New York, developing his own press called the Banyan Press, in a butcher’s basement in 1947. He printed several mainly unpublished works by famous authors including but not limited to Richard Eberhart, James Merrill, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens and Charles Simic.

Fredericks describes his meeting of Merrill at a party as though he had heard a voice “that was the first instrument of bewitching.” Merrill too, had felt that he had just met the love of his life, but also found it hard to love another writer. He started to slowly develop a somewhat competitive outlook. Still, Merrill showed his commitment to Fredericks by giving him his mother’s gold signet ring (the ring was engraved "J.I.M. from H.I.M. 3-3-1947"), in the winter of 1950.

After they became lovers, they traveled around Europe, writing and coping with their anxiety about a potential WWIII, as the escalating Cold War spread tension across the continent. They escaped to an island retreat, which at first glance seemed like the goal of their creative lives, but before long Merrill began to feel isolated. He moved to Rome seeking health treatment, and Fredericks, wary about the treatment, followed Merrill to Rome. Ultimately they grew apart in Rome, and Fredericks fell in love with another man. However, Fredericks and Merrill remained close friends for the rest of their lives.

Claude Fredericks wrote several successfully produced off-Broadway plays, including The Idiot King (1954), On Circe’s Island (1961), and A Summer Ghost (1965). In 1961 Fredericks started teaching Greek, Italian, and Japanese literature at Bennington College. One of Fredericks' greatest works is The Journal of Claude Fredericks written from the time he was eight years old to his death on January 11, 2013 in Pawlet, Vermont. The Claude Fredericks archive is located at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles.

Method of Acquisition

Accession number MSS2017-006. Purchased from George Minkoff Rare Books, March 10, 2017.

Related Materials

MS083 James Merrill Papers

Claude Fredericks Collection of James Merrill Papers
Description rules
Language of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 April 23: Resource record updated in ArchiveSpace by Sarah Schnuriger.

Collecting Area Details

Part of the Manuscripts Collecting Area

Joel Minor
Olin Library, 1 Brookings Drive
MSC 1061-141-B
St. Louis MO 63130 US
(314) 935-5495