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Marilyn Aronberg Lavin Collection of James Merrill Papers

Identifier: MS-MS-ms165

Marilyn Aronberg Lavin Collection of James Merrill Papers includes correspondence, inscribed publications, photographs and other materials from or related to James Merrill.

Marilyn Aronberg Lavin was born in 1925 in St. Louis, Missouri. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 1947 and earned a M.A. from Harvard in 1949. Her Ph.D. was awarded in 1973 from New York University with a dissertation on Piero Della Francesca. She was a visiting professor of art history at Princeton University in 1975, Yale University in 1977, and the University of Maryland in 1979.


  • 1951-1999


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.)


0.50 linear feet

1 boxes

Biographical Information

James Ingram Merrill was born in New York City on March 3, 1926, and grew up in Manhattan and Southampton. He was the son of Charles Merrill, co-founder of the brokerage firm Merrill Lynch, and his second wife, Hellen Ingram. He began writing poems as a child, and at age sixteen, while he was in prep school, his father had a book of them privately printed under the title Jim's Books.

Merrill's studies at Amherst College were interrupted by service in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1945. Another book, The Black Swan, was privately printed in 1946 while he was still in college. Following his graduation in 1947, he taught for a year at Bard College. His first trade book, First Poems, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1951 to critical acclaim. In 1956 he used a portion of his inheritance to found the Ingram Merrill Foundation, which has since awarded grants to hundreds of artists and writers. Over the next decade he published two novels, The Seraglio (1957) and The (Diblos) Notebook (1965) as well as two books of poems, The Country of a Thousand Years of Peace (1959) and Water Street (1962). His 1966 collection of poems, Nights and Days, won the National Book Award and brought his work a wider audience.

He went on to earn 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). In 1983, his epic poem The Changing Light at Sandover (1982) won the National Book Critics Circle Award.

On February 6, 1995 James Merrill died of a heart attack in Tucson, Arizona. His last book, A Scattering of Salts, was published a month later.

Source of Acquisition

Accession number MSS2019-025. Gift of Marilyn Aronberg Lavin, October 8, 2019

Related Materials

See also MS083 James Merrill Papers, MS133 Mary Boatwright Collection of James Merrill Papers, MS157 Claude Fredericks Collection of James Merrill Papers, and MS060 David Jackson Papers

Processing Information

Processed by Umar Hanif in Fall 2019.

Marilyn Aronberg Lavin Collection of James Merrill Papers
Description rules
Language of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 April 8: 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