Robert Francis Collection, 1915-1987, undated

Robert Francis
Robert Francis

Abstract


The Robert Francis Collection contains correspondence, writings, personal files, and personal effects from Robert Francis, a poet who lived in Amherst for 60 years. Most of this collection relates to his personal rather than professional life, and includes materials about his family, his life in Amherst and connection to the Jones Library, and his friendship with Robert Frost.

Biographical Note


Robert Churchill Francis was born on August 12, 1901, in Upland, Pennsylvania to the Reverend Ebenezer F. and Ida May (Allen) Francis. The family moved to Massachusetts in 1910, and in 1919 Robert graduated from Medford High School. He attended Harvard University, earning an A. B. in 1923 and an Ed. M. in 1926. Between these two degrees he spent a year teaching at Beirut University in Lebanon. In 1926 Francis moved to Amherst to teach high school English. The teaching job only lasted a single year; writing became his life's work. In 1940 he built his home on Market Hill Road, naming it Fort Juniper.

Robert Francis is best known for his volumes of poetry and his numerous contributions to journals and magazines. His first book, Stand With Me Here, was published in 1936. The last book to be published during his lifetime was Traveling in Amherst: A Poet's Journal (1986). Other writings include The Sound I Listened For (1950), Orb Weavers (1960), Like Ghosts of Eagles (1974), and Butterhill (1984). His Collected Poems was published in 1971. Francis was also noted for his essays, many of which appeared in Forum, Christian Science Monitor, Virginia Quarterly Review, Atlantic Monthly, and Massachusetts Review. The Satirical Rogue on Poetry, a collection of essays, appeared in 1968. An autobiography, The Trouble With Francis, was published in 1971.

Robert Francis was the recipient of numerous awards and honors throughout his writing career including the Golden Rose of the New England Poetry Club (1942-43) and fellowships from Breadloaf (1936), the American Academy in Rome (1957-58), and the Academy of American Poets (1984). He died in 1987.

During his life Robert Francis had a close relationship with The Jones Library. He was a constant patron, made use of a study on the third floor, and laid out an herb garden behind the building. He was well known in Amherst from his poetry readings at The Jones. Among these was his 85th birthday celebration held at the library, attended by a gathering of poets and other admirers. A memorial service after his death was held at the library. He frequently appeared on the WFCR radio series "Poems to a Listener," including the debut performance of the program in 1977.

Scope and Contents


This collection includes writings, correspondence, photographs, audio and video recordings, music scores, personal effects, and personal files.

Extent


13 linear feet (21 manuscript boxes, 1 oversized box, 4 oversized folders, 1 AV box, 1 violin)

Access Restrictions


The collection is open for research. The AV section contains audiocassette tapes, reel-to-reel tapes, VHS tapes, vinyl records, and audio CDs, many of which have been digitized.

Provenance​


In 1991, the Trustees of the Estate of Robert Francis transferred his personal archives to The Jones Library, which included family letters and photographs, files on various subjects, and personal copies of his own works.

The Lovell Family correspondence was a gift from Bob Lovell in 1996. The Bill Arnold series was donated by Bill Arnold in 1990.

This is an active collection and new acquisitions may be added at any time.

Preferred Citation


Robert Francis Collection, Special Collections, Jones Library, Amherst, Massachusetts.

Processing Information

This collection was reprocessed in 2020 by Cyndi Harbeson and Katherine Whitcomb.

Related Materials

Robert Francis library (shelved separately in Special Collections)

Digitized materials on the Digital Amherst website

Robert Francis Collection at the University of Massachusetts, Special Collections and University Archives

Robert Francis Papers at Syracuse University

Arrangement and Series Descriptions


This collection is organized into seven series:

Series 1: Writings (1926-1987, not inclusive)

Various articles, essays, manuscripts, and poetry written by Francis or about his works. This series includes two typewritten copies of his Masters’ Thesis: Expression in Violin Playing. The writings are organized alphabetically by type and then by title. Many writings are undated.

Series 2: Correspondence (1915-1987)

This series is separated into three subseries: Subseries A: Outgoing Correspondence, Subseries B: Incoming Correspondence, and Subseries C: Correspondence from Mary Persis Crafts. Subseries A is arranged alphabetically by recipient. Subseries B is arranged chronologically, with some correspondence arranged alphabetically by name of the writer after the chronological section. Subseries C is organized chronologically.

Series 3: General

This series contains materials relating to the life of Robert Francis and includes newspaper clippings, event information, a typescript of a journal kept by Francis, recipes, and information relating to the life and death of his father, Reverend Eben Francis. This series also includes a large box of personal effects as well as Francis’s violin.

Series 4: Subject Files

This series contains files of materials collected by Francis on various subjects, and is arranged alphabetically by subject.

Series 5: Photographs/AV

This series contains photographs and audio-visual materials owned by or created about Francis. The photographs are first, and are arranged alphabetically by topic. The “Francis Through the Looking Glass” video series is housed in its own two boxes. The LP recordings are housed in a separate box titled “Audio Recordings” which is stored with other AV materials.

Series 6: Music

Three boxes of music for the violin. Francis used much of this music in his teaching.

Series 7: Bill Arnold

This series was donated to the Jones by Bill Arnold in 1990 and maintains the original order in which it was donated.

Series 1: Writings, 1926-1987 (not inclusive)


Box Title/Description Date
1 Articles - About Robert Frost 1932, 1953, undated
1 Articles - Christian Science Monitor 1936-1953 (not inclusive), 1985, undated
1 Articles - Newspaper (various publications) 1934, 1976
1 Books - Advertisements Various
1 Books - Collected Poems - Reading at Jones Library 1976
1 Books - Collected Poems - Reviews 1977
1 Books - Late Fire, Late Snow 1987
1 Books - Like Ghosts of Eagles - Typescript Undated
1 Books - The Trouble With Francis
Includes a copy of the 'Soybeans for Walden' letter
1971, undated
1 Books - We Fly Away Undated
1 Books - We Fly Away - Adaptation by Eleanor L. Niedeck Undated
1 Books - We Fly Away - Notes Undated
1 Books - We Fly Away - Typescript Undated
2 Early Writings - Philosophical Undated
2 Early Writings - Religious Undated
2 Essays - Clarification of God 1982
2 Essays - Forum Magazine 1948, 1949
2 Essays - General Undated
2 Essays - A Month in Amherst of the Nineteen-Twenties Undated
2 Essays - My Basic Blessings 1981, undated
2 Essays - Poetry as Disciplined Play 1963, 1966
2 Essays - Satirical Rogue 1970, 1971
2 Essays - They Were All Young Once Undated
2 Essays - Two-Home Francis 1975
2 Essays - What A Witch Told Me Undated
2 Manuscripts - Children of God Undated
2 Manuscripts - Expression in Violin Playing 1926
2 Manuscripts - Father Gander Rhymes 1952
2 Manuscripts - Notes on Fragrance Circa 1931
3 Manuscripts - Orthodox Views on Poetry 1984, undated
3 Manuscripts - Rome Without Camera 1957-1958
3 Poetry - Christmas Various
3 Poetry - General Various, undated
3 Poetry - Jenkins Manuscripts Undated
3 Poetry - Poems in Leaflets 1960, undated
3 Poetry - Silent Poem 1977
3 Poetry - Special Printings 1971, undated

Series 2: Correspondence, 1915-1987

Subseries A: Outgoing


Box  Title/Description  Date
 3 Burack, Nonny
Burack was Francis's secretary here in Amherst during the year he spent in Italy
1967-1968
3 Dwight, Miss 1939
3 Edmonds, Madeline & Sidney 1938, 1941, 1943, 1981
3 Elliott, Irvine & Marjorie Atkins 1933, 1966-1984 (not inclusive)
3 Harik Family
Includes correspondence between Raida Harik and Helen Ward about Francis in 1991
1927-1929, 1991 (see note)
3 Harvard University 1976 August
3 Ingraham, Vernon 1951, 1962, 1969, 1974, 1985
3 Jones Library
Correspondence to Charles Green, William Merrill, and Dan Lombardo
1936, 1942, 1954, 1957, 1958, 1983
3 Kirk, Dorothy Wyman (2 folders) 1942-1979 (not inclusive)
3 Lovell Family (Sydney, Louise, Bernard, and Robert)
Includes letters from Francis when he was in the Army during WWII, 1942-1943. Gift of Bob (Robert) Lovell.
1939-1949 (not inclusive), 1975, 1977, 1981-1982
3 Swallow, Alan 1948-1949
3 Christmas Cards Various
3 Christmas Cards to Dorothy Wyman Kirk Various
Subseries B: Incoming Correspondence
Box  Title/Description  Date
4 Correspondence 1920-1945
Correspondence 1946-1981
4 Correspondence 1982 January-May
4 Correspondence 1982 June-November
4 Correspondence 1983-1984
4 Correspondence 1985
4 Correspondence 1986
4 Correspondence 1987
4 Correspondence Undated
5 Birthday Cards - 80th Birthday 1981
5 Birthday Cards 1982-1984, undated
5 Christmas Cards 1984
5 Christmas Cards 1986
5 Condolences on the death of his father 1940
5 Donnelly, Dorothy 1978, 1979
Family Various
5 Francis, Clarissa (Step-mother) 1919, 1924, 1943, 1956-1958
5 Francis, Eben (Father) 1915, 1918, 1922-1924, 1939, undated
5 Correspondence concerning Francis to Dorothy W. Kirk 1954, undated
5 Correspondence concerning Francis 1930, 1934, 1968, 1971, 1988

Subseries C: Correspondence from Mary Persis Crafts, 1947-1996 (bulk 1952-1963)


Box Title/Description   Date
6 Correspondence 1947-1951
6 Correspondence 1952
6 Correspondence 1953
6 Correspondence 1954
6 Correspondence 1955
6 Correspondence 1956
6 Correspondence 1957
6 Correspondence 1958
6 Correspondence 1959
6 Correspondence 1960
6 Correspondence 1961
6 Correspondence 1962
6 Correspondence 1963
Correspondence 1964-1966

Series 3: General (1921-1990, undated)

Box  Title/Description  Date
7 Academy of American Poets Fellowship 1984
7 Amherst Ballet Theatre Company 1980
7 Awards 1983
7 Bibliography Undated
7 Biography 1990, undated
7 Books - Advertisements Undated
Oversized Broadsides  
7 Budget 1973-1974, 1976-1978, 1984-1985
7 Bust 1977
7 Buttermilk Club 1941
Clippings 1930s
7 Clippings 1940s-1960s
7 Clippings 1970s
7 Clippings 1980s
7 Compositions (Musical) Undated
7 Copyright certificates Various
7 Events - 85th Birthday Celebration 1986
7 Events - Book signing 1985
7 Events - Notes for poetry readings Undated
7 Events - Poetry readings Undated
7 Events - Poetry readings - Bangs Center 1982
7 Events - Robert Francis Day 1980
7 Exhibits 1981-1982
7 Fort Juniper - Sign from front door Undated
7 Francis, Eben - Appointment Diary 1940
7 Francis, Eben - Biography Undated
7 Francis, Eben - Clippings 1921, 1936, 1950, undated
8 Francis, Eben - Correspondence
Letters sent to Rev. Eben Francis
1939, 1940, 1981-1983
8 Francis, Eben - Death 1940
8 Francis, Eben - Legal Documents
Marriage certificates, naturalization certificate, ministry certificates
Various
8 Francis, Eben - Misc. Various
8 Francis Family - Scrapbook
Created by Eben Francis, contains genealogical data, news clippings, other ephemera
Undated
8 Frost Christmas Poems 1933-1962 (not inclusive)
8 Frost Relationship Various
8 Italic Handwriting Competition
Francis's poem "Watching Gymnasts" was used for the contestants to copy
1968-1969
8 Jones Library
Information on Francis's Founder's Day talks, the herb garden he created, and other information
Various
8 Journal 1931-1959
8 Journal (copy) 1931-1959
8 Manager - A. H. Handley 1940-1941
8 Medical History 1942, 1953, 1971, 1983-1985
9 Memorial Celebration 1987
9 Morris Dancers 1980, 1981, 1985, undated
9 New England Poetry Club 1928
9 Obituaries
Copies of Francis's obituary form various sources
1987
9 Poems Set to Music  
9 Publishing Various
9 Publishing Contracts Various
9 Reading
Notes on Francis's personal reading
Undated
9 Recipes (2 folders)
Recipes and cookbooks, including the recipe for Francis's "Fort Juniper Special" bread
Undated
9 References to Francis 1971, 1978, 1981, 1984, 1988, 1999
9 Remembrances 1988, 1999
9 Reviews Various
9 Robert Francis Footbridge 1979-1980
9 Schoonmaker Papers Various
9 Sound Track for a Silent Vigil 1969
9 Thoreau Society 1983-1984
9 Thoreau Society Address 1977
9 Translation Undated
9 Violin Performances 1949-1952, undated
9 Violin Teaching Undated
10 Personal Effects
Items that belonged to Francis, including eyeglasses, a stereopticon viewer and cards, sewing kit, a picture of his mother, and his award from the Academy of American Poets
 
Unboxed Violin  

Series 4: Subject Files


Box Title/Description
11 Arts
11 Communication
11 Death
11 Dickinson, Emily - "The Belle of Amherst"
11 Education
11 England
11 Health (2 folders)
11 History
11 Holidays
11 Ireland (2 folders)
12 Italy (3 folders)
12 Keats and Shelly 
12 Local Biographies
12 Miscellaneous (2 folders)
13 Miscellaneous 
13 Nature
13 Philosophy
13 Poems - Sources
13 Psychiatry
13 Quotations (2 folders)
13 Reading
13 Sports

Series 5: AV/Photographs


Box  Title/Descriptions  Date
14 Photographs - 1
Francis as a younger man
 
14 Photographs - 2
Francis as an older man
 
14 Photographs - 3  
14 Photographs - Childhood  
14 Photographs - European trip with his father  
14 Photographs - Family  
14 Photographs - Fort Juniper  
14 Photographs - Lebanon  
14 Photographs - Lovell Family
See also: Correspondence: Subseries A: Lovell Family
 
14 Photographs - Miscellaneous  
14 Photographs - Negatives (2 folders)  
14 Photographs - Parents  
14 Photographs - Unidentified  
15 AV - 85th Birthday Celebration 1986
15 AV - Kaynor, Fay - Robert Francis and Children  
15 AV - Like Ghosts of Eagles - Recording  
15 AV - Memorials  
15 AV - Poems to a Listener (2 folders)  
15 Poetry readings  
16 & 17 AV - Francis Through the Looking Glass - A Video Portrait  
AV Recordings Selections from Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle 1968
AV Recordings Selections from Faces and Places: Poems for You 1971
AV Recordings Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle... 1967
AV Recordings Todays' Poets: Their Poems - Their Voices, Volume 1 1967
AV Recordings An Introduction to Poetry 1964
AV Recordings Robert Francis Reads His Poems... (4 copies) 1975
AV Recordings Readings and Dramatizations for Communicating 1973
AV Recordings Some Haystacks Don't Even Have Any Needle 1970
AV Recordings When the Mode of the Music Changes Undated
AV Recordings Sound Image: A Magazine of Aural and Visual Art, Number 1 1975

Series 6: Music

Box  Title/Description
18-20 Sheet Music for the Violin

Series 7: Bill Arnold Collection


 Box Title/Description 
21  Finding Aid
21 Arnold, Bill
21 Volumes 1 & 2 - Folder 1
21 Volumes 1 & 2 - Folder 2
21 Volumes 1 & 2 - Folder 3
21 Volumes 1 & 2 - Folder 4
21 Volume 3 - Folder 1
21 Volume 3 - Folder 2
22 Volume 4 - Folder 1
22 Volume 4 - Folder 2
22 Volume 5 - Folder 1
22 Volume 5 - Folder 2
22 Volume 6 - Folder 1
22 Volume 6 - Folder 2
22 Volume 6 - Folder 3
22 Memorabilia
A paper knife, paperweight, and two postcards given to Bill Arnold by Robert Francis