Second Floor, Kentucky Building
Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989) lived in Kentucky for a relatively short part of his
life, but Kentucky remained with him throughout his eighty-four years. Because of
close ties with family and friends in south central Kentucky, his family chose to
give his personal library to Western Kentucky University after his death. In presenting
the collection to the university, Warren's wife Eleanor Clark said she wanted others
to have access to these items because of their "intimate working importance" to Warren.
Robert Penn Warren, distinguished scholar-writer, was born in Guthrie, Kentucky, on
April 24, 1905. He attended public schools in Guthrie and Clarksville, Tennessee;
graduated summa cum laude from Vanderbilt University (1925); and received an M.A.
in English from the University of California, Berkeley (1927). He studied at Yale
and enjoyed two years at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, subsequently earning the B.Litt.
Degree at Oxford in 1930. While a student, Warren formed lasting friendships with
other writers, participated in literary discussion groups and in the founding of a
journal called The Fugitive, and became a member of the Agrarians, a social-political group that included John
Crowe Ransom, Donald Davidson and Allen Tate.
From 1930 Warren held a succession of academic positions, at schools such as Southwestern
College, Vanderbilt, and the University of Minnesota. While at Louisiana State University
he co-founded (with Cleanth Brooks and Charles W. Pipkin) a critical quarterly The Southern Review in 1935. At Yale Warren held professorships in playwriting (1951-1956) and in English
Warren achieved fame as a poet, novelist, essayist, critic and editor. His many awards
included three Pulitzer Prizes: All the King's Men (Fiction, 1947), Promises (Poetry, 1958), and Now and Then (Poetry, 1979). In 1986 Robert Penn Warren was named as the first U. S. Poet Laureate,
an honor confirming his stature as an outstanding poet. He received numerous other
awards, honorary degrees and commendations, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom,
America's highest civilian award.
Warren and his wife, author Eleanor Clark, lived in Fairfield, Connecticut. Daughter
Rosanna followed in her parents' footsteps as a scholar and poet. Son Gabriel is a
Robert Penn Warren died on September 15, 1989.
The Robert Penn Warren Library contains approximately 2,700 volumes. In it are a number
of 18th and 19th century publications, but most of the collection consists of first
editions of Warren's works, autographed gift copies from friends and colleagues, and
books he used for reference. Fittingly, there are as many devoted to history as to
literature. Some contain marginal notations penciled by Warren.
In addition to publications the library also holds approximately 300 photographs,
a few manuscript items such as correspondence with publishers, several programs and
other paper ephemera. Artifacts include Warren's desk, office furnishings, and memorabilia.
Among the honorary gifts he received are the laurel wreath for the Poet Laureateship,
ribbons, plaques, and medals.
Available in the Robert Penn Warren Library is a checklist of publications in the
collection. In addition, titles form the Warren Library are listed in WKU Libraries' online catalog.
Joseph Blotner Archives
The Joseph Blotner Archives were added to the Robert Penn Warren Library in 1998.
Blotner used this research material in compiling Warren's authorized biography, Robert Penn Warren: A Biography. The materials include Blotner's interviews with many of Warren's associates, notes,
outlines, newspaper and magazine clippings, legal documents, xerox copies of correspondence,
minutes of meetings, short unpublished essays on Warren's literary work, plus corollary
research material collected from various literary archives.
Papers related to Warren's life are arranged chronologically; criticism by title of
Warren's work; and interview notes and transcripts alphabetically by interviewee,
including writers such as Saul Bellow, Cleanth Brooks, William Styron, Eudora Welty,
and John Crowe Ransom.
Also included are drafts and proofs of Robert Penn Warren: A Biography and correspondence and financial records related to its publication. The collection
contains some sound recordings, including Warren reading poetry and some of Blotner's
interviews with Warren associates.
An inventory of the collection is available.
James A. Grimshaw, Jr. Collection
The James A. Grimshaw, Jr. Collection was acquired in 2003 for the Robert Penn Warren
Library, which is housed in the Kentucky Library & Museum at Western Kentucky University.
Grimshaw served as Regents Professor of Literature and Language at Texas A&M University
at Commerce. Professor Grimshaw's collection was considered the world's largest private
compilation of Robert Penn Warren materials.
The collection includes more than 1,200 items amassed over a forty-year span. Grimshaw
used the materials in the Collection to compile his authoritative bibliography of
Robert Penn Warren's writings titled Robert Penn Warren: A Descriptive Bibliography. The Collection includes special editions, a significant number of paperback editions,
films, scripts, poetry, foreign editions, periodicals, broadsides, a small amount
of personal correspondence, vertical files, and a plethora of secondary sources by
or about Robert Penn Warren.
The books in the Grimshaw Collection are listed in WKU Libraries' online catalog.