Robert Penn Warren Library
Second Floor, Kentucky Library & Museum
About the Library || Biography of RPW || The Collection || Joseph Blotner Archives || James A. Grimshaw, Jr. Collection || RPW Links on the Net || Robert Penn Warren Photos || Center for Robert Penn Warren Studies
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 (1961-1973).
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 writer. Son Gabriel is a sculptor.
Robert Penn Warren died on September 15, 1989.
For more information read:
Blotner, Joseph. Robert Penn Warren: a Biography. New York: Random House, 1997.
Grimshaw, James A., Jr. Robert Penn Warren: a Descriptive Bibliography, 1922-79. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1981.
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 or One-Search Box on the Libraries Homepage.
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 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.
Click here for a bibliography of the James A. Grimshaw, Jr. Collection.