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Robert Hillyer Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: JSP
Date: Apr 1964

Biographical History

Robert Silliman Hillyer (1895-1961) was an American poet. Born in East Orange, New Jersey, on June third 1895, he was educated at Kent School, Harvard College, and the University of Copenhagen. He won the Garrison Prize for poetry at Harvard as an undergraduate and was an editor of the Harvard Monthly and the Harvard Advocate. In World War I he served as an ambulance driver in the French Army at Verdun for which he received a citation, as well as the Verdun Medal, from the French government. After transferring to the American Expeditionary Force in 1918, he rose from private to First Lieutenant and after the war he was attached to the Peace Conference as a courier. Later Hillyer served at the American Embassy in Brussels, Belgium. From 1919 to 1926 he was Instructor in English at Harvard; following that he became Assistant Professor of English at Trinity College, which awarded him an honorary degree on his return to Harvard in 1928. He became Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard in 1937, a chair first held by John Quincy Adams.

Hillyer was Phi Beta Kappa poet six times: at Tufts, 1923; Harvard, 1928; Columbia, 1936; Harvard (for the Tercentenary of 1936);William and Mary (for the Hundredth Anniversary of the founding of Phi Beta Kappa at that college, 1939); and Goucher, 1940. He was president of The New England Poetry Club, 1923 - 1925, twice president of The Poetry Society of America 1949 and 1951 - 1953, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston and a member of The National Institute of Arts and Letters in New York. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1934.

Hillyer retired from Harvard in 1944 after 25 years of teaching. He accepted a Visiting Professorship at Kenyon College in 1948, and, in 1952, accepted a regular professorship at the University of Delaware. In 1954, the H. Fletcher Brown Chair of English Literature was created and Hillyer became the first incumbent.

An amateur composer and a student of music, Hillyer believed that poetry and music are inseparable. Many of his poems were set to music by various composers, such as Herman Luri, Daniel Pinkham, Gordon Sherwood, Ned Rorem, Mervin Whitcomb, Oscar Harveland, Joseph Clokey and John Drake.

Select Bibliography

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Robert S. Hillyer Papers consist of correspondence, manuscripts, and a few items of memorabilia.

The collection of incoming Literary correspondence includes cards, letters, telegrams, notes and other items from poets, authors, playwrights, publishers, and other literary figures, including James Agee, Conrad Aiken, Stephen Vincent Benét, Ray Bradbury, Van Wyck Brooks, John Cheever, Padraic Colum, e.e. cummings, John Dos Passos, Gene Fowler, Robert Frost, Horace Gregory, Aldous Huxley, Helen Keller, Amy Lowell, Arthur Machen, Archibald Macleish, Marianne Moore, Howard Nemerov, Theodore Roethke, Harry Roskolenko, Carl Sandburg, George Santayana, May Sarton, Siegfried Sassoon, Booth Tarkington, Louis Untermeyer, and Marya Zaturenska. Many are letters of appreciation and praise for Mr. Hillyer's works and endeavors, as exemplified by the following quotation from a letter written by Ray Bradbury, on September 10, 1959:

"Quite simply, for a long long time now, you've made me happy, sad, and tremendously alert with your poems. For all this, I want to thank you."

Family correspondence includes incoming correspondence from Hillyer's mother, Mrs. James Rankin Hillyer, siblings Stanley, Lillian and Ethel, and son Stanley H. Hillyer, as well as various other relatives.

Outgoing correspondence consists of 18 folders of assorted letters, cards, telegrams, and other communications from Hillyer to friends, family, and others. Recipients include, among others, John Dos Passos, Ray Bradbury, Louis Kent, and Hillyer's mother.

Four folders of General correspondence primarily consist of fan mail, with a few unidentified items.

Manuscripts consists of handwritten drafts, typescripts, galleys, notebooks, and xerox copies of articles, music, poems, prose, speeches, readings, lecture notes, reviews, and other material written by Hillyer. Many bear Hillyer's handwritten corrections and annotations.

Miscellaneous material contains genealogical material, clippings (both pieces by Hillyer as well as reviews of his work), guest books, photographs, programs for various events, and assorted writings by others.

Memorabilia includes degrees, bibles, photographs, and other assorted items.

Arrangement of the Collection

Literary and family correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent. The remaining series are organized in no particular order.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Permission to read family correspondence (Box 6) must be granted by Laura V. (Mrs. Stanley H.) Hillyer; upon her death, permission must be granted by either of her two daughters, Elizabeth V. Hillyer or Francesca P. Hillyer. Mrs. Hillyer is also to be contacted when anyone is interested in the scholarly use of Robert Hillyer's works and papers.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Aiken, Conrad, 1889-1973.
Benét, William Rose, 1886-1950.
Bingham, Millicent Todd, 1880-1968.
Briggs, Le Baron Russell, 1855-1934.
Brooks, Van Wyck, 1886-1963.
Burman, Ben Lucien, 1895-1984
Bynner, Witter, 1881-1968.
Chamberlin, Frederick, 1870-1943.
Copeland, Charles Townsend, 1860-1952.
Cozzens, James Gould, 1903-1978.
Damon, S. Foster (Samuel Foster), 1893-1971.
Decker, Clarence Raymond, 1904-1969.
Dos Passos, John, 1896-1970.
Eastman, Max, 1883-1969.
Flaccus, Kimball, 1911-1972.
Fletcher, John Gould, 1886-1950.
Fowler, Gene, 1890-1960.
Frost, Robert, 1874-1963.
Gogarty, Oliver St. John, 1878-1957.
Gregory, Horace, 1898-1982.
Hillyer, Robert, 1895-1961.
Hodgson, Ralph, 1871-1962.
Huff, Robert, 1924-
Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963.
Johnson, Thomas Herbert.
Kent, Louis.
Lowell, Amy, 1874-1925.
MacLeish, Archibald, 1892-1982.
Machen, Arthur, 1863-1947.
Mason, Daniel Gregory, 1873-1953.
Maxwell, William, 1908-2000.
Moore, Marianne, 1887-1972.
Munn, James Buell.
Nathan, Robert Louis.
Neihardt, John Gneisenau, 1881-1973.
Nemerov, Howard.
Nicholl, Louise Townsend.
Perry, Bliss, 1860-1954.
Reese, Lizette Woodworth, 1856-1935.
Robinson, Lennox, 1886-1958.
Rosenfeld, Paul, 1890-1946.
Schorer, Mark, 1908-1977.
Scott, Winfield Townley, 1910-1968.
Speyer, Leonora, 1872-1956.
Teller, Walter Magnes.
Untermeyer, Louis, 1885-1977.
Van Doren, Mark, 1894-1972.
Viereck, Peter, 1916-2006.
Weeks, Edward, 1898-1989.
Zaturenska, Marya, 1902-1982.


American literature -- 20th century.
American poetry -- 20th century.
Authors, American -- 20th century.
Criticism -- 20th century.
Critics -- United States.
Poets, American -- 20th century.

Genres and Forms

Book reviews.
Clippings (information artifacts)
Drafts (documents)
Genealogies (histories)
Manuscripts for publication.
Musical scores.
Songs (document genre)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Robert Hillyer Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Mrs. Robert S. Hillyer, 1963

Lopatnikoff letters and manuscript of completed poems, 1943, unspecified gift.

Selected Bibliography

Following is a list of selected works by Hillyer.

Eight Harvard Poets. New York: Lawrence Gomme, 1917. Poems by Harvard undergraduates, including Hillyer, E. E. Cummings, S. Foster Damon and John Dos Passos.

Sonnets and Other Lyrics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1917.

The Five Books of Youth. New York: Brentano's, 1920.

Alchemy: A Symphonic Poem. New York: Brentano's, 1921.

A Book of Danish Verse. New York: The American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1922. Translations from Danish lyric poetry from Oehlenschlager to Johannes V. Jensen (in collaboration with S. Foster Damon and Oluf Friis).

The Hills Give Promise. Boston: B. J. Brimmer, 1922.

The Coming Forth by Day. Boston: B. J. Brimmer, 1923. Metrical arrangements from the Egyptian Book of the Dead together with an essay on the ancient

Egyptian Religion, first published in The Freeman and subsequently reprinted (without the essay) in Van Doren's Anthology of World Poetry.

The Halt in the Garden. London: Elkin Mathews, 1924. Foreword by Arthur Machen.

The Engagement Ring. The Masquerade. Hartford: The Haylofters, 1929.

Prose Masterpieces. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1931 (in collaboration with K. B. Murdock and Odell Shepard).

The Gates of the Compass. New York: The Viking Press, 1931.

Riverhead. New York: Knopf, 1932.

Collected Verse. New York: Knopf, 1933 (awarded the Pulitzer Prize).

Some Roots of English Poetry. Norton, Massachusetts: Wheaton College Press, 1933.

A Letter to Robert Frost and Others. New York: Knopf, 1937.

First Principles of Verse. Boston: The Writer, 1938.

In Time of Mistrust. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1939.

Pattern of a Day. New York: Knopf, 1940.

My Heart for Hostage. New York: Random House, 1942.

Poems for Music: 1917-1947. New York: Knopf, 1947.

The Death of Captain Nemo. New York: Knopf, 1949.

The Suburb By the Sea. New York: Knopf, 1952.

The Relic and Other Poems. New York: Knopf, 1957.

Robert Burns, Bicentennial Address at Library of Congress. Washington: Library of Congress, 1959.

In Pursuit of Poetry. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1960.

Collected Poems. New York: Knopf, 1961.

Table of Contents

Literary correspondence

Family correspondence

Outgoing correspondence

General correspondence