Spelman Family papers
- 1726 - 1972
- Spelman, Leolyn Louise Everett (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for use.
Conditions Governing Use
28.27 Cubic Feet (16 record center cartons, 7 letter size document boxes, 9 legal size document boxes, 3 legal half-size document boxes, 2 flat boxes (15.5 x 12 x 3 inches), 1 over-sized folder, 1 phonograph)
Biographical note on Leolyn Louise Everett Spelman
Leolyn was admitted at age 10 to Cleveland's Hathaway Brown School. When Leolyn later wrote about her childhood, the material comforts were always overshadowed by contrasting impressions of her parents, a "cruel" and "wicked" mother and an adored father.
During her last year at the Hathaway Brown School, Leolyn was editor of the school's literary journal, Specularia, and was chosen for a role in the school's production of Rostand's Les Romanesques.
Leolyn managed to convince her parents to allow her to leave Mt. Vernon Seminary and moved to New York City. She formed friendships with persons in the musical theater and enjoyed a cultural life that included recognition as a published poet. Life magazine began publishing her poems.
Leolyn traveled to Italy in 1914. Her brief joy in Italy ended with the start of world war in August. She returned to America after nearly being stranded in Naples. The following winter in New York, she was introduced to Timothy Mather Spelman.
Threatened by another war, they left Italy to return to America. They lived at various times in Oberhofen, Switzerland, Harrison, New York, and settled in a country house in Dublin, New Hampshire in the early 1940s. There was also an apartment in New York City. During the period of the Second World War, the Spelmans stayed mostly at Five Chimney's in Dublin, New Hampshire, where they continued writing, composing, and entertaining friends. Leolyn's mother, Josephine, died in 1937, leaving a large inherritance. They returned to the villa in Florence in 1947 where they continued restoration work on the house and its gardens.
The Villa Razzolini, so loved by the Spelmans, was bequeathed to The Johns Hopkins University and dedicated to the noted Dante scholar and Hopkins professor of Italian and Humanistic Studies, Charles S. Singleton. A brass plaque to the right of the main entrance identifies the villa as the Charles S. Singleton Center for Italian Studies. Known to the Hopkins community as Villa Spelman, it is a gathering place for art historians in Florence, Hopkins doctoral candidates, scholars writing books on the Renaissance, and Hopkins faculty members.
Scope and Contents
Parts of their lives are well-documented, while other areas are not. They were both prolific writers; Leolyn of poetry, stories, plays, novels, and historical studies and Timothy of music and plays. The Spelmans were quite careful in preserving this record of their lives. The daily record of their lives is less complete. Both Spelmans were sporadic diarists and the majority of the surviving diaries date from the late 1940s and 1950s. A glimpse of their lives in Florence comes from the kitchen and garden diaries. The kitchen diary records the menus for meals served at the villa and the garden diary has notes on the plantings. One obvious omission in the record of the Spelmans' lives is their correspondence, both personal and business. There are caches of letters, a group from Leolyn's mother when she was young and some of Leolyn's early letters to Timothy. The one period that is well-covered is 1931-1945. During this time the Spelmans were living in New York and then at their home Five Chimney's in Dublin, New Hampshire. It appears that the contents of a desk at Five Chimney's was emptied into a steamer trunk and shipped to the villa in Florence where it remained packed until 1997. Leolyn's life and thought dominate the collection, and the papers reveal much about her and her outlook on life. The most revealing part of the collection is her 1000+ page autobiography which she began in 1927 and is continued in a series of journals dating from 1930-1939. It is also clear she was taken with Freudian thought (indeed a copy of Freud's Dream Psychology is in the library at the villa). Leolyn's autobiography is full of her evil, sexually repressed mother and adored, philandering father. These recollection could be balanced with the series of letters written to Leolyn by her mother (1908-1915) and Leolyn's sporadic diaries (1914-1929; 1947-1957) as well as the personal and business letters from 1931-1945.
Leolyn's writings include myriad notes and drafts for the poems, stories, plays, novels, and especially her magnum opus "A Mirror for France," a history spanning the years 363 to 1793. Leolyn began her literary career as a poet and enjoyed some success in being published. The work is well-preserved as she had the copy books she wrote in bound. She continued writing poetry in her later life and the collection contains numerous drafts. Leolyn moved from poetry to plays and short stories with an occasional try at a novel. Both Leolyn and Timothy wrote plays, and many of the plays appear to have been submitted to a literary agent. Many short stories were written under the name John Kent, and there is some speculation these were a joint effort between Leolyn and Timothy.
Timothy Mather Spelman's maternal ancestors are represented in a series of papers that include legal documents, letters, and financial records all dealing with the Beal family of Hingham and Cohasset, Massachusetts in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The final part of the collection is a selection of photographs many of which are formal portraits of Leolyn from infancy to middle-age including those of the Spelmans' wedding in 1915. Other formal and informal photographs picture the Spelmans with friends, their dogs, the gardens and furnishings at the villa in Florence, and some of their travels elsewhere.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
- American diaries
- Beal family (New York)
- Director of Villa Spelman, 257 Mergenthaler Hall, Homewood Campus
- Everett, Henry A., 1856-1917
- Everett, Leolyn Louise
- Intellectual life
- Kent, John
- Mothers and daughters
- Spelman family (New York)
- Spelman, Josephine Pettengill, 1866-1937
- Spelman, Timothy Mather, 1891-1970
- United States
- Women authors
- Women authors, American
- Women poets, American
Part of the Special Collections Repository
The Sheridan Libraries
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA