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Guide to the Robinson Jeffers / Frank H. Armstrong Collection
Mss 53  
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Related Materials

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Robinson Jeffers / Frank H. Armstrong Collection,
    Date (inclusive): 1926-1980
    Collection number: Mss 53
    Creator: Jeffers, Robinson, 1887-1962
    Extent: 1.5 linear feet (2 oversize boxes and 1 record container)
    Repository: University of California, Santa Barbara. Library. Dept. of Special Collections
    Santa Barbara, California 93106-9010
    Physical location: Boxes 1-2 (Del Sur Oversize); Box 3 (Annex 2)
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Access Restrictions


    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Department of Special Collections, UCSB. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Department of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    Robinson Jeffers / Frank H. Armstrong Collection. Mss 53. Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

    Acquisition Information

    Donation in memory of Frank H. Armstrong by his sister, Jean (Mrs. Edwin) Corle, and his mother, Mrs. Horace Armstrong, ca. 1971-1972. Subsequent additions by donation and purchase, to ca. 1980.


    The poet Robinson Jeffers was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1887. His father, a Presbyterian minister, saw to it that the young Jeffers received a classical education, tutoring him in Greek and Latin at an early age. The family spent a good deal of time in Europe as well, and Jeffers attended several boarding schools in France and Switzerland. In 1903, the family settled in Los Angeles, California, where Jeffers would soon graduate from Occidental College. In school, Jeffers began submitting his poems to student publications, and would continue to do so after entering graduate school at the University of Southern California. After a year of studying literature, however, he returned to Switzerland to study philosophy at the University of Zurich.
    Around this time, Jeffers met Una Kuster, a woman three years older and married to a prominent Los Angeles attorney. As their friendship deepened over the next few years, they would discover intellectual and emotional connections that led them to fall in love. Jeffers returned from Zurich to enter medical school at USC. He soon dropped out and enrolled in the forestry program at the University of Washington in Seattle. After a year, however, he abandoned this course as well and returned to Los Angeles and Una. Throughout, he had continued to write poetry, mainly derivative love poems to Una that he had privately printed in 1911 under the title Flagons and Apples. Finally, in 1913, Una was divorced from her husband and immediately married Jeffers. They moved to Carmel and started a family.
    Robinson Jeffers' first commercially published work, Californians, came in 1916, but his reputation did not begin to develop until he found his true voice in Tamar and Other Poems (1924). Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Jeffers' reputation grew as he explored the philosophy he termed "Inhumanism," which held that humanity needed to recognize that it held little significance compared with the beauty of the universe. He began to fall from favor during World War II, and his career was in decline when Una died of cancer in 1950. Jeffers remained at "Tor House," the rugged retreat on the California coast they had lived at for more than thirty years, until his death in 1962.
    Frank H. Armstrong began to collect the works of Robinson Jeffers in 1930, when he was a sophomore at Yale, and within a decade had acquired most of what was available to the public. Hoping to find rare books or manuscript materials, he opened a correspondence with Una Jeffers in 1943. Born in 1910 in Winnetka, Illinois, Frank was the son of Horace Armstrong, chairman of the board of the giant Chicago canned goods corporation Reid-Murdock & Company. After graduating from Yale and attending the Sorbonne in Paris, Frank Armstrong received a law degree from Michigan Law School in 1936. He then moved to Los Angeles to work as an attorney for the firm of Mitchell, Silberberg, Roth & Knupp. After the United States entered World War II, Armstrong worked as a civilian assistant to the Army in Washington D.C., before moving back to Winnetka. Later, he returned to California, and settled in Palm Springs with his family. His mother moved to Santa Barbara, as did his sister Jean when she married book collector and author Edwin Corle. When he died in 1969, Frank Armstrong was buried in Santa Barbara Cemetery, and his mother and sister donated his Robinson Jeffers collection to UCSB.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The collection contains three portfolios, with correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, magazines, and various pieces of ephemera related to Robinson Jeffers, such as announcements, broadsides, flyers, and handbills, as well as three large matted photographic portraits. The bulk of the correspondence is between Una Jeffers and Frank Armstrong. Also included is a bust of Jeffers by Gordon Newell, an admirer and friend of Jeffers.
    Signed, first editions by Jeffers, some also donated by Jean (Mrs. Edwin) Corle, have been cataloged separately and may be searched on Pegasus, the UCSB University Libraries online catalog. Included is a limited edition (no. 6 of 15) bibliography printed in 1933 by the Walpole Printing House. There also are fine press items such as Apology for Bad Dreams, printed on a hand press by Ward Ritchie in Paris, 1930, in a limited edition of only 30 copies.

    Related Materials

    At UCSB:

    Dame Judith Anderson Collection (PA Mss 6), with material on Jeffers' translation of Medea, which he wrote specifically for the actress.

    At other institutions:

    Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin.