Columbia Library columns (v.9(1959Nov-1960May))

(New York :  Friends of the Columbia Libraries.  )



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  v.9,no.2(1960:Feb): Page 6  

6                                  Mark Van. Doren

not sure I believe that all papers should be systematically pre¬
served. I can scarcely bear the thought of the size of the building
that would be necessary if everyone's papers got put there in filing
cases, baskets, barrels, and boxes. Some poems of Milton have sur¬
vived, and we can see his emendations, his revisions of certain
words and lines; but I like to think that that was an accident as of
course it was. Maybe accident should always prevail in this sphere.
Maybe I should have destroyed all these papers. I could have done
it; almost nobody knew they were there. Among them are many
things I have never published because I did not think they were
good enough to publish. I should have destroyed those, but I did
not have time in June to do it. I would still be doing it if I had
started then. How does one decide questions like that? Here they
are, all but completely unexamined by me. I realize the hazard
involved in presenting certain unpublished and, in my private
view, unpublishable things to a great library. I have hedged a bit
by making it a condition of the gift that none can ever be pub¬
lished without my consent or without the consent of my heirs and
literary executors.

I said that the real reason I give my papers to the University is
that I am devoted to it. A further reason is that Columbia deserves
them because it has been keeping them for me without knowing it.
And there is still another reason. A number of my critical books
were first spoken in classrooms of this university; they were not
written until I had been talking about their subjects for ten or
fifteen years.

And now. President Kirk, I present, just as a token, just as an
illustration, one paper, the manuscript in pencil—I do not know
how legible it is—of the autobiography of which iVIr. Barrett has
spoken. Let it represent, then, all of these papers. I give them with
great pleasure and a sense of the honor you will do me by accept¬
ing them.
  v.9,no.2(1960:Feb): Page 6