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Lewis M. Dabney III papers on Edmund Wilson; William Faulkner and the Yoknapatawpha; and Crystal Ross and John Dos Passos.

Identifier: MSS 16566

Content Description

The Lewis M. Dabney III papers consist of manuscripts, notes, transcripts, articles, reviews, personal journals, bibliographic sources, audio cassettes, and compact discs, relating primarily to his research on the life and works of Edmund Wilson, an American writer and critic in the twentieth century. In addition to copies and transcripts of Wilson's writing journals, there is correspondence across a large network of intimate relationships, friends, and acquaintances of Wilson. The relationships of particular historical importance include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Mary McCarthy, W.H. Auden, André Malraux, Vladimir Nabokov, Ignazio Stone, and Isaiah Berlin. The audiocassetes contain interviews completed by Wilson or Dabney on Wilson. (Boxes 1-17)

The collection also contains items related to a historical and literary study of William Faulkner’s treatment of the Yoknapatawpha people in Faulkners' works. (Boxes 18-20). Included is the manuscript for Dabney's book, The Indians of Yoknapatawpha.

Also included in the collection is an examination of the lifelong friendship between Dabney’s mother, Crystal Ross, and the American novelist, John Dos Passos. Most of their correspondence takes place from 1922 to 1927, during the peak of their romantic relationship. (Boxes 21-22). The letters mention Dos Passos travels in Paris, New Orleans, Florida, Key West, Mexico, Russia, as well as his life in New York City and Brooklyn. Crystal Ross, from Lockhart, Texas was educated at the University of Texas, Columbia University, and received her doctorate in comparative literature through a scholarship at the University of Strasbourg in Alsace in 1925. The couple met at the funeral of their mutual friend Wright McCormick. The letters mention well known writers such as Ernest Hemingway (with Hadley Hemingway) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (and Zelda) as well as a description of their trip to Pamplona, Spain in 1924. Dos Passos was writing Manhattan Transfer during the time of their engagement. Excerpts from their unpublished letters have been released in a new book by Lewis Dabney, Soulmates of the Lost Generation published by his family and the University of Virginia Press on October 25, 2022.


  • Creation: 1895 - 2005


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Biographical / Historical

Lewis Meriwether Dabney III, a noted literary academic and scholar, was born on February 28, 1932 in Dallas, Texas to Lewis Dabney, Jr., a lawyer, and Crystal Ray Ross, an academic scholar. Dabney lived in Washington, D.C. and New York City in his early years before attending Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. Following his undergraduate studies, Dabney completed post-graduate coursework at Emory University and earned a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University. As a doctoral student, Dabney developed an interest in the life and works of Edmund Wilson, one of the most prolific critics and cultural commentators of 20th century America, and completed his dissertation, "Edmund Wilson: The Early Years", which explored his earlier professional works and activities.

As a professor, Dabney taught at Smith College and Vassar College before moving to the University of Wyoming where he remained for over 30 years. Throughout his professional career, Dabney spent more than 40 years involved in the study and research of the life and works of Wilson. He edited and wrote the introduction for The Portable Edmund Wilson (1983, revised and updated 1997),The Sixties: The last Journal 1960-1972(1993), Centennial Reflections(1997), and Edmund Wilson: A Life in Literature (2005), an extensive biography.

Dabney also completed an early academic study, The Indians of Yoknapatawpha, on William Faulkner’s treatment of indigenous people in his literature.

Before his death on December 22, 2015, he completed a manuscript Soulmates of the Lost Generation about the lifelong friendship between his mother, Crystal Ross Dabney and the American novelist, John Dos Passos.The manuscript was published with the help of his family on October 25, 2022 by the University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville, Virginia.


19 Cubic Feet (12 cubic boxes, 7 letter size document boxes, 2 legal-sized document boxes, oversize materials)

Language of Materials




This collection is currently arranged into fourteen series, and most of the series have multiple sub-series. The series are arranged in the order given by the donor.

Series I-XII is Lewis Dabney's research on Edmund Wilson. Series XIII is Faulkner papers on the Yoknapatawpha in Faulkner's literature, and Series XIV is material related to the relationship between Crystal Ross Dabney and John Dos Passos. The arrangement of the series is as follows:

Series I: Biographical Information, c. 1895-2007 (Box 1)

Series II: Early Literary Career, c. 1920-2002 (Box 2)

Series III: The War Years and 1950s: Memoirs and Fiction, c. 1941-1997

Series IV: Later Literary Career, c.1917-2001 (Box 2-3)

Series V: Posthumous Publications, c. 1960-2002 (Box 3)

Series VI: Human Relationships, c. 1920-1992 (Boxes 3-5)

Series VII: Topical Files, c. 1920s-1992 (Boxes 5-6)

Series VIII: Literary Settings and Institutions, c. 1930-2008 (Box 6)

Series IX: Major Literary Relationships, c. 1920s-1999 (Boxes 6-7)

Series X: Interview Notes and Oral Histories, c. 1959- 2005 (Boxes 7-9)

Series XI: Lewis Dabney, c. 1960s-2007 (Boxes 9-13)

Series XII: Edmund Wilson’s Journals (Boxes 13a-17)

Series XIII: Dabney papers on Yoknapatawpha in Faulkner stories (Boxes 18-20) Subseries 1. Manuscripts Subseries 2. Correspondence Subseries 3. Research and Notes Subseries 4. Talks and Reviews

Series IV materials related to the relationship between Crystal Ross and John Dos Passos (Boxes 21-22). Subseries 1. Correspondence Subseries 2. Articles and reviews Subseries 3. Lewis Dabney (son) manuscript Soulmates of the Lost Generation Subseries 4. Lewis Dabney (father) career and colleagues Subseries 5. Memorabilia and photographs

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was a gift of Sarah Dabney, Elizabeth Dabney Hochman, and Lewis Dabney (son) to the Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia on January 21, 2021.

Condition Description



Content Warning: Some terms contained within this collection may not be consistent with the positions, norms, and values of the University of Virginia community. These materials are products of their particular time and place and may be offensive or disturbing to patrons.

Guide to the Lewis M. Dabney III papers
Initial Processing of Lewis Dabney papers on Edmund Wilson done by Lewis Dabney III, Mary Lib Kenney, and Karen Karydes. Rose Oliveira, Accessioning Archivist; Ellen Welch, processor of Dabney papers on Yoknapatawpha in Faulkner stories and Crystal Ross Dabney and John Dos Passos collection.
14 September 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library Repository

Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
P.O. Box 400110
University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22904-4110 United States