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Nunnally Johnson collection of Nathalia Crane papers

 Collection — Box: BW 15, Folder: 1 [X030899232]
Identifier: MSS 16374

Scope and Contents

The Nunnally Johnson collection of Nathalia Crane papers (1923-1926; 0.03 cubic feet) collection contains correspondence of Nunnally Johnson relating to Nathalia Crane, a child author whose authenticity was questioned. There are 14 letters from Nathalia Crane to Nunnally Johnson; 1 letter from HM Crist to Johnson, and 1 letter from Clarence Crane. Also included is a typescript poem "The First Writer," two photographs of Crane, and one graphite self-portrait by Crane.


  • Creation: 1923-1926


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Biographical Note

Nathalia Clara Ruth Crane (11 August 1913 – 22 October 1998) was a poet and novelist who became famous as a child prodigy after the publication of her first book of poetry, The Janitor's Boy, written at age 10 and published two years later. Her poetry was first published in The New York Sun when she was only 9 years old, the paper unaware that she was a child. She was elected into the British Society of Authors, Playwrights, and Composers in 1925 and later became a professor of English at San Diego State University.

After the publication of her second volume of poetry, Lava Lane, poet Edwin Markham implied that the publications were probably a hoax, stating "It seems impossible to me that a girl so immature could have written these poems. They are beyond the powers of a girl of twelve. The sophisticated viewpoint of sex, ...knowledge of history and archeology found in these pages place them beyond the reach of any juvenile mind."

Crane was dubbed "The Brooklyn Bard" by the time she was 13 and became part of the Louis Untermeyer poetry circle during her late teens, with Untermeyer contributing an introduction to her 1936 volume Swear by the Night and Other Poems. He was an early promoter of her work, stating, "some of the critics explained the work by insisting that the child was some sort of medium, an instrument unaware of what was played upon it; others, considering the book a hoax, scorned the fact that any child could have written verses so smooth in execution and so remarkable in spiritual overtones" and that "the appeal of such lines is not that they have been written by a child but by a poet."

She is supposedly related to Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage, and the publicist, Dr. Frank Crane.

Source: Early life


0.03 Cubic Feet (1 folder)


Donated by Christie Lucero, 20 July 2015.


Nunnally Johnson collection of Nathalia Crane papers
Ellen Welch
5 March 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

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