Weismiller was an award-winning poet and a literary scholar of the first order, especially in the field of literary prosody and the study of English poet John Milton. Published between the 1850s and 1990s, most of the donated works concern Milton and the study of literary prosody. Among them are a 1943, four-volume facsimile edition of Milton’s Poetical Works and a 1923 three-volume set of History of English Prosody by George Saintsbury. The collection also includes a rare 1936 edition of Weismiller’s prize-winning volume, The Deer Come Down. The non-circulating collection will be housed in the Leslie J. Savage Library’s rare books department and all guests of the library will have access to them.
The gift was facilitated by Dana Gioia, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and a member of the Advisory Board of the Poetry Concentration in Western’s M.F.A. program.
“I am delighted to help bring this important collection to this important new writing program," Gioia said. ”Western deserves a legacy such as this – one that combines scholarship and creativity.”
Of the donation, Western President Jay Helman noted, “We are indeed fortunate and very grateful for this important gift. It is sure to enhance the gravitas of our blossoming graduate programs.”
Weismiller held degrees from Cornell College, Harvard and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. In 1936, when Weismiller was just 20, he was the youngest Yale Younger Poet ever chosen (by series editor Stephen Vincent Benét). During WW II, he was awarded a Bronze Star and the Medaille de la Reconnaissance Francaise for his work in counterespionage with the OSS and the Marines, experiences reflected in his 1962 novel The Serpent Sleeping. After the war and the completion of his degrees, he taught at Pomona College and later George Washington University, while continuing to publish poetry, fiction, translations and scholarship. He served as one editor of the “Variorum Milton,” and won the 2001 Robert Fitzgerald Award for lifetime contribution to the study of literary prosody. In the course of his career, he also won a Guggenheim, a Rockefeller Foundation Grant and a National Endowment for the Humanities grant. Terry Brogan, the editor of The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, once said Weismiller was the greatest living scholar of literary prosody.
“This generous gift makes Western one of the preeminent resources for the study of literary prosody in the entire region. As this is one of the major focuses of our program, the collection will be a wonderful resource for our students and for the entire Western community,” said David J. Rothman, director of the poetry concentration in Western’s M.F.A. program.
“Savage Library is grateful to have received this donation from the Weismiller family and excited to have such a fine research collection available to Western’s M.F.A. students and to researchers,” added Nancy Gauss, director of library services at Western.
The books will be listed in the library’s catalog and on a separate library web page created for the collection. Gauss anticipates that cataloging will be completed by August 2012. Researchers are invited to contact Gauss at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.