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COLLECTION Identifier: HUM 331

Letters from Francis P. Magoun, Jr. to Rudolf Hertz

Overview

The collection contains correspondence from Francis P. Magoun, Jr. to his friend Professor Rudolf Hertz from 1946-1953. Most of the letters discuss personal and family matters, while some letters include Magoun’s comments on the political volatility that existed during the Cold War in the 1950s, particularly the Cold War with the Soviet Union and United States involvement in the Korean War. Little in these letters chronicle Magoun’s teaching at Harvard University. Francis Peabody Magoun, Jr. (1895-1979), was a scholar of medieval and English literature at Harvard University. Rudolf Hertz (1897-1965) was Professor of Celtic Philology at the University of Bonn.

Dates

  • 1946-1953

Creator

Researcher Access

Open for research.

Extent

.17 cubic feet (1 document box)
The collection contains correspondence from Francis P. Magoun, Jr. to his friend Professor Rudolf Hertz from 1946-1953. Most of the letters discuss personal and family matters, while some letters include Magoun’s comments on the political volatility that existed during the 1950s, particularly the Cold War with the Soviet Union and United States involvement in the Korean War. Letters which include Magoun’s comments on the consequences of an atomic war provide some insight into the uncertainty of life in the atomic age. Little in these letters chronicle Magoun’s teaching at Harvard University. In one of the few references to philology in the letters (July 11, 1951), Magoun discusses the process of change in the use of language, what constitutes good English, and what determines the “correctness” of language. Scattered in the letters are Magoun’s Christmas and New Year’s Day greetings to Hertz; descriptions of the activities of his children, Francis, Bill, Gretchen, and Jean; and inquiries about the well-being of Hertz’s family. Researchers should note that the first letter in this collection, dated July 17, 1946, is in German.

Biographical note on Francis Peabody Magoun, Jr.

Francis Peabody Magoun, Jr. (1895-1979), philologist, was Professor of Comparative Literature from 1937 to 1961; the title was changed to Professor of English in 1951. A scholar of medieval and English literature, Magoun attended Harvard University receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1916 and PhD in 1923. He also studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, England in 1919, and as a Guggenheim Fellow in 1956, pursued Finnish studies in Helsinki. Magoun began his teaching career at Harvard as an instructor in 1919, rising to the posts of Professor of Comparative Literature in 1937 and Professor of English in 1951 (emeritus 1961). His courses were in the fields of Old and Middle English. During World War I, Magoun served in the American Ambulance Corps in France. He then joined the Royal Flying Corps of the British Royal Airforce in 1917, rising to the rank of first lieutenant. For Magoun’s service in World War I, the British government awarded him the Military Cross in 1918. Magoun wrote fifteen books and published in both European and American academic journals. He served as managing editor of the Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies (1926-1930) and editor of Harvard Studies and Notes in Philology and Literature (1934-1935).

Magoun married Margaret Boyden (1903-1988) on 30 June 1926. Their children were Francis Peabody Magoun III (1927-1999), William Cowper Boyden Magoun (1928-2014), Margaret Boyden Magoun (1932-2017), and Jean Bartholow Magoun (born 1937).
Biographical note on Rudolf Hertz Rudolf Hertz (1897-1965) was Professor of Celtic Philology at the University of Bonn. Among German-speaking scholars, Hertz was an expert in Old and Middle Irish, focusing his research around questions concerning the comparative grammar of Celtic and other Indo-European languages. After serving in World War I, Hertz studied at the University of Bonn, Germany, receiving his PhD in 1925 and his appointment as a lecturer in the field of Celtic philology. In 1938 Hertz was removed from his teaching position because of his non-Aryan origin during the National Socialist regime. After World War II, Hertz resumed teaching and was appointed associate professor and in 1953 full professor of linguistics at the University of Bonn. In 1953, Hertz became the founder and president of the German-Irish Society in Bonn.

Acquisition information

Letters from Francis P. Magoun, Jr. to Rudolf Hertz was donated to the Harvard University Archives by Darren Mueller.
  1. Accession number: 17319; 2006 March 28.

Related Material

In the Harvard University Archives
  1. Photographs of Francis Peabody Magoun, Jr. are held in the Records of the Office of News and Public Affairs: Photographs, 1913-1991 (UAV 605) in the Harvard University Archives.

References

  • Alfred, William, Herschel Baker, Larry Benson, Morton Bloomfield, and B. J. Whiting. "Francis P. Magoun." Harvard Gazette, January 16, 1981.
  • "Francis Magoun, Cambridge, Ex-Harvard Professor, at 84." Boston Herald American, June 6, 1979.
  • Schmidt, K. H. (1966). RUDOLF HERTZ. Studia Celtica, 1, 138. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezp prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1297892260?accountid=11311
  • Wikipedia contributors, "Francis Peabody Magoun," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Francis_Peabody_Magoun

Processing Information

Letters from Francis P. Magoun, Jr. to Rudolf Hertz was processed in February 2019 by Dominic P. Grandinetti. Processing included rehousing the records into appropriate containers and the creation of this finding aid.
Link to catalog
Title
Letters from Francis P. Magoun, Jr. to Rudolf Hertz, 1946-1953 : an inventory
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
EAD ID
hua04019

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

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