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McSweeney, Joy.

ARCHIVE: Manuscripts, correspondence, photographs.


The Joy McSweeney Archive
McSweeney, Joy. Archive.
A collection of typed drafts, letters, journals, poems, photographs, legal papers and other miscellaneous documents belonging to journalist Joy McSweeney.
McSweeney (d. 1979) was a British writer peripherally associated with the Bloomsbury Group as romantic partner to Scottish journalist Evelyn Irons, the "war correspondent who broke Vita [Sackville-West]'s heart" after leaving her for McSweeney in 1932 (The Evening Standard). Irons met Sackville-West in 1931, and the pair had a brief but passionate relationship which resulted in Sackville-West addressing her "Collected Poems" to Irons. There is little published information in existence about McSweeney's life, but this collection of her papers hints at both her first marriage to a man addressed as "Michael" and her nearly 50-year relationship with Irons, which continued until McSweeney's death in 1979. After Irons travelled to the United States in 1952 to cover the presidential election, the couple moved from London to Brewster, New York, from which many of McSweeney's letters and journal entries are addressed.
McSweeney was a prolific writer in a variety of forms: her papers include dozens of her poems, essays, short stories, articles and plays in various states of revision. She enjoyed moderate success in a career as contributor to publications like Harper's Bazaar and Good Housekeeping, as well as a number of columns in daily newspapers (many published under the name Lynn Joyce). Most of her articles, written in a whimsical, conversational tone present in most of her essays, are on topics of travel, housekeeping, diet, and clothing.
She maintained some form of daily journal for years, multiple copies of which are included in this collection of her papers, including her journal from 1979, the year of her death. Over time her form of journaling changed - some year's entries are filled with multi-page, typed accounts of detailed stories and recalled conversations, revealing fragments of a life that was at times exotic and dotted with adventure (likely due to travel from Irons's journalistic career). Later journal entries tell nothing but the state of McSweeney's declining health, which became the subject of much of her writing through the last decade of her life.
Highlights of the collection are detailed below. A summary inventory follows.
  • A 1954 letter from McSweeney to an unspecified recipient detailing "Evelyn's exploits in Guatemala." Her account refers to Irons's infamously breaking the news of the overthrow of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, which she discovered by "hiring a mule to take her to Chiquimula while other journalists, forbidden to cross the border, waited in a bar in Honduras. She became the first reporter to reach the headquarters of the Provisional Government" (Lewis, Paul, The New York Times, 2000). McSweeney writes:
It was very gratifying that she got such a wonderful press in the American Press. A little publicity of that kind does no girl any harm. I must say I and all her friends were thankful that the report which went back to the correspondents' HQ at Tegucigalpa, that she had been killed, did not get into the papers and that these often, to put it mildly, inaccurate Yank reporters, for once checked and found the rumour untrue.
She goes on:
The last few miles of the journey were done in total darkness, through a river bed and up over the knees in water. The river bed had sharp boulders over which she and the men with her at that point stumbled and cut themselves; the most terrifying moments were crossing the raging torrents on semi-rotten alleged bridges made of something that resembled stake and bind fencing of the most fragile nature. She says never again will she cross a bridge without feeling really grateful for it.
  • Letter or journal entry dated "June 10," describing Irons's schedule and lifestyle as a reporter:  
Evelyn has still no news about a contract, which makes life a bit unsettled. She is still surviving incredibly well on an average of 5-to 6 hours sleep in the 24. Gets to bed about 1:30. Cables start to come thru anytime from 4am onwards when she leaves for the office at 6am. Works until about 2pm is supposed to sleep in the afternoon but very often there is an interview to be done or some cocktail party or some other social wingding that has to be attended.
  • Recollections of trips McSweeney and Irons took together, including one where McSweeney writes, about a trip to Texas:
Fell for Houston in a big way. Shops are more fabulous than N.Y. and the people couldn't be more charming. It is startling when you go into the drugstore to be greeted by "How are you this morning…" just as if you were Mrs. Jones from round the corner who had lived in the village all your life! Speaking of Jones, Mr. Jesse Jones who owns half Houston and whom E. met in Paris, fell for her in a big way and couldn't do enough. She used him like an office boy He used to ring up 8:30am and ask what he could do for her today! A dear old boy.
And later in the same letter recalls an account of the couple being robbed in their hotel room on another leg of the trip:
We stayed at a large and rather dull hotel...E opened the door and in burst a man closing door behind him. First reaction; he's drunk…so perhaps we had met at the meeting…then I saw The Gun. Quite a small one but big enough for the job. "Don't scream…don't make a sound or I'll kill you both…said the Gent. Get back there. We backed. To me… "Where's your money. Me. Haven't got any. Thug. Don't' lie or I'll drill ya. Me. Have a look in my bag…Thug. Where's yours? E. There. Thug takes out the pocket books and removes 180 dollars quite swiftly. Thug. That all? Come on don't lie. Etc.etc. This went on for quite a bit but he decently let E. keep her Father's signet ring and didn't spot my diamond ring in envelope in my other bag.
  • Poetry and essays by McSweeney alluding to physical and mental illness, with poems suggesting time spent in a facilities or therapy, and repeated references to nurses, death, and medication. One piece entitled "Blood Count" starts: "I suppose they have to have somebody to practice on in hospitals else how etcetera but chasing that elusive artery of mine day after day at $250 per diem is getting me down and I tell them so." Another, entitled "Controlled Environment":
This controlled environment
Plays havoc with my temperament
Psychosomatic it may be
But this is what it does to me
Gives my Vibes a horrid chill
Worse than any body ill
Turns me to sad thoughts of death
I. Journals and letters
-File labeled 'diaries', with dozens of leaves of handwritten and typed personal accounts, some with multiple copies; approximately 60 leaves total plus six filled date books from 1948, 1956, 1976-1979.
-Letter from Evelyn Irons to "Mr. Sabetta," reporting a robbery of their home in Brewster, N.Y.
-File labeled "Rejection letters," with six rejection letters from separate publications for McSweeney's writing and a copy of a letter of inquiry from McSweeney to the 'Fondation Camargo' in France for permission to acquire rights to translate Léopold S. Senghor's La Belle Histoire de Leuk-le-Lièvre to English. One letter from George Greenfiled at John Farquharson Ltd to McSweeney, in reference to McSweeney's piece "Enough to Make a Cat Laugh" turns McSweeney down on the account of:
I think it is highly imaginative and wit, but I have to make a solemn confession and tell you that far from being a cat-lover, I am in fact a cat-hater. I live near Hampstead Heath in London and there are over a dozen different species of birds that inhabit my garden. I seem to spend most of my leisure hours shooing off, and throwing stones at, marauding cats!
II. Photographs
-Six manila envelopes with photos, most of McSweeney, labeled: Preteen-teen (4); family (16); young woman (20); wedding (2); cruising (17); sunbathing (6); ambulance driver (1).
-File of approximately 50 photographs labeled "friends."
-Cardboard-bound McSweeney portrait labeled "Copyright of Hay Wrightson / 30 New Bond St. / London."
-Photo in folder with handwritten title: "Ourselves when young and not so young."
-Paper envelope of photo transparency slides.
III. Legal Documents
- McSweeney's 1966 New York Presbyterian Hospital bill.
-File labeled "Illness in Spain," with a 1975 receipt from Hospital bill in Marbella, Spain, two travel leaflets, multiple copies of doctor's notes, receipts from room and hospital, and two letters: one from McSweeney to the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. about having "an acute attack of emphysema while staying with friends" in Spain. The second letter, from Evelyn Irons to a "Mr. Boarder," thanks him for making a financial transfer during McSweeney's recovery.  
-Documents pertaining to McSweeney's death, funeral, and cremation (billed to Evelyn Irons).
-1946 McSweeney financial statement.
-Letter to McSweeney involving lawsuit over the death of Hilda Williamson.
-Papers "From the Estate of Hilda Williamson."
-Estate settlement of Ada Rosalind Edwards.
IV. Typescripts:  Each with multiple pages of unpublished manuscript material-short stories, essays, plays-in individual file folders, many annotated by hand. All written by McSweeney unless otherwise noted.
  • File labeled 'TV show idea', one copy.
  • File labeled 'Island': essay/story.
  • File labeled 'The liberator': short story, three copies.
  • File labeled 'Bear story': fragmented, edited short story with pencil notations and multiple drafts (some handwritten).
  • File labeled 'Play': script.
  • File labeled 'The Antidote,' with script for "The Antidote: A One Act Thriller."
  • File labeled 'Resolution of a Discord': script.
  • File labeled 'The stone': script.
  • File labeled 'Stories,' with the following titles: "Unlikely Conversations," "Binds is human too," "Death of a Lamb," "You've left an Uncle Charlie in the Fridg[e]," "Travail with my ant," "The Happy Birthday," "French as she is spoke," "This Anti Americanism," "View from a Bus," "This was my dog."
  • File labeled 'Cat Story,' with drafts of "Enough to Make a Cat Laugh," a series of eight pieces about the life of a cat, with sections on "hunting" and "apartment blues" and "dogs"; with multiple versions and alternative names, ie: "Being the Mewsings of a Yankee Cat."
  • File labeled 'the project.'
  • File labeled 'the encounter," Personal essay about a sabbatical she took to France, Italy, having pets. Sent to New York Times Sunday edition.
  • 1966 Village Voice article: typed draft and clipping of published article.
  • File labeled 'Cars,' with Harper's Bazaar article.
  •  File labeled 'Lynn Joyce,' with the following typed shorts:
  • "The Seven Stages of the Beret," one copy
  • "Larceny on Loosha," two copies
  • "The Things they Say…," one copy
  • "Conversation Piece," one copy, attached to published copy
  • "Whitechapel 'High,'" one copy
  • "Charwoman," one copy
  • Paperclipped pack of shorts of "London Snap Shots"
  • "Beauty," one copy
  • "The Greatest of These," one copy
  • "I Always was a Lucky Girl," one copy
  • "Revelations of Life on the Tramp Steamer," one copy
  • "Food in Relation to Mind," one copy
  • "The Prince of Darkness," One copy
  • "Loving Two the Way that I do…" one copy
  • "Wasn't she a Lucky Girl?" one copy
  • "Treasure Hunt," One copy
  • Untitled essay about Pierre Froide, one copy
V. Published Articles
  • The Daily Express:
    • "The Witch Ball" from, Oct. 12, 1932
  • The Evening Standard:
    • "Country Cottage," July 8, 1937
    • "The Houseman Servant," Aug. 21, 1935
  • Twenty Story:
    • "Clothes DO Make a Difference," Aug. 1932
  • Good Housekeeping
    • "Fine Linen," Jan. 1933
    • "A Lilliputian Paradise in Chelsea," ND
  • Harper's Bazaar
    • Untitled, Oct. 1931
    • "A Kitchen in the Area," Jan. 1933
    • "Changing the Old Order," ND
    • "Going Gracing," ND
    • "Come Often," ND
    • "To Our Bathes," ND
  • Misc. articles:
    • -"Conversation Piece," Dec. 1932
    • -"Now I'm a Happy Butler"
    VI. Poetry
    File of approximately 100 typescript and handwritten poems at various states of revision and in multiple drafts. Most of the poems are written by McSweeney, though some are addressed to her and some she typed out and attributed to another writer.
    The subject matter of McSweeney's own poetry is wide-ranging, from a satirical series written about Watergate and another from the perspective of a dog to more somber on aging and homosexuality. Another small collection, titled "On returning home after a long illness, August 1974," reflects on her observations of home after being in the hospital.
    VII. Miscellaneous
    • Various small spiral notebooks, all filled with notes, journal entries, and personal reminders.
    • Six blank postcards.
    • Copy of 1891 birth certificate, Cecilia Joyce Williamson.
    • One address book.
    • Empty files: labeled  'Cruise,' 'Cozumel,' 'Lodge Hill Cottage.'
    • File labeled "Personal newspaper stories," with three clippings about Brewster, NY.
    • Joan Beringer files: column clippings from Daily Mail.
    • Celys Clements file: various clippings of short stories by Celys Clements.
    • Handwritten notes on Western union telegram leaves.
    • File labeled "Queen's Trooper," with documents relating to McSweeney's 1957 query to Metropolitan Police office in London about 'Winston' the horse, who had recently died, and her pitch to write "Queen's Trooper: The Story of  a Horse, Winston, the Police Horse who became a queen's favorite and the pride and joy of a nation."
    • Evelyn Irons's letter of acceptance from Turf and Sport Digest for her story "Blonde Horse-Coper."

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