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John Corbin, Theater Papers

Title: John Corbin, Theater Papers

Creator: Corbin, John, 1870-1959

Dates: 1894-1956

Quantity: 7 boxes (2.7 linear feet)

Collection Number: MS 0011

Language: English

Restrictions: None

Access, Copyright, and Historical Records Statement: For more information see our guidelines or please contact Archives & Special Collections.

Preferred Citation: John Corbin, Theater Papers (MS 0011). Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries.. Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries.


Born in Chicago on 2 May 1870, John Corbin was the fifth child of Calvin Rich Corbin and Caroline Elizabeth Fairfield Corbin. At the age of 18, he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and entered Harvard College in the fall of 1888. He graduated with a B.A. degree in English in 1892 and a M.A. in 1893. His graduate study focused on Shakespeare and dramatic literature. From 1893 to 1894, he worked as editor of Outing magazine. For one year, Corbin attended Baloil College at Oxford University where he turned his master's thesis into a publishable monograph. In the spring of 1895, Scribner's in New York published The Elizabethan Hamlet.

Corbin returned to the United States and served as an instructor at Harvard for the 1896-1897 school year. He then resigned from this position and went to work as an assistant editor of Harper's Magazine. He wrote his first dramatic criticism for Harper's Magazine and Harper's Weekly. During his time at Harper's, Corbin met Amy Foster. They married on 1 November 1899 and remained together for the next sixty years. In 1900 Corbin went to work for the Encyclopedia Britannica and began work on another book. Corbin focused on his experiences at Oxford, which appear in An American at Oxford, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1902. In addition to his work, Corbin also wrote a number of free-lance articles for The New York Times, Scribner's Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, and The Forum.

From 1902 to 1904 Corbin worked as a drama critic for The New York Times. He left the position at the New York Times in December 1904 and went to work for The New York Sun. He remained at the Sun until the summer of 1907. Corbin worked on numerous free-lance articles for The Saturday Evening Post, which Houghton Mifflin republished in book form in 1908 with the title, Which College for the Boy?. On 20 July 1908 Corbin became Literary Director of the New Theatre, a repertory theater founded by W. K. Vanderbilt, J. P. Morgan, John J. Astor, and other members of New York's high society. He resigned as director in 1910, and the New Theatre closed one year later.

Corbin went back to free-lance writing, as well as to writing and producing plays, after leaving the New Theatre. He acted as secretary for the Drama Society in New York from 1913 to 1916. In 1917 Corbin returned to the New York Times as a drama critic and remained there until 1925. After leaving the Times he devoted the next four years to studying American History. His research led to the publication of a biography of George Washington, titled The Unknown Washington, in 1930. Corbin continued as a free-lance writer for the remainder of his life. During his career he authored a total of twelve books and over one hundred articles and reviews.

John and Amy Corbin moved into a convalescent home in Briarcliff Manor, New York, in the fall of 1957. Amy Corbin passed away in the spring of 1959. John Corbin died a few months later on 30 August 1959.

Scope and Content:

The papers of John Corbin relate to his career as an author and drama critic. They consist of correspondence to and from Corbin, manuscripts and published articles by Corbin, research notes and subject files related to his writings, news clippings of book reviews, legal contracts and agreements, and several photographs. The correspondence in the collection includes personal letters between Corbin and family members as well as business correspondence with magazine editors and publishing companies. Also included in the correspondence are letters from Herbert Hoover, Abby (Mrs. John) Rockefeller, and federal court judge Learned Hand.

The bulk of the collection consists of manuscript drafts of books and articles, most of which were never published. The majority of the writings are fictional works, with a few manuscripts relating to the life of William Shakespeare. The collection also includes several folders of research notes and other background materials compiled by Corbin. Most of the files relate to his research on the life of William Shakespeare, but one folder of information on the inscription of Mount Rushmore contains correspondence with Calvin Coolidge. The photographs in the collection include a number of John Corbin, several of his wife Amy, and one of Corbin and various dignitaries and members of high society at a meeting in Bar Harbor, Maine. The Corbin papers document the career of John Corbin and provide insights into early 20th Century dramatic criticism.


Amery, L. S. (Leopold Stennett), 1873-1955 -- Correspondence

Campbell, Oscar James, 1879-1970 -- Correspondence

Coolidge, Calvin, 1872-1933 -- Correspondence

Corbin, John, 1870-1959 -- Archives

Curtis, Lionel, 1872-1955 -- Correspondence

Hand, Learned, 1872-1961 -- Correspondence

Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964 -- Correspondence

Hughes, Rupert, 1872-1956 -- Correspondence

Perry, Bliss, 1860-1954 -- Correspondence

Porter, Charlotte Endymion, 1859-1942 -- Correspondence

Rockefeller, Abby Aldrich, 1874-1948 -- Correspondence

Rowse, A. L. (Alfred Leslie), 1903-1997 -- Correspondence

Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616 -- Criticism and interpretation

Authors, American -- 20th century -- Archives

Theater critics -- United States -- Archives

Series Description: Series 1: Correspondence

The correspondence consists of letters to and from John Corbin as well as a few to and from Amy Corbin. Much of the correspondence is between Corbin and various publishers and editors regarding manuscripts and article drafts submitted for publication. Other letters between friends and colleagues deal with research ideas and preliminary article reviews. There are some personal letters between Corbin and his friends as well as a few letters from Corbin's father. Of special interest is correspondence with Herbert Hoover, Abby (Mrs. John) Rockefeller, and Learned Hand, a federal Court of Appeals judge who delivered more that 2,000 legal opinions and is regarded as one of the finest jurists in American history.

Series 2: Manuscripts

This series contains manuscript drafts for books, articles, and plays created by Corbin. The bulk of this series consists of manuscript drafts of "High Canaan" and a later, alternatively titled "Tis Then I Most Go Right." Although fictional, this novel used autobiographical elements of Corbin's life. Corbin never found a publisher to take on the project. Most of the remaining manuscripts in the collection relate to Corbin's interest in the life of William Shakespeare.

Series 3: Published Articles

This series consists of published articles authored by Corbin. They range in date from 1911 to 1934.

Series 4: Contracts and Agreements Box 5, Folder 8

The legal contracts and agreements between Corbin and various publishing and production companies relate to some of the early works created by Corbin. The documents range in date from 1901 to 1914.

Series 5: Subject Files

The files in this series mainly contain background information for some of Corbin's published works. They contain research notes, news clippings, correspondence, etc. Of particular interest is the subject file, "Mount Rushmore Inscription: Calvin Coolidge and Gutzon Borglum." The file contains correspondence with Calvin Coolidge regarding the inscription on Mount Rushmore as well as various news clippings and other notes

Series 6: Press Reviews

This series contains newspaper clippings of book reviews. The files consist of reviews of three of John Corbin's books. The books reviewed are "The Cave Man,""Two Frontiers of Freedom," and "The Unknown Washington."

Series 7: Miscellaneous Clippings and Documents

The miscellaneous items in this series include newspaper clippings, a few lines of a poem of unknown origin, an announcement from the Drama and Music Committee of the Twentieth Century Club for 1905-1906, and an issue of the French language newspaper L'Horizon: Journal des Poilus. Also included in this series is a scrapbook created by John Corbin. It contains news clippings, a few pieces of correspondence, and some additional miscellany.

Series 8: Photographs

The photographs in this series are mainly of John Corbin, with a few of his wife Amy. Also included is a photo of John Corbin at a meeting of summer residents of Bar Harbor, Maine. Accompanying the the photo is a newspaper clipping describing the meeting, which was held to encourage support of "the eight-point Roosevelt-Churchill program and also begin a study of worldwide collective security." The photo includes such notables as former U.S. Consul General to Stockholm Hallett Johnson and former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Henry Morgenthau. The photos range in date from the 1880s to the 1950s.

Container List: Series 1: CorrespondenceBox 1. Folder 1. Correspondence, 1894-1916 Box 1. Folder 2. Correspondence, 1920-1930 Box 1. Folder 3. Correspondence, 1931-1939 Box 1. Folder 4. Correspondence, 1940-1948 Box 1. Folder 5. Correspondence, 1949-1950 Box 1. Folder 6. Correspondence, 1951-1953 Box 1. Folder 7. Correspondence, 1954-1956, undated Series 2: ManuscriptsBox 1. Folder 8. "High Canaan," part I Box 1. Folder 9. "High Canaan," part II Box 2. Folder 1. "High Canaan," part III, sections 1-15 Box 2. Folder 2. "High Canaan," part III, sections 16-22 Box 2. Folder 3. "High Canaan," part IV Box 2. Folder 4. "High Canaan," part V Box 2. Folder 5. "'Tis Then I Most Go Right," part I Box 2. Folder 6. "'Tis Then I Most Go Right," part II Box 2. Folder 7. "'Tis Then I Most Go Right," part III, sections 1-15 Box 3. Folder 1. "'Tis Then I Most Go Right," part III, sections 16-22 Box 3. Folder 2. "'Tis Then I Most Go Right," part IV Box 3. Folder 3. "'Tis Then I Most Go Right," part V Box 3. Folder 4. "'Tis Then I Most Go Right," part I, c. 2 Box 3. Folder 5. "'Tis Then I Most Go Right," part II, c. 2 Box 3. Folder 6. "'Tis Then I Most Go Right," part III, sections 1-15, c. 2 Box 3. Folder 7. "'Tis Then I Most Go Right," part I, sections 16-22, c. 2 Box 4. Folder 1. "'Tis Then I Most Go Right," part IV, c. 2 Box 4. Folder 2. "'Tis Then I Most Go Right," part V, c. 2 Box 4. Folder 3. Rejected draft, "'Tis Then I Most Go Right," part I, section 14 Box 4. Folder 4. Rejected draft, "'Tis Then I Most Go Right," part II, section 15 Box 4. Folder 5. Rejected draft, "The Great Vision," Acts I-IV Box 4. Folder 6. Rejected draft, "Fighting Words of the Peace," sections 1-10 Box 4. Folder 7. Rejected draft, "Fighting Words of the Peace," section 11 and epilogue Box 4. Folder 8. Rejected draft, "Shakespeare and His Stage," pt. 1 Box 4. Folder 9. Rejected draft, "Shakespeare and His Stage," pt. 2 Box 5. Folder 1. Rejected draft, "Shakespeare and His Stage," pt. 3 Box 5. Folder 2. "The Love Letters of William Shakespeare," pt. 1 Box 5. Folder 3. "The Love Letters of William Shakespeare," pt. 2 Box 5. Folder 4. Incomplete draft, "The Love Letters of William Shakespeare," pt. 1, c. 2 Box 5. Folder 5. Incomplete draft, "The Love Letters of William Shakespeare," pt. 2, c. 2 Series 3: Published articlesBox 5. Folder 6. Published articles, 1919 Box 5. Folder 7. Published articles, 1911-1934 (see also oversize box 20) Series 4: Contracts and AgreementsBox 5. Folder 8. Contracts and agreements, 1901-1914 Series 5: Subject FilesBox 5. Folder 9. Mount Rushmore Inscription: Calvin Coolidge and Gutzon Borglum Box 5. Folder 10. Nature Box 5. Folder 11. Return of the Middle Class Box 5. Folder 12. Shakespeare, New Theatre Box 5. Folder 13. Shakespeare and the Plastic Stage Box 5. Folder 14. Shakespeare, stage notes (see also oversize box 20) Box 5. Folder 15. Shakespeare, theatre programs Box 5. Folder 16. Washington, George Series 6: Press ReviewsBox 5. Folder 17. "The Cave Man" Box 5. Folder 18. "Two Frontiers of Freedom" Box 5. Folder 19. "The Unknown Washington" Series 7: Miscellaneous Clippings and DocumentsBox 6. Folder 1. Scrapbook Box 6. Folder 2. Clippings, notes, etc Box 6. Folder 3. Misc. clippings, documents, L'HORIZON, Journal des Poilus (see also oversize box 20) Series 8: PhotographsBox 6. Folder 4. Photographs Box 6. Folder 5. Photographs, 1880s-1950s
Related Material and Resources: Clark, David M. John Corbin: Dramatic Critic. Lincoln, NE; University of Nebraska - Lincoln, 1976Corbin, John. School Boy Life in England. An American View. New York; Harper and Brothers, 1898____________.Husband: a Comedy in Three Acts. 1900____________.An American at Oxford. Boston; Houghton Mifflin, 1902____________. College for the Boy? Leading Types in American Education.. Boston; Houghton, Mifflin and company, 1908____________. The Return of the Middle Class. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1922____________. Unknown Washington; Biographic Origins of the Republic. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1930

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