University of Texas, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

J. H. Matthews:

An Inventory of His Papers in the Manuscript Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Creator: Matthews, J. H., 1930-1987
Title: J. H. Matthews Papers
Dates: 1950-1987
Abstract: The J. H. Matthews Papers are composed primarily of correspondence, typescripts, notes, clippings, printed materials, and visual materials that document Matthews' research, publications, and academic career from 1950 to 1987. The papers highlight Matthews' work on surrealism in literature and the visual arts, his extensive correspondence with surrealist authors and artists, and his teaching and professional responsibilities.
Extent: 17 boxes, 5 oversize flat files (7.14 linear feet)
Language: Materials are primarily in English and French, but also include items in Spanish, Czech, Italian, German, and Dutch.
Repository: The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Biographical Sketch

John Herbert Matthews was born on September 11, 1930, in Swansea, Wales, to John Oswald Matthews and the former Elizabeth Mabel Morgan. He earned a degree in French from the University of Wales in 1951 and completed a doctoral degree at the University of Montpellier in 1955. He married Jeanne Brooks on July 23, 1955, and they had three children.

In 1956, Matthews accepted an appointment as an assistant lecturer in French at the University of Exeter and the following year became a lecturer at the University of Leicester. He then moved to the United States in 1963 to serve as a professor of romance languages at the University of Minnesota. In 1965, he became a professor of French at Syracuse University, a position he held until his death.

Matthews was a prolific author, and most of his twenty-five books and numerous articles focus on surrealism and its manifestations in literature and the visual arts. His first book on surrealism was An Introduction to Surrealism (1965). In the 1970s, he began to further investigate surrealism in painting, photography, and film, producing works such as The Imagery of Surrealism (1977), Surrealism and American Feature Films (1979), and Eight Painters: The Surrealist Context (1982). In 1971, Matthews was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in university criticism for his book Surrealism and Film. He also edited two anthologies of surrealist works, An Anthology of French Surrealist Poetry (1966) and The Custom House of Desire: A Half-Century of Surrealist Short Stories (1975). Matthews often chose to study lesser-known surrealist authors and artists, including Joyce Mansour, Benjamin Péret, and Jehan Mayoux. In addition to his work on surrealism, he published works about Émile Zola, Guy de Maupassant, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, and other nineteenth- and twentieth-century authors. In recognition of his distinguished record of scholarly research and publication, the University of Wales conferred upon him a Doctor of Letters degree in 1977.

During his time at the University of Minnesota, Matthews served as an associate editor of Symposium, a journal in modern languages. He became editor of the journal in 1965 and held this position until his death.

Matthews died on February 8, 1987, in Lake Placid, New York. His final published work was The Surrealist Mind, which appeared posthumously in 1991.

Scope and Contents

The papers of J. H. Matthews consist of correspondence, typescripts, notes, clippings, printed materials, visual materials, and published works that document Matthews’ research, publications, and academic career from 1950 to 1987. The papers are arranged in five series: I. Correspondence, 1962-1987; II. Works, 1957-1986; III. Research Materials, 1955-1986; IV. Teaching and Related Materials, 1955-1986; and V. Works by Others, 1950-1987.

Series I., Correspondence, consists primarily of letters Matthews received from European and North American surrealist artists and authors, as well as scholars, curators, and publishers. The letters from artists and authors often address their work and personal affairs, describe happenings in surrealist circles, and provide commentary on Matthews’ publications. The correspondence is primarily in English and French, but there are also several letters in Spanish and Italian. A limited number of copies of letters written by Matthews is included in the collection. The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent last name.

The Matthews Papers include correspondence of a significant amount or nature from the following individuals: Karol Baron, J. Karl Bogartte, Vincent and Micheline Bounoure, Ian Breakwell, Arnost Budik, Michael Bullock, Nicolas Calas, Mário Cesariny, Alfred Charley, Guy and Rikki Ducornet, John Schlechter Duvall, Peter Fingesten, Richard Genovese (later name Richard Misiano-Genovese), Eugenio Fernández Granell, Paul Hammond, Jim Harter, Edouard Jaguer, Ted Joans, Sérgio Lima, John Lyle, Conroy Maddox, Joyce Mansour, Renzo Margonari, Marcel Mariën, Jehan Mayoux, Stephen Robeson Miller, José Pierre, Tony Pusey, Franklin Rosemont, Guy Rosey, Nathalie Sarraute, Stephen Schwartz, Mariarosa Sclauzero, Larry R. Smith, Philippe Soupault, Jan Švankmajer, Philip West, and Jon Manchip White. Some correspondence is located in other series, including letters from Rikki Ducornet (folder 6.4), Joyce Mansour (folder 7.3), and Nathalie Sarraute (folder 11.5).

The collection also contains a small number of letters, often brief or routine in nature, that Matthews received from the following individuals: Marguerite Arp, Jean-Louis Bédouin, Anthony Earnshaw, Gordon Onslow Ford, Wilhelm Freddie, Paul Garon, Jon Graham, Maurice Henry, Alain Joubert, Philip Lamantia, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Hans Henrik Lerfeldt, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jean Schuster, Georges Sebbag, Jean-Claude Silbermann, Henri Storck, and Marianne van Hirtum.

The bulk of Series II., Works, consists of typescripts of Matthews’ books, articles, reviews, and lectures. Also included is correspondence with authors, artists, and publishers related to Matthews’ publications, often regarding use permissions and editorial questions. This series also contains original artwork and photographs that Matthews selected to illustrate his works. The material in this series is arranged alphabetically by title of the work.

Undated handwritten notes, outlines, and clippings comprise the bulk of Series III., Research Materials, and Series IV., Teaching and Related Materials. Also included in the teaching materials are course syllabi, course assignments, and slides, as well as documents related to Matthews’ committee and editorial work at Syracuse University. The research and teaching materials are arranged alphabetically by subject, according to Matthews’ own folder titles wherever possible.

Series V., Works by Others, is composed of scholarly articles, surrealist tracts and publications, and visual materials. The scholarly articles are primarily offprints from academic journals in literature, language, and the visual arts, and are often autographed by the author with a note to Matthews. The surrealist publications include tracts, pamphlets, and posters from North America and Europe, in English and French. The visual materials consist of photographs, film stills, slides, and negatives of works by surrealist and other artists, as well as a limited number of original drawings.



Open for research

Index Terms

Matthews, J. H.
Surrealism--United States
Surrealism (Literature)
Surrealist artists
Surrealist film

Related Material

Also located at the Ransom Center are a number of volumes and periodicals from Matthews’ personal library, the majority of which relate to surrealism, French literature, and the visual arts.

Separated Material

Materials transferred to other Ransom Center collections include sound recordings (twelve tape reels and two audio cassettes containing recordings of Matthews, material about surrealist authors, and recordings of the Goon Show) and published materials (exhibit catalogs in Czech, German, and Dutch; a two-volume copy of Crapouillot: Dictionnaire des contemporains; works of fiction by Ian Breakwell; and assorted periodicals).

Administrative Information


Purchase, 1989 (R11768), Gift, 1995 (G10329)

Processed by:

Shelley Rowland, 2009


Archambault, Paul J. “In Memoriam: John Herbert Matthews (1930-1987).” Symposium, Vol. 41, No. 1. Spring 1987.

Balakian, Anna. “Foreword: John H. Matthews and Surrealism.” In The Surrealist Mind, by J. H. Matthews. Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press, 1991.

“J(ohn) H(erbert) Matthews.” Contemporary Authors Online, (accessed 5 September 2008).

Folder List

Series I. Correspondence, 1962-1987

Box Folder
1 1 A
2 Ba-Br
3 Baron, Karol, 1978-1987
4 Bu-Ce
5 Ch-Co
6 Charley, Alfred, 1976-1985, undated
7 D
Box Folder
2 1 E-F
2 G
3 Genovese, Richard, 1978-1986, undated
4 Graham, Jon, 1986-1987
5 Granell, Eugenio Fernández, 1974-1982, undated
6 H-I
7 J-K
8 La-Le
Box Folder
3 1 Li-Ly
2 Lima, Sérgio, 1978-1984
3 Ma-Man
4 Mar-Me
5-6 Miller, Stephen, 1978-1984
7 Mo-N
Box Folder
4 1 P
2 R
3 S
4-5 Schwartz, Stephen, 1967-1980, undated
Box Folder
5 1 Sclauzero, Mariarosa, 1986-1987
2 Smith, Larry R., 1976-1983, undated
3 Švankmajer, Jan, 1978-1984, undated
4 T-V
5 W
6 Z and unidentified

Series II. Works, 1957-1986

Box Folder
5 7 André Breton: Sketch for an Early Portrait (1987), contract, correspondence, page proofs, 1985-1987
Articles, 1957-1987, undated
Box Folder
5 8-9 A
Box Folder
6 1 B-I
2 J-P
3-4 R
5 S-T
Contemporary Surrealist Prose, Volume II (unpublished)
Box Folder
6 6-7 Typescripts, undated
8 Illustrations, 1980, undated
9 Correspondence, 1978-1980
The Custom-House of Desire (1975)
Box Folder
7 1-4 Author files, A-Z, correspondence and typescripts, 1973-1978
5 French language originals, 1922-1973
6 Illustrations, undated
7 Dictionnaire général du surréalisme (1982), index of editorial assignments, undated
8 Eight Painters: The Surrealist Context (1982), use permissions, 1982-1983
The Imagery of Surrealism (1977)
Box Folder
8 1 Copyright permissions, 1977
2-3 Illustrations, undated photographs depicting works created 1925-1977
4 Introductions and prefaces, A-Z, untitled, 1963-1986, undated
Languages of Surrealism (1986)
Box Folder
8 5 Corrected typescript, undated
6 Contract, correspondence, permissions, 1983-1986
Lectures, 1958, 1986, undated
Box Folder
8 7 A-So
Box Folder
9 1 Su-V
2 Reviews, A-Z, 1965-1986, undated
3 Surrealism and Film (1971), correspondence, research material, 1970-1971, undated
4-8 The Surrealist Mind (1991), typescript drafts, undated
Box Folder
10 1 Surrealist Poetry in France (1969), notes, undated
2 Unidentified fragments, undated

Series III. Research Materials, 1955-1986, undated

Box Folder
10 3 Adamov, Arthur – Bibliographies
4 Breton, André – Bureau de Recherches Surrréalistes
5 Champs des Activités Surréalistes – Crane, Stephen
6 Dada
7 Desnos, Robert
Box Folder
11 1 Exhibits and events
2 Gradiva – Mallarmé, Stéphane
3 Mansour, Joyce – Maupassant, Guy de
4 Mayoux, Jehan
5 Neveux, Georges – Panizza, Oskar
6 Péret, Benjamin
7 Picasso, Pablo – Storck, Henri
Box Folder
12 1-2 Surrealism
3 Surrealist films
4 Surrealist poetry
5 Tarnaud, Claude – Verlaine, Paul
6-7 Zola, Émile
8 Assorted notes

Series IV. Teaching and Related Materials, 1955-1986, undated

Alphabetical files
Box Folder
13 1 Apollinaire, Guillaume – Baudelaire, Charles
2 Camus, Albert – Éluard, Paul
3 Flaubert, Gustave
4 Forms of the Novel – Huysmans, J. K.
5 Malraux, André
6 Maupassant, Guy de – Nineteenth Century Survey
7 Prévost, L’Abbé – Stendhal
8 Surrealism – Twentieth Century Poetry
Box Folder
14 1-2 Twentieth Century Theatre
3 Valéry, Paul – Zola, Émile
4 Professional activities, 1970-1986
5-6 Slides, undated
7 Unidentified, primarily personal items, 1955-1986

Series V. Works by Others, 1950-1987, undated

Articles (A-Z by author name), 1957-1987, undated
Box Folder
15 1 A-B
2 C-E
3 F-G
4 H-L
5 M-R
6 S-W
Box Folder
16 1 Surrealist tracts and publications, 1950-1983, undated
Visual materials (A-Z by artist name), images depicting works created from 1923 to 1986
Box Folder
16 2 B-E
3 Baron, Karol, 1969, 1981, undated
4 Film stills, 1950-1959, undated
5 F-L
6 M-S
Box Folder
17 1 Švankmajer, Jan and Eva, 1968-1983, undated
2 T-Z
3 Unidentified artists