A flurry of press releases this morning proclaimed the big news: The University of Texas’ Ransom Center acquired the archive of playwright Arthur Miller.
But wait — hasn’t much of Miller’s archive been at the Ransom Center for years?
Yes, it has been. When it comes to bragging rights, Miller’s name is always included in the Ransom Center’s lineup of 20th-century dramatists. (It’s a breathtaking list: Samuel Beckett, David Hare, Lillian Hellman, Adrienne Kennedy, David Mamet, Terrence McNally, Arthur Miller, John Osborne, Elmer Rice, George Bernard Shaw, Sam Shepard, Tom Stoppard and Tennessee Williams. Whew.)
However much of the Miller material at the Ransom —160 boxes of Miller’s manuscripts and other papers — has remained on deposit for years in a kind of archival limbo, uncataloged and all but inaccessible to scholars. A final sale agreement with Miller’s estate languished for years. And the estate still held its own cache of significant archival materials. (The playwright’s literary executor is his daughter, writer and director Rebecca Miller.)
What was announced today was that, after a long negotiation, a sale has been finalized. The Ransom Center bought Miller’s entire archive for $2.7 million from the Arthur Miller Trust.
According to a fascinating story in the New York Times, much of the protracted negotiation between the Ransom Center and Miller’s estate had to do with the heirs’ desire to the place the playwright’s papers at Yale University despite the Miller’s apparent wishes that they stay in Texas.
Among the newly acquired Miller material are 8,000 pages of the writer’s private journals — notebooks that had remained at his home in rural Connecticut, unstudied by anyone outside the Miller Trust. There is also much personal material including family letters and a never-published essay Miller began the day of the funeral of his second wife, Marilyn Monroe.
Read the Times story “Inside the Battle for Arthur Miller’s archive” for the interesting tale of two powerful cultural institutions — and one writer’s estate — in a complicated tussle.