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John Erskine Papers

Identifier: MA.00082

Scope and Contents

The papers consist mainly of Erskine's correspondence and a corrected typescript of his autobiography, The Memory of Certain Persons (J.B. Lippincott: New York, 1947). There are also four miscellaneous items: a manuscript poem, class notes, a pamphlet and a newspaper clipping.


  • Creation: 1909-1950


Conditions Governing Access

There is no restriction on access to the Erskine Papers for research use. Particularly fragile items may be restricted for preservation purposes.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from Erskine Papers should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

John Erskine, educator, writer and musician, was born in New York on October 5, 1879. He received an A.B. in 1900, an A.M. in 1901, a Ph.D. in 1903 and an LL.D. in 1929 from Columbia University, as well as honorary degrees from Amherst College and the University of Bordeaux. He served during World War I in France, and was made a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor. He served as instructor in English at Amherst before joining the faculty of Columbia University, where he spent most of his life. Erskine is credited with having started the system of General Education at Columbia through his Great Books colloquium. Erskine was also a musician of considerable talent, who performed occasionally at concerts and wrote two opera librettos, and a prolific writer who said that he had written something every day since the age of 16. He was married twice: to Pauline Ives until their divorce in 1945, and later to Helen Worden. Erskine died in 1951 at the age of 71.

Erskine's books include the autobiographical works The Memory of Certain Persons (1947), My Life as a Teacher (1948), My Life in Music (1950) and My Life as a Writer (unfinished); as well as several essays, poems and novels, of which the most successful was The Private Life of Helen of Troy (1926).


1 Linear feet (2 archives boxes)

Language of Materials



Educator, writer, musician. Papers include correspondence and a corrected typescript of Erskine's book The Memory of Certain Persons.


This collection is organized into three series:

  1. Series 1: Correspondence, 1909-1950
  2. Series 2: Miscellaneous
  3. Series 3: Typescript of The Memory of Certain Persons, [circa 1946-1947]
Sarang Gopalakrishnan, Peter Nelson.
Language of description
Script of description
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Repository Details

Part of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Amherst College Archives & Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
61 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2299