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Merton's Correspondence with:

John Harris; John P. Harris, John Peene Harris

Harris, John P. (John Peene), 1923-2003  printer


Descriptive Summary

Record Group: Section A - Correspondence
Dates of materials: 1958-1968, 1972-1984, 2010
Volume: 51 item(s); 89 pg(s)

Scope and Content

John Harris was in contact with Boris Pasternak in the late fifties, and Pasternak suggested that he get in touch with Merton and relay a message. Besides his own messages to Pasternak, Harris could covertly get messages to Pasternak without attracting the attention of the Soviet authorities. (Merton's direct correspondence with Pasternak was also intercepted and kept on file with the CIA, see "FBI Materials and CIA Materials" file.) This file contains original letters between Merton and John Harris, as well as transcripts of Harris's correspondence with Boris Pasternak. Original letters from Merton to Harris were donated by his daughter Anne.


Born in London, John Harris was best known as an Francophile author and later for his broadcast about life in France for the BBC. He began his working life as schoolteacher in language, first in Devonshire and later in Cornwall. He spent much time in France and wrote about French culture. (Source: "John P. Harris." Times Online Obituary: The Times [of London]. 26 Nov. 2003. Accessed 5 Oct. 2010. Bellarmine University Library. ‹›.))

Usage Guidelines and Restrictions

Please click here for general restrictions concerning Merton's correspondence.

Related Information and Links

See also Cold War Letters #83 and other letters published in The Hidden Ground of Love, pp. 384-401.

Series List

This Record Sub-Group is not divided into Series and is arranged chronologically.

Container List

#DateFrom/ToFirst LinesPub ✓Notes
 y/m/dMerton Scan ✉ 
1. 1958/09/26 transcript from Pasternak, Boris I do not intend to open a long interchange of thanksgivings of both our mutual signs. But, [sent by Harris to Merton in letter of January 20, 1967 - see "Six Letters of Boris Paternak" under the letter of 1967/January/20] «detailed view»
2. 1958/11/07 transcript from Pasternak, Boris I catch you at your willingness to make me a pleasure but I don't need book presents. I thank you [Pasternak asks Harris to write to Merton and thank him for his letters - sent by Harris to Merton in letter of January 20, 1967 - see "Six Letters of Boris Paternak" under the letter of 1967/January/20] «detailed view»
3. 1958/11/18 TLS[x] to Merton Mr. Boris Pasternak wished me to pass a message to you. I quote his own English: Write if possible «detailed view»
4. 1958/12/04 TLS from Merton Your letter was a wonderful and welcome surprise. The message from Pasternak was a joy and a relief «detailed view»
5. 1958/12/12 transcript from Pasternak, Boris Ravishing and dearest pair. I thank you boundless dear friend for having written to Tom, Bob and so [mentions Merton as "Tom" - sent by Harris to Merton in letter of January 20, 1967 - see "Six Letters of Boris Paternak" under the letter of 1967/January/20] «detailed view»
6. 1959/01/31 TALS from Merton It is a long time since your letter of Dec. 11th. As a matter of fact it took a little time to get «detailed view»
7. 1959/02/21 TLS[x] to Merton (I hope that is a correct way to address you. "Mr. Merton" is beginning to sound a bit odd to me by «detailed view»
8. 1959/02/26 HNS[x] to Merton A P.S. to my letter of the other day -- I heard from Pasternak this morning a letter dated 16 Feb. [note states that it is from "U. of Lexington Library" (University of Kentucky in Lexington?)] «detailed view»
9. 1959/03/14 TALS from Merton I am sure that you are doing the right thing, and I say this not because by some kind of reflex «detailed view»
10. 1959/05/05 TLS from Merton I should have sprung to arms immediately at your last letter, but as you said the whole thing would «detailed view»
11. 1959/06/22 TLS from Merton There is a great long backlog of things to thank you for, and the greatest of them is [see also "Fox, James" Series 29 for a photocopy of the letter in which Dom James highlights a section about following one's inner truth] «detailed view»
12. 1959/08/14 transcript from Pasternak, Boris Go to Rome dear friend and don't think of the other journey. I find myself in the state [sent by Harris to Merton in letter of January 20, 1967 - see "Six Letters of Boris Paternak" under the letter of 1967/January/20] «detailed view»
13. 1959/09/12 TLS from Merton I wonder how long it is since I last wrote to you? I have been busy with some work, and have fallen «detailed view»
14. 1960/02/09 transcript from Pasternak, Boris Please transmit to your lady and to your children my lovely thanks for their being so nice and [sent by Harris to Merton in letter of January 20, 1967 - see "Six Letters of Boris Paternak" under the letter of 1967/January/20] «detailed view»
15. 1960/02/18 TLS from Merton First, thanks for the fabulous photograph of the great embracings which take place on top «detailed view»
16. 1960/05/13 TLS from Merton The French trip sounded very interesting and I was waiting to hear from you about it. I am glad «detailed view»
17. 1960/06/17 TLS from Merton Thank you for your letter about Pasternak and for the other ones too, and for all the postcards «detailed view»
18. 1960/09/07 TALS from Merton Your letter came yesterday and I was glad to hear from you. In particular I had been looking «detailed view»
19. 1962/06/08 (#01) TLS from Merton I suppose it was really rather foolish of me to send you the CW Letters as a present on your entry [Cold War Letters # 83] «detailed view»
20. 1962/06/08 (#02) transcript from Merton I suppose it was really rather foolish of me to send you the CW Letters as a present on your entry [Cold War Letters # 83 - from bound set] «detailed view»
21. 1963/05/15 TLS from Merton I don't think the publication of the letters is a good idea. It would be difficult and complicated, «detailed view»
22. 1963/06/11 TALS to Merton Many thanks for the bomb book and the others. I read the former quickly and have passed it on [contains note of the 13th same page] «detailed view»
23. 1963/06/13 TNS to Merton The above seems very chaotic. The books coincided with a new barrel of cider -- the poor man's [see 1963/June/11 - note dated 13th appears on the bottom of the same page] «detailed view»
24. 1963/06/29 TLS from Merton I bless the day you got the cider. That was a good letter. I forget if it was in that one you sent «detailed view»
25. 1966/05/24 HLS to Merton Are you still there? We have grown used to your portrait on the wall and suddenly realized how long «detailed view»
26. 1966/10/no? HNS from Merton I was so happy with your letter in May- but had just got out of the hospital and wasn't writing much [handwritten note on the cover page of Merton's essay "Prophetic Ambiguities: Milton and Camus" (dated October 1966) for The Saturday Review ("Can we survive nihilism?: Satan, Milton, and Camus") - note on part of one page, ditto of essay on ten double-sided pages] «detailed view»
27. 1967/01/20 (#01) HALS to Merton It was a delight to hear from you again. We hope that your hut in the woods is a real all-American [Harris encloses letters he received from Boris Pasternak - descriptions of these letters are included under their date in this listing: 1958/09/26, 1958/11/07, 1958/12/12, 1959/08/14 and 1960/02/09] «detailed view»
28. 1967/01/20 (#02) other   SIX LETTERS OF BORIS PASTERNAK [-] Important: these letters, «detailed view»
29. 1967/04/10 TAL[c] from Merton Here are more stamps for our trusty secret agent in Cornwall. And by the way, speaking of Cornwall: «detailed view»
30. 1967/12/19 HLS to Merton Suddenly in the middle of dinner we both said: "We have not sent a Christmas card to Thomas Merton!" «detailed view»
31. 1967/12/31 TL[c] from Merton I am contemplating the great man and progeny: photo lies before me on work -and-dinner table of my «detailed view»
32. 1968/01/09 HLS to Merton A day of wrath and gloom (1st day of term: cuts and squeezes have hamstrung, emasculated and «detailed view»
33. 1972/10/20 TALS to Center from Harris, John Thank you for your cyclostyled letter of August 7th, which arrived here today (I imagine it would «detailed view»
34. 1972/10/31 TL[c] from Center to Harris, John Thank you for your response of October 20 to our general letter to correspondents of Thomas Merton. «detailed view»
35. 1973/01/02 HLS[x] to Center from Harris, John It's been shockingly lazy of me not to have replied to your letter of 31st Oct. before now. «detailed view»
36. 1973/03/02 TL[x] from Center to Harris, John Thank you for your letter of January 2, and for the accompanying Merton correspondence. We are very «detailed view»
37. 1977/01/25 TALS[x]  from Harris, John / to Patrick Hart God bless you! Bis dat qui cito dat... I was delighted to receive your parcel this morning «detailed view»
38. 1980/07/10 (#01) TLS[x]  from Harris, John / to Patrick Hart It seems a long time since 1977, when we were exchanging letters; rummaging in my Kentuckian «detailed view»
39. 1980/07/10 (#02) HNS[x]  from Harris, John / to Patrick Hart You might like this one.. what an egoist I am! "Pastis" is Pernod (or Ricard, or whatever) - costs [includes samples of his published writing in French periodical Le Monde] «detailed view»
40. 1983/01/24 TLS[x]  from Shannon, William / to John Harris I am a professor at Nazareth College of Rochester and also the Roman Catholic chaplain to the «detailed view»
41. 1983/01/31 TALS  from Harris, John / to William Shannon It is very kind of you to have consulted me about the Merton letters. I am so glad that I am here «detailed view»
42. 1983/02/07 TALS[x]  from Shannon, William / to John Harris I remember in my days of devotion to GK. Chesterton that people were writing books to identify [addresses the letter to "Peter Smith", Harris' suggested pseudonym for publication purposes] «detailed view»
43. 1983/02/15 (#01) TALS  from Harris, John / to William Shannon I congratulate myself on exchanging letters with a monsignor, epspecially [sic] as I have just read «detailed view»
44. 1983/02/15 (#02) other   ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL [-] H: me; P: H's first wife; S: his 2nd wife. [-] H, on R.A.F. [enclosure to 1983/02/15 letter explaining the background of Harris' marriages and difficulties with the Catholic Church over divorce and remarriage] «detailed view»
45. 1983/03/02 TLS[x]  from Shannon, William / to John Harris I hope you don't mind my addressing you in this more familiar way. It is becoming a bit much «detailed view»
46. 1983/03/10 (#01) TALS  from Harris, John / to William Shannon I am wholly in favour of your addressing me as John. I hope you will permit me to continue to call «detailed view»
47. 1983/03/10 (#02) HN  from Harris, John / to William Shannon ("Saint-Fulcran" - name of imaginary village, remarkably like the one I live in. The TV people got [includes piece of writing by Harris - "Semaine fulcrano-anglaise"] «detailed view»
48. 1984/12/20 TLS[x]  from Shannon, William / to John Harris I am sure that by now you are thinking that "your" monsignor (I hope I am still the only «detailed view»
49. 2010/09/24 HLS to Center from Bedish, Anne Enclosed the letters I found from Thomas Merton to my father as we discussed over email. «detailed view»
50. undated/no/no other   2. Pasternak was offered the Nobel Prize for literature on Oct 23, 1958. At first he accepted; [William Shannon's handwritten notes on Harris letters] «detailed view»
51. undated/no/no other   John Harris was the man who was instrumental in putting Merton in contact with Boris Pasternak. [typed notes containing all letters marked "transcript" between Merton and Harris and between Harris and Pasternak] «detailed view»

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