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Cyrilly Abels papers


Cyrilly Abels papers
Abels, Cyrilly
Collection number:
0.25 linear feet
Bulk dates:
Inclusive dates:
Collection Area:
Literature and Rare Books
Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries, Hornbake Library, College Park, MD 20742. Tel: 301-405-9212, Fax: 301-314-2709, Email:

Cyrilly Abels (1903-1975) was the managing editor of Mademoiselle magazine from 1950 through the early 1960s, when she opened her own literary agency. Abels was literary agent, editor, and close friend of Katherine Anne Porter. The collection consists of letters, postcards, and notes to and from Porter concerning daily life and publishing efforts. Some of the correspondence is addressed to Jerome Weinstein, Abels's husband.

Important Information for Users of the Collection


This collection is open for research.

Preferred citation:

Cyrilly Abels papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

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Publication rights:

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.


This collection is PROCESSED.

Historical Note

Cyrilly Abels (1903-1975), an intimate friend of Katherine Anne Porter, was a notable literary editor and agent. Her career began in 1924 after her graduation from Radcliffe College; she co-founded and was the first editor of a small publication called Creative Reading.

As the managing editor of Mademoiselle magazine from 1945 to 1960, she played a major role in transforming the publication from a fashion magazine for young women to an important medium for young and talented writers. In its pages she brought to a mass audience the writers Eldridge Cleaver, Truman Capote, Carson McCullers, James Baldwin, Hortense Calisher, Eugene lonesco, Flannery O'Connor, James Purdy, and Katherine Anne Porter.

After leaving Mademoiselle, Abels worked for two years as associate editor of The Reporter. Then, in 1962, she established her own literary agency. Her client list included Warren Hinckle, Zelda Popkin, Christina Stead, Francis Steegmuller, T. S. Mathews, Robert Scheer, and Katherine Anne Porter.

Her client Warren Hinckle (former publisher of Ramparts) wrote that Abels expanded "the traditional role of agent into that of combination editor and ombudsman." Her working relationship and close personal friendship with Katherine Anne Porter epitomizes Hinckle's characterization.

In 1950, Abels initiated a relationship with Porter that endured and deepened over a quarter century. Their nascent professional relationship as editor/agent and writer developed into an intimate friendship that lasted until Abels's death. Though often separated by Porter's peripatetic activities and brief periods of "seclusion," the two kept up a rich and diverse correspondence, interspersed with brief meetings. Their common devotion to writing brought them together, but they also shared interests in gardening and fashion—subjects on which they often expounded on at great length in their correspondence.

A passage from one of Porter's letters to Abels, dated November 3, 1961, illustrates her affection:

"The last news I had of you was just ten days ago. I am thinking about you, and wondering, and hoping, and wishing I could do something. But this is not worrying, not fretting and gnawing, it really is what the old Quakers used to call with great purity of feeling for the meaning of words, a Concern, a very continuous awareness of you, for your situation, of what you wish for and are trying to do, and just a plain old fashioned sympathy and friendship for you."

Abels and her husband, lawyer Jerome Weinstein, were childless. Cyrilly Abels died on November 14, 1975. At her death, she was survived by her two sisters, Jean and Muriel Abels.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The papers of Cyrilly Abels consist of her correspondence with Katherine Anne Porter between 1950 and 1975. Some of the correspondence is addressed to Jerome Weinstein, Abels's husband. Most of the letters, notes, cards, and postcards were exchanged between 1953 to 1968. The correspondence concerns both professional and personal topics, including Porter's writing, financial matters, and tenure as a writer-in-residence at various institutions. There is also discussion of travel, gardening, fashion, and politics.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The estate of Cyrilly Abels donated her papers to the University of Maryland Libraries in 1976.

Processing Information

Processed by:

Processed: December 1976. Reprocessed and guide revised by Steve Hausfeld July 1998.

Processing note:

The papers of Cyrilly Abels were originally processed in December 1976. The collection was reprocessed in the summer of 1998. The materials were arranged in chronological order. All staples and metal paper clips were removed. Newspaper clippings were photocopied onto acid-free paper, and the originals were discarded. The letters were placed in acid-free folders and in an acid-free box.

Encoded by:

EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Michael Yates.

Arrangement of Collection

The collection has been arranged in a single series.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Correspondence, 1950-1975 (0.25 Linear Feet)

This series includes letters, notes, cards, postcards, and two newspaper clippings exchanged by Abels and Porter . The correspondence is primarily personal but does include discussions of the editing, publication, and publicizing of Porter's writing as well as her financial difficulties. Porter's published and unpublished works mentioned include "After a Long Journey," "Adventure in Living," "A Christmas Story," "A Defense of Circe," "Exacting Blood From a Population of Turnips," "Flowering Judas," "The Future Is Now," "How to Assault a Husband" (unpublished), "Marriage is Belonging," "Noon Wine," "Pale Horse, Pale Rider," and Ship of Fools.

Some of the correspondence was written during Porter's terms as a writer-in-residence at the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, and Washington and Lee University in Virginia and concerns these academic experiences. Abels and Porter also wrote extensively of gardening, fashion, and travel. Other topics include Porter's opinions on television, race relations and segregation, the fate of higher education, aging and death, her public image, and language. The correspondence is arranged chronologically.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Correspondence, 1950-1954 series 1box 1folder 1
Correspondence, 1955-1957 series 1box 1folder 2
Correspondence, 1958 series 1box 1folder 3
Correspondence, 1959-1960 series 1box 1folder 4
Correspondence, 1961-1975 series 1box 1folder 5

Related Material

Materials related to this collection can be found in the Papers of Katherine Anne Porter, Series I. This series includes correspondence from Cyrilly Abels to Porter and the carbon copies of Porter's typed letters to Abels. The John Graves Papers at the Harry Ranson Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin, contain correspondence between Graves and Abels. Also, the Papers of Christina Stead at the National Library of Australia contain correspondence between Stead and Abels.

For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.

Selected Search Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the University of Maryland Libraries' Catalog. Researchers desiring related materials about these topics, names, or places may search the Catalog using these headings.


Names (Added Entries)