Scope and arrangement
The John Gielgud correspondence consists of letters, postcards and Christmas cards sent by Gielgud to Katharine Cornell, Guthrie McClintic, and Nancy Hamilton between the years 1958 and 1982. The letters and cards are handwritten, with closings that frequently convey the well-wishes of both Gielgud and his long-time companion Martin. The collection also contains seven photographs - six of Gielgud and one of Martin's Pekingese named Caesar.
Most of the Christmas cards are undated. Gielgud generally recorded the month and day on his letters, but not the year. Because the letters continually refer to dramatic productions with which he was currently involved, the missing year dates can often be determined.
Gielgud's descriptions of the acting world document his generosity towards his fellow thespians, his reflectiveness as a critic of acting and directing, and his sensitivity to local performing conditions (theatre size, backstage maintenance, noise distractions, etc.). The numerous thumbnail assessments of plays mainly focus on the merits of particular productions (e.g., the 1965 Pittsburgh production of Albee's Tiny Alice), but sometimes also consider the quality of the play itself (e.g., Chekhov's Ivanov). Occasionally, Gielgud's critical tone becomes witty and satirical - as when he writes that the movie version of Lost Horizon should really be called "Hello, Dalai."
The reproductions of art masterpieces displayed on many of Gielgud's Christmas cards indirectly document his hobby of visiting art museums. Another documented hobby is jigsaw puzzles: one of the Christmas cards refers to a 2 ½-week-period during which Gielgud worked at completing a "mammoth Jigsaw Cézanne Still Life."
Besides the theater, frequent topics of the Gielgud correspondence include local weather conditions and hotel accommodations. On a more philosophical plane, the correspondence contains numerous bemused reflections on the illness and death of close friends and colleagues.
The John Gielgud Correspondence is arranged in chronological order according to the intended recipients of his messages. Photographs without an addressee have been placed in a separate folder.