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Bentley Historical Library

University of Michigan

Holdings and Notes

Updated 19 January 2006

Introduction | Folders | Contact Bentley




The Lardner collection at the Bentley Historical Library is not large, but it is valuable and extremely interesting. The collection consists of one box of Ring Lardner related items (.2 linear feet, call number 851662 Aa 2 UA m) which contains nine folders, and some financial records of Ring's father, Henry Lardner.

The Henry Lardner records provide details of the rise and fall of the Lardner fortune, including information about mortgages and other investments.

The nine folders comprising the Ring Lardner papers are titled rather than numbered; the numbers given below are for my reference only. The titles to the right of the numbers are those found on the folders.

Folder 1:

"A Signed Two Line Poem"

No date or explanation accompanies the poem, a couplet about Barron Lake, Michigan. It has been reprinted in several places, most recently in an article by James Diedrick in Michigan History (Mar/Apr 1985).

Folder 2:

"The Lardner Family"

This is a copy of the article "The Philadelphia of our Ancestors: Old Philadelphia Families--LXXXVI--Lardner," from the North American (Philadelphia, Sunday, 31 Jan 1909).

As the title promises, it presents the Lardner family history from the generations immediately before emigration from England to America to Ring (before his fame) and his generation. It includes anecdotes along with the vital information, drawn primarily from the memoirs of John Lardner, written in the early 1800's.

Folder 3:

"Notes on a Projected Play with George Kaufman"

The notes are on an envelope and a piece of Doctors Hospital stationary, probably written by Ring during the middle of March, 1933, in La Quinta, California. The front side of the envelope is postmarked 13 March 1933 and addressed from Olive White of New York City to Ring Lardner "Radio Editor" [in reference to his radio columns in The New Yorker]. The address is crossed out and forwarded to La Quinta, California, where Ring was staying at the time.

Though the notes are connected by their folder title with the play Lardner was working on in collaboration with George Kaufman, the contents and timing suggest they were for a different project. The play, of which Ring completed nearly two full acts before his death, dealt with an alcoholic named John Haskell and the Puritan family he was marrying into, the Freemans. The notes refer to characters with different names and to a story, reminiscent of some aspects of All at Sea, about gangsters and a ship and a trial. It also seems much more amusing in tone than the Kaufman collaboration.

In a letter of 29 March 1933 to his children and nephew, Ring mentions a meeting he had about a week earlier with Harold Lloyd. Lloyd wanted Ring to come up with a movie idea for him. Ring says he did, but that enthusiasm for it diminished when Lloyd just wanted a short synopsis rather than the full script that he wanted to write. Given the postmark of the letter on which the notes were written and the approximate date of the Lardner/Lloyd meeting, along with the comic nature of the notes, it is more likely the notes are for the movie idea rather than the Kaufman collaboration.

In the letter, Lardner says that maybe he should pitch the movie idea to Buster Keaton. On the back of the Doctors Hospital stationary a single word is written: "Keaton?"

Folder 4:

"Parody of Carmen"

Original manuscript of a two-act musical comedy. Lyrics are included in the manuscript, but no music exists. Though they share the same title, this play has no relationship to the short story "Carmen," collected as part of Gullible's Travels.

According to Jonathan Yardley (Ring: A Biography of Ring Lardner, New York, Random House, 1977), a private showing in 1976 was its only performance (251). The notebooks of Edmund Wilson place the date of the play around 1924.

In the play, the traditional story of Carmen is placed in the Jazz Age, complete with flappers and songs about cigarettes and Prohibition.

It has been published in full in Pages: The World of Books, Writers, and Writing. (Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1967. 134-55.), with a full page caricature of Ring and an introduction by Ring Lardner, Jr.

Folder 5:

"Lyrics for a Musical Show"

Original manuscript of lyrics for All at Sea, an unproduced musical comedy credited to George Abbott, Joseph Santley and Lardner. The songs were written by Lardner and Paul Lannin.

Other copies of the lyrics can be found at the Fort St. Joseph Museum in Niles, Michigan, and at the Newberry Library in Chicago (there attached to the play itself). Minor differences between the versions exist, suggesting that the Bentley and Niles lyrics are earlier drafts.

The songs in the Bentley collection are as follow:

  • "Sixth Avenue"
    From Act I, scene i. The same lyrics are also found at the Newberry Library in Chicago and the Fort St. Joseph Museum in Niles, Michigan.
  • "What is the Matter with Me?"
    From Act II, scene i. The same lyrics are also found at Newberry and Niles.
  • "Tango"
    In the Newberry collection, a note from Ring Lardner Jr. identifies the song as belonging to the Ziegfeld show "Smiles" (1930).
  • "Let the Women Propose"
    From Act I, scene i. The same lyrics are also found at Newberry and Niles.
  • "I'll Never Be Young Again"
    From Act II, scene iii. The same lyrics are also found at Newberry and Niles.
  • "You Can't Get Along Without Me"
    From Act I, scene i. The lyrics found at the Niles museum are originally the same as those at the Bentley, but there are handwritten changes to one line which make it the same as the Newberry version. The Bentley version has the line "This great, big 'woild' is too hard-boiled, / My dear, for you." In the others the line has been changed to "This great, big world is too hard berled, / My dear, for you."
  • "Yes and No"
    From Act I, scene iv. The same lyrics are also found at Newberry and Niles.
  • "Time to Love"
    From Act I, scene iv. Lyrics found at Newberry and Niles have two insignificant words added.
  • "Bridge"
    These lyrics not found at Newberry or Niles.
  • "I Know That You're You"
    For Act II. Lyrics found at Newberry and Niles differ considerably from the Bentley version. The title of the Newberry and Niles version has been shortened to "You're You." In the verse, the lines of the Bentley version:

    "But you must not think me queer
    When I make the statement, dear:
    I'm in love with you, a perfect stranger,
    For you'll never be quite strange to me."

    appear in the Newberry and Niles version as:

    "But you must not run and hide
    If I here and now confide
    I'm in love with you, a perfect stranger,
    For you're certainly 'unstrange' to me."

    Part of the Bentley refrain,

    "I feel the same as when you came
    First faintly in view,
    And what matter if I don't know your name:
    I know that you're you."

    appears in the Newberry and Niles version as:

    "Please linger here! Don't disappear
    As sometimes you do!
    And don't tell me you're a stranger, my dear --
    I know that you're you."

Folder 6:

"R.W. Lardner and Joe Farrell, 'A.O.H'"

Original music manuscript for a song "A.O.H" (Andy O'Hare) which is about an Irish immigrant who makes a fortune, sends for his girl, and finds out she has married someone else.

Joseph Chesterfield Farrell was a newspaperman friend of Ring's in Chicago. The Donald Elder biography (Ring Lardner: A Biography, Garden City NY, Doubleday, 1956) relates a few anecdotes about their relationship. Because they were closet in the 1910s, they probably wrote the song in Chicago during that decade.

Folder 7:

"The Operating Room"

A finished six-page script for a skit, reminiscent of the short story "Zone of Quiet" (1925).

For whom it was written and whether or not it was performed are not known.

In the skit, a nurse and an intern carry on a conversation over a patient who is being prepped for surgery. The nurse is supposed to be relieved by Miss Lyons (the nurse from "Zone of Quiet"), and in the meantime acts an awful lot like her. She rubs her poison-ivy-infected hand on the patient's face while relating a story of a friend who went blind from getting poison ivy on the face. Like Miss Lyons, she talks about boyfriends, and she has Miss Lyons' luck with patients: they all die. In the end, the patient, completely silent throughout, grabs the either bottle above his head and drains it.

Folder 8:

"Lardner Family History"

A selective history of the Lardner family in America, through John Lardner's (Ring's son) children.


Folder 9:

"Ring Lardner Scrapbook"

Various clippings and photographs of Ring's career, from high school days to his death.


Contact Bentley

Bentley Historical Library
University of Michigan
1150 Beal Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113

Phone: (734) 764-3482
Contact: Karen L. Jania, Head of Reference
FAX: (734) 936-1333

Monday-Friday: 9:00 am-5 pm
Saturday: 9 am-12:30 pm (Sept-April)




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