The Eric Bentley collection consists of manuscripts, printed material, correspondence, and other items.
Manuscripts by Bentley in the collection include his books A Century of Hero Worship (1944); Bernard Shaw (1947); The Life of the Drama (1964); The Playwright as Thinker (1967); The Theatre of Commitment (1967); What Is Theatre and Other Reviews (Atheneum, 1968); The Good Catholic (1968); several versions titled Roaring All Day Long; The Great Playwrights (compilation selected and introduced by Doubleday, 1970), including extensive drafts and notes on various significant dramatists through history; Thirty Years of Treason (Viking, 1971), including over one thousand pages of printed transcripts of hearings at the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee, with notations by Bentley; Theatre of War (Viking, 1972); and The Brecht Commentaries (Grove, 1980). Also present is the manuscript for Bentley’s Ph.D. dissertation for Yale University from 1941: “The Idea of the Hero in Thomas Carlyle and Friedrich Nietzsche… or the Philosophy of Heroic Vitalism, 1800-1930.” Other writings by Bentley include several pieces for magazines and theatre studies.
Manuscripts for dramatic works by Bentley include his plays Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been: The Investigations of Show-Business by the Un-American Activities Committee 1947-1958 (1972), based on Bentley’s book Thirty Years of Treason; Lord Alfred’s Lover (1979), including material from Posing as a Sodomite, the play that inspired this work; as well as earlier works, including Antigone; Thunder Over Thessaly (1957), based on Euripides’ Andromache; Peleus: A Time to Live (1967); The Red and White and Black (1969); German Requiem; and Rallying Cries, a collection of three plays (New Republic Books, 1977).
Manuscripts for works by others include Bentley’s translations of Wolf Biermann’s play The Wire Harp; Kurt Weill’s Happy End (1995); and Bertolt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera Songs (1960) and Mother Courage.
Printed material in the collection includes reviews of Bentley’s work from six issues of The Independent Shavian (1970-1976). The collection has some assorted reviews and writings about Bentley from the 1960s to the 1990s.
Correspondence in the collection includes several letters from notable twentieth-century theatre writers and directors. These include copies of letters from Bertolt Brecht, dated 1945-1955, as well as materials relating to legal disputes Bentley encountered later with relatives of Brecht (1959-1970); several letters from Uta Hagen and Herbert Berghof (1966-1967); copies of two letters of recommendation written for Bentley from C. S. Lewis (1938 and 1940); five letters from Berthold Viertel (1945-1950); a letter from Arthur Miller (1956); nine letters from Robert Penn Warren (1946-1955), as well as photocopies of letters written by Bentley and mailed (1947-1955).
Audio material in the collection includes recordings of lectures, performances, and interviews by Bentley, including over sixty reel-to-reel audio tapes; recordings of Bentley’s seven Norton Lectures at Harvard University (1960-1961); talks on Bertolt Brecht and Lillian Hellman (1970-1971); two interviews focusing on Brecht (1966); and performances by Bentley of Bertolt Brecht’s work, including singing and poetry (1961-1979).