The Edgar Stillman Kelley Collection

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Reflective of their many journeys around the world, Edgar and Jessie Stillman Kelley were recipients and authors to an impressive collection of personalized correspondence. Spanning many decades, these intimate letters speak to the unique relationship the couple established among friends, family, colleagues, and each other.

A letter from Jessie to Edgar gives insight to their obliging partnership as a working couple:

Now about affairs here at the Western-I have been getting hold of its politics the past two days through Miss Porter and the Dean. They have taken me in their confidence and as you can imagine I see further into some things than they do. I expect to have you meet President Newman in New York next Thursday evening…He is not a man to discuss things with; they must be sprung on him favorably. He is good, not strong and rather vain and ambitious without knowing it-so this is what I wish done. First, I want you to bring him and Farwell together and have Farwell express his gratification at hearing of your fellowship for composition at the Western this year-that it is a move in the direction and that after you get to work he means to call attention to the fact through the columns of his paper. This will set up President Newman tremendously.

Mr. Stillman Kelley received ample praise from his musical contemporaries, which would lead to his permanent fellowship at Western College, the first of its kind for a creative musician in the United States. The following are quotations from letters to Dean Sawyer, quoted in the King dissertation:

Mr. Edgar Stillman Kelley is one of the most eminent musicians whom I have known and by all means the most distinguished American composer. His works testify to most thorough skill in counterpoint as well as to deep musical feeling. America can be proud of such an artist. (Xaver Scharwenka)

It is chiefly as a composer that I know him, and as such, by common consent of all who have any real knowledge of creative musical art in America, he stands among the few in the very first rank. In both imagination and scholarship, he takes rank with the best of modern composers…His serious works have impressed Berlin in the last few years, and these works of which I have intimate knowledge, will unquestionably rank among the greatest of American musical achievements at the present time. I am also able to testify to Edward McDowell's very high opinion of Mr. Kelley, as before his death I talked over various American composers with him. (Arthur Farwell, American composer)

© Western College Memorial Archives, Miami University Libraries
Last Updated: June 30, 2015