Scofield Thayer

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Scofield Thayer (12 December 1889 – 9 July 1982) was a wealthy American poet and publisher, best known for his art collection, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and as a publisher and editor of the literary magazine The Dial during the 1920s.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Thayer was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on 12 December 1889 to Edward D. Thayer and Florence Scofield Thayer. The Thayers were a prominent and wealthy Massachusetts family. Scofield's father was the owner of several area wool mills, a founding investor in the Crompton & Thayer Loom Company, and a director of the Worcester Trust Company. Scofield's uncle Ernest Thayer was the author of the well-known poem "Casey at the Bat".[1][2][3]

Thayer entered Harvard University in 1913. His Harvard years would prove formative; during them Thayer would serve on the staff of the Harvard Monthly. During these years Thayer would also meet many other young poets and authors, including E. E. Cummings, Alan Seeger, Lincoln MacVeagh, and Gilbert Seldes. A large dormitory for freshmen at Harvard, in which E. E. Cummings once roomed (room 306), is named after the Thayer family. After Harvard, he went to Oxford at the same time as T. S. Eliot.[1][4]

Thayer married Elaine Orr on 21 June 1916. He commissioned his friend E. E. Cummings to write his poem "Epithalamion" as a wedding present. The marriage did not last long, however, as by 1919 Elaine was having an affair with Cummings, even giving birth to a daughter, Nancy, by Cummings in December of that year.[5]

Thayer's involvement with The Dial began in April 1918 when he purchased $600 USD worth of stock in the magazine. In late 1919, Thayer and his fellow Harvard alumnus Dr. James Sibley Watson, Jr. purchased The Dial from the owner, Martyn Johnson, who was experiencing financial trouble. Dr. Watson became the magazine's president while Thayer took up the post of editor. The Watson/Thayer-produced Dial released its first issue in January 1920. The issue featured works from E. E. Cummings, Gaston Lachaise, and Carl Sandburg.[1]

In July 1921, Thayer sailed for Europe. He settled in Vienna, and, although he would remain there for more than two years, he would continue to direct the operations of The Dial, soliciting financial backing from European investors and sending layout and content instructions back to the magazine's offices in New York regularly. While in Vienna he was psycho analysed by Sigmund Freud.[1]

During the mid-1920s Thayer began to experience a series of mental breakdowns, and began to deteriorate. He resigned as editor of The Dial in June 1926, and spent the remainder of his life in the care of relatives and various institutions and sanatoria. Watson continued on with The Dial working with editor Marianne Moore. The Dial's final issue was published in July 1929.[1][3]

Thayer was certified insane in 1937, the year after his mother died.[1] He thenceforth lived the secluded life of a rich man, surrounded by servants, and moving between homes in Bermuda, Florida, Boston, and his family home in Martha's Vineyard.[1]

He died on 9 July 1982 [3][6] at the age of 93, leaving a bequest of 400 items from his art collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He left his Aubrey Beardsley collection of drawings to the Fogg Art Museum.[1] He is buried in Rural Cemetery in Worcester, Massachusetts.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dempsey, James (February 2014). The Tortured Life of Scofield Thayer. Florida: University Press of Florida. ISBN 0813049261. Retrieved 9 April 2015. 
  2. ^ Peltier, Jacqueline. "Scofield Thayer (1889-1982)". UN SITE POWYS. Peltier. 
  3. ^ a b c "Guide to the Dial/Scofield Thayer Papers YCAL MSS 34". Yale University Library. Retrieved 9 April 2015. 
  4. ^ Kirsch, Adam, The Rebellion of E.E.Cummings, The Harvard Magazine, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, March–April 2005.
  5. ^ Dempsey, James (25 May 2011). "A Lost E.E. Cummings Poem Discovered". The Awl. Retrieved 9 April 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "Scofield Thayer". Find A Grave. 2010. Retrieved 9 April 2015.