Emily Holmes Coleman

Emily Coleman (1899–1974) was an American writer.

Her mother passed away when Emily was a child, and she was sent to a boarding school. She then attended Wellesley College, and graduated in 1920. In the following year, Emily married the psychologist Loyd Ring Coleman, and the couple had a son three years later. Stricken with puerperal fever and suffering of post partum depression, Emily had a nervous breakdown and was confined to a mental hospital for a brief period.

In 1926, the family moved to Paris, where Emily worked as the society editor for the Paris Tribune. While in Paris, Coleman published articles, stories, and poems in the magazines transition and New Review. Coleman also worked for one year as Emma Goldman’s secretary, during the period in which Goldman was writing her autobiography, Living My Life (1931). During this period, Coleman was friends with Djuna Barnes and was instrumental in arranging for the publication of Barnes’ Nightwood (1936). Edwin Muir, Peggy Guggenheim, Beatrix Wright, Antonia White, and Dylan Thomas were also among her friends.

In 1940, Emily married the Arizona rancher Jake Scarborough. During this time, she struck up a correspondence and later a personal acquaintance with French philosopher and theologian Jacques Maritain and his wife Raissa. Under their influence, she converted to Catholicism in 1944, what led to her separation from her second husband. From 1944 until her death, Emily’s writing assumed a mystical tone, focusing on her Catholic faith. She became involved with the Catholic left and became friends with Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. Coleman lived in a number of Catholic communities, until her death in 1974.



  • The Shutter of Snow (1930)
  • Rough Draft: The Modernist Diaries of Emily Holmes Coleman, 1929-1937, edited by Elizabeth Podnieks (2012)
  • Coleman wrote numerous unpublished plays, stories, diaries, and poems, as well as a second novel, Tygon, which was never published. Her papers are held by the University of Delaware Special Collections Department.

About her

  • Im Dunkeln gehn. Briefe an Emily Coleman, letters between Djna Barnes and Emily Holmes Coleman, edited by Mary Lynn Broe, tr. Robin Cackett (2002. Original: The Selected Letters of Djuna Barnes, ed. Mary Lynn Broe, 1992)
  • Hayford Hall: Hangovers, Erotics, and Modernist Aestethics, edited by Sandra Chait (2005)
  • The Triadic Association of Emily Holmes Coleman, T. S. Eliot and Djuna Barnes, by Miriam Fuchs, in «ANQ, A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes, and Reviews», Volume 12, Number 4, Washington DC, Fall 1999
  • Mad and Modern: A Reading of Emily Holmes Coleman and Antonia White, by Kylie Valentine, in «Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature», Volume 22, Number 1, Tulsa OK, Spring 2003

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