Scofield Thayer (12 December 1889 in Worcester, Massachusetts – 9 July 1982 in Edgartown) 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. He published many emerging American and European writers.
Life and career
Thayer was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on 12 December 1889 to Edward D. Thayer and Florence (née Scofield) Thayer. The Thayers were a prominent and wealthy Massachusetts family. Scofield's father was the owner of several area woollen 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".
Thayer was a Harvard University student. 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, Arthur Wilson (later known as Winslow Wilson) 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. Thayer graduated from Harvard in 1913. After Harvard, Thayer went to Oxford for post-graduate studies at the same time as T. S. Eliot.
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, and Thayer moved to his own place. By 1919 Elaine was having an affair with Cummings, giving birth to their daughter, Nancy, in December of that year.
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 suffering financial trouble. Dr. Watson became the magazine's president while Thayer took up the post of editor. The new team produced its first issue of Dial in January 1920. The issue featured works from E. E. Cummings, Gaston Lachaise, Arthur Wilson (Winslow Wilson) and Carl Sandburg.
In July 1921, Thayer sailed for Europe. He settled in Vienna, and, although he would remain there for more than two years, he continued to direct the operations of The Dial. He solicited financial backing from European investors and sent layout and content instructions back to the magazine's offices in New York regularly. While in Vienna he was psychoanalysed by Sigmund Freud.
During the mid-1920s Thayer began to suffer 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. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Watson continued with The Dial, working with editor Marianne Moore. Their final issue was published in July 1929.
Thayer was certified insane in 1937, the year after his mother died. He thenceforth lived the secluded life of a rich man, surrounded by servants, and moving among homes in Bermuda, Florida, Boston, and his family home on Martha's Vineyard.
He died on 9 July 1982 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. He is buried in Rural Cemetery in Worcester, Massachusetts.
- Dempsey, James (February 2014). The Tortured Life of Scofield Thayer. Florida: University Press of Florida. ISBN 0813049261. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
- Peltier, Jacqueline. "Scofield Thayer (1889-1982)". UN SITE POWYS. Peltier.
- "Guide to the Dial/Scofield Thayer Papers YCAL MSS 34". Yale University Library. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
- Kirsch, Adam, "The Rebellion of E.E. Cummings", The Harvard Magazine, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, March–April 2005.
- Dempsey, James (25 May 2011). "A Lost E.E. Cummings Poem Discovered". The Awl. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
- "Scofield Thayer". Find A Grave. 2010. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
- Hermann Bahr, Arthur Schnitzler: Briefwechsel, Aufzeichnungen, Dokumente 1891–1931. Ed. Kurt Ifkovits, Martin Anton Müller. Göttingen: Wallstein 2018, ISBN 978-3-8353-3228-7 (publisher’s website) One letter from Thayer sent to Hermann Bahr, one letter sent to Arthur Schnitzler, both dated 1922