Bibliography and Notes, Nelson Introduction


1 Sprigge 1960, 68, quotes an earlier version of the “Life,” also part of the Bernard and Mary Berenson Papers, Biblioteca Berenson, Villa I Tatti—The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies [hereafter BMBP], where Mary wrote that Bernard was “the most brilliant member of the Harvard class of 1887”. Though Berenson’s first name was originally spelled “Bernhard,” he referred to himself as “Bernard” after the United States entered World War I. Mary used this spelling in her “Life of Bernard Berenson”, and it has been adopted throughout this exhibition.


2 The entire passage reads, “As to the chapters, they are of course full of interest, but I think you could make them much more so by giving some details about B.B.’s boyhood, and his little childhood in Russia, as he has often described it to me; also about his Harvard days, when he was ‘stupor mundi’ to undergraduates and professors.” Edith Wharton to Mary Berenson, 4 June 1932, BMBP. Wharton evidently received the manuscript in Rome and in late May 1932. I thank Michael Rocke for the Wharton reference, and for his many comments on this introduction.


3 For a complete list of the scholarly essays, click here. These address most of the topics mentioned only briefly in this introduction.


4 For a complete list of Bernard’s articles, click here. In the "Writings" section of this exhibition, the articles are arranged in four categories: essays, book reviews, creative writing (poems and short stories), and unsigned editorials. The latter appeared in volume four of the Harvard Monthly (1887), when Bernard was editor-in-chief. As mentioned below, Bernard seems to have written the editorials about University Courses in English and about Russian literature; the authorship of the other two remains uncertain.


5 Mary mentioned the "Idiot Club" in a letter to a friend, dated 29 June 1884; see Johnston 2001, chapter 6, 21. Among the related material in the BMBP, handwritten at least in part by Evelyn Hunter Nordhoff, is an “Entrance Exam – Ideot Club” and volume of “Mortal Tales for Ideots.” The latter contains a list of the “Original Company of Ideots”: “The Great Bun/ The Ragged Biscuit/ The It/ The Thing/ Lurella, The Lady Friend” and four more indicated as “Afterwards admitted”: “Iam/ The Goat/ The Angel Boy/ Stenbock”.


6 In a letter of 4 January 1887, Mary mentioned that a few weeks after one of the photos was taken, some house guests asked her what it meant, and she replied that it was called “The Dawn”; see Johnston 2001, 306.


7 The editorial appeared in volume 4, when Bernard was editor-in-chief. Not only does it correspond to Bernard's style but, as Nathaniel Hay kindly pointed out to me, one passage, "we rush toward Russian and the new-waking Spanish and Italian literatures, as souls after the burial of their bodies rush into the first material that presents itself to them," corresponds to a line on page 11 of Bernard's essay about Talmudo-Rabbinical Eschatology (cat. BB IV.1): "Transmigration as punishment may be into inanimate as well as animate objects, the theory being that the soul rushes in to the first object which it meets, or rather, which is placed before it.”


8 The volume of “Mortal Tales for Ideots,” mentioned above contains as a bookmark the last page of a letter signed “Wm James/ Harvard University/ Nov. 25. 87” and presumably sent to Mary or a member of her family.


9 Berenson 1949, 52. In a similar vein, he wrote, “I preferred the conversation of [Professor] James, of Toy, of Climer, of Wendell, to that of fellow students. The former not only seemed better worthwhile, but were more accessible. Nothing is so cliquey (either correct spelling or may “[sic] and exclusive as the schoolboy or the school-boy-minded Anglo-Saxon of all ages;” Berenson 1952, 28.


10 For the entire statement, see http://itatti.harvard.edu/future-i-tatti.


11 BMBP. In the same archive is a related statement about I Tatti, signed by Bernard and dated 10 December 1928. This begins, “Some time ago I wrote to friends at Harvard University stating my intention to leave my library, my collections of works of art, the buildings containing them, the adjoining garden and farms, and my investments in bonds, shares and stocks, to Harvard University. My expressed intention is that my estate shall 9 constitute an academy where American students can perfect themselves in the history of the arts, and especially of the arts which flourished in Italy, or fed these arts, or were strongly influenced by them … To my knowledge we Americans possess nowhere in Europe a school where such studies as distinct from archeological ones, can be pursued.”


12 Mary Berenson 1933, 3.


13 Harvard College Class 1937, 42.



Berenson, Bernard. Sketch for a Self-Portrait. New York, 1949.


Berenson, Bernard. Rumor and Reflection. New York, 1952.


Berenson, Mary. A Modern Pilgrimage. New York, 1933.


Harvard College Class of 1887. Fiftieth Anniversary Report. Cambridge, 1937.


Johnston, Tiffany. “Mary Berenson and the Conception of Connoisseurship.” PhD diss., Indiana University, 2001.


Sprigge, Sylvia. Berenson: A Biography. London, 1960. 8