Hortense Flexner (King) Papers

Housed at Department of Rare Books, Archives & Special Collections, University of Louisville.

Biographical Notes

Poet and writer Hortense Flexner King was born in 1885 in Louisville, one of five children of Jacob and Rosa Maas Flexner. Her three sisters each attained a level of fame in their own respect; Carolin, as aide to a New York lieutenant governor and senator and special assistant on headquarters staff of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration; Jennie, as a head of the Readers' Advisory of the New York Public Library and writer on library issues; and Alice, as a research worker for the New York Welfare Council. Her brother, Morris, became a well-known physician in Louisville. Her family included well-known education reformer Abraham Flexner; pathologist and long-time director of the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research, Simon Flexner; lawyer and philanthropist Bernard Flexner; and historian Eleanor Flexner. Hortense Flexner attended the Flexner School (founded by her uncle) in Louisville for her early education, then went to Bryn Mawr College, and graduated with an A.B. and M.A. from the University of Michigan. She worked as a reporter and then editor of the women's section at the Louisville Herald from 1912 to 1919. While there, Hortense Flexner met and married cartoonist Wyncie King. King's reputation was established by his political cartoons in the Saturday Evening Post. Hortense Flexner worked as a writer for Curtis Publishing from 1923 to 1929, while she established herself as an active and published poet. She also taught courses in freshman English and contemporary verse at Bryn Mawr and later, modern fiction and creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Flexner maintained correspondence with many of her former students from Bryn Mawr and Sarah Lawrence until the time of her death.

Flexner was awarded first honors by the Poetry Society of America in 1919 for her poem, "Mask of Soldiers." Her first volume of poetry, Clouds and Cobblestones, was published in 1920. This Stubborn Root and Other Poems followed in 1931 and North Window and Other Poems came out in 1943. Flexner's poetry was widely published in magazines includingHarper's, The Atlantic, The Masses, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and Poetry. It is believed that 1956 was the last year that a Hortense Flexner poem appeared in an American periodical.

In 1963 acclaimed poet and writer Laurie Lee (Member of the Order of the British Empire) edited a volume of Flexner's selected poems. In 1968-1969, a volume of French translations of Flexner poetry, along with a critique by the French writer Marguerite Yourcenar (the first woman elected to sit in the French Academy), was well received. Hortense Flexner also wrote children's books, including Chipper in 1941, The Wishing Window in 1942, and Puzzle Pond in 1948. Wyncie King did the illustrations for these of his wife's books. In the early years of her career, Hortense Flexner also wrote plays: "Voices," "The Faun," "Mahogany," and "The Little Miracle," "The Broken God," produced by the Little Theatre Society of Indiana; and "The New Queen," produced by the University of Louisville Players. She was a member of Poetry Society of America and Phi Beta Kappa.

Hortense Flexner's beloved husband, Wyncie King, died while they were vacationing in Greece in 1961. Shortly thereafter, she returned to Louisville from their home in the east to be near her family and made her home there until her death in 1973 at the age of eighty-eight. In 1971 the University of Louisville honored Hortense Flexner with an Honorary Doctor of Letters for her contributions to American poetry. She was again honored by the University of Louisville when it published, posthumously, The Selected Poems of Hortense Flexner in a limited edition edited by Harvey Curtis Webster and Joy Bale in 1975.

Reviews of Hortense Flexner's poetry were usually sterling. The London Times, Literary Supplement, on January 29, 1931, wrote about This Stubborn Root: "there is a crystal clarity and polish in what she writes." Harvey Curtis Webster stated in a March 14, 1943 Courier-Journal review of North Window and Other Poems: "This freshness of mind that enables her to see things through her own, not another poet's eyes, accounts for a great deal of Miss Flexner's excellence." Laurie Lee wrote in the foreword to Selected Poems: "The words set down are as common as pebbles, but though small they cast giant shadows. . . . Here is a poetry which truth has reduced to the bone, and which has the bare beauty of such endurance." A review of Selected Poems in the London Times, Literary Supplement October 25, 1963 used these words to describe her work: "Her imagery is visual, and often very disturbing. Her diction is lucid and economical. She deals frequently with traditional themes, but renews each one that she tackles. She sees with fresh eyes." Time did not seem to lessen the impact of her work. H. Edward Richardson, professor of English at the University of Louisville reviewed The Selected Poems of Hortense Flexner, in "Potential," August 27, 1975: "Hers is not a poetry of amplitude, but she possesses rare stylistic purity and a fine excess of humility. These are the poems of a deeply concerned human being, and a deeply wise one, too."

Scope and Content

The papers of poet and writer Hortense Flexner King (1885-1973) consist of four series: correspondence, legal/financial/medical paperwork, literary production, and scrapbook materials. The correspondence is mainly incoming, but a small amount of outgoing is also present. Additionally, there is some third party correspondence. Legal, financial, and medical paperwork includes the power of attorney making Elizabeth Y. Schubert her guardian, trust information from the estate of Carolin Flexner, Hortense Flexner's will, and records of her health insurance and hospitalizations. The literary output includes drafts, manuscripts, published works, and related material plus the correspondence concerning the publication of the posthumous work, Selected Poems of Hortense Flexner. There are also reviews and other items related to other published works. Scrapbook items such as photographs, printed material, newspaper clippings, and her honorary Ph.D. from the University of Louisville, along with a program for that event, photographs, and news items comprise the last series. The 5.75 linear foot collection dates from the late 1800s (family photographs) to 1976, three years after her death.

The University of Louisville Ekstrom Library Rare Books and Special Collections Department received the papers of Hortense Flexner King as a gift from her estate in 1975. A few other papers and photographs were donated by friends after her death. The collection was processed as part of the Women's Manuscript Collection Project at the University Archives and Records Center under a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, 1994-1996.

Series Descriptions

1. Correspondence (1.375 linear feet) Boxes 1-3

The correspondence series dates from 1923 to 1975. Materials dated after her death concerns Flexner's estate. The majority of the correspondence is incoming with the bulk dating from the time period of 1958 to 1973, when Flexner lived in Louisville, Kentucky. Correspondence originally filed with legal/financial/medical papers was left intact with those files in Series 2, so most of this correspondence is social and personal in nature. The incoming correspondence is organized alphabetically, while the outgoing and third party is chronological.

2. Legal/Financial/Medical (1.125 linear feet) Boxes 3-5

The subseries of legal paperwork mainly pertains to the trust left for the care of Hortense Flexner by her sister Carolin Flexner. Paperwork and correspondence dealing with Hortense Flexner's death, burial, and estate is also present. This series dates from 1961 to 1974. Most of the subseries of financial paperwork is tax-related for the years 1958 to 1972, with some bank records and miscellaneous receipts. The medical files concern her almost constant illness from 1963 to 1973 and include items relating to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), Blue Cross, and Medicare health insurance, stays at Norton's Infirmary, a Louisville hospital, as well as needs such as nursing care, prescriptions, and medical supplies.

3. Literary Production (2.75 linear feet) Boxes 6-11

Literary output is the largest series in the Hortense Flexner King Papers. It includes drafts, manuscripts, and published copies of much of her work, along with a list compiled in the 1970s of all of her published work. It is organized chronologically as much as possible with the undated items at the end of the series. The series dates from 1914 to 1975.

4. Scrapbook Material (.50 linear feet) Box 11

Miscellaneous photographs, printed material, newsclippings and the honorary doctorate and related items make up this series. Photographs of Hortense Flexner and family members date from the late 1800s to 1973. Other photographs date to 1976, when Hortense Flexner was honored with a plaque in the Bingham Poetry Room in Ekstrom Library on Belknap Campus, University of Louisville.

Box/Folder List



Box 1
  1. A, 1966-1967, n.d.
  2. Andrews, Anne (Mrs. Wolcott E.), 1963-1971
  3. B, 1963-1971
  4. C, 1967-1972
  5. D, 1967-1972
  6. E - G, 1956-1969, n.d.
  7. Evans, Abbie Huston, 1962-1970, n.d.
  8. Flexner, 1965-1967, n.d.
  9. Frick, Grace (see also Yourcenar), 1963-1970, n.d.
  10. Gellhorn, Edna (Mrs. George), 1963-1970, n.d.
  11. Gellhorn, Martha, 1961-1972, n.d.
  12. H, 1957-1971, n.d.
  13. Hill, Rikki (Mrs. John Rowland), 1960-1969, n.d.
  14. J - K, 1966-1970
  15. King, Wyncie, 1921-1956 (incomplete)
  16. L, 1958-1970, n.d.
  17. M - N, 1934-1971
Box 2
  1. MacKenzie, Norman, 1961-1968
  2. Manley, Ruth, 1963-1968, n.d.
  3. Matthews, T. S., 1959-1971
  4. Meigs, Mary and Marie-Claire, 1963-1969, n.d.
  5. Morton, David, [1948]-1956, n.d.
  6. Nicholson, Rosie (Mrs. Jesse T.), 1965-1971, n.d.
  7. P - Q, 1963-1971, n.d.
  8. Peters, Arthur King and Euridyce, 1963-1972
  9. R, 1963-1972, n.d.
  10. S, 1960-1972
  11. Salinger, J.D., 1951-1958
  12. Sawitzky, Susan (Mrs. William), 1962-1972
  13. Schieffelin, Bayard and Virginia, "Squeedle," 1963-1971
  14. Schubert, Elizabeth, (Mrs. Maxwell), aka Dora Young, 1963-1972, n.d.
  15. Seltzer, Isabelle (Mrs. Francis "Ed" Fleck), 1966-1973
  16. Stapleton, L. "Staple," 1963-1970
  17. Stone, Alma "Doodle," and E. Stone, "Pebble," 1963-1969
  18. T - V, 1947-1970 (incomplete)
  19. W - Z, 1963-1969
  20. Yourcenar, Marguerite (see also Frick), 1961-1970
Box 3
  1. Unidentified, 1923-1971 (incomplete)
  2. Unidentified, 1963-1972, n.d.


Box 3 (continued)
  1. Miscellaneous, 1960-1972, n.d.
  2. To Wyncie King, 1934
  3. To Elizabeth Schubert, 1961-1972, n.d.
  4. Re: Hawaiian trip, 1969

Third Party and Other

Box 3 (continued)
  1. Miscellaneous, 1952, 1962, and 1975
  2. To Elizabeth Schubert, 1960s
  3. To Elizabeth Schubert, 1970-1975
  4. From Elizabeth Schubert, 1963-1973
  5. Address file, n.d.


(Files contain paperwork and correspondence related to each subject)


Box 3 (continued)
  1. Miscellaneous, 1961-1973
  2. Re: Trust from Carolin Flexner, 1961-1972
  3. Re: Trust from Carolin Flexner, 1962-1973
Box 4
  1. Re: Death and burial, 1972-1973
  2. Re: Will and estate, 1973-1974


Box 4 (continued)
  1. Miscellaneous, 1961-1969
  2. Taxes, 1958-1963
  3. Taxes, 1964-1967
  4. Taxes, 1968-1972
  5. Social Security, 1967-1971
  6. The Puritan, 1963
  7. Citizens Fidelity Bank, 1963-1973
  8. Miscellaneous receipts, 1963-1964, 1971-1972
  9. Department store receipts, 1963, 1972
  10. Grocery receipts, 1963, 1971-1972


Box 5
  1. Miscellaneous 1968-1970
  2. American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Health Insurance, 1961-1966
  3. American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Health Insurance, 1967-1971
  4. American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Health Insurance, 1972-1973
  5. Norton Infirmary, 1962-1964
  6. Norton Infirmary, 1965-1970
  7. Companion nurses, 1963, 1971-1972
  8. Blue Cross, 1963-1972
  9. Louisville Apothecary, 1965-1971
  10. Ostomy supplies, 1965-1971
  11. Medicare, 1966-1973


Box 6
  1. "The Little Miracle," play, [1914-1918]
  2. "Voices," play, 1916
  3. "Faith," song with lyrics by Hortense Flexner, 1918
  4. Published poems, [1918-1950s]
  5. Clouds and Cobblestones, catalogued PS 3511 .L59O6, 1920
  6. Clouds and Cobblestones, two copies catalogued PS 3511 .L59O6 c.3 and c.4, 1920
  7. The Stubborn Root, two copies catalogued PS 3511 .L59T5, 1931
  8. Articles, 1930s-1950s
  9. Chipper, catalogued PZ 10.3 .F66 ch, signed "To Kit" from "Tissie" and "King O," 1941
  10. North Window, two copies catalogued PS 3511 .L59N6 c.3 and c.4, 1943
Box 7
  1. North Window, catalogued PS 3511 .L59N6 and same c.5 (has original artwork for cover saved in book), 1943
  2. Puzzle Pond, catalogued PZ 7 .F639 Pu c.2, 1948
  3. "Poems," manuscripts and one copy, catalogued PS 3511 .L59A6, 1961
  4. Selected Poems, three copies catalogued PS 3511 .L59A6, all signed, 1963
  5. Selected Poems, two copies, 1963.
  6. Selected Poems, typescript of foreword and promotional flyer, 1963
  7. La Nouvelle Revue Francaise, Marguerite Yourcenar article "Hortense Flexner" on pages 212-229, two copies, one copy signed to Martha, 1964
Box 8
  1. Presentation critique d'Hortense Flexner, Marguerite Yourcenar, two copies, catalogued PS 3511 .L59A6 1969 c.1 and c.2, 1969
  2. Presentation critique d'Hortense Flexner, Marguerite Yourcenar, signed, to Sara Landau, 1969
  3. Selected Poems of Hortense Flexner, manuscript [1972]
  4. Selected Poems of Hortense Flexner, manuscript, catalogued PS 3511 .L59A6, 1975
  5. Selected Poems of Hortense Flexner, two unbound copies, 1975
  6. Selected Poems of Hortense Flexner, two unbound copies, 1975
Box 9
  1. Selected Poems of Hortense Flexner, two unbound copies, 1975
  2. Selected Poems of Hortense Flexner, one unbound copy, 1975
  3. Selected Poems of Hortense Flexner, two softbound copies, 1975
  4. Selected Poems of Hortense Flexner, one hardbound copy, #103/500 and one softbound copy, #139/500, 1975
  5. Selected Poems of Hortense Flexner, two softbound copies, #141 and #142/500, 1975
Box 10
  1. Selected Poems of Hortense Flexner, correspondence, reviews, etc, 1973-1975
  2. Book reviews, 1931-1975
  3. List of published works, [1970s]
  4. Drafts of poetry, n.d.
  5. Drafts and manuscripts of poetry, n.d.
  6. Drafts and manuscripts of poetry, 1912-1970s
  7. Writings and photos about Mr. Daisy (a dog), [1930s-1940s]
  8. Miscellaneous notes, n.d.
  9. Letters to the editor, n.d.
  10. "Half a Star," manuscript plus other poems, [1960s]
  11. "Half a Star," two finished copies (in folders), [1960s]
  12. "Half a Star," two finished copies (in folders), [1960s]
Box 11
  1. "Island Summers," one copy tied with yarn, n.d.
  2. "Keep It Gay," manuscript, n.d.
  3. "Keep It Gay," manuscript, n.d.
  4. "Storm Warning," manuscript plus others, n.d.
  5. "Storm Warning," one copy tied with yarn, n.d.


Box 11 (continued)
  1. Miscellaneous photographs, [1900]-1976
  2. Family photographs, [circa 1860s]-1973
  3. [Maine] photographs, [1961]
  4. Printed material about the Flexner family, 1931-1972
  5. Printed material, 1916-1972
Box 12
  1. Newsclippings, 1931-1970
  2. University of Louisville Honorary Doctor of Literature, diploma, photos, newsclippings, ceremony schedule and program, 1971
  3. Personal message on a "Speak-a-phone" disc, n.d.

Published Works of Hortense Flexner at UofL

  • Chipper, drawings by Wyncie King, New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1941. Rare Books PZ 10.3 .F66 Ch.
  • Clouds and Cobblestones, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Rare Books PS 3511 .L59C6 1920, 3 copies.
  • North Window and Other Poems, New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1943. Rare Books PS 3511 .L59N6, 4 copies.
  • Poems, New York: The Now & Then Press, 1961. Rare Books PS 3511 .L59A6 1961.
  • Puzzle Pond, drawings by Wyncie King, Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1948. Rare Books PZ 7 .F639 Pu (First Edition).
  • "Reflections (in all Senses) on My Friends," in The New Yorker Book of Verse; Anthology of Poems First Published in the New Yorker. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., c.1935. Ekstrom Stacks PS 614 .N43.
  • Selected Poems, foreword by Laurie Lee, London: Hutchinson & So., 1963. Rare Books PS 3511 .L59A6 1963, 5 copies.
  • The Selected Poems of Hortense Flexner, introduction by Harvey Curtis Webster, Louisville: University of Louisville, 1975. Rare Books PS 3511 .L59A6 1975, 6 copies.
  • The Stubborn Root and Other Poems, New York; Macmillan, 1930. Rare Books PS 3511 .L59T5, 2 copies.
  • Yourcenar, Marguerite, Presentation critique d'Hortense Flexner suivie d'un choix de poems, nl: Gallimard, 1969. Rare Books PS 3511 .L59A6 1969, 3 copies. Books.
  • "Half a Star: Poems by Hortense Flexner," Louisville: np, nd. Rare Books, 4 copies.


  • Agnew, Janet
  • Albright, Jenieve and Paul
  • Alexander, Hope and Dick
  • American Printing House for the Blind
  • Anderson, Barbara (Mrs. Dwight)
  • Andrews, Anne "Anzie" (Mrs. Wolcott E. Andrews)
  • Atkkinson, Brooks

  • Baird, Sarah "Fay" (Mrs. Gordon)
  • Barnes, Peggy (Mrs. Cecil)
  • Barnes, Joseph (Simon and Schuster)
  • Bristol, Margaret
  • Brown, Sarah (Mrs. Thornton)
  • Brunswick Publishing Co. (Robert W. Bannister)
  • Bryant, Marian (Mrs. Julian)
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Busser, Alicia (Mrs. William F.)

  • Campbell, Charles and Vivian
  • Carden, Mrs. George Alexander
  • The Claremont of Southwest Harbour, Maine
  • Davidoff, Helen (Mrs. Milton)
  • Dewald, H.
  • Drake, Inez "Little Richardson"
  • Eisendrath, Mrs. William N. Jr.
  • Ely, Gertrude
  • English, Maurice, ed. (University of Chicago Press)
  • Evans, A.H. (Abbie)
  • Fairbank, Ben and Ginny
  • Fitzgerald, Robert
  • Fleck, Isabelle S. (see Isabelle Seltzer)
  • Flexner, Eleanor
  • Flexner, Louis
  • Flexner, Morris
  • Francis family
  • Frick, Grace (w/ Marguerite Yourencar)
  • Gellhorn, Edna (Mrs. George)
  • Gellhorn, Martha
  • Gordan, Phyllis Goodhart (Mrs. John D.)
  • Graves, Louis and Mim
  • Greenaway, Emerson (Free Library of Philadelphia)
  • Halsted, Isabella "Ibby"
  • Hamilton, Edith
  • Harland, J.P.
  • Hawkins, Alice "Hawk?"
  • Hawtin, Raymond F. and Elise
  • Heller, Alix (Mrs. Larry)
  • Heller, Mary
  • Hentel, Celia
  • Herben, Caroline (Mrs. Stephen J.)
  • Hill, C.J. (signed Rikki) (Mrs. John Rowland)
  • Hollister, Paul and Carol
  • Hottel, Hoyt C.
  • Humphries, Helen S. (Mrs. Rolfe)
  • Hutchinson Publishing Group (Robert Lusty)
  • Jackson, Molly (Mrs. Charles, Jr.)
  • Kennerl, Peter (E)
  • King, Wyncie
  • Knoefel, Peter K.
  • Lawler, Elizabeth
  • Leach, Jill (Mrs. D. A.)
  • Lee, Laurie
  • Lehman, Herbert H. and Edith
  • Levin, Kay or Kasey (Mrs. Robert A.)
  • Livingston, J.A.
  • Luce, Bunny and Sheldon
  • Lusty, Robert (Hutchinson Pub. Group)
  • MacKenzie, Norman
  • Manley, Ruth R.K.
  • McVitty, (Albert) Elliott
  • Matthews, Tom
  • Meigs, Mary "Meigsie" and Marie-Claire
  • Moira, Sister S.C.N.
  • Morton, David
  • Natti, Pauline M.
  • Nicholson, Rosie (Mrs. Jesse T.)
  • Norcross, Emily (Mrs. Hiram)
  • Paine, Rev. George L.
  • Parker, Sydney (Mrs. Jameson)
  • Peters, Arthur King and Eurydice
  • JTR (Josephine, Josie)
  • Riebeth, Carolyn (Mrs. E.W.)
  • Rohrer, Mark and Linda
  • Rosenthal, Barbara and Larry
  • Rothblatt, Alice Flexner "Ady"
  • Rowse? Al
  • Russell, Philips
  • Salinger, J.D. (signed Jerry)
  • Sanders, Elizabeth
  • Sanders, George
  • Sarton, May
  • Sawitzky, Susan (Mrs. William)
  • Schieffelin, Bayard and Virginia "Squeedle"
  • Schlesinger, Arthur, Jr.
  • Schneider, Elizabeth
  • Schubert, Elizabeth (Mrs. Maxwell) aka Dora Young
  • Seely, Elizabeth
  • Seltzer, Isabelle (Mrs. Francis Fleck)
  • Simon and Schuster (Joseph Barnes)
  • Smith, Jean
  • Stapleton, L.
  • Stone, Alma "Doodle"
  • Stone, E. "Pebble"
  • Sureck, Nancy
  • Swindler, MH
  • Taffet, Peter
  • Taggard, Genevieve
  • Taylor, Harold
  • Thurston, Lois M.
  • Turner, Bryan
  • University of Chicago Press (Maurice English, ed.)
  • University of Louisville (Woodrow Strickler)
  • Uri, Sonia (Mrs. Walter)
  • Valentine, Jessica (Mrs. Charles A.)
  • Vaux, Anne and George
  • Vidal, Lux
  • Viking Press (Aaron Asher)
  • Walker, Stuart
  • Weber, Dick aka R.B.
  • Webster, Harry or Henry?
  • Wesleyan University Press
  • Wilder, Amos
  • Williams, Ginny (Mrs. C.D.)
  • Wolking, Exta Williams
  • Woodyatt, Mrs. Philip (Anne Andrews, "Anzie")
  • Wormser, Carola (Mrs. Dick)
  • Yarling, Bass and Helen
  • Yourcenar, Marguerite (w/ Grace Frick)