Basil Thompson (1892 – 1924) was born and raised in New Orleans and was a prominent literary figure in the city post World War I until his untimely death at the age of 31 from pneumonia. He was a published poet as well as an editor and founder of the small but influential New Orleans literary magazine, The Double Dealer.
(Picture of Basil Thompson in 1908 2nd from left in the front row. Thompson graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Loyola in 1910.)
Our Basil Thompson Papers collection housed in our Special Collections & Archives at Monroe Library offers insight into Basil’s literary career, his early childhood, and his family’s history. Through correspondence, personal diaries, scrapbooks, and ephemera, details of Thompson’s life emerge. The contents of this collection not only come from Basil Thompson’s hand but also from other family members such as his father New Orleans insurance man, T. P. Thompson, his sister Ida Marie Thompson Zorn, and Susan Blanchard Elder, the mother of T.P. Thompson’s first wife and a writer and lyricist of some note.
Postcards, letters, publications, diaries, journals, scrapbooks, and photographs flesh out this collection offering fascinating insight into the life and work of a well-known member of the New Orleans literary community and a family’s history.
Here are some images of one of Basil Thompson’s childhood scrapbooks (an analog version of a modern day Facebook or Tumblr page). These are filled with pictures of exotic locations, cards, ticket stubs, poetry, antidotes, and members of his favorite baseball team.
(Images of one of Basil Thompson’s childhood scrapbooks from The Basil Thompson Papers, Box 4, Folder 4)
For further research on Thompson we also have some original issues of his The Double Dealer magazine as well as a 4-volume complete reprint available in our holdings in the Special Collections & Archives. This distinctive publication sought to establish literary legitimacy for the South (as directly motivated by H.L. Mencken’s scathing essay from 1917 on the culture of the South, “The Sahara of the Bozart”) while rooted in the unique character specific to the city of New Orleans.
Published in New Orleans on Baronne Street from 1921 to 1926, The Double Dealer was exceptional during its time not only due to its publication of women writers and African American writers, but also for its printing of modernism and experimental writers framed within a purposefully classical context. This balance bolstered The Double Dealer‘s intentions (as characterized by its subtitle) of being “A National Magazine From The South”.
The Double Dealer was a significant part of the Southern Renaissance that occurred between the wars with a roster of contributors that include William Faulkner, Ezra Pound, Thornton Wilder, Sherwood Anderson, Djuna Barnes, Ernest Hemmingway, Robert Penn Warren, among many notable others. Its contributions to the literary culture of New Orleans can be traced to the creation of other magazines such as The Southern Review and The Outsider.
The Basil Thompson Papers and The Double Dealer are available for viewing in the Booth-Bricker Special Collections & Archives Reading Room on the 3rd floor of the Monroe Library, Monday – Friday, 9:00-4:30.