Henry Williamson
A substantial archive - c600 items - of Henry Williamson’s incoming letters and his replies in the form of notes, typescripts and annotated lette… Read more
Published in 1940s onwards by Unpublished.

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A substantial archive - c600 items - of Henry Williamson’s incoming letters and his replies in the form of notes, typescripts and annotated letters relating to his creative work in the 1950s and 1960s, in particular his extended sequence of novels about his experience in the First World War. Among the collection is a fan letter from Len Deighton and 500 returned cheques signed by Williamson.


Some 190 items (c300 pages) of mixed typed, hand-written and telegram correspondence between Williamson and his Agents - A. M. Heath (20) - and several publishers - MacDonald (125), Faber (4), Panther (2) - relating primarily to volumes from his series of First World War novels, notably: ‘The Golden Falcon’, ‘A Fox Under My Cloak’, ‘Lucifer Before Sunrise’, ‘The Gold Virgin’, ‘Love and the Loveless’, ‘Young Phillip Maddison’, ‘A Test to Destruction’, ‘The Dark Lantern’, ‘Donkey Boy’, ‘How Dear is Life’, ‘The Patriot’s Progress’ and ‘The Gale of the World’.

These letters include Williamson's observations and ideas about the War, and progress on his writing; authorial chapter planning and revision notes, together with a few draft ‘Blurbs’ for the jackets and his views on jacket designs. Here are letters from his publishers airing pretty frankly their concerns about the style, length and content of several passages and books. Also much settling of accounts and sales figures; with exchanges re broadcasts around the fiftieth anniversaries of WW1 events, and whispers on the possibility of turning one novel into a film. Correspondence with readers (one a survivor of HMS Hood) including a typed letter from Len Deighton “I returned once more to your chronicle of ancient sunlight, and felt I must write to tell you what a magnificent achievement it is and what great enjoyment and knowledge I have gained from reading it’ and asking for an autograph on his copy of ‘A Fox Under My Cloak’, together with Williamson’s hand-written draft and carbon copies of his reply. Some five to ten percent of these letters are annotated by Williamson; with rather more than ten pages of other letters and drafts in Williamson’s hand.


Some 260 items (c300 pages) of mostly typed correspondence (and some telegrams), mostly received by Williamson from his Agents - AM Heath (125) - and various publishers - Faber (65), MacDonald (40) and others - (of which some 5% are annotated by him) with perhaps a dozen copies of his responses, relating to sales and stock, new editions (including an omnibus), the potential for reprints and amendments, illustrations, reversions of copyright, interests in foreign rights, requests re inclusions in anthologies, etc, of Williamson’s animal and nature stories; and numerous enquiries re contributions by Williamson to other publications for reviews and articles about the environment and natural world. Heavily skewed toward ‘Tarka the Otter’ these papers relate also to ‘Salar the Salmon’, ‘The Phasian Bird’, ‘Tales of Moorland and Estuary’, the Devon Village Life and Norfolk Farm books, ‘A Clear Water Stream’, ‘The Peregrine Saga’ and ‘The Old Stag’ amongst others. Included are 5 pages of Galley Proofs from ‘Collected Nature Stories’ (pages 142-6) corrected in Williamson’s hand; the author’s copy of his 1949 contract with Fabers for ‘Scribbling Lark’; and a flurry of correspondence regarding the loss of rights to ‘Tarka’ in the U.S. and a possible cartoon version of the story proposed by the Disney company; together with thoughts from Putnam’s on a swans sequel to ‘Tarka’.


Some 35 items - a few with Williamson’s annotations - concerning various proposals to make a film of ‘Tarka the Otter’, in the 1950s and 1970s. 1950s - five letters from Lt. Col. Rawlinson re a film, including the suggested involvement of Benjamin Britten. 1970s - one letter (1970) re a proposed narration over still drawings; and correspondence extending between 1971 and 1974 from interested parties such as Christopher Parsons at the BBC (a film about otters, based around ‘Tarka’) and David Cobham wishing to make a full-length feature film faithful to the book, airing possible terms of negotiation; with carbon copies of two letters from Williamson giving background to the writing of ‘Tarka’ and his ‘Treatment’ of a possible screenplay; and Cobham’s intention to invite Gerald Durrell to write the actual screenplay. Included are two letters showing interest in filming ‘Salar’ in the US.


Approximately 30 letters and other documents from the 1950s to 1970s, some annotated by Williamson with ‘What fee?’ or ‘Refuse’ or ‘Accepted’, enquiring into the possibility of recording radio and television broadcasts about himself and his writing, or the natural world and the west country, for example Exmoor and its stag hunts, and Vanishing Hedgerows; including interviews for ‘With Great Pleasure’ and ‘As I Recall’ to be done by John Craven. Also permission requests to include extracts of writings in broadcasts; a proposal to dramatise ‘The Flax of Dreams’; and the idea of a filmed conversation with Malcolm Muggeridge. 1968 TLS from Roy Plomley inviting Williamson to be the castaway on Desert Island Discs, together with Williamson’s hand-written ‘back of an envelope’ list of his 8 recordings and chosen book (aired October 11, 1969).


A4 Boxfile containing c100 letters (approx 130 pages) and other incoming correspondence regarding sales, publications, translations and rights to Williamson’s work (including Chronicles and nature stories) around the globe, (bearing numerous hand-written annotations) and drafts and copies of Williamson’s replies to, amongst others: The Atlantic Monthly Press (5), Brandt & Brandt (over 30), EP Dutton, Putnam’s, S Fischer-Verlag, and Svend Mondrup (22). As well, forwarded ‘fan mail’ and responses from overseas readers.


A further 100 letters (c 130 pages) of ‘English Literary Business’ reflecting the manifold demands made upon the established writer, many being requests to speak at regional literary or arts events, at debates and at schools, and to pen articles and allow quotations of extracts; but also personal letters from friends and colleagues and those who wish to continue where left off, and editors of published journals and newspapers, and some gentle exploration of possible new publishers: including letters from John O’London’s Weekly, Reader’s Digest (8), Euphorion Books (8), Sanctuary Press (4), Ealing Studios, Country Life (5), Collins Publishers re TE Lawrence (4), The British Council, and others including; two sides of Williamson’s hand-written draft of a letter re ‘the problem of the land in Britain today’; a carbon copy of a letter to Christine around the time of their divorce in 1968; Christina Foyle’s invitation to a literary luncheon to celebrate Enoch Powell’s book ‘Freedom and Reality’ in 1969; a reply from the librarian at Exeter University re a Williamson manuscript held in their collection, 1969; Farmers Weekly; the Richard Jeffries Society (1); help given to FA Lea for his Life of John Middleton Murry; letters from Time & Tide (4); and an invitation to contribute as a contemporary author to a volume on the problem of modern fictional treatment of sexual events. Ephemeral items are: one hardback notebook (10x16cm, quarter bound brown leather over marbled paper-covered boards)) with 24 pages of wonderfully eclectic entries in Williamson’s hand including formularies for Soldering Fluid, Cement for Knife Handles, Curing and Softening Skins, Tempering Springs, making Cheese Sandwiches and, on one page both ‘To Capture Stoat’ and ‘Orange Marmalade’; with lists of items and catalogues to be found in the (farm) office, etc; to the rear a partially completed index. Also some 450 returned cheques signed (and often counter-signed on reverse) by Williamson; with bank statements, 27 March 1939 through 30 March 1940, Norwich; and bank paying-in book dated December 1943 through April 1946.

In total, without the cheques, these collected papers form a sheaf standing five inches high.

Full details

Added under Manuscript
Publisher Unpublished
Date published 1940s onwards
Subject 1 Manuscript
Signed Yes
Product code 8178

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