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Dennis and Joan Welland Papers

Date range: 1916–87.

Dennis Welland held the newly-created post of Professor of American Literature in the University of Manchester from 1965 until his retirement in 1983. During his career at Manchester, Welland wrote extensively on American literature, especially on the work of Mark Twain.

Earlier in his career, as a lecturer at the University of Nottingham, he made a particular study of the life and work of the war poet Wilfred Owen, at a time when his poetry had received little critical attention. Welland sought out unpublished manuscripts (the archive contains Welland’s transcripts of some that subsequently disappeared), and he met Owen’s friends and acquaintances. He collaborated with Cecil Day Lewis on the definitive 1963 edition that brought Owen’s verse to popular attention.

This remarkably rich archive contains a wealth of material relating to Dennis Welland’s lifelong interest in Wilfred Owen, including:

  • a copy of his doctoral thesis, annotated and corrected by Siegfried Sassoon
  • letters from poets (Sassoon, Edmund Blunden, C. Day Lewis, Edith and Osbert Sitwell and Philip Larkin), publishers, critics, other Owen scholars, and relatives of Wilfred Owen, particularly his brother Harold, nephew Peter Owen, and cousin E. Leslie Gunston
  • research notes and transcripts
  • news cuttings
  • offprints

The letters relate to the prehistory and production of Welland’s book Wilfred Owen: A Critical Study (1960), and of The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen (1963), edited by C. Day Lewis with assistance from Welland.

Also present is a holograph manuscript of Edmund Blunden’s transcriptions of some of Owen’s poems and letters, dating from 1924.

The archive also includes over two thousand personal letters exchanged between Welland and his fiancée, later wife, Joan, during the period 1940–53. The couple wrote to each other almost every day, while Welland was in the army, and their voluminous correspondence – currently closed to readers – contains much detail about everyday life during the war.

The archive is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in Wilfred Owen and the textual history of his poetry. It is also significant for wider studies of First World War poetry; textual criticism and editing; the developing interest in twentieth-century literature among scholars and collecting institutions in the US and UK; the sometimes fraught relationships between researchers and literary estates; and life writing and biography.

Finding aids

  • Catalogue available online via ELGAR.
  • See also Stella Halkyard, ‘Archive Corner 2: “A Special Debt”: Wilfred Owen, Dennis Wetland and an untold story of the poet’s publishing history’, PN Review, vol. 33 no. 3 (Jan/Feb 2007), pp. 12–13.

Location

The John Rylands Library

Using the reading rooms in the John Rylands Library

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