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Elaine Feinstein Archive

Date range: 1950s–2005.

Elaine Feinstein is a prolific writer whose work ranges across, at times confounds, the genres of poetry, fiction, translation and biography.

Born in Bootle in 1930, she studied English at Cambridge, then trained at the bar, before working as a lecturer and freelance journalist. Feinstein established her literary reputation as a poet, with collections such as In a Green Eye (1966) and The Magic Apple Tree (1971).

She has written over a dozen novels, many of which manifest a preoccupation with the legacy of the past and the recent history of European Jews. Feinstein has moved within an eclectic range of literary circles, ranging from the Beats and the Black Mountain poets of America to the literary traditions of Eastern Europe. In particular, her deep regard for the great Russian poet Marina Tsvetayeva (1892–1941) inspired Feinstein to explore the genres of biography and translation. Thus she has given voice to the lives and works of Tsvetayeva herself, Aleksandr Pushkin, Anna Akhmatova, D.H. Lawrence, and her friend Ted Hughes.

The Library purchased Feinstein’s extensive archive in 2005.1 It is of major significance across a wide range of research disciplines including English, American and Russian literatures, translation studies, drama, biography, film and television studies, art history, gender studies, Jewish history and social history.

The archive comprises:

  • drafts of the majority of Feinstein’s poems, in holograph, typescript, carbon-copy and computer-generated hard-copies
  • notebooks of manuscript poetry
  • holograph manuscripts, typescripts, annotated computer-generated versions and proofs of all her translations, biographies and novels
  • manuscripts, typescripts and other versions of numerous television plays and radio dramas
  • an important and substantial series of personal diaries and journals in which Feinstein has recorded her travels, friendships, marriage, family relationships and every aspect of her life
  • video and audio tapes of interviews

Feinstein has a genius for friendship, and the archive contains a cornucopia of correspondence, dating from the 1950s to the 2000s, with scores of individuals and organizations of national and international importance, including fellow poets, novelists, translators, artists, literary critics, editors, publishers and agents in Britain and the United States.

Notable correspondents include:

  • Brian Aldiss
  • Martin Amis
  • Neil Astley
  • Beryl Bainbridge
  • J.G. Ballard
  • Samuel Beckett
  • Dame Gillian Beer
  • Sir Isaiah Berlin
  • Malcolm Bradbury
  • Bill Buford
  • William Burroughs
  • Carmen Callil
  • Wendy Cope
  • Gregory Corso
  • Donald Davie
  • Margaret Drabble
  • Gavin Ewart
  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti
  • Michael Frayn
  • Allen Ginsberg
  • Barbara Guest
  • David Halliwell
  • Maggi Hambling
  • Michael Hamburger
  • Christopher Hampton
  • Seamus Heaney
  • Frances Horovitz
  • Michael Horovitz
  • dom sylvester houédard
  • Ted Hughes and his sister Olwyn
  • Frank Kermode
  • Michael McClure
  • Michael Morpurgo
  • Eric Mottram
  • Robert Nye
  • Octavio Paz
  • Harold Pinter
  • J.H. Prynne
  • Paula Rego
  • Peter Sansom
  • Susan Fromberg Schaeffer
  • Michael Schmidt
  • Jon Silkin
  • Alan Sillitoe
  • Jon Stallworthy
  • George Steiner
  • Anne Stevenson
  • Charles Tomlinson
  • Val Warner
  • Daniel Weissbort
  • Sir Arnold Wesker

See also the Michael Schmidt Papers.

1The purchase was generously supported by the V&A/MLA Purchase Grant Fund, the Philip Larkin Memorial Fund and the Friends of the John Rylands Library.

Finding aids

  • Uncatalogued.
  • See Stella Halkyard, ‘Archive Corner 11: “Red-gold and Radiant”: Turning the Hermeneutic Circle in the Papers of Elaine Feinstein’, PN Review, vol. 35 no. 2 (Nov/Dec 2008), pp. 12–15, 80.


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