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David Arkell Papers

Date range: 1849-1997

Medium: Archive

David Arkell began his career as a newspaper reporter in Newcastle upon Tyne in the early 1930s. In the late 1930s he moved to Paris and became French correspondent for the Continental Daily Mail. Following internment during the Second World War, he returned to England and resumed his career as a journalist and translator. He published his first novel, Portrait of Mimosa, in 1958. During the 1960s he pursued his interest in French literature and the lives of French writers, especially the novelists and poets of the Avant-Siècle period.

He was fascinated by the Symbolist poet Jules Laforgue (1860–87), who strongly influenced T. S. Eliot and other modernist writers. Arkell made a major contribution to Laforgue scholarship, and his biography, Looking for Laforgue, was published by Carcanet Press in 1979. He maintained a long correspondence with the Press’s founder and director, Michael Schmidt, and also contributed to his literary journal, PN Review.

The archive contains a range of material documenting David Arkell’s life and work from childhood to the year of his death. It includes family papers dating as far back as the mid-19th century, as well as papers from Arkell’s own childhood and a series of letters written to his parents while he was imprisoned in France during the Second World War. Arkell's work-related papers span the whole of his career; they comprise correspondence, typescripts of plays and film synopses, and papers generated in the course of Arkell’s research into Jules Laforgue. Furthermore, there are some original Laforgue manuscripts collected by Arkell, dating from the 1880s.

The archive is invaluable for Laforgue studies, and has wider significance for research into the French Decadent and Symbolist poets of the Avant-Siècle.

Further information:

  • Catalogue available online via ELGAR.
  • Unpublished catalogue available via Special Collections reading rooms.


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