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John Heath-Stubbs Papers

Date range: 1943-2002

Medium: Archive

John Francis Alexander Heath-Stubbs was born at Streatham Manor, London, on 9 July 1918. Heath-Stubbs spent much of his childhood in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. He attended the Bembridge School, and it was here that he first began to write poetry, published in the school magazine.

At the age of eighteen, Heath-Stubbs was diagnosed with glaucoma and lost the sight in his right eye. Following the deterioration in his sight he attended Worcester College for the Blind, where he became editor of the college magazine. In 1939 Heath-Stubbs was awarded the Barker exhibition at Queen's College, Oxford, which was intended for someone who was blind or in danger of losing their sight. At Oxford, Heath-Stubbs befriended the poets Sidney Keyes and Drummond Allison, and Philip Rawson, who later became an art professor. He attended lectures by J.R.R. Tolkien, Nevill Coghill, C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams, and was tutored by Herbert Brett-Smith and John Bryson.

Heath-Stubbs' work was first published in an anthology Eight Oxford Poets in 1941. He graduated from Oxford in 1942, and continued to write and publish poetry, including The Divided Ways (1945). Over the next two decades, Heath-Stubbs continued to publish his work with a variety of publishers before beginning a lasting association with Michael Schmidt's Carcanet Press in Manchester. Among the work published by Carcanet was The Watchman's Flute (1978), Naming the Beasts (1982), The Immolation of Aleph (1985) and Collected Poems, 1943-1987 (1988). However, his major work, Artorius, was originally published by Enitharmon Press in 1973.

In 1952, Heath-Stubbs became the second Gregory Fellow in Poetry at the University of Leeds. Following his three year tenure in Leeds, he continued his teaching career at the University of Alexandria (1955-1958), the University of Michigan (1960-1961), and the College of St Mark and St John, Chelsea (1963-1973). He was also a part time lecturer at Merton College, Oxford.

Heath-Stubbs became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1953. He received the Queen's Gold Medal for poetry in 1973 and the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1989. In 1989 he was also awarded the OBE. During his lifetime he produced more than thirty volumes of poetry amongst other works of literature. His last collection, Pigs Might Fly, was published by Carcanet in 2005. Heath-Stubbs died in December 2006.

The collection consists of correspondence, literary manuscripts and printed material. The correspondence mostly covers subjects such as publishing and writing as well as Heath-Stubbs' academic work and speaking engagements. The majority of the literary manuscripts are annotated drafts and working copies of poems by Heath-Stubbs, and there is also a smaller number of poems by other authors and proofs of Heath-Stubbs's published work. The printed material is a miscellaneous grouping, the largest proportion of which consists of press cuttings containing reviews of Heath-Stubbs's publications. The collection also includes photographs of John Heath-Stubbs, a small number of appointment diaries, artwork and prints, leaflets, circulars and printed copies of poems.

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Catalogue available online via ELGAR


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