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Elizabeth Jennings Papers

Date range: 1950s-2008

Medium: Archive

Elizabeth Jennings (1926–2001) was one of the best-loved and most significant English poets of the 20th century.

Born in Lincolnshire, she moved to Oxford with her family at the age of six, and began to write poetry in her teens. She read English at St Anne’s College, Oxford, between 1944 and 1947, and in the late ’40s her poetry began to win critical acclaim. Her first slender collection, Poems, was published by the Fantasy Press in 1953, followed by the more substantial A Way of Looking in 1955, which won a Somerset Maugham award. Jennings received many literary prizes, including the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, and she was awarded a CBE in 1992.

Along with the work of other members of the literary group known as the Movement, her poetry displays ‘a love of simplicity, a dislike of any facetious mystification or decoration, and a willing acceptance of rhyme and metrical regularity.’

The Library holds several collections of Elizabeth Jennings papers:

  • Papers of Elizabeth Jennings which were donated to the Library by Jennings's estate, including six folders of holograph poems, some signed by Jennings; a copy typescript titled 'New Poems' (1993); and a holograph manuscript of 'A Piece on my Poems' by Jennings.
  • A collection purchased in 2011 comprising holograph drafts over over 40 poems; over 50 typescript poems (many of them annotated and signed by Jennings); letters to Jennings from (among others) Kingsley Amis, Sir John Gielgud, Seamus Heaney and Veronica Wedgwood; six studio portrait photographs of Jennings; and a small collection of books owned by Jennings, the majority inscribed by or dedicated to her.
  • A collection of material formerly belonging to Jennings's publisher Michael Schmidt of Carcanet Press, including 27 poetry notebooks and three further notebooks containing drafts and fragments of both poetry and prose.
  • A small collection of letters and cards from Elizabeth Jennings to her friend, the literary agent Gina Pollinger.
  • Material from Anne Harvey, including over 40 letters or cards from Elizabeth Jennings to Harvey; five typescript poems by Jennings; and related material, including cuttings, obituaries and the order of service for Jennings's funeral.
  • A small quantity of letters from Elizabeth Jennings to Sister April O'Leary.
  • A collection assembled by her friend, Priscilla Tolkien, of letters, cards, postcards, articles, printed books and other material relating to the life and work of Elizabeth Jennings.

See also:

Further information:

Uncatalogued. Inventory lists of some collections available via Special Collections reading rooms.


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