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Elizabeth Jennings Papers

Identifier: MS-MS-ms061

The Elizabeth Jennings Papers consists of correspondence, 1956-1968, bulking 1964-1968, including 100 postal and note cards from Elizabeth Jennings to Rugena Stanley, Oxford, during periods of mental stress, written from Spain and hospitals in England, and letters from Richard Church, Robert Conquest, Helen Lehmann, William Somerset Maugham, William Stanley Merwin, Edwin Muir, Victoria Mary Sckville-West, Edith Sitwell, Constantine Trypanis, John Wain, and Ciceley Veronica Wedgwood, discussing Miss Jennings' acceptance of the Somerset Maugham Award, 1956, her poetry, and invitations to dinners and club meetings, Several unsigned drafts of Jennings letters follow, including one in defense of Colin Wilson's Religion and the Rebel, one to the New Statesman concerning religious braodcasts on B.B.C., and one concerning a review of Let's have some poetry, 114 items. Poems, arranged alphabetically by title, are largely unpublished, with some appearing in Song for a birth or a death, Recoveries, The mind has mountains, and the New Poems section of Collected Poems, 1967, ca. 290 items. Essays, arranged alphabetically by title, discuss David Jones, Marianne Moore, Emily Dickinson, Ezra Pound, poetry in the 1960's, Miss Jennings' experience in Rome, her mental illness, writing poetry, personal experiences; also included are Reflections or notes for ajournal, notes for an essay and a script for the B.B.C, 9 items. Reviews, arranged alphabetically by author of the work reviewed, concern books by Thomas Gilby, Louis McNeice, O.A. Sherrard, R.S.Thomas, Catherine York, and the Penguin Book of Mystical Verse, 6 items. Notebooks, described in detail elsewhere in this register, are separated into four categories and arranged chronologically: 1, Personal notebooks, 1957-1965, 8 items; 2, Notebooks containing largely mss. of poetry, 1954-ca.1964, 6 items; 3, Notebooks containing essays and reviews, 1960-1966, 14 items; 4, notebooks containing mss. of books, 1958-ca.1965, 10 items. Miscellany contains a newspaper clipping and unidentified note sheets and a photograph, 4 items.


  • Creation: 1954-1968


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12.00 boxes

Biographical Information

Elizabeth Jennings was born in Boston, Lincolnshire in 1926, the daughter of a doctor. Her education was received in private and public schools in England, including an Honours Degree in English from St. Anne's College, Oxford. She began writing poetry in adolescence; her first major publication was in The Spectator, 1949, with the poem, The clock. After graduation Miss Jennings worked for a time in the Oxford City Library and later in the office of a London publisher, Chatto and Windus. In 1953 she published her first book of poems, Poems (Fantasy Press), which received an Arts Council Prize as the best book of original English verse to be published between January 1951 and June 1953. Her poems also appeared in such periodicals as The New Statesman, The Spectator, Times Literary Supplement, The Listener, Encounter, The London Magazine, Botteghe Oscure, and the New Yorker. In 1956 she received the Somerset Maugham Award for her second book of poems, A Way of looking (Deutsch) and the used the prize for an extended trip to Italy in 1957. Other prizes for her poetry include: the Poetry Book Society Summer Choice in 1961 for Song for a birth or a death (Dufour), an Arts Council Poetry Bursary in 1965, and the Richard Hillary Award in 1966 for The mind has mountains (MacMillan) Miss Jennings suffered intermittent mental breakdowns from 1964-1968, and was hospitalized in Warneford Hospital at Oxford; this experience is documented in this collection by her correspondence with Rugena Stanley and in several personal notebooks. Subsequently the experience became the subject of much of her poetry. Anne Ridler has said of Miss Jennings: “The unwavering search for truth about an emotion or a state of mind, the refusal to be satisfied with first appearances, is always her strength.” (Guardian) Anthony Thwaite has attributed to her work “The excitement, the visionary quality, of arduous search and sudden discover,” adding, “For my mind she is one of the two best living English poets under forty-five.” (Spectator)

A partial bibliograph includes:

Poetry: Poems, Fantasy Press, 1953

A way of looking, Deutsch and Rinehart, 1955

A sense of the world, Deutsch, 1958

Song for a birth or a death, Deutsch, 1961

Recoveries, Deutsch, 1964

The mind has mountains, MacMillan, 1966

The secret brother (children's poems) 1966

Collected poems, 1967, Macmillan 1967

Translation: The Sonnets of Michelangelo, Folio Society, 1961

Editor: An Anthology of Modern Verse, 1940-1960, Methuen, 1961

Prose: Making human relations work (with Francis Jennings) Boston 1951

Let's have some poetry, Museum Press Ltd., 1960

Every changing shape, Deutsch, 1961

Frost, Oliver and Boyd, 1964

Christianity and poetry, Burns and Oates, 1965

Source of Acquisition

Accession number 814. Purchase from Bertram Rota Ltd, March 1, 1967.

Accession number 815. Purchase from Herbert Faulkner West, March 6, 1967.

Accession number 819. Purchase from Bertram Rota Ltd, April 5, 1967.

Accession number 832. Purchase from House of Books, July 25, 1967.

Accession number 862. Purchase from Bertram Rota Ltd, September 19, 1967.

Accession number 1061. Purchase from Covent Garden Bookshop, July 1, 1969.

Accession number 1303. Purchase from Covent Garden Bookshop, October 19, 1971.

Accession number 1314. Purchase from Covent Garden Bookshop, October 26, 1971.

Accession number 1627. Purchase from unknown, September 14, 1984.

Accession number 22994. Unknown


Elizabeth Jennings Papers
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Revision Statements

  • 2021 April 22: Resource record updated in ArchiveSpace by Sarah Schnuriger.

Collecting Area Details

Part of the Manuscripts Collecting Area

Joel Minor
Olin Library, 1 Brookings Drive
MSC 1061-141-B
St. Louis MO 63130 US
(314) 935-5495