THE BRITISH LIBRARY

English and Drama blog

On literature and theatre collections from the 16th century to the present day

Introduction

From Shakespeare’s First Folio to live recordings of experimental theatre, from Charlotte Brontë’s love letters to Wendy Cope’s emails, our collections offer unique, fascinating and unexpected sources for your research. Discover more about our manuscript, printed, digital and audiovisual collections here. Follow us on Twitter: @BLEnglish_Drama. Read more

02 June 2015

The British Library acquires the archive of the playwright and screenwriter, Julian Mitchell

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The British Library is very pleased to announce that it has acquired the archive of the playwright, screenwriter and novelist, Julian Mitchell. Julian Mitchell began his playwriting career adapting novels for performance, starting with several novels by Ivy Compton-Burnett. He adapted Jane Austen’s 'Persuasion' (1971), Paul Scott’s 'Staying On' (1980) and Ford Madox Ford’s 'The Good Soldier' (1981) for television. Among his original works, he is best known for his play, 'Another Country', recently revived in the West End and on tour.

'Another Country' is based on the life of the spy Guy Burgess and explores the tensions of politics and sexuality within the context of the hypocrisy of the English public school system in the 1930s. The play won the Olivier Award for best play in 1981 and Julian later wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation in 1984. Early productions of the play were instrumental in launching the careers of Rupert Everett, Kenneth Branagh, Daniel Day-Lewis and Colin Firth, and Julian's involvement with these productions can be seen in the archive. He also won the SWET Award in 1985 for 'After Aida' his play about the composer, Giuseppe Verdi, and wrote the screenplay for the film 'Wilde' (1997). Julian also wrote numerous screenplays for the Inspector Morse series and the archive including notes on adapting Colin Dexter’s books for television, along with drafts, shooting scripts and other related papers.

 

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Just some of the 80 boxes of the archive in their new home at the Library

The archive includes successive drafts of Julian’s work providing a real insight into his creative process and the subjects which inspired him. In addition the archive includes correspondence with a wide range of people from theatre and television including the actors John Gielgud and Alec Guinness, the American writer, Philip Roth and the poet, Stephen Spender. A series of personal diaries, photographs and press cuttings are also included.

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Some of the research notes, letters, scripts and other papers relating to 'Persuasion'

Julian’s archive is an exciting addition to the Library’s literary and creative archives and I am sure that it will be a great resource for researchers.

19 May 2015

Podcast of 'A Celebration of Anthony Trollope' at the British Library

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On 23rd April the British Library held 'A Celebration of Anthony Trollope', an evening event to mark the writer's bicentenary. The event which was held in the Library’s conference centre featured panel discussion between Trollope’s biographer, Victoria Glendinning, the writer, Victoria Trollope and the actor, Edward Fox, chaired by editor of the Mail on Sunday, Geordie Greig. There was lively discussion between the participants on a range of subjects relating to Trollope’s life and work from his involvement with the Post Office to his difficult childhood and his relationship with his wife, Rose.


As the event provided so popular we were keen for a recording to be made available as a podcast for anyone who was not able to attend. The podcast can be downloaded for free from the British Library website. Trollope fans may also like to know that a display on Trollope and novel writing mentioned in an earlier blog posting on 4th March remains on show in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures of the British Library gallery until June 7th. You can also find out more about Trollope on the Library's Discovering Literature website.

24 April 2015

Rupert Brooke and Phyllis Gardner

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As international commemorations in Turkey mark the centenary of the battle of Gallipoli we remember the thousands of people on both sides of the conflict who lost their lives. The poet, Rupert Brooke, died after contracting septicaemia from a mosquito bite a hundred years ago yesterday (23rd April 1915) on a ship going to Gallipoli.

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After his death accounts of Brooke’s life were written by Edward Marsh and others, depicting Brooke as a tragic figure cut down in his prime. Brooke’s poems such as ‘The Soldier’ and ‘The Dead’ meanwhile were used to stoke patriotism at the early years of the war. Yet it was felt by many, including Virginia Woolf, that this view of Brooke was not a rounded picture of the man or his work.


In 2000 the British Library de-reserved a collection of letters and a memoir documenting the previously unknown relationship of Brooke and the artist, Phyllis Gardner. The collection was donated to the British Museum Library in 1948 by Phyllis’s sister, Delphis, on the understanding that it would remain closed for 50 years. A note included with the collection stated that Delphis Gardner gave permission for the collection to be reserved for a further period or even destroyed if it was felt that it should not be opened after the initial period of reservation had elapsed.


Colleagues who de-reserved the collection 15 years ago found a wonderful treasure trove of letters from Brooke along with Phyllis Gardner’s memoir of the couple’s love affair which began after Gardner first saw Brooke on a train to Cambridge on 11th November 1911. Brooke’s letters to Gardner illustrate different aspects of Brooke’s character than those presented by Marsh and others. Although some have chosen to highlight what they see as Brooke’s cruel behaviour, and I offer no excuse for his treatment of Gardner, I think that it presents us with a greater insight into all aspects of his character, both good and bad.


This week Brooke and Gardner’s story has been brought to a wider audience though the publication of The Second I Saw You: The True Story of Rupert Brooke and Phyllis Gardner by Lorna C. Beckett. As well as the first publication of Gardner’s memoir the book also includes a wealth of information about their relationship pieced together from correspondence between the couple, their friends and families, and other sources. In addition to providing a revealing insight into the life and personality of Brooke, the book uncovers the neglected life story of Phyllis Gardner, which has been almost lost from history.


The acquisition of two further collections at the British Library (both sources for Lorna Beckett's book) have provided further knowledge about Phyllis Gardner, her family and social circle. In 2009 the Library acquired the Radford Family Papers which include letters from Gardner to Maitland Radford, with one written after Brooke’s death. The letter about Brooke was digitised as part of the Europeana digitisation project and can be found on the Library’s website. In 2013 the Gardner Family papers, including a long series of illustrated letters from Phyllis to Delphis, were donated to the Library. The collections are both catalogued and available to researchers under the references Add MS 89029 and Add MS 89076 respectively.  


Please see the British Library website for more information about the new publication.