30 October 2012
The Bodleian Libraries have announced today the gift of the Day-Lewis papers which belonged to the poet Cecil Day-Lewis (1904-1972) and his wife, actress Jill Balcon (1925-2009). The archive was donated to the Bodleian Libraries by their children, Tamasin and Daniel Day-Lewis and accompanies an initial literary bequest from Jill Balcon, following her death in 2009.
The bequest is celebrated during a special one-day symposium where the poet’s daughter, Tamasin Day-Lewis will discuss the life and work of C. Day-Lewis with known scholars of English literature. Participants will have the opportunity to listen to recorded readings of Day-Lewis’s poetry by Jill Balcon and live reading by actor Gabriel Woolf. Photographs, manuscripts and correspondence from the archive, never seen in public before, will also be on display during the event. These include:
- Letter from W. H. Auden to Day-Lewis addressed from Nikolassee, Potsdamer Chaussee 49 criticising a poem he had sent to Auden, c.1928-9.
- The final stanza of ‘The Newborn’, Favil Press of Kensington, 1/200 copies, to mark the birth of Daniel Day-Lewis.
- ‘At East Coker’, an early draft of Day-Lewis’s elegy for T.S. Eliot, published in The Whispering Roots (1970).
- Manuscript of the first leaf of Day-Lewis’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid (c.1952).
An Oxford University alumnus Cecil Day-Lewis, CBE was one of the most notable Anglo-Irish poets of the 20th century. He also wrote mystery novels and short stories under the pseudonym of Nicholas Blake. Day-Lewis studied classics at Wadham College, Oxford from 1923 and became a prominent member of the Auden group of poets and intellectuals in the 1930s. He was later elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford University in 1951 and appointed Poet Laureate in 1968. In 1951 Day-Lewis married his second wife, Jill Balcon.
Jill Balcon was an actress on film, radio, and the stage who had long used her voice (‘a rich, expressive, finely modulated instrument’ in the words of Peter Stanford) for verse-speaking. C. Day-Lewis and Jill Balcon shared a love of poetry and frequently gave readings together. After Day-Lewis’s death Jill Balcon continued to read in public and promote her late husband’s work.
This remarkable and comprehensive archive gives an insight into poet’s career and aspects of his personal life. Currently occupying fifty four archival boxes, the collection includes:
- letters to both Cecil Day-Lewis and Jill Balcon;
- letters and papers regarding the award of the Poet Laureateship;
- correspondence with publishers;
- manuscript and typescript working drafts of poems, lectures, essays, television and radio scripts, and readings;
- printed items (including articles, awards, and ephemera);
- audio/visual material (including recordings of readings, dramatisations, and interviews);
- also some manuscript and typescript drafts of the later detective novels written by CDL as Nicholas Blake.
- Correspondence include letters to and from notable names including Sir Kingsley Amis, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, W. H. Auden, Sir John Betjeman, Sir John Gielgud, Robert Graves, Sir Alec Guinness, Christopher Isherwood, Philip Larkin, Sir Stephen Spender , among several hundred correspondents.