20th century to the present
Manuscript holdings for the modern period reflect the Bodleian Libraries’ interest in acquiring papers of writers who have a connection with the University, the city of Oxford, and Oxfordshire more broadly.
Archives and manuscripts of writers include those of Wind in the Willows author Kenneth Grahame; the Anglo-Irish novelist Joyce Cary; the artist, writer, and social reformer Winifred Gill; and the army officer, diplomat, and writer TE Lawrence (‘Lawrence of Arabia’).
The extensive archive of the Benson Family, including the writer EF Benson has been held by the Bodleian Libraries since 1949 and the related archive of the Tilling Society was given to the Bodleian Libraries in 2012–2014.
The Bodleian Libraries hold archives and manuscripts relating to JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Charles Williams, and other members of the Oxford ‘Inklings’ circle.
Substantial archives are also held relating to: the novelist Barbara Pym; the detective novelist (under the pseudonym ‘Edmund Crispin’) and composer Bruce Montgomery; Jamaican-born poet, playwright and screenwriter Evan Jones; writer and editor Hilary Bailey; and writer Bruce Chatwin.
The Bodleian Libraries also hold material relating to the work of contemporary authors, most notably those of John Le Carré and Alan Bennett.
20th century poets
The Bodleian Libraries hold the archives of significant twentieth-century poets, including those of the Poet Laureate John Masefield and the war poets Wilfred Owen and Edmund Blunden.
Of the talented young poets of the 1930s, the Bodleian Libraries hold the archives of Louis MacNeice, Cecil Day-Lewis and Stephen Spender, alongside that of Spender’s wife, the pianist and author Natasha Spender née Litvin.
The Bodleian also holds the archives of the poet and bookseller Katherine Watson, and the poets Ruth Pitter and Jenny Joseph.
The poet Philip Larkin bequeathed significant collections of correspondence to the Bodleian Libraries, including letters to Monica Jones, from Kingsley Amis and Barbara Pym, as well as correspondence with Judy Egerton.
Manuscripts of the writer Franz Kafka, born in Prague in 1883, and the Spanish journalist, broadcaster and writer Arturo Barea and his wife Ilsa Barea (née Pollak), Austrian writer and translator are also held at the Bodleian Libraries.
The Bodleian Libraries hold many smaller gatherings of material and important single manuscripts, including material relating to the estate of Oscar Wilde and the novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch. It also holds poetry manuscripts of Thomas Hardy, Edward Thomas and W.B. Yeats, and manuscripts and papers of TS and Vivienne Eliot.
Literary papers are by no means confined to 'literary' collections in the Bodleian Libraries, as demonstrated by Isaiah Berlin’s archive with its enormous range of correspondents. The archive of the society hostess Sibyl, Lady Colefax is also a treasure trove of letters and autographs from the period’s glamorous literati and well-connected.