Golding's 'Lord of the Flies' manuscript displayed for the first time

4 November 2011

Copyright Nick Rogers 1990William Golding’s manuscript of his classic novel Lord of the Flies, on loan from the Estate of William Golding, will be on public display for the first time. Curated by his daughter, Judy Carver, the Bodleian exhibition marks the centenary of the author’s birth.

The Lord of the Flies and beyond… display also includes a revised typescript of the novel. This was rejected by at least ten publishers before it was finally accepted for publication in September 1953 by the young editor Charles Monteith from Faber and Faber.  He spotted the potential of the novel, which was initially entitled Strangers from Within.  The rich exchange of correspondence between the author and his editor will be represented in the display by two letters on loan from Faber and Faber. The first letter is written by Golding when he submitted the manuscript. In the other letter dated 30 December 1953, Charles Monteith expresses his doubts about the initial title. He went through another 19 title suggestions before the novel was finally published a year later under the title Lord of the Flies

An Oxford University alumnus, Golding went on to publish another eleven novels as well as a play, two books of essays, many reviews, and a journal of his travels in Egypt. First editions of his novels - signed by the author himself and inscribed to his parents, wife and children -will also be on display.

William Golding was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1983. His medal, on loan from his alma mater, Brasenose College, will also be on display alongside a picture showing the author giving his acceptance speech in Stockholm.

The author’s life will be depicted in a selection of pictures from the family archive which will show Golding at different stages of his life: as a two-year old toddler on the beach near Newquay, where he was born; playing piano in his family home as a teenager; as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy in October 1944; and on various other occasion with his family to whom he was always very closed.

Also on display will be a selection of translations of Lord of the Flies as a testimony of how his novel has touched generations of children worldwide. 

Judy Carver, William Golding’s daughter and curator of the Bodleian exhibition said: ‘The story of the publication of Lord of the Flies is a fascinating one.  I am glad that this exhibition will illustrate the role played by Faber, and particularly Charles Monteith, in rescuing the work from rejection and making it accessible to readers. I hope, as well, that this exhibition will encourage Golding readers to look further than Lord of the Flies. Through his subsequent novels readers can explore the rich, surprising and often comic world of my father’s imagination. The Golding family are very pleased that the manuscript of Lord of the Flies should first be displayed in the Bodleian Library.’

Richard Ovenden, Deputy Librarian, said: ‘The Bodleian Libraries are honoured to have the opportunity to host the first public display of William Golding’s manuscript of Lord of the Flies. For more than five decades millions of readers throughout the world have been stimulated by Golding’s literary insight, power, and originality. We hope that readers of today will have the opportunity to come and visit the display and see for themselves Golding’s creative process at work in the pages of this manuscript: one of the literary masterpieces of the 20th century.’

Picture: William Golding at home (C) copyright Nick Rogers 1990s 


  • 4 November - 23 December
  • Mon-Fri 9.00-19.00
    Sat 9.00-16.30
    Sun 11.00-17.00

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