- 1901-1991 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
Guarded and filed.
Name of creator
Gillian Clarke is a poet, writer, editor and broadcaster.
Gillian Kieft Williams was born in Cardiff in 1937, the daughter of Ceinwin and Penri Williams. Her mother originated from Denbighshire and her father was a native of Carmarthenshire, and although both parents spoke Welsh their children were educated through the medium of English. She attended schools in Barry, Penarth and Porthcawl, and read English at University College, Cardiff, where she graduated in 1958. She spent two years working as a researcher in the News Information Department for the BBC in London, before returning to Wales. In 1960 she married Peter Clarke and devoted the following years to raising their three children.
Gillian Clarke's poems were first published in Poetry Wales in 1970, and she was soon recognised as one of the leading Welsh poets writing in English. Her first collection of poems, Snow on the mountain, was published in 1971, followed by The sundial (1978), Letter from a far country (1982), Letting in the rumour (1989), The King of Britain's daughter (1993), Five fields (1998), and Making the beds for the dead (2004). A volume of Selected poems was published in 1985 and her Collected poems appeared in 1997. Commissioned poems include Nine Green Gardens (2000), Owain Glyn Dwr (2000), and Bioverse (2000); and some have been performed on radio, e.g. 'Talking in the dark' (1975), and 'Letter from a far country' (1979). In addition, she has written poems for children, including The Animal Wall (1999), and her work has been published in various anthologies and is studied by GCSE and A-Level students. Essays, articles, short stories and reviews by Gillian Clarke have appeared in numerous publications. In recent years she has written several plays which have been performed in theatre and on radio, including 'The Blue Man' (2000) and 'Letter from a far country' (2004, adapted from the poem of the same title).
Although Welsh is her second language, the language and culture are an inherent feature of her writing, as is the rural background to much of her work and her experiences as a woman. She has learnt Welsh and published poems in the language, and occasionally incorporates elements of Welsh-language writing, such as traditional Welsh metres and vocabulary, in her English work. Stories translated by her from Welsh were published in One Moonlit Night (1991), and she has translated Welsh poems into English, most notably those by Menna Elfyn.
Gillian Clarke has held various freelance teaching posts over the years. She was a lecturer in art history at Gwent College of Art and Design between 1975 and 1984. In 1984-1985 she held a writing fellowship at St. David's University College, Lampeter, and has tutored students on an M.Phil. course in Creative Writing at the University of Glamorgan since 1994. She has taught creative writing to school children and adults for a number of years and organised and participated in poetry workshops and readings in England and Wales. She has travelled abroad on writers' exchange visits, given poetry readings and lectures as far afield as Europe and the United States, and her work has been translated into several languages. In 1971 she became reviews editor of The Anglo-Welsh Review, and succeeded Roland Mathias as editor of the journal from 1976 to 1984.
Gillian Clarke is a member of Academi and a past Chair of Yr Academi Gymreig (English Language Section). In 1990 she co-founded Tŷ Newydd, and has been President of the writers' centre in North Wales; she was also appointed Chair of the Taliesin Trust in 1989. She has been honoured by Aberystwyth, Cardiff and Swansea Colleges of the University of Wales, and in 1997 a volume of essays, poems and tributes by other writers and critics, edited by Menna Elfyn, Trying the Line, was compiled to mark her sixtieth birthday.
She lives with her second husband on a smallholding in Talgarreg, Ceredigion.
Name of creator
Rhys Davies (1901-1978) was a novelist and short story writer.
He was born Rees Vivian Davies in Clydach Vale, Rhondda, on 9 November 1901. His father Thomas Rees Davies was a grocer from Tonypandy and his mother Sarah Ann Lewis, a teacher from Ynysybwl. He received his secondary education at Porth County School, 1913-1916. In 1918 he moved to London and became a full time writer, having previously worked in a Potato and Corn Merchants in Cardiff.
Rhys Davies did not receive a college education but prepared himself for a literary career by studying English and European classics. He spent some months during 1928 and 1929 in Paris and Nice and was invited to spend some time with D. H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda in Bandol. Between 1939 and 1941 he worked as a civilian at the War Office. In 1968 Rhys Davies was awarded an OBE for his contribution to literature and in 1971 he received the Welsh Arts Council Prize in recognition of his contribution to the literature of Wales.
Rhys Davies wrote a great number of short stories. His first collection was published in 1927 as was his first novel. Most of these have Welsh rural or industrial settings. He was the author of two autobiographical and descriptive books, My Wales (London, 1937) and The story of Wales (London, 1943). His autobiography Print of a hare's foot was published in 1969. He also contributed his short stories to numerous British and American periodicals. A keen theatre-goer, his play 'No escape' which starred Dame Flora Robson was performed at numerous theatres across Britain, 1954-1955. The story 'The chosen one' won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for the best short story published in the United States in 1966.
Rhys Davies died 21 August 1978 at St Pancras Hospital, Camden. A dozen of his best stories had been selected by him for republication and these were published as The Best of Rhys Davies (1979). In 1990 the Rhys Davies Trust was established to promote English writing by Welsh people. The Rhys Davies short story competition was first held in 1991 and was organised by the Academi in conjunction with the Rhys Davies Trust who sponsored the event.
Name of creator
David Jones (1895-1974) was an accomplished artist who produced watercolours, illustrations and inscriptions, and who also gained acclaim as a poet, especially as the author of In Parenthesis in 1937, and the long prose poem The Anathemata in 1952.
David Walter Jones was born in Brockley, Kent, on 1 November 1895. His mother, Alice Ann née Bradshaw, was from London, and his father, James Jones, was originally from Holywell, Flintshire. He attended the Camberwell School of Art from 1910-1914, and the Westminster School of Art from 1919-1921.
He joined the London Welsh Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in 1915 and served as a private with them until 1918. This experience had a profound effect on him, and his first book, In Parenthesis (1937), is an epic war poem which deals with the period he spent in France.
In 1921 he was received into the Roman Catholic Church, adopting Michael as a middle name. This was a defining moment in his life and work. In the same year he met Eric Gill and joined Gill's community at Ditchling, Sussex, where he learnt wood-engraving. In 1924 he became engaged to Petra Gill and often visited the family at Capel y ffin, near Abergavenny. His engagement with Petra was broken off in 1927 and subsequently he never married.
Between 1928 and 1932 he moved around a great deal, producing watercolours and also writing. In 1933 he suffered a breakdown in health and endured repeated periods of ill-health from then onwards. He virtually stopped painting until 1937. In 1937 Faber published In Parenthesis, which T. S. Eliot regarded as 'a work of genius'. He was awarded the Hawthornden prize for it in 1938.
He was based at the parental home at Brockley until his mother's death in 1937. He then lived in Notting Hill, and from about 1946 lived in Harrow on the Hill. In 1970 he fell ill after breaking a bone in his hip and resided at Calvary Nursing Home, Harrow until his death in 1974.
A volume of essays Epoch and Artist was published by Faber in 1959, followed by The Fatigue (1965), The Tribune's Visitations (1969) and The Introduction to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1972). The Sleeping Lord (1974) and The Roman Quarry (1981) were published posthumously.
In 1955 he was awarded the CBE, and also the Harriet Monroe memorial prize. In 1960 he was awarded the degree of D. Litt from The University of Wales and became both Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a member of the Royal Watercolour Society in 1961. He was awarded the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales Gold medal in 1964 and the Welsh Arts Council Literature Prize in 1969.
Name of creator
John Cowper Powys (1872-1963), was a prolific novelist, poet, and literary critic. He wrote one of the most remarkable autobiographies in the English language; he was the author of several works of popular philosophy; and throughout his long life he was an obsessive letter writer and diarist. Although never fully accepted as part of the ‘canon’ of English novelists, he is widely regarded as one of the great novelists of the 20th century, and his admirers include many eminent writers and critics. He was born in Shirley, Derbyshire, on 8 October 1872. In 1879 the family moved to Dorchester, Dorset, eventually settling, in 1885, in Montacute, Somerset. Powys therefore spent most of his childhood within the borders of the ancient kingdom of ‘Wessex’. Its landscape – which was also the setting for Thomas Hardy’s novels – came to dominate his imagination. He was the eldest of eleven children in a family notable for its strong-willed and individualistic characters. Two of his brothers, Theodore Francis Powys (1875-1953) and Llewelyn Powys (1884-1939), also became distinguished writers, while his sister Marian Powys (1882-1972) settled in New York, becoming a leading lace designer and a world authority on the history of lace making. Their father Charles Francis Powys (1843-1923) was a clergyman who took great pride in his Welsh ancestry, while their mother Mary Cowper Powys (1849-1914) was descended from the English poets John Donne and William Cowper. John Cowper was educated at Westbury House preparatory school, Sherborne, and Sherborne School (1883–1891), and subsequently at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. In 1896 he published his first volume of verse, Odes and Other Poems, and in the same year he married Margaret Alice Lyon (1874-1947). They had one son, Littleton Alfred Powys (1902-1954), but the marriage was a failure and Powys and his wife eventually separated. After leaving Cambridge Powys had found work as a teacher at various girls' schools before becoming an extension lecturer affiliated to Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Between 1909 and 1930, he earned his living as an itinerant lecturer in the USA, where he won fame as an inspired and charismatic orator. His first novel, Wood and Stone, was published in New York in 1915, and his first full length work of of popular philosophy, The Complex Vision, appeared in 1920. During a visit to Missouri, in 1921, he met Phyllis Playter (1894-1982) who became his life companion, his muse, and a powerful influence upon his literary career. While in the USA Powys also made the acquaintance of several eminent American literary figures, including the poet, Edgar Lee Masters, and the writers, Theodore Dreiser and Henry Miller. He reached his maturity as a novelist with the publication, in 1929, of his fifth novel, Wolf Solent. Its success led him give up lecturing and devote his life to writing. In 1930 he and Playter went to live in Phudd Bottom, upper New York state. There followed two other novels of immense scope and psychological subtlety: A Glastonbury Romance (1932), and Weymouth Sands (1934). In the same year he published his very frank and revealing Autobiography. Although written in America, these books are full of sensuous descriptions of the ‘Wessex’ landscapes of his youth. Like Powys himself, many of the protagonists of his novels are introspective characters who develop a personal ‘mythology’ as a means of coming to terms with the world. In 1935, while in his sixties, Powys fulfilled a long cherished ideal by moving to live in Wales. For twenty years, he and Phyllis Playter made their home in Corwen, Meirionnydd, where Powys immersed himself in the language, history and mythology of the country. He also made the acquaintance of several eminent Welsh academics and writers, including Iorwerth Peate, the founder of the Welsh Folk Museum, and Gwyn Jones, Viking scholar and translator of the Mabiniogion. Powys's two late masterpieces, Owen Glendower (1940) and Porius (1951), belong to this period. In 1955 he and Playter moved to a quarryman’s cottage at Blaenau Ffestiniog. John Cowper Powys died at the Memorial Hospital, Blaenau Ffestiniog, on 17 June 1963.
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Edward Thomas (1878-1917), poet and writer, was born Philip Edward Thomas in Lambeth to Welsh-born parents on 3 March 1878. He was educated at St Paul's School, London and Lincoln College, Oxford. Having left St Paul's, Thomas studied for the civil service examination, a move which expressed parental ambition rather than his own as he had reacted against the wordly views of his father, who worked for the Board of Trade and was prominent in Liberal politics. He was encouraged in his early literary ambitions by the critic James Ashcroft Noble and Thomas's first book, The Woodland Life, inspired by his love of the natural world, appeared as early as 1897. Thomas married Noble's daughter Helen (1877-1967) in 1899 and, having graduated from Lincoln College in 1900, made a precarious living as a literary reviewer for the Daily Chronicle whilst also writing essays, anthologies, guidebooks and folk-tales. He also published further books, including The Heart of England (1906), as well as biographical writings, most notably those on Richard Jefferies (1909), Maurice Maeterlinck (1911), Algernon Charles Swinburne (1912) and Walter Pater (1913). This period also produced his autobiographical works The Happy-Go-Lucky Morgans (1913), The Icknield Way (1913) and In Pursuit of Spring (1914). Possibly from an overwhelming feeling that his creativity was shackled and frustrated, Thomas at this time suffered recurrent physical and psychological breakdowns which once took him to the brink of suicide. It was not until 1914 that he wrote his first 'real' poem, entitled 'Up in the Wind'. The wartime collapse of the literary market at last afforded Thomas more time to write poetry; over a space of two years, he was to write over one hundred and forty poems. In 1915 Thomas joined the Artists' Rifles; he was commissioned second lieutenant in 1916 and volunteered for service overseas. In April 1917 he was killed during the first hour of the battle of Arras in northern France and buried the following day on the outskirts of the town; he therefore did not live to see the publication of his Poems (1917) (under his pseudonym Edward Eastaway), nor the subsequent Last Poems (1918) and Collected Poems (1920). His wife Helen wrote of their time together in As It Was (1926) and World Without End (1931). Thomas numbered amongst his poetical and literary influences Robert Frost, Thomas Hardy, W. B. Yeats, D. H. Lawrence, Walter de la Mare, and W. H. Davies.
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William Henry Davies (1871-1940), poet and writer, was born in Newport, Monmouthshire, the son of Francis Boase Davies and Mary Ann Evans. Following his father's death and his mother's remarriage he and his siblings were adopted by their grandparents. After leaving school he became a picture-frame maker's apprentice. In June 1893 he sailed to America, arriving in New York virtually penniless. He spent the next few years tramping across America, begging and undertaking casual labour, with occasional voyages to Britain working on cattle-ships. He then decided to go to the Klondike but while en route, he lost his right leg after falling under a train in Renfrew, Ontario, on 20 March 1899. After convalescing he returned to Britain. He lived in common lodging houses in London and survived by peddling wares and living off the weekly allowance of ten shillings left to him by his grandmother. He began writing poetry at this time but it was not until 1905 that he succeeded in getting his work published; he managed to save enough money to pay for the printing of two hundred copies of The Soul's Destroyer ([London], ). Several further volumes of poetry and collections appeared between 1905 and 1939. His most famous prose work, Autobiography of a Super-Tramp (London, 1908), was followed by four novels, including The True Traveller (London, 1912) and The Adventures of Johnny Walker, Tramp (London, 1926). Other prose works include Beggars (London, 1909), Nature (London, 1914), My Birds (London, 1933) and My Garden (London, 1933). In 1905 he was befriended by the poet Edward Thomas (1878-1917) and his wife Helen, who in 1907 rented a cottage for him in Sevenoaks, Kent. He returned to London in 1914. Davies married Helen Payne (d. 1979) on 5 February 1923, having met her at a bus stop in London. They lived in East Grinstead, Sussex, before moving back to Sevenoaks, then Oxted, Surrey, and finally to Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, where Davies died on 26 September 1940.
Name of creator
Vernon Watkins (1906-1967), poet, was the second of three children of William and Sarah Watkins. He was born in Maesteg, Glamorgan, on 27 June 1906 but grew up in Swansea, Glamorgan, and on the Gower. He attended Repton School, Derbyshire, 1920-1924, then (for one year) studied modern languages at Magdalene College, Cambridge. He was briefly a clerk at Lloyds Bank in Cardiff but after a breakdown he returned home to Swansea and moved to the Lloyds Bank branch in St Helens. He served with RAF Police and Intelligence, 1941-1946, but otherwise remained with Lloyds for the remainder of his working life. In 1941 he published his first collection of poems, Ballad of the Mari Lwyd (London, 1941), followed by The Lamp and the Veil (London, 1945), Selected Poems (Norfolk, Conn., 1948), The Lady with the Unicorn (London, 1948), The Death Bell (London, 1954), Cypress and Acacia (London, 1959), Affinities (London, 1962), and Fidelities (London, 1968) which appeared posthumously. As a poet he was scrupulous, working through numerous drafts to reach a final version and often undertaking further revision after publication. In addition to original poetry he translated European verse into English, including Heine's The North Sea (London, 1955), and wrote essays on other poets. He corresponded widely with literary figures and became friends with the likes of W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, Philip Larkin and, in particular, Dylan Thomas. In 1944 he married Gwendoline (Gwen) Mary Davies (b. 1923), a colleague at RAF Intelligence, and they had five children. Following his retirement in 1966 he lectured at the University College of Swansea. He was then appointed Visiting Professor of Poetry at the University of Washington but died on 8 October 1967, shortly after arriving in Seattle to take up his post. Some of his previously unpublished and uncollected works appeared in Uncollected Poems (London, 1969), Selected Verse Translations, ed. by Ruth Pryor (London, 1977), The Breaking of the Wave (Ipswich, 1979), and Ballad of the Outer Dark, ed. by Ruth Pryor (London, 1979).
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Various sources (detailed in a list at the beginning of the file); Donation and purchase; 1984-1996
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Over a hundred letters, 1901-1991, of miscellaneous provenance from twentieth-century Anglo-Welsh writers to various recipients; the correspondents include Gillian Clarke (10, and three poems) 1986-1988, Rhys Davies (10) 1928-1929, 1975-1978, W. H. Davies (13, together with press cuttings, 1905-1950s, and four printed poems) [1909x1913]-1925, David Jones (8) 1960-1973, John Cowper Powys (7) 1927-1953, Dylan Thomas (10) 1938-1952, Edward Thomas (7) 1901-1912, Gwyn Thomas (2) 1952-1953, R. S. Thomas (6) 1956-1960 and Vernon Watkins (5) 1962-1966.
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Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to abide by the conditions noted on the 'Modern papers - data protection' form issued with their readers' tickets.
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Usual copyright laws apply.
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Physical characteristics and technical requirements
The contents of NLW MSS 21701-22852 are indexed in greater detail in Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, vol. 8 (Aberystwyth, 1999).
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Title based on contents.
Preferred citation: NLW MS 22003E.
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This description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd ed.; AACR2; and LCSH.
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Dates of creation revision deletion