Fonds GB 0210 HOLROYD - Michael Holroyd (Augustus John) Research Papers,

Identity area

Reference code



Michael Holroyd (Augustus John) Research Papers,


  • [1899]-2000 (accumulated [1968]-2000) / (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

0.302 cubic metres (27 boxes); 7 large boxes (June 2005 accrual)

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Michael Holroyd is a well-known biographer and writer. He was born 27 August 1935 in London to Basil Holroyd and his Swedish wife Ulla (née Hall). He received his education at Eton College and Maidenhead Public Library. In 1982 he married the writer Margaret Drabble and they live in London and Somerset. He was Chairman of the Society of Authors, 1973-1974, President of English PEN from 1985 to 1988, and Chairman of the Strachey Trust between 1990 and 1995. In 1988 he was awarded the Irish Life Arts Award and the CBE in 1989 for services to literature. A former member of the Arts Council he lectures around the world on behalf of the British Council and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. The universities of Ulster, Sheffield, Warwick, East Anglia and the London School of Economics have presented him with honorary degrees.
Michael Holroyd is the biographer of Hugh Kingsmill, Lytton Strachey, Augustus John and Bernard Shaw, and in 2002 a selection of his writings relating to biography and autobiography was published under the title Works on Paper: The Craft of Biography and Autobiography. The film 'Carrington' is based on Lytton Strachey and won awards at Cannes. His novel A Dog's Life was published in the USA in 1969 and in 1973 his volume of essays Unreceived Opinions was published. Michael Holroyd has also written various radio and television scripts. In 1999 his autobiography Basil Street Blues was published.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Purchased from Bernard Quaritch Ltd (acting on behalf of Michael Holroyd) in July 2000 and June 2005. A consignment of papers and other material were also donated June 2005.; B2000/20, 0200505841

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The fonds comprises the research papers of Michael Holroyd mainly relating to his biography of Augustus John originally published in 1974-1975, other editions and the revised edition published in 1996. These include letters from the John family, researchers, British and foreign repositories, photocopies of letters from Augustus John to his family, letters to fellow artists, his writer friends and members of the Gypsy Lore Society; reminiscences of friends and family; press cuttings relating to his works; papers relating to Augustus John's autobiography Chiaroscuro published in 1952, including publishing contracts; photocopies of writings by Augustus John; publishing agreements and book reviews of the biography. Also included are exhibition addresses on the artist by Michael Holroyd; scripts written about him and Gwen John by others, papers relating to the book co-written by Michael Holroyd and Malcolm Easton, The art of Augustus John (London, 1974), together with some research papers relating to Gwen John and to other projects.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

Action: All the papers purchased by NLW have been kept..


Accruals are expected.

System of arrangement

Arranged at NLW into twelve series: John family letters; research letters; photocopies and transcripts of letters from Augustus John to members of his family; other letters; extracts from Augustus John letters, exhibitions and articles about him; reminiscences and press cuttings; The art of Augustus John, Chiaroscuro and other writings by Augustus John; Augustus John: a biography; exhibitions; lectures and articles; scripts; and Gwen John; and six files: John family obituaries, George Bernard Shaw, Hugh Kingsmill, Sir William Rothenstein, Michael Holroyd: notebook, and miscellaneous papers.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to sign the 'Modern papers - data protection' form.

Conditions governing reproduction

Usual copyright laws apply. Queries regarding Michael Holroyd copyright should be directed to Caradoc King, A. P. Watt Ltd, 20 John Street, London, WC1N 2DR (information from the WATCH file (Writers, Artists and their Copyright Holders), http:, March 2004). Permission to reproduce photocopies of letters obtained by Michael Holroyd from various repositories should be sought from the relevant institutions (see file level descriptions).

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes

English unless otherwise specified.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

A hard copy of this list is available at NLW and at the Tate Archive, Millbank, London.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

See file level descriptions for information regarding the location of original documents.

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

The archive was split up on receipt at NLW. Papers of Gwen John and Augustus John were transferred to NLW MSS (NLW MSS 23850-23856). A video recording of a programme 'Aquarius' on Augustus John for London Weekend Television, 1974, is in the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales at NLW (VM 5921). Photographs and slides are in NLW Special Collections (0200405643, 0200405341, 0200405651). The main archive of Augustus John papers was purchased by NLW in 1988 (NLW MSS 22775-22797), together with a group of John and Nettleship papers (NLW MSS 22798-22803); the Gwen John papers were purchased by NLW in 1984 (NLW MSS 22276-22318). Several other groups of papers relating to Augustus and Gwen John are included in the NLW MSS Series (some of which are cited on file level descriptions).

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number


GEAC system control number


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Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru = The National Library of Wales

Rules and/or conventions used

This description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) Second Edition; AACR2; and LCSH.


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

December 2003.


  • English



Archivist's note

Compiled by Ann Francis Evans.

Archivist's note

The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: Who's who 1897-1996 on CD-Rom; Holroyd, Michael, Augustus John. The new biography (London, 1996); BBC and Contemporary Writers in the UK websites, December 2003.

Accession area

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Physical storage

  • Text: Michael Holroyd (Augustus John) Research Papers.