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John Wain Archive

Identifier: Coll-29

Scope and Contents

Includes essays; drafts of, and corrections to The contenders, The take-over bid, and The smaller sky; revised text, and corrected typescript of The young visitors; publisher's copy of, and notebooks relating to A winter in the hills; revision to, and radio adaptation of A winter in the hills; drafts and copies of poems; lectures; drafts of Harry in the night; work relating to Samuel Johnson; passages and fragments from The pardoner's tale; various notebooks; and, drafts of Frank, Young shoulders, Lizzie's floating shop, and Good morning blues.

In MSS 3124-3137 there is material dated from the 1980s up to 1994 and containing manuscripts and typescripts for radio plays; manuscripts and typescripts of Volume 1 and 2 of the 'Oxford Trilogy', these being, Where the rivers meet, and Comedies; transcript material and draft material from Volume 3 of the 'Oxford Trilogy', Hungry generations; and, material for a projected Volume 4 of the 'Oxford Trilogy', The end of war. There are letters and diaries, and notebooks containing miscellaneous ideas, drafts, outlines, quotations, telephone numbers and travel notes.

At E97.67 - papers, 5 boxes, 1986-1994, containing various notes and chapters particularly chapters, early versions and typescript to Where the rivers meet, papers relating to The ruin, Brittany, Comedies and Frank, and correspondence.

AT SC-Acc-2017-0221: Six notebooks that belonged to John Wain. None of them are full, and they cover different topics from the Greek classics to drafts of poems. One notebook contains the beginning to his novel the Young Visitors.


  • Creation: 1947-1994

Conditions Governing Access

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Biographical / Historical

The author John Barrington Wain (1925-1994), was Professor of Poetry at University of Oxford, 1973-78. He was born in Stoke-on-Trent and educated at the High School, Newcastle-under-Lyme, and then St John's College, Oxford, where he became Fereday Fellow, 1946-49. He was a Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Reading, 1947-55, and on resignation became a freelance author and critic.

Like contemporary figures, Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, and John Braine, Wain began publishing just as Britain was recovering from the Second World War. It was a time when writers were reacting against the orthodoxies of modernism. Wain was one of the 'Angry Young Men'. His fictional works included Hurry on down (1953); Living in the present (1955); The contenders (1958); A travelling woman (1959); Nuncle and other stories (1960); Strike the father dead (1962); The young visitors (1965); Death of the hind legs and other stories (1966); The smaller sky (1967); A winter in the hills (1970); The Life Guard and other stories (1971); The pardoner's tale (1978); Lizzie's floating shop (1981); Young shoulders (1982); Where the rivers meet (1988); Comedies (1990); Johnson is leaving: a monodrama (1994); and, Hungry generations (1994).

Wain wrote poetry and plays and also did much work as an editor, critic, biographer, anthologist, reviewer and broadcaster.


44 boxes (7 m); misc.additions.

Physical Location

MSS 2851-2875; MSS 3124-3137; and CLX-A-142 to CLX-A-146

Related Materials

- letters (2), to John Smith, dated 29 January 1962 and 2 March 1962, and a letter and a postcard to W. Price Turner, the former dated 1 November 1967, and the latter undated but postmarked 1 February 1957, at E73.54

- postcard, to Ronald Hayman, 7 January 1972, at E77.26

- letter, to Mrs Northman, undated but postmarked 15 July 1972, postcards (2) to Ernest Rasdall, one undated but postmarked 23 July 1956, and the other dated 27 March 1957, and postcards (8), letters (4), letter-cards (3) to Alan Hancox between 1955-1966, at E80.216

- correspondence with New Victoria Theatre, North Staffordshire, and copies of music sections from Harry in the night performed in 1975, and tribute to John Wain spoken by Peter Cheeseman, at memorial service, at E94.56

- funeral address for Wain, given at St. John's College, Oxford, at E94.57

- poem, Arrival, at E95.70

- play, Spade, 1963, at E95.71

- letters (2), to Mr. Rosselli, dated 25 July 1962, and to Mr. Cutler, 16 December 1971, at E97.21

- letter, to Mr. Dawson, 19 April 1977, at E98.18

- letter, to R. Sharrock, 14 January 1958, at E98.23

- postcards (7), to Jenny McConnell, dated between 1976 and 1979, and letters (6) dated between 9/1978 4/1979 at E2005.11


The literary manuscripts of John Barrington Wain were deposited in 1974, and subsequently added to by the author until 1986, when the whole deposit was purchased by the Library with the help of the Local Museums Purchase Fund. These manuscripts constitute MSS 2851-2874. Some items were deposited after 1985 and these, along with the manuscripts in the possession of the author at his death were purchased in 1996, with the aid of the National Fund for Acquisitions. These manuscripts constitute MSS 3124-3137. Further manuscripts were found by his family subsequently and were gifted in December 1997. The manuscript of his first novel, Hurry on Down (1953), has not survived, but notebooks, manuscripts and typescripts of most of his later novels, short stories, poetry, plays and criticism are present.

Processing Information

Catalogue record updated by Graeme D. Eddie 18 December 2015. Information on accession SC-Acc-2017-0221 added by Aline Brodin in November 2017.

John Wain Archive
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379