The University of Nottingham has acquired a “unique archive of treasures” of more than 600 items from D H Lawrence’s personal archive.
The items include family correspondence, diary entries, notebooks and personal papers, representing what is believed to be the last major collection of personal materials from the Nottingham-born author.
When the collection, formerly in private ownership, became available, it was at risk of being purchased by overseas buyers or items dispersed among private collectors, according to a university spokesperson. “Recognising the significance of the archive to the study and celebration of Lawrence’s life and work as well as to the national heritage, the University sought out charitable and philanthropic donations to secure it,” the spokesperson said.
The archive “is intimate in nature” featuring drafts of published works; correspondence with family members; a diary entry; personal papers; and some of Lawrence’s possessions. A notebook from his time spent as a student at University College Nottingham has lesson notes in the front pages, and includes drafts of poems, doodles and sketches on the back pages.
There is also a page from Lawrence’s diary (9th August 1906) which describes a day spent in Lincolnshire and a sketch by Lawrence’s elder brother depicts the two siblings together. Other highlights include a draft of the poem "My Love, My Mother" from 1911, and a draft poem of "The Piano" from 1916, both published in revised form in Amores — a collection of poems published in 1916.
An extract from The Piano
The correspondence between Lawrence, a University of Nottingham graduate, and family members is also included such as a postcard sent from Sicily by Lawrence to his younger sister Ada Clarke in 1920 and a postcard sent to his nephew ‘Jack’ Clarke in 1927.
The collection was secured through substantial funding from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), alongside significant contributions from a number of charities including The Foyle Foundation, Friends of the National Libraries, Thriplow Charitable Trust, and The Aurelius Charitable Trust.
Craig Davidson of the University’s campaign and alumni relations office, who led the fundraising appeal to acquire the collection, said: “The natural home for these items is Nottingham. It is where Lawrence spent his formative years, and it is his geographical heartland which these materials evoke.
“Lawrence also had strong connections to our institution, and so we felt very strongly that the collection should remain at its rightful home at the University of Nottingham.”
Mark Dorrington, keeper of manuscripts and special collections, said: “As a former student of the University, it was crucial that we attempted to secure this collection for the University where it can be made available for teaching and research.”
“The University’s purchase of this extremely important cache of D H Lawrence materials is excellent news and will be greeted with delight and relief by Lawrence scholars throughout the world,” Dr Andrew Harrison, director of the University’s D H Lawrence Research Centre in the School of English, said. “Its contents are invaluable and irreplaceable: they shed a uniquely detailed light on Lawrence’s early life and his family connections.”
The author was born in 1885 and brought up in late Victorian industrial England, in the mining community of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, before becoming one of the most influential writers of 20th Century.
The University’s D H Lawrence Collections have increased significantly since the early 1950s. Other items are held elsewhere in Britain, and abroad, including the US and Canada.
Items from the collection can be viewed at the Manuscripts and Special Collections Reading Rooms, the University of Nottingham, King’s Meadow Campus, Lenton Lane, Nottingham, NG7 2NR.