||The Doris Lessing Papers document the English author's creative life through artwork,
clippings, correspondence, galley proofs, journal pages, libretti, manuscripts,
notes, objects, page proofs, photographs, play scripts, printed material,
screenplays, and sound recordings. The focus of the collection is on her
professional rather than personal life. The papers are arranged in two series:
Works, 1943-2008, undated, and II. Personal and Career-Related, 1947-2007,
||The Works series represents the majority of the papers, filling 70.5 boxes. It is
arranged in five subseries: A. Novels, 1970-2008, undated; B. Short Fiction,
1949-2006, undated; C. Dramatic Works, 1959-2004, undated; D. Poetry, 1943-2005,
undated; and E. Nonfiction, 1963-2007, undated.
||Lessing's papers were acquired by the Ransom Center in two lots: one accession was
assembled under her personal supervision in 1999 and has been available to
researchers through a preliminary inventory; the other was acquired under the
of her will in 2015. The present arrangement re-catalogs the earlier acquisition
combines both accessions. To make it possible for users to identify which accession
included a particular item, folders containing material from the 1999 accession
labeled with registration numbers R14457 or R16015; folders containing material
the 2015 accession are not labeled with an accession number.
||The papers clearly illustrate Lessing's usual working method. After some preliminary
handwritten notes, she composed her first draft at the typewriter, making a carbon
copy. Then she revised both copies by hand before sending one to a typist for
retyping, requesting an original and usually several carbon copies or, in later
years, word-processed printouts. This process of editing and retyping was often
repeated several times before she submitted the manuscript to her publisher. This
guide refers to each of these stages of the manuscript as a "draft," and these drafts are arranged in
chronological order based on internal evidence (Lessing did not date her
manuscripts). Thus "first draft" means the earliest
version present among her papers, not necessarily the earliest draft that she
down on paper (for example, if a version has been lost).
||In the process of revising a draft, Lessing sometimes re-typed longer passages on
small pieces of paper rather than writing them by hand (she recognized that her
handwriting was difficult to read, saying people told her it was "ghastly") and paper-clipped them to the original
page. To prevent these slips of paper from becoming misplaced and to preserve
information about their original location, the paper-clipped revision was
photocopied, the paper clips were removed, and the photocopy, small slips, and
original page were slipped into a plastic sleeve. This was done only if the
correction was typed on small pieces of paper; if the correction was typed on
full-size sheet, it was merely left in place and the paper clip removed.
||Lessing frequently typed her drafts on the back of previously used paper; sometimes
incoming correspondence, unfinished outgoing correspondence, and manuscripts of
other works. No attempt was made to identify and catalog this material.
||Often Lessing filed correspondence to and from her typist, publisher, or others with
her manuscripts. Such letters were left in place and arranged in chronological
order. Significant individual correspondents are included in the Index of
Correspondents at the end of this guide.
||Lessing's original folders are preserved and filed behind the material they
||Subseries A. Novels contains material for all of Lessing's novels beginning with
The Four-Gated City (1969). She explained that
all earlier material had been lost.
||The novels are arranged in alphabetical order by title.
||Included are drafts of an uncompleted novel, The Memorymakers, which was intended
serial publication in Ink magazine until it folded and Lessing
abandoned the project.
||The bound proof copy of If the Old Could … contained
dozens of torn slips of paper marking Lessing's corrections. These slips were
with corresponding page numbers and removed to a separate envelope.
||While most of Lessing's papers were not particularly well organized beyond being
grouped by title, the manuscript of The Cleft was in
such confusion that no attempt was made to reorder it during processing at the
||Subseries B. Short Fiction is arranged in alphabetical order by title, with
individual stories and book-length collections grouped separately.
||Subseries C. Dramatic works includes stage and musical plays, screenplays for
television and film, and opera librettos. Many of the works in this section had
been published when this guide was written. They are arranged in a single
alphabetical list by title.
||Many of the manuscripts in this section bear the imprint of Gregson & Wigan,
who were apparently her theatrical agents until the firm was purchased by EMI
1970. Presumably these scripts were returned to her at that time.
||At some point (perhaps when they were still in the possession of her agent) several
of Lessing's manuscripts of dramatic works were stained by an unidentified liquid
that permeated the pages and their folders. These manuscripts have been sleeved
plastic. Patrons using them may wish to consult Ransom Center staff about
precautions they can take to avoid direct contact with these materials.
||Subseries D. Poetry is the smallest section of Lessing's works. Most of her poems
were written early in her career, though she occasionally wrote and published
as late as 2005. Lessing herself labeled a folder "The ones I like," and that
arrangement is preserved here. An attempt was made to arrange drafts in
chronological order during processing.
||Subseries E. Nonfiction contains articles, essays, journalism, reviews, prefaces,
other writing grouped as either individual pieces or books. Many of the individual
manuscripts in this section lack titles; where the same piece appeared in the
anthology Time Bites, the title found there is the one under which the piece is
cataloged; otherwise, the title written on the manuscript, if any, was chosen.
Untitled and uncompleted pieces are grouped at the end.
||After her 1986 visit to Pakistan to learn about refugees from the Russian invasion
Afghanistan, Lessing wrote about her experiences in two simultaneous publications:
an article, The Catastrophe, published in The
New Yorker, and a book, The Wind Blows Away Our
Words, published in England. Because these two publications included
essentially the same material, all drafts were filed together under the book title,
and only galley proofs under the article title.
||Series II. Personal and Career-Related encompasses five boxes and is divided into
subseries: A. Personal, 1947-2007, undated, and B. Career-Related, 1956-2002,
||The Personal subseries contains some loose pages with dated, journal-like entries.
portion of these describes Lessing's experience taking the drug mescaline in 1963.
These pages were originally placed by Lessing among her poems, but since no
connection with any of the poems could be discovered, they were moved to this
||The Personal subseries also contains correspondence that was not filed in conjunction
with any particular manuscript or other group of papers.
||The Career-Related subseries contains clippings, photocopies, and printed
publications containing reviews of Lessing's work, profiles, and interviews, as
as documents and correspondence relating to her travels to give readings and talks
and to receive awards.