The papers of British writer A. L. Barker reflect her literary life as
a novelist, short story writer, free-lance writer, BBC sub-editor for
The Listener, and active member of both
the English P.E.N. and the Royal Society of Literature. Although this
collection is incomplete, it does contain the papers Barker had in her
possession at the time of her death in 2002, which were originally bequeathed
to the English P.E.N. Included here are drafts of many of her novels and short
story collections; writings on Stella Benson, Katherine Mansfield, and Leslie
Moore; plays for radio and television; literary and research notes;
correspondence; photographs; and personal and professional papers. Barker was
known as "Pat" to her friends and
"A. L. Barker" for literary publishing. She
used her married name "Bourne" at the BBC and
for public documents, although she was married for only a brief period during
World War II.
The papers are arranged in four series: Series I. Works and Related
Material, 1940s-1990s; Series II. Correspondence, 1946-1998; Series III.
Career-Related Material; and Series IV. Personal.
Series I. Works and Related Material, 1940s-1990s, is divided into
Subseries A. Writings, and Subseries B. Works-Related Material. Arranged in
alphabetical order, drafts or page proofs of novels in Subseries A include
The Haunt (1995);
A Heavy Feather (1978);
The Joy Ride and After (novellas, 1963);
The Middling (1968); and
Zeph (1992). Material for published
collections of short stories include
Any Excuse for a Party (1991);
Element of Doubt (1992); and
Femina Real (1971).
Other writings in Subseries A. include story sketches, poems, and
reviews from the 1940s; a typescript transcription of Stella Benson's letters
to Laura Hutton that Barker sought to have published; a contribution on George
Writers and Their Houses; a lecture on the
supernatural for the Royal Society of Literature; two short pieces on Katherine
Mansfield and Leslie Moore; typescripts of short stories; and a number of radio
and television plays.
Subseries B. Works-Related Material, contains primarily notes for her
writing, and research on such topics as photography, plants, themes, quotes,
and writers and writing. Barker was a prolific scribbler of ideas on scraps of
paper and this subseries contains a substantial number of these notes.
Series II. Correspondence, 1946-1998, is divided into Subseries A.
Literary, arranged chronologically; and Subseries B. Personal, arranged
alphabetically. The literary correspondence includes letters to and from
Barker's agent Jennifer Kavanagh, publishers, the BBC, and literary societies.
The personal correspondence includes a small amount of Barker's outgoing
correspondence, as well as letters from Sybille Bedford, John Brathy, Penelope
Fitzgerald, Jane Gardam, Mary Hocking, Francis King, Pauline Neville, and
Isobel Quigly, among others.
The career-related material in Series III reflects her literary
activities with organizations such as the Cheltenham Festival of Literature,
Lumb Bank, and the English P.E.N., as well as readings and judging for literary
awards such as the Katherine Mansfield Prize and the Silver P.E.N. Award.
Barker's receipt of the inaugural Somerset Maugham Prize in 1947, and
nomination for the 1970 Booker Prize, are also represented.
Series IV. Personal, contains address books, biographical information,
a long run of daybooks from 1955-1998, family papers, BBC-related employment
material, divorce decree, membership cards, and photographs.