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University of Texas at Austin

John Collier:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator Collier, John, 1901-
Title John Collier Papers
Dates: 1920-1976
Extent 5 boxes, 1 galley folder (2.10 linear feet)
Abstract The papers of John Collier represent his transition from a poet to writer of novels, short stories, and screenplays. The bulk of the papers are manuscripts covering several genres, although a substantial amount of correspondence is also included.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-00872
Language: English.
Access Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition Purchases, 1967-1976, (R3732, R4786, R7297)
Processed by Dale Sauter, 1999

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

John Collier, a writer of various genres, was born in London on May 3, 1901. He obtained a private education, and began writing poetry at age nineteen, and was first published in 1920. During the early 1930s he concentrated on writing novels and short stories. One of Collier's most popular works from this period was His Monkey Wife, first published in 1930. In this short novel, Collier covers the controversial topic of conjugal love between a man and a chimpanzee. Collier became best known as a writer of fantasy, and though largely unpopular in his native country, gained significant popularity in the United States.
In 1935 Collier moved from England to Hollywood where he began writing screenplays. He would remain an active screenwriter for the next thirty years, as well as do substantial writing for television. Some of Collier's screenplays include Elephant Boy (1937), I Am a Camera (1955), and The War Lord (1965). Collier devoted much effort during the late 1960s to the transformation of Milton's Paradise Lost into a screenplay. However, despite being published in book form, his hopes of turning the screenplay into a film were never realized. Collier's other published works include Gemini (poetry collection, 1931), Tom's A-Cold (novel, 1933), Defy the Foul Fiend (novel, 1934), Presenting Moonshine (short story collection, 1941), Fancies and Goodnights (short story collection, 1951), Pictures in the Fire (short story collection, 1958), The John Collier Reader (short story collection, 1972), and The Best of John Collier (short story collection, 1975).
Collier died of a stroke in Pacific Palisades, California on April 6, 1980. For the most part, his work has been ignored by scholars, but still holds wide appeal among readers of fantasy.


Benstock, Bernard, and Thomas F. Staley, eds. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 77. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1989.
Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series, Vol. 10. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1983.
Richardson, Betty. John Collier. Boston: Twayne, 1983.

Scope and Contents

The papers of John Collier, ca. 1920-1976, represent Collier's transition from a poet to writer of novels, short stories, and screenplays. The bulk of the papers are manuscripts covering several genres. A substantial amount of correspondence is also included in the papers. The papers are divided into two series: I. Works, ca. 1920-1975, n.d. (4.8 boxes), and II. Personal Papers, ca. 1930-1976, n.d. (0.2 boxes).
The Works Series is subdivided by genre: Novels, Poems, Reviews, Screenplays, and Short Stories, the majority of which fall into the latter two categories. Of specific interest within the Screenplays subseries is an original screenplay for The African Queen, on which Collier was a collaborator, which was not used for the final film. However, the bulk of the Screenplays subseries deals with Collier's adaptation of John Milton's Paradise Lost. Some correspondence documenting Collier's ongoing negotiations with agents and collaborators concerning the adaptation are also included in the Paradise Lost group. A large percentage of this correspondence is with Howard Hausman, Martin Poll, and Jan Stussy, ca. 1967-1970. In addition to the correspondence, there are multiple holograph an typescript drafts of the adaptation. Manuscripts for fifteen short stories, most of which date from 1955-1958 are also present. Among the short stories best represented is Asking For It, of which there are multiple drafts. The Novel subseries contains holograph manuscripts by Collier, including an original of His Monkey Wife, probably his best known novel. The Poems subseries includes both holograph manuscripts and typescripts of what became the published book Gemini. The small Reviews subseries contains reviews by Collier of other novels, as well as a scrapbook of newspaper reviews of his own work, Presenting Moonshine.
The Personal Papers Series is minuscule compared to the Works series. Contained in this series are an announcement of a poetry award given to Collier, a contract concerning the publication of Defy the Foul Fiend, and a very small amount of outgoing correspondence to John Beevers, Louis Golding, and Alannah Harper. Of particular note within this series is a notebook kept by Collier that records short story titles, information regarding dates of composition, length of writing time, payment received, and the publisher of the story. This record book also contains listed groupings of possible stories to be released as collections, notes for short stories, and some sketches.
The order of the collection appears to have been somewhat influenced by Bertram Rota Ltd., the dealer from which it was obtained. On the whole, this order has been maintained, though the Paradise Lost correspondence was put in chronological order during processing. Additionally, many of the items seem to have been labeled by the author and/or the dealer, and these were assumed largely reliable for the task of identification and description.

Index Terms


Barker, Lee


Milton, John, 1608-1674 -- Paradise Lost
English literature -- 20th century

Document Types


John Collier Papers--Folder List