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University of Texas at Austin

John Fowles:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator Fowles, John, 1926-2005.
Title John Fowles Papers
Dates: circa 1926-1992
Extent: 56 boxes, 1 oversize box, 7 galley files (24.82 linear feet); uncatalogued accessions: 85 document boxes, 5 oversize boxes, 18 record storage cartons (55.28 linear feet)
Abstract: The papers encompass all of Fowles' major works, including The French Lieutenant's Woman, with accompanying correspondence, production materials, contracts, and research materials, as well as published and unpublished essays, novels, plays, poems, and short stories. There are numerous adaptions of his works, and books and dissertations about Fowles and his works. The papers also include nearly a half-century of Fowles's diaries, and a few photographs.
RLIN record #: TXRC93-A76
Language: English.
Access Open for research. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials. Part or all of this collection is housed off-site and may require up to three business days' notice for access in the Ransom Center's Reading and Viewing Room. Please contact the Center before requesting this material:

Administrative Information

Acquisition Purchase and gift, 1968-1993, 1999
Processed by Joan Sibley, 1993; diaries added by Liz Murray, 1999

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

John Robert Fowles was born March 31, 1926, at Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, the son of Robert and Gladys Richards Fowles. He was educated at Alleyn Court School (1934-1939) and Bedford School (1939-1944), excelling in both scholarship and sports. When his family was evacuated from the London suburbs during World War II, Fowles lived in and became acquainted with the Devon countryside. He served two years military service in the Royal Marines (1945-1947) after receiving training at the University of Edinburgh (1944-1945), but did not see any combat duty. In 1947, he entered New College, Oxford, to read French and German languages and literature, graduating in 1950.
Upon completion of his education, Fowles taught at the University of Poitiers in France (1950-1951) and at the Anargyrios College (1951-1953) on the Greek island of Spetsai. It was here that he met his future wife, Elizabeth Whitton, to whom he was married April 2, 1954. Upon his return to London, teaching remained his profession at Ashridge College (1953-1954) and at St. Godric's College (1954-1963), until one of several writing projects bore fruit. The publication and immense success of his novel The Collector (1963) enabled Fowles to concentrate his energies upon a career as a writer.
Fowles's major works include The Aristos (1964), The Magus (1965), The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969), Poems (1973), The Ebony Tower (1974), Daniel Martin (1977), Mantissa (1982), and A Maggot (1985). From these, three major motion pictures have been produced to date: The Collector (1965), The Magus (1968), and The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981). In addition to his novels, short stories, poems, philosophical writings, and screenplays, Fowles was also the translator of several plays from the French for the National Theatre ( Don Juan, Lorenzaccio, The Lottery of Love, and Martine) and of other French works, such as Cinderella and Ourika. Nonfiction books to his credit include Shipwreck, Islands, Land, The Tree, and The Enigma of Stonehenge, and reflect such interests as antiquarianism, conservation and ecology, local history, and the appreciation of nature. His articles appeared in a variety of journals and he contributed numerous forewords and introductions to works by others.
In 1966, Fowles and his wife Elizabeth left London for Dorset, living first at Underhill Farm, then moving to Lyme Regis in 1968, where he resided until his death on November 5, 2005. In 1978, he was appointed joint honorary curator of the Lyme Regis (Philpot) Museum, and served from 1979-1988 as the sole honorary curator.
The bulk of this collection was acquired from Mr. Fowles in 1991, though separate smaller acquisitions were made 1968-1989 for materials relating to The Aristos, Don Juan, and The French Lieutenant's Woman. Additional items were received, 1982-1993, as gifts from Robert Huffaker and Charlotte Rhodes, and in 1999. Mr. Fowles died in 2005 at the age of 79.

For further information on the life and writings of John Fowles, see

Aubrey, James R. John Fowles: A Reference Companion. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991.
Huffaker, Robert. John Fowles. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1980.
Olshen, Barry N. and Toni A. Olshen. John Fowles: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1980.
Pifer, Ellen. "John Fowles."The Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1983. 14: 309-336.

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents

The John Fowles Papers, circa 1926-1992 (bulk 1953-1991), consist largely of manuscripts, galleys, and page proofs of his works (both published and unpublished), plus accompanying clippings, contracts, correspondence, and research materials. Playscript and screenplay adaptations of his works are also present, as are some cast lists, film schedules, and legal documents concerning film rights. There are also numerous articles, book reviews, dissertations and theses, and other works about Fowles and his work, which were sent to him by students, scholars, and others. The remainder of the collection includes personal papers and miscellaneous items, such as audio recordings, diaries, legal papers, nature observation journals, photographs, receipts, a royalty statement, and school reports.
The collection is arranged in five series: I. Works, circa 1953-1991 (35 boxes), II. Adaptations of Fowles's Works, circa 1968-1987 (5 boxes), III. Works about Fowles, ca. 1963-1991 (10 boxes), IV. Personal Papers, circa 1926-1990, (5 boxes), and V. Miscellaneous, circa 1965-1981 (2 boxes). While the materials have been arranged into these series, the order of material within folders has generally not been disturbed, except to occasionally regularize the chronology of correspondence where present. Fowles's original folders have been retained as they frequently include title information, dates, identifications of draft progression, or other notes. There are also often descriptive notes within folders, information Fowles apparently jotted down as he was preparing his papers for shipment to the Ransom Center.
John Fowles and his works are the foremost subjects represented in this collection. Manuscript materials are included for several of his major works: The Magus, The Aristos, The French Lieutenant's Woman, The Ebony Tower, Daniel Martin, Mantissa, and A Maggot. Additional manuscripts represent poems, plays, several translations from the French ( Cinderella, Don Juan, Lorenzaccio, The Lottery of Love, Martine, and Ourika), various nonfiction works (such as Shipwreck, Islands, Land, The Tree, and The Enigma of Stonehenge), contributions to books by others, and book reviews, as well as curatorial and local history writings. A number of unpublished essays, novels, plays, poems, short stories, and screenplays are also present in this collection, most notably the manuscript for Fowles's first novel, to have been titled "A Journey to Athens," or "An Island and Greece."
Fowles's interest in and role as a translator of French literature, especially of French drama for performance by the National Theatre, is well represented in this collection by manuscripts and correspondence from Michael Bogdanov, John Russell Brown, Peter Gill, and Sir Peter Hall. Correspondence from photographer Fay Godwin concerns her work with Fowles on Islands and Land. A wide variety of topics are addressed in Fowles's non-fiction writings, including American culture, antiquarianism, art, authors and books, conservation and ecology, criticism, England, local history, music, the natural world, philosophy, sports, and writers and writing.
Other correspondents represented in Fowles's manuscript files include his agents (Julian Bach, Anthony Sheil), and editors (Tom Maschler, Ray A. Roberts), as well as other literary agency and publishing company personnel, co-authors, solicitors of work, and others.
Various adaptations for stage, screen, and television versions of such works as The Collector, Daniel Martin, The Ebony Tower, and The French Lieutenant's Woman are also present. The long process of successfully adapting and producing The French Lieutenant's Woman for film is detailed in extensive correspondence (chiefly legal in nature) and contracts, as well as through several drafts of screenplays by writers Harold Pinter, Dennis Potter, and David Rudkin. Correspondence from directors Karel Reisz, George Schaefer, and to Fred Zinnemann is also included.
Correspondence and writings by others about Fowles and his works makes up another segment of this collection. Often Fowles responded to these students, scholars, and other writers, sometimes providing detailed commentary in his answers to questionnaires and correspondence. There are also numerous press clippings of reviews of Fowles's works.
The personal papers provide documentation of Fowles's school days, his interest in observing birds and identifying plants, as well as the analysis of dreams. Diaries kept intermittently over a 50-year period are also present,"...deliberately reflecting either my personal or the later twentieth century's growth," but having no clear literary or historical purpose, according to Fowles. Legal papers concern a libel action involving The Collector, and correspondence from fellow 1971 Booker Prize panelists Saul Bellow, Antonia Fraser, and Malcolm Muggeridge concerns the controversy in selecting the recipient of that award.
This collection offers extensive material for critical, bibliographical, and textual studies of the works of John Fowles, but contains less in terms of more personal information, such as personal correspondence, financial or legal records.

Series Descriptions

Series I. Works, circa 1953-1991 (35 boxes)
Includes original autograph and typed manuscripts of works (both published and unpublished), printer's copies, galleys, page proofs, and photocopies from publications, as well as associated clippings, contracts, correspondence, dust jacket designs, notes, photographs, programs, publicity materials, research materials, reviews, and sketches for Fowles's works, circa 1953-1991.
Major published works present include The Magus, The Aristos, The French Lieutenant's Woman, The Ebony Tower, Daniel Martin, Mantissa, and A Maggot, all of which are represented by multiple drafts and pre-publication states, most of which are heavily revised. Of special note are an early "urdraft of The Magos,"clippings which indicate how Fowles visualized the character Alison in The Magus, and a notebook for Daniel Martin. Fowles's other major works, The Collector and The French Lieutenant's Woman are documented to a lesser extent in this collection. The Collector is represented by a Foreword to an edition, but also by an unpublished group of poems called "Sequence Four," which were written as an exercise during the writing of The Collector. The final typescript for The French Lieutenant's Woman is also present in this collection.
In addition to these well known works, manuscripts of poems, plays, translations, nonfiction books and articles, text for photography books, contributions to books by others (numerous afterwords, forewords, and introductions), book reviews, curatorial writings, and local history are also a part of this collection.
Fowles's role as translator of French drama, as commissioned by the National Theatre, here includes his versions of Moliere's Dom Juan, Lorenzaccio by Alfred de Musset, The Lottery of Love translated from Marivaux's Le Jeu de l'Amour et du Hasard, and Martine by Jean-Jacques Bernard. Files for these works frequently include correspondence from National Theatre personnel, as well as programs and reviews of performances. Manuscripts for his translations from the French of Cinderella and Ourika are also included.
Manuscripts of several unpublished essays, novels, plays, poems, short stories, and screenplays are also present in this collection. Of particular interest among the unpublished works is the manuscript for Fowles's first novel, "A Journey to Athens," or "An Island and Greece". There are also extensive drafts for a work called "The Device," which Fowles characterized as"an aborted and abortive novel in the 1970s."Numerous screenplays, in various stages of completion, are present: "The Black Thumb,""Dr. Cook's Garden,""Genesis,""Phoenix," and "Zip." One folder (titled "The Screw") appears to be a collection of miscellaneous fragments.
The works have been arranged in alphabetical order by the last known title, with cross references from earlier titles. Certain categories of writings (Afterwords, Forewords, Introductions, and Reviews) have been grouped together under those categories. In the folder list, publication dates are given in parentheses, and any identifying description by Fowles appears in single quotation marks. All unpublished works are flagged in the folder list with an asterisk.
When multiple drafts are present, an attempt has been made to organize them in order of creation, through progressive drafts, to galleys and page proofs, and occasionally to the published versions. Some drafts of manuscripts are not in strict numerical page order and remain as Fowles left them. Drafts are frequently heavily revised and corrected, often with strips of revised text pasted or stapled onto manuscript pages. Given Fowles's ecological stance, it is hardly surprising that he sometimes recycled paper in creating in his manuscripts. Mostly these papers consist of old school forms or manuscripts sent to him, as well as occasional incoming correspondence. It does not seem that he recycled pages from his own manuscripts in this manner. All original folders have been retained as they frequently include title information, dates, identifications of draft progression, or other notes.
As Fowles's own filing practice kept related correspondence, clippings, contracts, and other items in the folders along with manuscripts, arrangement within files has generally been undisturbed, except to occasionally regularize the chronology of correspondence where present. Thus Fowles's correspondence from agents (Julian Bach, Anthony Sheil), editors (Tom Maschler at Jonathan Cape Limited, Ray A. Roberts at Little, Brown, and Company), co-authors (there is extensive correspondence from photographer Fay Godwin), commissioners of works (such as The National Theatre), and many others is located in the context of the works as they were created and published. Given the working nature of these folders, little personal correspondence will be found among them, and only occasionally are carbons or photocopies of Fowles's outgoing correspondence present. All correspondence within the files has been indexed by author in the Index of Correspondents.
The only folders which have been rearranged are those which included miscellaneous short pieces, photocopies of contributions to publications, and the book review folders. The titles within these have been separated so that they may all be located alphabetically by title. The book reviews are grouped together under Reviews, but then are filed alphabetically by the title of the review, or of the work reviewed when the review was untitled.
Series II. Adaptations of Fowles's Works, circa 1968-1987 (5 boxes)
This series consists of adaptations by various authors of works by Fowles, primarily for screen, television, and stage. Included are The Collector, Daniel Martin, Don Juan, The Ebony Tower, The Enigma, The Enigma of Stonehenge, The French Lieutenant's Woman, The Last Chapter, and Poor Koko. These titles are represented variously by cast lists, clippings, contracts, correspondence, film schedules, photographs of locations, playscripts, and screenplays. Files often include Fowles's comments and suggestions for these adaptations.
The long process of successfully adapting and producing The French Lieutenant's Woman for film is detailed in extensive correspondence (chiefly legal in nature) and contracts, as well as through several drafts of screenplays by writers Harold Pinter, Dennis Potter, and David Rudkin. A playscript of a version for the stage, by Pauline Sheppard, is also present.
Scripts for the film versions of The Collector and The Magus are not present in this collection.
While the Screenplay Agreement files mostly concern The French Lieutenant's Woman, information regarding the film adaptation of The Ebony Tower, and film options for Daniel Martin is also included. These papers also sometimes address the copyright and publication of the original printed works, edition history, foreign rights, etc.
Series III. Works about Fowles, circa 1963-1991 (10 boxes)
Included in this series are published and unpublished articles, bibliographies, biographical essays, book reviews, book-length critical studies, numerous dissertations and theses, essays, interviews, papers, and questionnaires concerning Fowles and his writings, mostly written or compiled by critics, journalists, students, and scholars, circa 1963-1991.
Among the formats are clippings, correspondence, manuscript and/or published versions of works, photographs, publicity schedules and itineraries, and transcripts of broadcast reviews. Often Fowles's comments to the correspondents are also preserved in this series.
The files are arranged alphabetically under the name of the author, except in the case of interviews and reviews, which are filed under those categories. Among the major published works concerning Fowles in this series are John Fowles, the Twain Series study by Robert Huffaker, and The Timescapes of John Fowles, by H. William Fawkner.
The Reviews segment consists primarily of clippings of book reviews, with the majority of coverage given to the film version of The French Lieutenant's Woman, and more recent publications such as Mantissa and A Maggot. Some correspondence, photographs, and publicity materials occasionally form a part of these Review files.
Series IV. Personal Papers, circa 1926-1990 (5 boxes)
Consists of audio recordings, clippings, correspondence, diaries, legal documents, nature books, a notebook, photographs, receipts, a royalty statement, and school reports, which reflect various aspects of Fowles's life, circa 1926-1990.
The earliest items in this collection are found in this series, including a photograph of Fowles as a baby, and various papers documenting his school days, circa 1939-1945. Diaries, kept from the mid 1940s through 1990, are both handwritten and in typescript form, some bound and others kept in loose-leaf notebooks. Nature books, circa 1941-1952, record his early and continuing observations of the natural world, of plants, birds, and other animals, both in England and in Greece. One file in this series denotes his interest in and approach to dream analysis, circa 1964.
Other files result from Fowles's occupation as an author, but on a more personal level. These include papers, circa 1964-1966, concerning a libel action for a statement contained in The Collector, records of Fowles's participation in the panel awarding the Booker Prize in 1971, as well as a royalty statement from 1976. A small selection of photographs, probably made for publicity use, completes this small series.
Series V. Miscellaneous, circa 1965-1981 (2 boxes)
The diaries, containing photographs and some correspondence, 1965-1981, belonged to Keith Thompson, and were bequeathed to Fowles after Thompson's death in 1981. Fowles never knew Thompson.

Related Material

Other manuscript collections at the HRC which contain materials concerning John Fowles include:
David Higham & Associates Archive. Includes correspondence, circa 1954-1955, concerning an attempt to publish "A Journey to Athens," or "An Island and Greece"
London Magazine. Includes a manuscript of an interview of Fowles by Daniel Halpern
Screenplay Collection. Includes a script of The Magus
Additionally, the HRC Library holds a large selection of books by and about Fowles (accessible through the online catalog, UTCAT), and the Theatre Arts Collection has posters for the films of The Collector and The Magus.
The University of Tulsa also has a collection of John Fowles materials, which includes manuscripts for The Collector and The French Lieutenant's Woman.

Separated Material

Sound recordings were transferred to the Ransom Center's Sound Recording collection and are described individually in a list at the end of this finding aid and in a searchable database.

Index Terms


Bach, Julian.
Bellow, Saul.
Bogdanov, Michael.
Brown, John Russell.
Fraser, Antonia, 1932- .
Gill, Peter, 1939- .
Godwin, Fay.
Hall, Peter, Sir, 1930- .
Maschler, Tom, 1934- .
Muggeridge, Malcolm, 1903- .
Pinter, Harold, 1930- .
Potter, Dennis.
Reisz, Karel.
Roberts, Ray A.
Rudkin, David, 1936- .
Schaefer, George, 1920- .
Sheil, Anthony.
Zinnemann, Fred, 1907- .


Jonathan Cape, Ltd.
Little, Brown and Company.
Lyme Regis Museum.
National Theatre (Great Britain).


Archaeology--Great Britain.
Authors, English--20th century.
Bird watching--Great Britain.
French drama--Translations into English.
Historic sites--England.
Nature study.


Dorset (England)--Description and travel.
Great Britain--Description and travel.
Lyme Regis (England)--History.

Document Types

Galley proofs.
Report cards.
Sound recordings.
Television scripts.
Theater programs.

John Fowles Papers--Folder List