Request Checked Items
University of Texas at Austin

Francis Henry King:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator King, Francis Henry, 1923-2011
Title Francis Henry King Collection
Dates: 1939-1992
Extent: 8 boxes (3.3 linear feet)
Abstract: The collection contains correspondence and literary works by the British author.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-02292
Language: English
Access Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition Purchases, 1970-1992
Processed by Deborah Shelby, 1992, 1993

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Francis Henry King, the only son of Eustace Arthur Cecil and Faith Mina Read King, was born on March 4, 1923, in Adelboden, Switzerland. King spent the early part of his childhood in India with his parents and three sisters. His father was a police officer, then deputy director of the Intelligence Bureau, and died at an early age from tuberculosis.
King was sent to Shrewsbury boarding school in England. He declared himself a pacifist at the age of fourteen and became a conscientious objector to World War II. This forced him to leave Balliol College, Oxford University during the war to participate in the agricultural service for England until the war's end when he returned to Oxford. As an undergraduate King published three novels: To the Dark Tower, 1946; Never Again, 1948; and Air that Kills, 1949. He graduated from Oxford in 1949 and received his MA in 1951.
King joined the British Council in order to travel and work abroad. From 1949-50 King was a lecturer in Florence, Italy, the setting of his 1951 novel The Dividing Stream, which received the Somerset Maugham award in 1952. Salonkia, Greece, was his next post and he was then assigned to Athens from 1953-1957. The Dark Glasses, published in 1954, was set in Greece as was The Firewalkers: A Memoir, which was published in 1956 under the pseudonym, Frank Caudwell. The Man on the Rock, published in 1957, also involved Greek characters, while his next novel, The Custom House (1961), was set in Japan. In 1957 King was transferred to Helsinki, Finland, as an assistant representitive for one year. He then served as regional director of the British Council in Kyoto, Japan, from 1958-63. One of King's short stories, "The Japanese Umbrella," won the Katherine Mansfield Prize in 1965. Another of his novels set in Japan was The Waves behind the Boat (1967). King left the British Council and moved back to England in 1964 to dedicate more time to his writing, and to reviewing literary works. In 1978, he added dramatic criticism to his repertoire.
The Last Pleasure Gardens (1965), the least biographical of his works according to King, is set in England. The Brighton Belle and other Stories (1968), is a collection of short stories, many of which had been previously published in magazines such as the London Magazine and Modern Short Stories.
King did not use his sexual preference as the main theme to his novels, with the exception of The Domestic Animal, though there are homosexual characters in several of his novels. Some publishers tried to limit these characters during his early writing period, particularly during the 1950s when The Dark Glasses was published. The Domestic Animal was published in 1970, and according to King, it is his most autobiographical novel. Publication was delayed due to a libel suit from an acquaintance who saw himself as a minor female character in the novel. King later used this experience in his novel The Action, which was published in 1978.
Flights (1973), is set in Hungary, and conveys his experiences traveling in the Communist Bloc Countries. A Game of Patience (1974), is set in rural southern England and King's experiences during World War II as a conscientious objector. The Needle, published in 1975 revolves around two main characters, one of which is a pedophilic, the other is his sister who keeps him alive with insulin shots.
Robert de Montesquiou (1967), and Japan (1970), are two of Kings works which are not novels. King worked with John Haylock to produce this English translation of Un Prince 1900 - Robert de Montesquiou, a biography originally written by Philippe Jullian. Japan is filled with photographs and is an essay that describes a brief history of Japan and its people from a visitors perspective.
King served as a member of the Executive Committee of P.E.N., London, from 1969 to 1973. From 1975 to 1977 he was chairman of the Society of Authors. In 1977 he was elected vice-president of P.E.N. in England and the following year became president of the organization. He also served as president of P.E.N. International from 1986 to 1989.
King, who had suffered a stroke in 2005, died July 3, 2011. He had been appointed Officer of the order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1979 and Comander (CBE) in 1985.

For further biographical information on Francis Henry King see

Yesterday Came Suddenly: An Autobiographyby Francis King, 1993.
Friends and Friendship, by Kay Dick, 1974.

Scope and Contents

The Francis Henry King collection contains two series, I. Correspondence, 1941-1992, and II. Works, 1939-1978. The correspondence series is primarily incoming letters, and contains information about King's works, who he spent time with, PEN, opinions of his reviews, personal information, aspects of publishing, his health, works of others, and other people's impressions of friends and writers that King knew.
The bulk of the collection consists of manuscripts King wrote from 1939 to 1978, but primarily dating from the 1960s and 1970s. While most of his writings from this time period are represented in one or more versions in the collection, a few works such as The Firewalkers: A Memoir, The Widow, The Man on the Rocks, and E. M. Forster and His World, are not. The manuscripts are hand written or typed and many have been heavily edited.

Series Descriptions

Related Material

Other Ransom Center manuscript collections containing King materials are:
  • Auden, Wystan Hugh
  • Brooke, Jocelyn
  • Forster, Edward Morgan
  • Heath-Stubbs, John Francis Alexander
  • Hutchinson, Mary
  • Johnson, Pamela Hansford
  • Lehmann, John
  • London Magazine
  • Manning, Olivia
  • Maugham, William Somerset
  • Patmore, Derek
  • Snow, Charles Percy

Index Terms


Ackerley, J. R. (Joe Randolph), 1896-1967.
Attenborough, David, 1926- .
Bagnold, Enic.
Born, Edith de, 1901- .
Bottrall, Ronald, 1906- .
Bowen, Elizabeth, 1899-1973.
Brooke-Rose, Christine, 1923- .
Compton-Burnett, I. (Ivy), 1884-1969.
Connolly, Cyril, 1903-1974.
Davies, Rhys, 1903- .
Gielgud, John, Sir, 1904- .
Grant, Duncan, 1885-1978.
Grigson, Geoffrey, 1905- .
Hartley, L. P. (Leslie Poles), 1895-1972.
Jameson, Storm, 1891- .
Jeans, Angela.
Jullian, Philippe.
King, Eustace Arthur Cecil.
King, Faith Mina Reed, 1889-1992.
Kitchin, C. H. B. (Clifford Henry Benn), 1895-1967.
Knight, George Wilson, 1897- .
Lehmann, John, 1907- .
Liddell, Robert, 1908- .
Lofts, Norah, 1904- .
Manning, Olivia.
Maugham, Robin, 1916- .
Mishima, Yukio, 1925-1970.
Mortimer, Raymond, 1895- .
Nicolson, Harold George, Sir, 1886-1968.
Pritchett, V. S. (Victor Sawdon), 1900- .
Spender, Stephen, 1909- .
Stanford, Derek.
Stewart, Desmond, 1924- .
Stoppard, Tom.
Taylor, Elizabeth, 1912-1975.
Toynbee, Philip.
Walton, Alexander.
Waugh, Alec, 1898- .
West, Rebecca, Dame, 1892- .
Winn, Godfrey, 1906- .


Authors, English--20th century.
English fiction--20th century.

Container List