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University of Texas at Austin

Dan Jacobson:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Jacobson, Dan, 1929-2014
Title: Dan Jacobson Papers
Dates: 1941-1992
Extent: 17 boxes, 1 oversize folder, 6 galley folders
Abstract: The papers of this South African novelist consist of typescripts, handwritten manuscripts, notebooks, correspondence, clippings, galley and page proofs, dust jackets, book reviews and advertisements, programs and handbills, personal documents, and a sound recording.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-02152
Language: English
Access Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition Gift, 1966; Purchases, 1989-1992
Processed by Katherine Mosley, 1993

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Dan Jacobson was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, on March 7, 1929. His parents, Hyman and Liebe (Melamed) Jacobson, were Jewish immigrants from Latvia and Lithuania. When Jacobson was four, his family moved to the South African town of Kimberly, where he lived until he graduated from high school at the age of sixteen. He received a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in 1948, then worked as a laborer in a kibbutz in Israel for nearly a year. Following a brief period of employment in London as a teacher, Jacobson returned to Johannesburg in 1951 and worked first as a public relations assistant for the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and then as a journalist for its Press Digest.
In 1952, Jacobson returned to Kimberly and worked in his father's milling/cattle feed business. Jacobson had been writing since childhood but at this point decided to pursue a career as a writer and began work on The Trap. Jacobson first achieved literary success in the United States, where his first short story, "The Box, "was published in Commentary, followed by the publication of other short stories in Harpers Bazaar, the New Yorker, and other magazines. In 1954, Jacobson married Margaret Pye, a teacher and children's writer from Rhodesia whom he had met in London, and moved permanently to London, where they have reared their four children.
Jacobson's first two novels, The Trap (1955) and A Dance in the Sun (1956), were well received and won him a one-year Creative Writing Fellowship Award at Stanford University. Upon his return to England in 1957, Jacobson continued to publish novels, short stories, essays, and book reviews. In 1959, Jacobson was the recipient of the John Llewelyn Rhys Award for fiction for his collection of short stories, A Long Way from London (1958). In 1964, he received the W. Somerset Maugham award for Time of Arrival (1963), and from 1965 to 1966 he was a visiting professor at Syracuse University.
The Beginners (1966) was Jacobson's most autobiographical book and also his most successful financially. Jacobson's early works had South African settings, but he essentially left this behind following the publication of The Beginners. His next novel, The Rape of Tamar (1970), took up a religious theme and is one of his more popular books. In 1975, after earning a living solely from his writing for twenty years, Jacobson became a lecturer in English at University College in London. He also turned away from writing short stories after having had six collections of short stories published. Jacobson worked on his eighth novel, The Confessions of Josef Baisz (1977), for four years. As in many of his works, betrayal is a major theme. Like The Wonder-Worker (1973), it has a complex, multi-layered style. In 1985, Jacobson published a book of autobiographical essays, Time and Time Again: Autobiographies; it was his most personal work. Jacobson's later books Hidden in the Heart (1991), The God-Fearer (1992), The Electronic Elephant (1994), Hershel's Kingdom (1998), and All for Love (2005) continued his study of betrayal and the inner workings of the human mind.
Several of Jacobson's works have been adapted for the stage; The Zulu and the Zeide was produced as a play on Broadway in 1965, A Dance in the Sun was adapted as Day of the Lion in Cleveland in 1968, and The Rape of Tamar was produced as Yonadab in London in 1985.
Jacobson died in London on June 12, 2014.

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents

The Jacobson collection consists of original and carbon copy typescripts, holograph manuscripts, computer printouts, notebooks, correspondence, clippings, galley proofs, page proofs, dust jackets, book reviews and advertisements, offprints, programs, handbills, personal documents, and a sound recording, ranging in date from 1941 to 1992. The material is arranged in three series: Works ([1953]-1992, 16.5 boxes), General Correspondence (1952-1991, 9 folders), and Personal (1941-1987, 7 folders). The Works series is arranged in five subseries: Creative Works, Critical Works, Reviews of Jacobson's Works, Interviews, and Articles about Jacobson.
Most of Jacobson's works from 1954 to 1992 are represented in the collection. For some works, multiple drafts and corrected proofs reveal Jacobson's revision processes. In particular, the evolution of many of his short stories can be traced. Jacobson sometimes uses photocopies of other works and correspondence in printing out or typing new manuscripts, so that photocopies of some works and correspondence are located on the versos of later works. Published reviews of many of Jacobson's books show critical response to his work.
Most of the general correspondence is incoming correspondence from publishers, periodicals, and other authors. Among the correspondents are Philip Larkin, Mary McCarthy, and Leonard Woolf. Fifty-nine letters from Jacobson's literary agent, Henry Volkening, cover the years 1954-1964 and provide insight into the publication process of Jacobson's early books and short stories.
Among the few personal items in the collection are correspondence regarding Jacobson's efforts to prove his eligibility to apply for the W. Somerset Maugham Award as a British citizen and correspondence relating to his role as a director of Index of Censorship.
A list of all correspondents in the Jacobson collection is located at the end of this inventory.

Series Descriptions

Series I. Works, [1953]-1992, 16.5 boxes
The series is divided into five subseries: Creative Works, Critical Works, Reviews of Jacobson's Works, Interviews, and Articles about Jacobson.
The first subseries, arranged alphabetically by title, consists of typescripts, holograph manuscripts, notebooks, galley proofs, page proofs, proof copies, advertisements, and reviews of Jacobson's novels, short stories, essays, and lectures. All of Jacobson's major works are represented in the collection. For some works, such as The Beginners (1966), Her Story (1987), Hidden in the Heart (1991), The Rape of Tamar (1970), and The Story of the Stories: The Chosen People and Its God (1982), the entire evolution of the work can be traced through revised drafts and proofs. The God-Fearer (1992) is represented by five drafts, with the first one titled Kobus and the final one copy-edited and accompanied by the copy editor's list of queries annotated by Jacobson; page proofs; a proof copy; five drafts of the dust jacket blurb; and Jacobson's essay describing the origin of the book, "About the God-Fearer. "Correspondence, book reviews, advertisements, and other associated materials that Jacobson had kept with manuscript works remain filed with those manuscripts. Where Jacobson had labeled varying versions of manuscripts, those labels, such as "First draft,""Second draft," and "Copy sent to typist," are retained and are indicated in the folder list with single quotation marks.
Some short stories are present in variant versions. For example, "Long Weekend, "which was published in the collection Time and Time Again (1985), is also present as "Brian, "published in the New Yorker in 1984. Jacobson often uses earlier typescripts, proofs, or printed copies of a work to make alterations for use in a later publication. A printed copy of Beggar My Neighbour (1964) contains holograph revisions for publication in Inklings (1973). Due to Jacobson's habit of recycling the blank sides of old photocopies, some later works appear on the versos of photocopies of older works and correspondence. A notebook that contains early drafts of multiple works has been filed under Jacobson's title for it, "Roughbook; various abandoned fictions...."
Jacobson's works were often published separately in England and the United States, and in those cases manuscripts are separated under the title of the corresponding edition. Through the Wilderness was published in the U.S. by Macmillan in 1968 and was published in the U.K. by Weidenfeld and Nicolson under the title Inklings in 1973. Therefore, materials may be found under both titles.
The second subseries, Critical Works, is also arranged alphabetically by title and consists of typescripts, holograph manuscripts, galley proofs, page proofs, clippings, and printed copies of book reviews and author profiles written by Jacobson.
The Reviews of Jacobson's Works subseries contains photocopies and printed reviews of Jacobson's anthology contributions, arranged by anthology title; reviews of Jacobson's corpus, arranged by periodical title; and reviews in Hebrew.
In the fourth subseries are photocopies and printed copies of various interviews with Jacobson from 1964-1985. These are arranged by the title of the periodical in which the interview appeared.
The fifth subseries, also arranged by periodical title, is made up of photocopies and printed copies of other articles about Jacobson. Included are articles about awards Jacobson received and talks he presented.
Series II. General Correspondence, 1952-1991, 9 folders
The second series is divided into outgoing correspondence, incoming correspondence, and letters to the editor by or about Jacobson. There are few outgoing items of correspondence in the collection; found here are a letter to a manuscript collector, Eustin du Plessis, and photocopies of some of Jacobson's letters to biographer Sheila Roberts (the originals are housed in the National English Literary Museum and Documentation Centre in London). Other letters by Jacobson are located in the Personal series. Among incoming correspondence are letters from publishing companies, periodicals, and other authors, including one or more letters by Nadine Gordimer, Philip Larkin, Mary McCarthy, Alan Paton, William Plomer, Ronald Sanders, and Leonard Woolf. Also of significance are letters from Henry Volkening, who was Jacobson's literary agent at Russell & Volkening. His fifty-nine letters cover the years 1954-1964 and trace the process of finding publishers for Jacobson's early works and reveal reactions to his works. Correspondence with Gilbert Parker regards stage adaptations and screenplays of Jacobson's works from 1961-1963. All incoming correspondence is arranged alphabetically by name of the correspondent. Letters to the editor include photocopies and printed copies of Jacobson's letters to editors of newspapers and periodicals regarding various topics, as well as letters by other people, usually regarding published articles or reviews by Jacobson and sometimes with a reply by Jacobson. These are arranged by the title of the periodical.
Series III. Personal, 1941-1987, 7 folders
Among items in the third series are a 1941 quarterly report card from Kimberly Boys' High School, Lower School, and Jacobson's identification card from Syracuse University. An information sheet on the W. Somerset Maugham Award is accompanied by correspondence showing Jacobson's efforts to prove British citizenship as eligibility for the award. Clippings about John F. Kennedy, American literature, Jacobson's father, Ida Hersch, and other subjects are present. A printed copy of "The Diamond Pipe (for Dan Jacobson), "a poem written by Peter Davison and published in the Times Literary Supplement, is located in the series, as is a notice and program for a memorial service for Robert Lowell in 1977. Jacobson served as a director of Index on Censorship, and correspondence with Elliott Abrams of the U.S. State Department regarding contents of the periodical and a printed copy of a newspaper article Jacobson wrote about the periodical complete the series.

Related Material

Other manuscripts at the Ransom Center relating to Dan Jacobson are located in the John Lehmann and London Magazine collections. The Center also houses Alan Paton and Nadine Gordimer materials.
Additional Jacobson collections are held at Oxford University, England; and in South Africa at Witwatersrand University Library, Johannesburg; the National English Literary Museum, Grahamstown; and the Africana Library, Kimberley.

Separated Material

Over 100 books and periodicals from Jacobson's personal library have been withdrawn from the collection and cataloged with the Center's book holdings. Among these are first editions of Jacobson's books; translations into German, Hebrew, Russian, and other languages; anthologies containing stories and essays by Jacobson; textbooks, primarily college readers, containing his short stories and essays; periodicals containing his essays, articles, reviews, and stories; a copy of Sheila Roberts' Dan Jacobson; a copy of Olive Schreiner's Story of an African Farm; and a copy of La Sorciére by J. Michelet, with an inscription by Sonia Orwell.

Index Terms


Abrams, Elliott, 1948- .
Arendt, Hannah.
Astor, David, Hon., 1912- .
Baldwin, James, 1924- .
Davison, Peter.
Elliott, George P., 1918- .
Elman, Richard, 1934- .
Elwin, Malcolm, 1902- .
Forster, E.M. (Edward Morgan), 1879-1970.
Gordimer, Nadine.
Gorer, Geoffrey, 1905- .
Harris, Mark, 1922- .
Hawkes, Jacquetta Hopkins, 1910- .
Hearne, John, 1925- .
Larkin, Philip.
Leavis, F.R. (Frank Raymond), 1895- .
McCarthy, Mary, 1912- .
MacInnes, Colin.
Mairowitz, David Zane, 1943- .
Maugham, W. Somerset (William Somerset), 1874-1965.
Mizener, Arthur.
Muggeridge, Malcolm, 1903- .
Orwell, Sonia.
Owen, Harold, 1897- .
Parker, Gilbert.
Paton, Alan.
Plomer, William, 1903-1973.
Podhoretz, Norman.
Roberts, Sheila, 1942- .
Sacks, Jonathan, Rabbi.
Sanders, Ronald.
Saunders, James, 1925- .
Theiner, George.
Thompson, Denys, 1907- .
Toynbee, Philip.
Volkening, Henry T., 1902-1972.
Ward, Russel Braddock.
Woolf, Leonard Sidney, 1880-1969.
Wyatt, Steve.
Wyman, Joel.


Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Hamish Hamilton Ltd.
Harcourt, Brace, and Company.
Index on Censorship.
New Society.
Russell & Volkening, Inc.


Authors, Commonwealth of Nations.
Authors, South African.
Commonwealth of Nations literature (English).
Jewish authors.
Judaism in literature.
Literary agents.
Literature--Exiled authors.
South African literature (English).


South Africa--Race relations.

Document Types

Book reviews.
Galley proofs.
Report cards.
Sound recordings.

Dan Jacobson Papers--Folder List