|| The Doris Lessing Papers document the English author's creative life through artwork,
clippings, correspondence, galley proofs, journal pages, libretti, manuscripts, notes,
objects, page proofs, photographs, play scripts, printed material, screenplays, and
recordings. The focus of the collection is on her professional rather than personal
The papers are arranged in two series: I. Works, 1943-2008, undated, and II. Personal
Career-Related, 1947-2007, undated.
|| The Works series represents the majority of the papers, filling 70.5 boxes. It is
in five subseries: A. Novels, 1970-2008, undated; B. Short Fiction, 1949-2006, undated;
Dramatic Works, 1959-2004, undated; D. Poetry, 1943-2005, undated; and E. Nonfiction,
|| Lessing's papers were acquired by the Ransom Center in two lots: one accession was
assembled under her personal supervision in 1999 and has been available to researchers
through a preliminary inventory; the other was acquired under the terms of her will
The present arrangement re-catalogs the earlier acquisition and combines both accessions.
make it possible for users to identify which accession included a particular item,
containing material from the 1999 accession are labeled with registration numbers
R16015; folders containing material from the 2015 accession are not labeled with an
|| The papers clearly illustrate Lessing's usual working method. After some preliminary
handwritten notes, she composed her first draft at the typewriter, making a carbon
Then she revised both copies by hand before sending one to a typist for retyping,
an original and usually several carbon copies or, in later years, word-processed printouts.
This process of editing and retyping was often repeated several times before she submitted
the manuscript to her publisher. This guide refers to each of these stages of the
as a "draft," and these drafts are arranged in chronological
order based on internal evidence (Lessing did not date her manuscripts). Thus "first draft" means the earliest version present among her
papers, not necessarily the earliest draft that she put down on paper (for example,
version has been lost).
|| In the process of revising a draft, Lessing sometimes re-typed longer passages on
pieces of paper rather than writing them by hand (she recognized that her handwriting
difficult to read, saying people told her it was "ghastly" )
and paper-clipped them to the original page. To prevent these slips of paper from
misplaced and to preserve information about their original location, the paper-clipped
revision was photocopied, the paper clips were removed, and the photocopy, small slips,
original page were slipped into a plastic sleeve. This was done only if the correction
typed on small pieces of paper; if the correction was typed on a full-size sheet,
merely left in place and the paper clip removed.
|| Lessing frequently typed her drafts on the back of previously used paper; sometimes
incoming correspondence, unfinished outgoing correspondence, and manuscripts of other
No attempt was made to identify and catalog this material.
|| Often Lessing filed correspondence to and from her typist, publisher, or others with
manuscripts. Such letters were left in place and arranged in chronological order.
Significant individual correspondents are included in the Index of Correspondents
at the end
of this guide.
|| Lessing's original folders are preserved and filed behind the material they originally
|| Subseries A. Novels contains material for all of Lessing's novels beginning with
The Four-Gated City (1969). She explained that all earlier material
had been lost.
|| The novels are arranged in alphabetical order by title.
|| Included are drafts of an uncompleted novel, The Memorymakers, which was intended
serial publication in Ink magazine until it folded and Lessing abandoned the project.
|| The bound proof copy of If the Old Could … contained
dozens of torn slips of paper marking Lessing's corrections. These slips were marked
corresponding page numbers and removed to a separate envelope.
|| While most of Lessing's papers were not particularly well organized beyond being
by title, the manuscript of The Cleft was in such confusion
that no attempt was made to reorder it during processing at the Ransom Center.
|| Subseries B. Short Fiction is arranged in alphabetical order by title, with individual
stories and book-length collections grouped separately.
|| Subseries C. Dramatic works includes stage and musical plays, screenplays for television
and film, and opera librettos. Many of the works in this section had not been published
this guide was written. They are arranged in a single alphabetical list by title.
|| Many of the manuscripts in this section bear the imprint of Gregson & Wigan, who
apparently her theatrical agents until the firm was purchased by EMI in 1970. Presumably
these scripts were returned to her at that time.
|| At some point (perhaps when they were still in the possession of her agent) several
Lessing's manuscripts of dramatic works were stained by an unidentified liquid that
permeated the pages and their folders. These manuscripts have been sleeved in plastic.
Patrons using them may wish to consult Ransom Center staff about precautions they
to avoid direct contact with these materials.
|| Subseries D. Poetry is the smallest section of Lessing's works. Most of her poems
written early in her career, though she occasionally wrote and published verse as
2005. Lessing herself labeled a folder "The ones I like," and that arrangement is
here. An attempt was made to arrange drafts in chronological order during processing.
|| Subseries E. Nonfiction contains articles, essays, journalism, reviews, prefaces,
other writing grouped as either individual pieces or books. Many of the individual
manuscripts in this section lack titles; where the same piece appeared in the anthology
Bites, the title found there is the one under which the piece is cataloged; otherwise,
title written on the manuscript, if any, was chosen. Untitled and uncompleted pieces
grouped at the end.
|| After her 1986 visit to Pakistan to learn about refugees from the Russian invasion
Afghanistan, Lessing wrote about her experiences in two simultaneous publications:
article, The Catastrophe, published in The New Yorker , and a book,
The Wind Blows Away Our Words , published in England. Because these
two publications included essentially the same material, all drafts were filed together
under the book title, and only galley proofs under the article title.
|| Series II. Personal and Career-Related encompasses five boxes and is divided into
subseries: A. Personal, 1947-2007, undated, and B. Career-Related, 1956-2002, undated.
|| The Personal subseries contains some loose pages with dated, journal-like entries.
portion of these describes Lessing's experience taking the drug mescaline in 1963.
pages were originally placed by Lessing among her poems, but since no connection with
the poems could be discovered, they were moved to this section.
|| The Personal subseries also contains correspondence that was not filed in conjunction
any particular manuscript or other group of papers.
|| The Career-Related subseries contains clippings, photocopies, and printed publications
containing reviews of Lessing's work, profiles, and interviews, as well as documents
correspondence relating to her travels to give readings and talks and to receive awards.