University of Texas at Austin

Oswell Blakeston:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator Blakeston, Oswell, 1907-1985
Title Oswell Blakeston Collection 1927-1985
Dates: 1927-1985
Extent 39 document boxes (16.38 linear feet), 11 galley folders (gf), 8 oversize folders (osf)
Abstract British artist and writer Oswell Blakeston was born Henry Joseph Hasslacher and his career began with an apprenticeship in the British film industry after which he began writing editorials and reviews for film magazines. He also wrote fairly successful poetry, mysteries, and novels. His papers contain a large quantity of Blakeston's typescripts, page proofs, notebooks, and scrapbooks which range over the full length of his writing career. Also present is a small quantity of personal and business correspondence and a number of personal items, including photographs.
RLIN Record ID TXRC95-A128
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-0405
Language English.
Access Open for research. 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 Gift, 1985 (G2944)
Processed by Robert Kendrick, 1994-95, updated by Jack Boettcher, 2012

Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Oswell Blakeston, artist and writer, was born Henry Joseph Hasslacher on May 17, 1907. His professional life began in the British film industry in which he worked as a camera boy at the Gaumont Studios along with David Lean. This apprenticeship was followed by an editorial position with the small yet influential film magazine, Close-Up (1927-1933), the venue in which Blakeston met contributors such as Bryher, H. D., Robert Herring, and Kenneth Macpherson. At the same time, Blakeston contributed film reviews and articles to other periodicals. Blakeston first tested his directorial skills with the 1929 film, I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside. The following year, with the American photographer Francis Bruguière, he made one of the first abstract films in England, Light Rhythms.
Among his early literary endeavors was the co-editorship (with Herbert Jones) of the little magazine, Seed (1932-1933). Collaborating with Roger Burford under the pseudonym "Simon," Blakeston published four mystery novels which received a fair amount of notice: Murder Among Friends (1933); Death on the Swim (1934); The Cat with the Moustache (1935); and The Mystery of the Hypnotic Room (1949). Under his own name, he wrote novels and story collections such as Extra Passenger (1929), Few Are Chosen (1931, with Francis Bruguière), Magic Aftermath (ca. 1932), Jim's Gun (1939), Danger in Provence (1946), Priests, Peters and Pussens (1947), Boys in Their Ruin (1949), Pink Ribbon, as Told to the Police (1950), Hop Thief (1959), The Night's Moves (1961), The Queen's Mate (1962), Fingers (1964), For Crying Out Shroud (1969), Ever Singing Die, Oh! Die (1970), and Pass the Poison Separately (1976). His story "Fireworks" appeared in the collection Charles' Wain (1933). Other stories appeared in numerous periodicals.
Blakeston's poetry was published in the volumes Poems, a Single Word! (ca. 1930), Death While Swimming (1932), Oswell Blakeston (1956), What the Dino-saur (1960), The Greatest Romantic Poem in the World (1963), How to Make Your Own Confetti (1965), The Furious Futures Dying (1967), Jeremy & Others (1971), Some Essential Information (1975), and Journies End in Young Man's Meeting (1979). Blakeston contributed poems to the collections Proems (1938; contributing editor), Appointment with Seven (1947), and Puppet Dreams (ca. 1976), as well as to periodicals such as Ambit, Jeremy, and Onion.
Blakeston also wrote a number of non-fiction books, including cookbooks, travel books, and books on photography and filmmaking. His published cookbooks include Edwardian Glamour Cooking Without Tears (1960), A Surprise in Every Dinner (1968), and Cooking With Nuts (1979). Holidays and Happy Days (1949), edited and with an introduction by Blakeston, brings together several authors' thoughts on the phenomenon of the vacation. Blakeston's own travel experiences resulted in Portuguese Panorama (1955), Isle of St. Helena (1957), the Finland travelogue Sun at Midnight (1958), and Thank You Now: an Exploration of Ulster (1960). His books on photography include Cruising with a Camera (1939, with F. W. Frerk) and Phototips on Cats and Dogs (1938, with Edwin Smith). Blakeston's published books on filmmaking include the study of cinematography Through a Yellow Glass (1928); Working for the Films (1947), a collection by various authors edited by Blakeston; and How to Script Amateur Films (1949). Two books-- Working Cats (1963) and Zoo Keeps Who? (1964)--further indicate the range of Blakeston's interests. Throughout his career, Blakeston contributed art and book reviews to various periodicals, including Arts Review, John O' London's Weekly, Time and Tide, and What's on in London.
Oswell Blakeston died in 1985.

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of original and carbon copy typescripts, holograph manuscripts, clippings, printed sheets, advertising material, ink sketches, photographs, page proofs, galleys, notebooks, scrapbooks, audio tape, correspondence, and printed dust jackets, ranging in date from 1927 to 1985. The collection is arranged in three series: Correspondence (1933-1985, undated, 3 boxes); Works (1927-1985, undated, 18 boxes, 61 scrapbooks); and Personal Papers (1929-1985, undated, 3 boxes). Blakeston habitually economized by using both recto and verso of sheets of paper, often using the two sides for different works. Little attempt was made to identify fragments on the versos of sheets unless identification was obvious, as in the case of correspondence. In such cases, the versos were photocopied and filed in the appropriate series.
Blakeston's career as writer and reviewer is well documented in the collection. Among his published non-fiction, there are typescripts of Cooking with Nuts (1979) and Who Keeps Zoo? (published as Zoo Keeps Who? in 1964) as well as galleys of Working Cats (1963) and Working for the Films (1947). Portuguese Panorama (1955) is represented only by fragments and a review list. There is a notebook for Sun at Midnight (1958). Blakeston's published fiction is represented by galleys of Danger in Provence (1946); a typescript, page proofs, publicity, and correspondence for Fingers (1964); galleys for Priests, Peters and Pussens (1947); and a typescript and page proofs for The Queen's Mate (1962). There are also typescripts of many of Blakeston's published stories, including several versions of "Sod Hit." Blakeston's film work is represented by photographic stills from his film I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside (1929) and a poster advertising Light Rhythms (1930) as well as its printed musical accompaniment by Jack Ellit. Blakeston's published poetry is represented by a layout, page proofs and incomplete galleys of Appointment with Seven (1947), a typescript of Jeremy & Others (1971), and page proofs of What the Dino-Saur (1960).
Blakeston's unpublished work predominates in the collection. "Appointment with X" and "First Steps in Quicksand" are memoirs present in typescript drafts. There are also typescript drafts of radio scripts ( "Charlie radio scripts") as well as contributions to planned publications which apparently were never issued. A number of drafts of novels are present, including: "At the Third Stroke," "The Horrid Life of Mary Castle," "How Soon Doth Man Decay," "Moonlight at the Cross-Roads," "The Mystery of the Missing Treasure," and "Naked in the Air." There are also film treatments, a projected short story collection, adaptations of two Balzac stories, and a transcription of a play by Djuna Barnes, To the Dogs. In addition, there are numerous typescripts of essays, lectures, poems, reviews, and short stories by Blakeston as well as files of material (primarily poetry) submitted for publication along with related correspondence. Blakeston's research is represented in notebooks which contain general observations, ideas for stories, lists of words, occasional clippings, and some poetry. Blakeston also kept scrapbooks throughout his career in which are collected many of his art and book reviews as well as his early writings on films, articles about Blakeston himself, reviews of his own work, and correspondence.
The Correspondence series consists primarily of incoming correspondence concerning both Blakeston's professional and private life. Letters from publishers, editors, collaborators, illustrators, and other colleagues document Blakeston's professional transactions. Other letters offer a more personal glimpse of Blakeston. Subjects include observations on Finland and St. Helena, personalities of various editors, the London art scene, and inquiries concerning writers Blakeston had known (including Dylan Thomas). Of primary interest is a large group of letters from the novelist Bryher in which she discusses her creative struggles, her unrequited love for H. D., and her enthusiasm for Blakeston's own work. In addition to Bryher, the significant correspondents are Nancy Cunard, H. D., John Lennon, Kenneth Macpherson, Yoko Ono, Lotte Reininger, Perdita Schaffner, and Eric Walter White.
Among Blakeston's personal items are his application for conscientious objector status in World War II along with related documents, photographs of his childhood and family life, experimental photographs, travel photographs, and his "Delineation of Horoscope," done in 1935.

Series Descriptions

Related Material

Further material related to Oswell Blakeston may be found in the following HRC collections: Ambit, Terence Ian Fytton Armstrong, Contempo, Nancy Cunard, Constantine Fitzgibbon, Wrey Gardiner, Dylan Thomas, and Henry Treece. Related material may also be found in the Vertical File.

Index Terms


Bryher, 1894-
Cooper, Dennis, 1953-
Cunard, Nancy, 1896-1965
H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), 1886-1961
Lennon, John, 1940-1980
Leyland, Winston, 1940-
MacPherson, Kenneth
Ono, Yoko
Reininger, Lotte
Schaffner, Perdita
White, Eric Walter, 1905-1985
Young, Ian


Art--England--London--20th century
Authors, English--20th century
English fiction--20th century
English poetry--20th century
Gay men's writings, English
Gay press publications
Motion pictures
Poets, English--20th century
Voyages and travels

Document Types

Book reviews
Christmas cards
Film stills
First drafts
Galley proofs
Sheet music
Sound recordings

Oswell Blakeston Papers--Folder List