University of Texas at Austin

Richard Llewellyn:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator Llewellyn, Richard
Title Richard Llewellyn Papers 1939-1952 (bulk 1949-1952)
Dates: 1939-1952
Extent 14 boxes (5.83 linear feet)
Abstract: These papers consist of manuscripts, a small amount of correspondence, photographs, and other materials primarily at mid-career of Llewellyn. The novel How Green Was My Valley, the work for which Llewellyn is best known, is not represented in the collection. Numerous photographs depict places Llewellyn traveled, particularly Italy.
Language English.
Access Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition Purchases, 1973 (R5971) & 1976 (R7293)
Processed by Jennifer Peters, 1997

Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Richard Llewellyn was born Richard Herbert Vivian Lloyd in 1906 in St. David's, Pembrokeshire, Wales, and was raised in Wales and educated in England. He entered the workforce at sixteen, washing dishes at the Claridges Hotel in London, but soon progressed to more responsible positions in Italian hotels. In 1924, he joined the British army, serving for six years in India and Hong Kong. After leaving the service, he returned to England where he held a series of odd jobs, including a stint as a miner in South Wales and as a playwright. By 1938, he was working for Twentieth Century-Fox, a position that he left to complete his first novel, How Green Was My Valley, which was published in 1939.
Written over a period of twelve years, How Green Was My Valley, the story of a Welsh mining family, was a critical and commercial success, and later was made into an Oscar-winning film. The success of the novel made Llewellyn an instant celebrity, and gave him the opportunity to travel widely and lecture in the United States, Europe, and Latin America.
A second novel, None But the Lonely Heart, was published mistakenly when Llewellyn joined the Welsh Guard at the beginning of World War II and left the unfinished manuscript with his publisher. This book, based on the London underworld, also had a strong following, and was also made into a movie. Almost thirty years later, when the novel was republished, Llewellyn added over one hundred pages to its conclusion.
Llewellyn attained the rank of captain as a Welsh Guard in World War II, but returned to writing after the Allied victory. He served as a reporter at the Nuremberg trials, and also turned his hand to screenwriting. Llewellyn traveled to the U.S. in 1946, where he was employed as a screenwriter for MGM. Although he wrote a number of screenplays and screen treatments over the next six years, none appear to have been produced. During that time, a third novel, A Few Flowers for Shiner (1950), drew on his knowledge of Italy, and described the war-torn country through the eyes of British soldiers.
Llewellyn's sojourn in the United States, where he married for the first time, inspired his fourth novel, A Flame for Doubting Thomas (1953), which again described a lower-class subculture; this time, he focused his attention on carnival life on a California pier. A first draft of the novel was completely rewritten, and it went through many changes before it was published to luke-warm reviews.
For the next thirty years, Llewellyn published novels on almost an annual or biannual basis. He returned to the Morgan family so beloved in How Green Was My Valley, and wrote a number of sequels following the life of its protagonist, Huw Morgan. He wrote a series of spy novels, as well as juvenile historical works. His novels remained popular throughout his life, although none reached the level of critical and commercial success of his first.
Llewellyn led a peripatetic existence, living in the U.S., Israel, Latin America, Africa, Italy, France, Switzerland; he often drew from his experiences in these countries when he wrote. Llewellyn married twice: his first wife was Nona Sonstenby, whom he married in 1952 and divorced in 1968, and his second wife was Susan Heimann, whom he married in 1974. He died November 30, 1983.

Scope and Contents

The Richard Llewellyn Papers comprise fourteen boxes of manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, slides, negatives, personal effects, financial papers, clippings, and other printed materials, dating 1939-1952 (bulk 1949-1952). Covering a brief period of Llewellyn's prolific life, the vast majority date from Llewellyn's post-war years in the United States, where he worked as a screenwriter for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Llewellyn's popularity as a novelist and his work for stage and screen at that time is well documented in this collection, which covers his writing, his lecture tours, his travels in Europe and Latin America, and his private life.
The collection is organized in four series: I. Works, 1949-1952; II. Correspondence, 1940-1952; III. Photographs, 1949-1951, and IV. Personal Papers, 1939-1951. By far the largest series in the collection is Works, which contains manuscripts for four books, including an unpublished novel, short stories and articles, and scripts for stage, screen, and television. Many of these manuscripts are in incomplete states, but others, such as those for the novel A Flame for Doubting Thomas and the play "Plainsong," follow the creative process from initial handwritten manuscript to final typescript. The vast majority of the manuscripts date from 1952, and show the range of Llewellyn's interests at the time, from Argentina to post World War II Italy to children's stories to historical fiction. Complementing the Works series is a series of letters from his literary agent and publisher making reference to manuscripts upon which he was working.
Besides writing, Llewellyn led an active life as a lecturer, traveling around the United States; the collection contains routine correspondence about these travels, as well as itineraries, schedules, and train ticket stubs from the time. Also present is financial and legal documentation pertaining to his stay in America, such as letters of reference, salary stubs, and a tax form. Additionally, materials relating to Llewellyn's travels in the early 1950s, including a large group of photographs, pamphlets and maps acquired up by the author, and correspondence from local friends and acquaintances document his visits to Italy, Latin America, and other places.
Llewellyn's personal life during these years is documented as well. Correspondence with family and friends is scattered throughout Series II, highlighted with letters from his fiancée Nona Sonstenby, his father William Llewellyn Lloyd, and an unidentified lady friend in Italy. Also present are many personal papers, such as Llewellyn's birth certificate, military records, and financial papers.

Series Descriptions

Index Terms


Bernheimer, Earle J.
Carre, Mathilde Belard, called La Chatte, 1908- .
Fielding, Loraine.
Haggard, Edith.
Hardy, Galston.
Jacob, Naomi Ellington, 1889-1964.
Molina Campos, Florencio, 1891-1959.
Sonstenby, Nona, 1922- .
Curtis Brown Ltd.
Michael Joseph Ltd.


Silone, Ignazio, 1900-1978.
Authors, Welsh--20th century.

Document Types

Birth certificates.
Christmas cards.
Love letters.

Richard Llewellyn Papers--Folder List