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John Pudney:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Creator: Pudney, John, 1909-1977
Title: John Pudney Papers 1850-1977, (bulk 1926-1976)
Dates: 1850-1977,
Extent: 3 boxes (1 linear foot), 1 galley folder
Abstract: The papers of British writer John Pudney include drafts, notes, printer's copies, galleys, research material, notebooks, diaries, and correspondence.
RLIN Record ID: TXRC95-A1
Language English.
Access Open for research

Acquisition Purchases 1963-977
Processed by David Sparks, 1994 (Revision)

Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin

John Sleigh Pudney, British poet, novelist, editor, and journalist was born on January 19, 1909, in Langley, Buckinghamshire, England. The only son of Henry William Pudney and Mabel Sleigh Pudney, he was reared in the country, but was sent away for his education to Gresham's Hall, Holt. At Gresham's Hall Pudney became friends with W. H. Auden and Benjamin Britten. Pudney left school at sixteen, however, to work for an estate agency and to pursue his interest in writing. His first volume of poetry, Spring Encounter (1933), ushered Pudney into the literary circle of Lady Ottoline Morrell. In 1934 he married Crystal Herbert, with whom he had two daughters and a son. At this time Pudney also began his professional writing career in earnest as writer-producer for the BBC (1934-1937), and as a journalist for the News Chronicle. In 1938 Pudney published the first of many novels, Jacobson's Ladder.
In 1940 Pudney was commissioned into the Royal Air Force as an intelligence officer and as a member of the Air Ministry's Creative Writer's Unit. During World War II Pudney published articles for this organization and wrote considerable poetry, including his famous ode to British airmen, "For Johnny." This poem achieved national significance and was broadcast and performed by several famous actors including Sir Laurence Olivier. After the war Pudney continued to write in various media and genres as well as work as literary advisor, editor, and director for several magazines, agencies, and publishing companies, including the News Review (1948-1950), Evans Brothers, Ltd. (1950-1953), and Putnam & Co., Ltd. (1953-1963). In 1949 he began editing an annual anthology entitled Pick of Today's Short Stories (1949-1963). In 1952 Pudney published The Net, his most successful novel.
After 1965 Pudney focused on the subject of recovery (from divorce and alcoholism), producing several articles and the autobiographical Thank Goodness for Cake (1978). In 1967 he married his second wife, Monica Forbes Curtis, and renewed his career with poetry readings accompanied by jazz musicians. During 1966-1967 he continued to write poems, two of which appeared in the Times Literary Supplement after his death on November 10, 1977.

The John Pudney Papers, 1850-1977 (bulk 1926-1976), include drafts, notes, printer's copies, galleys, research material, notebooks, diaries, and correspondence. The collection is arranged in two series: Works, 1850-1977 (2.75 boxes) and Correspondence, 1937-1962 (.25 box).
The Works series reflects the diverse genres (novels, poems, plays, diaries, literary criticism, humorous non-fiction, short stories) in which Pudney wrote. The manuscripts found here, both holograph and typescript, most often represent drafts, modified with corrections, annotations, and inserts. This series is alphabetically arranged by published titles or Pudney's folder headings, which are designated in the folder list by single quotation marks. The folders often contain numerous manuscripts and/or related notes, proposals, and correspondence. Many of the drafts of poems are written on the verso of other incomplete manuscripts by Pudney. This series contains both published and unpublished material, which are identified as such whenever possible.
Manuscripts for Pudney's poetry collections and chapbooks in this series include Collected Poems, 1957 (here entitled "The Green Verges: Collected Poems") and Selected Poems, 1967-1973. The folder for the collected poems entitled Ten Summers: Poems, 1933-1943 includes only notes and correspondence. Manuscripts for early and/or unpublished later ("post-Spandrels") poems, 1926-1968, as well as later individual poems (1960-1961) are also found here. Proofs for war and post-war chapbooks, such as Beyond this Disregard (1943) and South of Forty (1943), as well as the more recent Spandrels: Poems and Ballads (1969) and Living in a One-Sided House (1976), are present in this collection.
Several manuscripts of Pudney's fiction, often found here in bound notebooks, include The Accomplice (1950), Shuffley Wanderers: An Entertainment (1948), and Sleadley (nd). Materials for The Net (1952), one of Pudney's most successful novels and Trespass in the Sun (1957), include only critical notes and correspondence. Among the unpublished works is the holograph manuscript of a play entitled The Break Through (1974-75).
Non-fiction materials include the proposal and correspondence for Home and Away: An Autobiographical Gambit (1960) and the manuscript of Pudney's critical study, Lewis Carroll and His World (1976). The material for The Thomas Cook Story (1953) consists of the mid-19th century correspondence and ephemera of Thomas Cook, George Cruikshank, and Emily Ellis. These letters, collected by Pudney, include a few signed sketches by George Cruikshank and concern the British temperance movement. The materials for his humorous non-fiction, The Smallest Room (1954), a history of sanitation and water closets, includes working files, research material, correspondence, and an annotated bound copy with printer's marks used for a 1959 revised edition.
Several diaries and notebooks created by Pudney are present in this series including a World War II diary entitled "Duty Run" that details his daily military routine during 1942-1943. This diary also includes numerous poems copied at the end. Also included here is a commonplace book, "Working notebook used on travel, 1947" which Pudney used during his research on the history of the British Royal Air Force. In the folder entitled "Juvenile Pieces" are also found three untitled notebooks (1968, nd) that contain drafts of poems, general notes, and addresses.
The bulk of the Correspondence series, divided into incoming and outgoing and chronologically arranged, concerns the publication and revision of The Smallest Room. Other correspondence helps to describe the nature of his literary endeavors and editorial duties. Letters from George Barker and H. E. Bates are, however, of a more personal nature. Another series of letters from Jules Roy concerns the translation of his poetry into French. Letters from representatives of Queen Elizabeth and of Queen Mary acknowledge receipt of Pudney's book, His Majesty, King George VI: A Study (1952), as well as to offer several suggestions and criticism.
Other significant correspondents include Kingsley Amis, Malcolm Arnold, John Betjeman, Benjamin Britten, Jocelyn Brooke, Sir Winston Churchill, Cynthia Coville (Secretary to Queen Mary), Oliver Dawney (Secretary to H. M. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother), C. Day Lewis, T. S. Eliot, John Lehmann, Compton Mackenzie, Wolf Mankowitz, Lady Ottoline Morrell, Laurence Olivier, J. B. Priestley, Frederic Prokosch, Herbert Edward Read, Michael Redgrave, Vita Sackville-West, Edith Sitwell, Stephen Spender, Henry Treece, and Evelyn Waugh.


Amis, Kingsley
Arnold, Malcolm
Barker, George, 1913-
Bates, H.E. (Herbert Ernest), 1905-1974
Betjeman, John, Sir, 1906-
Blackburn, Thomas, 1916-
Blakiston, Noel
Brickhill, Paul
Britten, Benjamin, 1913-1978
Brooke, Jocelyn
Church, Richard, 1893-
Churchill, Winston, Sir, 1874-1965
Cook, Thomas, 1808-1892
Crease, David
Cruikshank, George, 1792-1879
Dalton, Hugh, Baron, 1887-1962
Day, Lewis, C. (Cecil), 1904-1972
Eliot, T.S. (Thomas Sterns), 1888-1965
Fonteyn, Margot, Dame, 1919-
Fry, Christopher
Gwynn, Stephen Lucius, 1864-1950
John, Augustus, 1878-1961
Lehman, John, 1907-
Lewis, D.B. Wyndham (Dominic Bevan Wyndham), 1894-1969
Logue, Christopher, 1926-
Mackenzie, Compton, Sir, 1883-1972
Mankowitz, Wolf
Menzies, Robert Gordon, Sir, 1894-1978
Meynell, Francis, Sir, 1891-
Morrell, Ottoline Violet Anne Cavendish-Bentinck, Lady, 1873-1938
Olivier, Laurence, 1907-
Priestley, J.B. (John Boynton), 1894-
Prokosch, Frederic, 1908-
Read, Herbert Edward, Sir, 1893-1968
Redgrave, Michael, Sir
Roy, Jules, 1907-
Sackville-West, V. (Victoria), 1892-1962
Shute, Nevil, 1899-1960
Sillitoe, Alan
Sitwell, Edith, Dame, 1887-1964
Spender, Stephen, 1909-
Treece, Henry, 1911-1966
Van der Post, Laurens
Waugh, Evelyn, 1903-1966


Great Britain--Royal Air Force--History--World War, 1939-1945
Carroll, Lewis--1832-1898--Criticism and interpretation
English literature--History and criticism
Poets, English
Sanitation, Household

Document Types

Commonplace books