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Samuel Beckett:

A Collection of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Beckett, Samuel, 1906-1989
Title: Samuel Beckett Collection
Dates: 1864, 1930-1990, undated
Extent: 10 boxes (4.17 linear feet), 1 galley folder, 1 oversize box, and 2 electronic files (362 MB)
Abstract: The collection is composed primarily of Beckett works, including drafts of Waiting for Godot (1952) in the original French and the English translation, All That Fall (1956), Watt (1953), and Whoroscope (1930). Also present is correspondence between Beckett and Kay Boyle, Andreas Brown, and others.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-00297
Languages: Material written in English and French.
Access Open for research. To request access to electronic files, please email Reference.
Restrictions on Use: Certain restrictions apply to the use of electronic files. Researchers must agree to the Materials Use Policy for Electronic Files before accessing them. Original computer disks and forensic disk images are restricted. Copying electronic files, including screenshots and printouts, is not permitted.

Administrative Information

Processed by Chelsea S. Jones Born digital materials processed, arranged, and described by Chance Adams and Brenna Edwards, 2015-2022.

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Samuel Barclay Beckett was born April 13, 1906, at his family's home in Foxrock, south of Dublin. He was educated at Miss Ida Elsner's Academy in Stillorgan, the Earlsfort House School in Dublin, and the Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland (1919-1923). He began his law studies at Trinity College in order to become an accountant in his family's architectural surveyance firm, but in his third year he started studying modern languages, particularly French. His studies improved so markedly that he won a scholarship to pass the summer in France before his senior year, and he graduated first in his class in modern languages in 1927.
Following his graduation, Beckett taught at Campbell College in Belfast (1927-1928) and the École Normale Supérieure in Paris (1928-1930). During his stay in Paris, he established relationships with many important literary figures of his day, including Thomas MacGreevy, Richard Aldington, Brian Coffey, Denis Devlin, George Reavey, Samuel Putnam, Nancy Cunard, Sylvia Beach, and, most significantly for Beckett, James Joyce.
Beckett's early writings such as Whoroscope (1930), Proust (1931), More Pricks than Kicks (1934), Echo's Bones and Other Precipitates (1935), and Murphy (1938) won him neither fame nor money. Despite his love for Paris and his periodic stays in Germany, France, and London, Beckett's financial straits repeatedly constrained him to return to live with his disapproving family in Dublin, where he became subject to mental breakdowns and frequent, severe bouts of depression.
Throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, Beckett worked as a reviewer and translator for various magazines and projects, including Nancy Cunard's Negro Anthology (1934). He became increasingly interested in modern drama as he observed productions of the Dramiks, a Dublin troupe, and contemplated writing his own plays. In October 1940, he became a member of the French Resistance, and he and Suzanne Deschevaux-Dumesnil (who he married in 1961) were forced to flee to unoccupied France in August 1942. The French rewarded his courage in 1945 with the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille de la Résistance.
During the late 1940s, Beckett began to write many of his works in French, including Molloy (1951), Malone meurt (1951), and the play that finally won him international fame, En attendant Godot (1952). Other works that helped to establish Beckett's reputation include L'Innomable (1953), Watt (1953), Fin de partie (1957), and Krapp's Last Tape (1960). After 1960, Beckett's works became increasingly brief, but he remained prolific until his death on December 22, 1989. Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1969.


For further information on the life and writings of Samuel Beckett, see:
  • Andonian, Cathleen Culotta. Samuel Beckett: A Reference Guide. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1989.
  • Bair, Deidre.
  • "Samuel Beckett."Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1982. 13.1: 52-70 and 15.1: 13-32.
  • Samuel Beckett: A Biography. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978.
  • Knowlson, James. Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Scope and Contents

Holograph and typescript works make up the bulk of the Samuel Beckett Collection, 1930-1990, supplemented by his correspondence. The collection is organized into three series, arranged alphabetically and chronologically where possible: Series I. Works, 1930-1987 (7 boxes); Series II. Correspondence, 1864, 1935-1989 (1.5 boxes); and Series III. Works and Correspondence by other Authors, 1959-1990 (1.5 boxes). This collection was previously accessible through a card catalog, but has been re-cataloged as part of a retrospective conversion project.
The Works Series contains a wide range of Beckett's writing, including poems, stories, and plays, spanning most of his writing career. Drafts of both the French En attendant Godot and English Waiting for Godot are present, as are versions of All That Fall, Comment c'est, Krapp's Last Tapes,and Watt. A holograph version of Whoroscope is also present.
The Correspondence Series is divided into Outgoing Correspondence and Incoming Correspondence. Outgoing Correspondence includes letters from Beckett to friends and associates, including Kay Boyle, Andreas Brown, Aidan Higgins, Mary Manning Howe, John Kobler, and others. The few pieces of Incoming Correspondence include letters from Boyle, Brown, John Calder, Ltd., and Kobler. Of note in the Outgoing Correspondence is an 1864 letter from British M.P. Charles Stewart Parnell to Richard Kelly, owner and editor of the Taum Herald, included with a Becket letter to Jack MacGowran.
All Beckett correspondents are listed in the Index of Correspondents at the end of this guide.
The Works and Correspondence by other Authors Series is divided between works and letters. The works include holograph and typescript drafts of A Poem for Samuel Beckett, by Kay Boyle, a thesis by Magessa O'Reilly, lists of holding by other institutions with Beckett collections, publication announcements, and essays and interviews by various Beckett scholars. The correspondence and all of the literary works in this series are listed in the Index of Correspondence and Index of Works by other Authors found at the end of this finding aid. Elsewhere in the Ransom Center are 10 Vertical Files containing newspaper clippings with biographical information and literary criticism in addition to published works by Beckett.

Related Papers

Other materials associated with Samuel Beckett may be found in the following collections at the Ransom Center:
  • Beckett, Samuel/Lake Collection
  • Cunard, Nancy
  • Duncan, Ronald Frederick Henry
  • Fletcher, John/Beckett, Samuel/Lake Collection
  • Hone, Joseph Maunsell
  • Hutchinson, Mary
  • Leventhal, A.J.
  • New Departures
  • Reavey, George

Index Terms


Boyle, Kay
Brown, Andreas
Higgins Aidan, 1927- .
Howe, Mary Manning
John Calder, Ltd.
Kobler, John


Authors, Irish--20th century
Playwright, Irish

Document Types

Electronic documents.
Galley proofs

Folder List