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University of Texas at Austin

James Saunders:

A Preliminary Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Saunders, James, 1925-
Title: James Saunders Papers
Dates: 1959-1992
Extent: 24 boxes (9.48 linear feet)
Abstract: The papers of this British playwright contain notebooks, playscripts, television and film scripts, correspondence, articles, essays, programs, and reviews.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-03708
Language: English
Access Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition Reg. No. 13283
Processed by Liz Murray, 1995

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Scope and Contents

This collection contains notebooks, playscripts, television and film scripts, miscellaneous notes, correspondence, articles, essays, theses, programs, and reviews of the work of British playwright James Saunders. The material spans his career from the late 1960s through the early 1990s. According to the dealer, only a little early material survives, Saunders having destroyed much ca. 1969 (with the exception of the holograph manuscript of Next Time I'll Sing To You, which was given to charity). Saunders is known for his contribution as an experimental playwright, pushing the limits of traditional theater. His work and interest in fringe theater characterize the latter part of his career.
The material is grouped in categories as received from the dealer with some rearrangement to achieve alphabetical order within major sections. The collection has been divided into the following series: Works, which are subdivided by genre--manuscript notebooks, translations, articles, essays, and theses by and about Saunders; Incoming Correspondence; Outgoing Correspondence; and Printed material. Some published translations of Saunders' works received with these papers were transferred to the HRHRC Library for cataloging. In general, the material is in fine condition with the sole exception of an early version of The Emperor's Waltz. Some sections were heavily edited, using a cut and paste technique employing double-sided tape. Care should be taken when using this version.
The majority of the collection is composed of just over 100 edited typescripts of his plays, as well as adaptations and dramatizations of works of authors including H.E. Bates, A.E. Coppard, Alexander Dumas, David Garnett, Graham Greene, Ronald Harwood, Vaclav Havel, Patricia Highsmith, Henry James, D. H. Lawrence, Olivia Manning, Iris Murdoch, Somerset Maugham, and Thomas Love Peacock. Many of Saunders' plays appear in several versions, with a few translated into French and German. Also included are his award winning plays Next Time I'll Sing to You, Menocchio, and Fall.
Saunders' 18 manuscript notebooks defy chronology or even full content description due to the way in which he penned the entries. Rather than employing the usual linear front-to-back approach, Saunders chose to enter different works beginning at both ends of the notebook with additional material interspersed throughout. Generally, these notebooks contain fragments, notes, character sketches, and drafts for his plays dating from 1959-1983.
Arranged in date order, the incoming correspondence reflects a wide range of correspondents including Saunders' agent, Margaret Ramsay (who described him as the first person she represented), Ramsay's assistants, plus numerous producers and others at the B.B.C., publishers, translators, theater administrators, directors, actors, critics, fellow playwrights, and students seeking Saunders' perspective on his work. In addition, there is a substantial amount of outgoing correspondence, also arranged by date. Featured in this material are Ed Berman, John Bratby, Michael Caine, Penelope Fitzgerald, Peter Hall, Christopher Hampton, David Hare, Vaclav Havel, Suzanne Lombard, Charles Marowitz, John Mortimer, Iris Murdoch, V.S. Pritchett, Vanessa Redgrave, Robin Skelton, Hilde Spiel, and Tom Stoppard.
Adding perspective to Saunders' work, there is substantial documentation of his career in programs, handbills, and announcements of his plays produced worldwide, dating from 1960-1992. In addition there exists a large collection of reviews from newspapers and periodical literature including quantities of material from continental Europe. Also included are twenty short essays and introspective articles by Saunders, as well as several German and Italian theses on his work.

James Saunders Papers--Folder List