File NLW MS 20798C. - Alun Lewis letters

Identity area

Reference code

NLW MS 20798C.

Title

Alun Lewis letters

Date(s)

  • 1941-1944 (Creation)

Level of description

File

Extent and medium

53 ff. (foliated 1-51, 54)

Guarded and filed at NLW, 1972.

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Alun Lewis (1915-1944) was a poet and short-story writer.
Alun Lewis was born on 1 July 1915 in Cwmaman, Aberdare, the eldest of three sons and a daughter born to Thomas John Lewis, a schoolmaster and his wife Gwladys Lewis. He received his education at Glynhafod Elementary School, 1920-1926, and afterwards he attended Cowbridge Grammar School, 1926-1932, after winning a scholarship. He won scholarships both to Jesus College, Oxford, and the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, but chose the latter. He graduated in history in 1935 with first class honours and while at the University he worked on its magazine where he also published his first poems and stories. From Aberystwyth he moved to Manchester University, 1935-1937, where he researched for his masters degree in medieval history before returning to Aberystwyth to follow a teacher training course. He taught history at Lewis Pengam School from 1938 until he joined the Royal Engineers in May 1940.
He married Gweno Ellis of Aberystwyth on 5 July 1941 and was posted to the 6th Battalion South Wales Borderers at Woodbridge in Suffolk in the same year. His first volume of poetry Raiders' Dawn was published in 1942. A volume of short stories The Last Inspection was also published in that year. In the winter of 1942 the battalion was shipped to India. He died in Burma on 5 March 1944 and was buried in Taukyan War Cemetery.

Name of creator

Biographical history

Name of creator

Name of creator

(1912-1971)

Biographical history

Writer and artist Brenda Chamberlain (1912-1971) was born and raised in Bangor, Caernarfonshire, and educated privately before embarking on her art studies at the Royal Academy, London in 1931. In 1935 Chamberlain married the artist John Petts. The following year the couple moved to Llanllechid, where they set up the Caseg Press, producing postcards and bookplates, and also the Caseg Broadsheets - featuring poetry by Chamberlain and others - with the poet and writer Alun Lewis. Chamberlain's marriage to Petts ended in 1946. Thereafter she lived briefly in Germany before settling on Bardsey Island, where she wrote and painted until, in 1961, she moved to the Greek island of Idhra. In 1967 Chamberlain returned to Bangor, where she died in 1971. Amongst Chamberlain's major published works are the poetic anthology The Green Heart (London, 1958) (dedicated to Karl von Laer), Tide-Race (London, 1962), an account of her life on Bardsey, her only novel The Water Castle (London, 1964), A Rope of Vines (London, 1965), chronicling her time on Ydra, Poems With Drawings (London, 1969), and Alun Lewis and the Making of the Caseg Broadsheets (London, 1969).

Name of creator

Biographical history

Vernon Watkins (1906-1967), poet, was the second of three children of William and Sarah Watkins. He was born in Maesteg, Glamorgan, on 27 June 1906 but grew up in Swansea, Glamorgan, and on the Gower. He attended Repton School, Derbyshire, 1920-1924, then (for one year) studied modern languages at Magdalene College, Cambridge. He was briefly a clerk at Lloyds Bank in Cardiff but after a breakdown he returned home to Swansea and moved to the Lloyds Bank branch in St Helens. He served with RAF Police and Intelligence, 1941-1946, but otherwise remained with Lloyds for the remainder of his working life. In 1941 he published his first collection of poems, Ballad of the Mari Lwyd (London, 1941), followed by The Lamp and the Veil (London, 1945), Selected Poems (Norfolk, Conn., 1948), The Lady with the Unicorn (London, 1948), The Death Bell (London, 1954), Cypress and Acacia (London, 1959), Affinities (London, 1962), and Fidelities (London, 1968) which appeared posthumously. As a poet he was scrupulous, working through numerous drafts to reach a final version and often undertaking further revision after publication. In addition to original poetry he translated European verse into English, including Heine's The North Sea (London, 1955), and wrote essays on other poets. He corresponded widely with literary figures and became friends with the likes of W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, Philip Larkin and, in particular, Dylan Thomas. In 1944 he married Gwendoline (Gwen) Mary Davies (b. 1923), a colleague at RAF Intelligence, and they had five children. Following his retirement in 1966 he lectured at the University College of Swansea. He was then appointed Visiting Professor of Poetry at the University of Washington but died on 8 October 1967, shortly after arriving in Seattle to take up his post. Some of his previously unpublished and uncollected works appeared in Uncollected Poems (London, 1969), Selected Verse Translations, ed. by Ruth Pryor (London, 1977), The Breaking of the Wave (Ipswich, 1979), and Ballad of the Outer Dark, ed. by Ruth Pryor (London, 1979).

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Twenty-eight letters written by Alun Lewis to Brenda Chamberlain, published, but not all in their entirety, by Brenda Chamberlain in Alun Lewis and the Making of the Caseg Broadsheets (London, 1970) (ff. 1-50). The editing of this volume was careless. Apart from minor inaccuracies and omissions, there is confusion of matter from different letters, indication of omitted matter where no omission exists and vice versa. Omitted matter amounts to about a quarter of the total. It may be classified thus: comment on Brenda Chamberlain's work mostly her poetry; trivial business concerning the broadsheets, trivial (not uninteresting) details about Alun Lewis's life; comment on Gweno. A number of omissions in the last category are of some significance; one in the letter of 3 Oct. 1943 deplorably obfuscates the meaning: '... the deep happiness of body and brain [that Gweno brought with her when at last she came to me]'. Also included are letters to Brenda Chamberlain from Vernon Watkins, 1942 (f. 51; Appendix II in the above volume), Gweno Lewis, 1944 (ff. 52-53), and John Rolph, 1956 (f. 54).

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

Accruals

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Related descriptions

Notes area

Note

Formerly Welsh Arts Council MS 48.

Note

Note on blank leaf following f. 51: 'ff. 52-3 excised, 2 June 1980'; the current whereabouts of the Gweno Lewis letter is unclear (February 2015).

Note

Preferred citation: NLW MS 20798C.

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number

vtls005716301

Project identifier

ISYSARCHB39

Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru = The National Library of Wales

Rules and/or conventions used

Status

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Language(s)

Script(s)

Sources

Accession area

Related subjects

Related genres

Related places

Physical storage

  • Text: NLW MS 20798C.