Fonds GB 0210 MSVERNWAT - Vernon Watkins manuscripts

Identity area

Reference code



Vernon Watkins manuscripts


  • [1920s]-1988 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

71 volumes.

Context area

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 Some of his previously unpublished and uncollected works appeared in Uncollected Poems (London, 1969), Selected Verse Translations, ed.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

Following his death his papers and manuscripts, which had been distributed to a large number of locations and individuals, were assembled and sorted by Gwen Watkins and Ruth Pryor (see Ruth Pryor, 'The Palethorpe Papers, or, A bibliographer's nightmare', Poetry Wales, 12.4 (Spring 1977), 44-51); other material remained in private hands, later coming into the possession of Dylans Bookstore, Swansea. NLW MSS 23752-62 are papers gathered together [by Dylans Bookstore, Swansea] from the estate of Vernon Watkins's sister, Dorothy, and from 'sundry other sources'.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

NLW MSS 21263-6E: Bertram Rota Ltd; London; Purchase; [1974].
NLW MS 21694D: Bernard Quaritch; London; Purchase; March 1981.
NLW MSS 22440-89: Dylans Bookstore; Swansea; Purchase (along with proofs, printed material and ephemera, now part of NLW ex 1003); January and August 1983, April 1986; B1983/4, 24, B1986/20.
NLW MSS 22552-3E: Dylans Bookstore; Swansea; Purchase; July 1988; B1988/25.
NLW MSS 22728-9: Sotheby's; London; Purchased at auction, lot 170 (along with proofs of published works, now part of NLW ex 1003); 14 December 1989; B1989/50.
NLW MS 22841E: Dylans Bookstore; Swansea; Purchase; May 1991, February 1992; B1991/13, B1992/6.
NLW MSS 23752-62: Dylans Bookstore; Swansea; Purchase; September 1998; B1998/30.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Papers, [1920s]-1988, of Vernon Watkins, comprising drafts of poems published in collections and elsewhere, 1934-1967, unpublished poems, [1920s]-1967, and verse translations from German, French, Greek, Italian, Spanish and Hungarian, [1920s]-1967; drafts and translations of verse dramas, [1920s]-[1940x1967]; prose articles and essays, [1935]-1967; radio scripts, 1948-1967; talks and lecture notes, 1947-1967; correspondence, 1937-1988, including letters to Gwen Watkins following her husband's death; diaries, 1931, 1966; bibliographical lists of his poetry, [?1941]-1967; and some literary material relating to posthumous publications, 1976-1978.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


Accruals are not expected.

System of arrangement

Arranged according to NLW MSS reference numbers: NLW MSS 21263-21266E, 21694D, 22440-22489, 22552-22553, 22728-22729, 22841E, 23752-23762.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to abide by the conditions set out in information provided when applying for their Readers' Tickets, whereby the reader shall become responsible for compliance with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation 2018 in relation to any processing by them of personal data obtained from modern records held at the Library.

Conditions governing reproduction

Usual copyright laws apply. Information regarding ownership of Vernon Watkins copyright can be found at: (viewed January 2024).

Language of material

  • English
  • German

Script of material

Language and script notes

English unless otherwise specified.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

NLW MSS 22440-89, 22552-3E, 22728-9, 22841E: Descriptions of these manuscripts are also available in Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, VIII (Aberystwyth, 1999).
Most of the manuscripts are described more fully in the NLW typescript lists Vernon Watkins Manuscripts, Group I (1979) and Group II (1988, [2001]).

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Further papers include NLW MSS 20787E, 23136D, 23185D, 23979D, 24198i-iiD; NLW ex 1003, 2551; NLW Minor Deposits 722B; NLW, David Jones (Artist and Writer) Papers; British Library, Add. MSS 54157-54167; Hull, Brynmor Jones Library, DX/73/1; Swansea University Archives, LAC/120. Printed books owned by Vernon Watkins acquired as part of the archive are also in the National Library of Wales.

Notes area


Title based on contents of fonds.


Some letters to Gwen Watkins and a few other items relating to Gwen Watkins and Ruth Pryor post-date Vernon Watkins' death.

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number


Project identifier


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

Description follows ANW guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd ed.; AACR2; and LCSH


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

July 2010 and January 2024.


  • English



The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: NLW, Vernon Watkins Manuscripts, Group I (1979) and Group II (1988, [2001]); Vernon Watkins, New Selected Poems, ed. by Richard Ramsbotham (Manchester, 2006); Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales, ed. by Meic Stephens (Oxford, 1986); Y Bywgraffiadur Cymreig 1951-1970 (London, 1997); Meic Stephens, 'Watkins, Vernon Phillips (1906-1967)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [] [accessed 13 July 2010]; Ruth Pryor, 'The Palethorpe Papers, or, A bibliographer's nightmare', Poetry Wales, 12.4 (Spring 1977), 44-51; Jane L. McCormick, 'The Prose of Vernon Watkins' (unpublished master's thesis, Simon Fraser University, 1969).

Archivist's note

Description revised by Rhys Jones.

Accession area