Papers of Katharine Tynan and Pamela Hinkson

Scope and Content

The archive is comprised of letters and papers relating primarily to Katharine Tynan. There are also letters to her husband Henry Hinkson, and a substantial portion of material generated by her daughter Pamela; both Henry and Pamela were also novelists.

The large body of correspondence in the archive emanates both from within the family and from their many friends in both British and Irish literary and political circles. Among these are the Yeats family (including 2 letters from W.B. Yeats and 2 letters from J.B. Yeats), George William Russell ('A.E.'), Alice and Wilfrid Meynell, Lord and Lady Aberdeen, Jane Barlow and May Sinclair. Also included are individual or small groupings of letters from such significant and diverse figures as Lawrence Binyon, Edmund Blunden, Richard Church, John Galsworthy, Eva Gore-Booth, Augusta Gregory, Rudyard Kipling, Francis Ledwidge, Walter de la Mare, Edith Nesbit, Siegfried Sassoon, George Bernard Shaw, Edith Somerville, H.G. Wells and Charlotte Yonge.

Most of the correspondence in the collection relates to Katharine Tynan, with a smaller number of letters to her daughter and husband, plus some inter-family letters. There are also some letters between unrelated third parties; many of these relate to the First World War (Tynan was known as a war poet and kept up a correspondence with people who contacted her because of her poetry). There are around five thousand letters in total.

There are also a number of transcripts of letters, some of which are copies of letters sent between third parties, and some of which are copies of originals that were sold by the family: W.B.Yeats's letters to Tynan were sold to the University of Austin, Texas, and some other literary letters were sold to Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Pamela Hinkson made transcripts of some (but not all) of the letters dispersed in this way. Most of these transcriptions are currently closed to readers for copyright reasons.

The archive also includes a copy of Katharine Tynan's diary, consisting of two volumes covering the period from July 1914 to September 1915, when she abandoned it. This contains many inserted letters received by Tynan which give accounts of the War and its effects. The diary was intended to be published (as A woman's notes in war-time), but this did not ultimately occur. The edited and typed version of the diary is held by University College Dublin.

In addition, the archive includes Tynan's first poetry notebook (containing her earliest completed poem, dated 1878), although this item is badly damaged and incomplete.

Administrative / Biographical History

Katharine Tynan (1859-1931), Irish poet, novelist and journalist, was born in co. Dublin in 1859, one of twelve children of a gentleman farmer. She was once described by George Russell (A.E.) as 'the earliest singer in that awakening of our imagination which has been spoken of as the Irish Renaissance'. She was also described, more prosaically, as a 'major poet of the second rank.' She is best known nowadays as a member of that group of poets who clustered around W.B.Yeats in the early days of the Irish literary revival of the late nineteenth century. She was unusual, however, in being a devout Catholic in a movement that seemed to be dominated by Protestants. In fact she later became somewhat estranged from her immediate circle of family and friends when she married Henry Hinkson, a Protestant, in 1893, and was obliged to spend the first eighteen years of her married life in England. After suffering the birth of a stillborn child in May 1894 and the loss of a baby, Godfrey, in 1895, the couple had three children - Theobald Henry (born in 1897), Giles Aylmer (b. 1899) and Pamela Mary (b. 1900). The family returned to co. Dublin in 1911, and in 1913 Henry Hinkson was appointed a Resident Magistrate in co. Mayo.

Tynan's literary career flourished in the years prior to her marriage. Her first book of poems, Louise de la Valliere and Other Poems (1885), was a critical success, and this helped to launch the literary salon that she conducted at her father's house, Whitehall, in Clondalkin, outside Dublin. She was able to encourage the young Yeats and other writers, and threw herself wholeheartedly into the new movement. Her move to England, however, separated her from these friends as well as her family, and there the nature of her work changed. Although she never entirely ceased to write poetry, financial necessity required she turn to more lucrative work such as novels and journalism. In fact, she wrote over one hundred novels, which she described as her 'necessary potboilers'. Her husband's lack of financial success, either as a barrister or a writer, meant that she was obliged to write for long periods every day, despite the handicap of very poor sight caused by ulceration of the eyes during childhood. As a result her poetry suffered, except during the years of the First World War. By that time she was living in Ireland, and with her husband now earning a modest salary, she was able to indulge herself by writing war poetry. This brought immediate popular, if not critical, success, and initiated much correspondence with bereaved or anxious families, which is represented in her archive. Tynan's two sons fought in and survived the War, though her husband died in 1919. Following his death, Tynan led a nomadic existence until her death in 1931, travelling between Ireland, England and the Continent accompanied and supported by her unmarried daughter, Pamela Hinkson. Throughout her life, Katharine Tynan made friends easily, especially in the worlds of politics and literature; evidence of many of these friendships can be seen in this archive. As well as her substantial output of novels and poetry, she also published five volumes of autobiography which are valuable for their recollections of figures such as Charles Stewart Parnell.

Pamela Hinkson (1900-1982) was also a writer, who enjoyed a degree of success with The ladies' road (1932), which sold over 100,000 copies in the Penguin edition.


Much of the correspondence was arranged by Library staff into an alphabetical sequence based on sender's name, and given reference numbers; this arrangement has been retained in the current box list of the archive, although the earlier reference numbers should be considered as superceded by the current box and file numbering system. There is also a considerable quantity of completely unsorted material which had not previously been numbered; this has now been divided into files for convenience, but its original order is retained. When the archive is subject to detailed cataloguing, a final archival arrangement will be imposed on the material.

Access Information

The majority of the papers in the archive are open to any accredited reader, but closures may be placed on some items for data protection and confidentiality reasons. Readers are advised to contact the Library in advance to ascertain whether specific items are likely to be subject to closure. Readers are also expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 in their use of the archive.

Acquisition Information

The archive was donated to the Library in 1986 by the Rev. Canon Hanson and the Rt. Rev. R.P.C Hanson who were the literary executors of Pamela Hinkson.

Other Finding Aids

There is a hard copy box list of the archive which is available on request.

Separated Material

Papers of Katharine Tynan and other members of her family may be found at: Southern Illinois University Library, Carbondale, Illinois; Huntingdon Library, San Marino, California; Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center Library, University of Texas at Austin; University College Dublin; and the Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

The majority of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Keeper of Manuscripts and Archives, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Related Material

The archive came to the JRUL with a related book collection, comprised of books which were in the possession of Pamela Hinkson at the time of her death. There are copies of most of Katharine Tynan's and Henry Hinkson's publications, and all of Pamela Hinkson's books. There are also books presented by literary friends. Many of the books contain signatures and inscriptions.

Personal Names