Papers of Harry Kemp

Scope and Content

The collection includes the manuscript drafts and printed copies of all his poetry books, namely, Poems as of now (1969), Poems as of then (1972), Poems in Variety (1977), Collected Poems (1985), Poems for Erato (1990), An essay and poems (1993) and Poems for Mnemosyne: selected poems (1993). It also includes copies of his published collaborations, a box of his correspondence, including some letters from his friend Robert Graves, and his letters to Marylin Wailes in 1945-46, two unpublished typescripts on histories of mathematical subjects, poetic notes and notes on other poets, and three works of literary criticism: 'Definitions of Poetry a survey' (1990), 'Poetry, Science and Language' (1991), and 'About It and About' (a selection of essays). There is also a box of material relating to Laura Riding and Robert Nye. This includes his typescripts of Relations with Riding (1999), other files relating to Riding, the drafts of an anthology of rhymed twentieth century poetry which he planned with his friend Robert Nye, and correspondence with Nye 1985-1993.

Administrative / Biographical History

Harry Vincent Kemp (1911-1994) was born the son of a self-educated engineer. He was educated at Stowe and at Clare College, Cambridge, where he read mathematics. At Cambridge he became a Communist, but gave up on this as a teacher shortly afterwards, an intellectual development which he wrote about with his friend, Laura Riding, in the late thirties and published as The Left Heresy in Literature and Life (Methuen, 1939). During the War he was at first at conscientious objector, but on the fall of France he decided to join up and spent most of the next six years as a radar officer in the North East, being transferred abroad in 1945. By this date he had met the painter, musician and musicologist, Marylin Wailes (1896-1990), with whom he spent 'ten years of happy domestic life' (according to the obituary he wrote for himself in 1976). He spent his career teaching mathematics and writing poetry as a hobby. He married and divorced twice, and had two children.


Arranged loosely into: printed copies of poetry books; poetry manuscripts and other typescripts; correspondence; materials relating to Riding and Nye.

Conditions Governing Access

Access to some items restricted: please check with the Archivist.


Listed by Charlotte Berry, Archivist, 10 October 2003 (biographical information compiled by Ian Mortimer, Archivist), and encoded into EAD 28 May 2004.

Other Finding Aids

Currently unlisted

Conditions Governing Use

Some photocopying restrictions: please check with the Archivist.

Custodial History

Donated to the Library in 1993.

Related Material

None known.