Papers of Ada Clarke [née Lawrence], sister of D.H. Lawrence, and of the Clarke family, 1875-1997, in the D.H. Lawrence Collection

Scope and Content

The collection includes a considerable amount of correspondence. There are several letters from D.H. Lawrence to Ada Clarke [née Lawrence] and her family, including her husband Eddie [William Edwin Clarke] and son Jack [John Lawrence Clarke] and also letters to old family friends including Gertie and Frances Cooper and Mabel Limb. The letters to Ada include domestic news of their households and comments on contemporary events, such as the 1926 miner's strike, as well as progress on his various literary works. The postcards to young Jack, Ada's son who died of TB in 1942 aged 27, are particularly charming and provide an insight into the writer's relationships with his close family. Lawrence did not have children himself, but wrote sympathetically about young children and evidence of his friendly relations with his nephew is interesting.

In addition to Lawrence's own letters, correspondence between Ada and other Lawrence associates and correspondence between family members provide useful family news and information about Lawrence both before and after his death. Correspondence and papers relating to Ada's memoir of her brother 'Young Lorenzo' are also present.

The large number of first editions retained by the family are a significant element of the collection, together with some textbooks used by Lawrence as a school pupil and a student at University College, Nottingham.

A number of artworks are also present in the collection including two paintings by Lawrence as a young man. Particularly interesting is a painting called The Stick Gatherer which reworks The Lonely Life by the Scottish artist Hugh Cameron. Lawrence painted this for Ada in 1910.

Also surviving within the collection are various family papers including certificates such as the marriage licence of Lawrence's parents. Details about the death and burial of Lawrence's elder brother Ernest provide an example of the way in which Lawrence recorded real characters and events in his writings. The life of Ernest, for example, was related in fictional terms in the account of William Morel in 'Sons and Lovers'.

The collection also includes some unusual artefacts once belonging to D.H. Lawrence including a paint palette, shoes and a blanket believed to have been used by Lawrence whilst at Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The papers in this group (La Ac) have the same provenance as a group of other items located elsewhere in the Lawrence Collection: two University College notebooks containing Lawrence's early drafts of poems (La L 9-10) and autograph and typescript short stories of Lawrence and other related papers (La L 17-25). These were acquired by the University prior to 1994 and had already been catalogued within the main Lawrence Collection prior to the more recent receipt of the items described above. These items were already so familiar to Lawrencian scholars that confusion would have arisen if these items had been removed from the main sequence and the reference numbers changed. The decision was made, therefore, to retain the two separate groupings despite the fact that both were derived from Ada (Lawrence) Clarke and her family.

Administrative / Biographical History

Lettice Ada Lawrence was born in 1887, the youngest child of Arthur and Lydia [née Beardsall] Lawrence. With less than two years difference in age, D.H. Lawrence and Ada were very close and Ada was a regular recipient of letters from her brother after his leaving Nottinghamshire. Ada was recreated by Lawrence as 'Nellie Lambert' in his short story 'A Collier's Friday Night'. After Lawrence's death Ada published a biography of her brother with G. Stuart Gelder which was entitled 'Young Lorenzo: early life of D.H. Lawrence'. Ada married W.E. 'Eddie' Clarke (1889-1964) in 1913. Their eldest son, John Lawrence Clarke, to whom Lawrence was particularly close, was born in 1915 but died of T.B. in 1942. The couple's second son William Herbert Clarke was born in 1923 and died in 2003.


The archive has been divided into two main groups. The first group consists of correspondence by Lawrence to his sister Ada and members of her family together with publications and other works given by him to her and related items inherited by her. The second group consists of general archival material realting to the Lawrence and Clarke families.

Access Information

Restrictions Apply

Other Finding Aids

Copyright in all Finding Aids belongs to the University of Nottingham.

On the World Wide Web:

Catalogue available through the website of Manuscripts and Special Collections, Manuscripts Online Catalogue.

Custodial History

The papers were transferred to the University in a number of separate deposits during the period 1994 - 2008.

Related Material

Other papers with the same family provenance are located elsewhere within the D H Lawrence Collection. There are two University College notebooks containing Lawrence's early drafts of poems (La L 9-10) and autograph and typescript short stories of Lawrence and other related papers (La L 17-25).