Papers of G. S. Fraser

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection consists of poems, translations of works by Pablo Neruda and others, radio scripts for the programme New Poetry, essays, photographs and correspondence between George and Paddy Fraser and Ian Fletcher, biographical notes by Fraser's sister.

Administrative / Biographical History

George Sutherland Fraser was born in Glasgow in 1915 where his father worked on the legal staff of Glasgow corporation. In 1924 George moved with his parents and his sister Jean to Aberdeen where his father became town clerk. George attended Aberdeen grammar school and in 1933 went to St Andrews University, graduating in English and history in 1937. He began work as a cub reporter on the Aberdeen Press and Journal but when war broke out he volunteered for the army and joined the Black Watch.

Although intellectually 'officer material' Fraser was physically awkward and never became competent on the parade ground. Eventually he was transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps and sent to the Middle East as a warrant officer. He worked as a journalist and editor, first, from 1941 -1942, with the army public relations directorate in Cairo and then for two years in Eritrea in charge of the Eritrean Daily News. In Egypt Fraser made many literary contacts, with people like Ian Fletcher, Bernard Spencer, Hamish Henderson and Terence Tiller, that he would maintain in later life. He returned to Cairo in 1944 for a year before returning to London for demobilization in late1945.

Fraser's father had died in a road accident in 1942 and his mother and sister moved to London where Jean worked at the Board of Trade. They shared their Chelsea flat with one of Jean's colleagues, Eileen (Paddy) Andrew. Fraser joined them and began a life as a poet and writer, making a precarious living from various commissions for articles for the TLS and New Statesman and broadcasts on poetry for the BBC Third Programme. He also fell in love with Paddy and they were married in 1946. Over the years their home became a regular meeting place where generations of young aspiring writers could come to read and discuss their work and Fraser acted as an arbiter of poetic taste.

As well as his London life Fraser also travelled, not always happily. In 1947 he took the opportunity to go to South America as a member of a cultural mission sponsored by the Hudson institute. In Chile he stayed with the poet Pablo Neruda and was greatly impressed by both the man and his work, which he later translated. In 1950 he succeeded William Empson as cultural adviser to the British Embassy in Japan and went there with his wife and daughter, a son being born not long after their arrival. Within a year the strain of struggling to communicate in a different culture and the heavy workload brought on a nervous breakdown and Fraser was returned to Britain and hospitalized for several months.

Gradually Fraser took up his literary and family life again. He wrote several well-received books of literary criticism and was able to concentrate more on this side of his work when he was appointed in 1958 as a Lecturer in English Literature at Leicester University. In Leicester he was once more much involved in literary activities among students and in the town, and his home again became a social centre. In 1964 he was made Reader in Poetry. In 1974 Fraser suffered a heart attack and, although he made a good recovery at the time, took early retirement in 1979 and died only six months later in January 1980 at the age of 64.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to all researchers. No reader's ticket is required but an appointment is necessary. Check www.reading.ac.uk/special-collections/using/sc-using.asp for contact details and opening hours.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Ian Fletcher

Note

This description was compiled by Gil Skidmore with reference to A stranger and afraid by G.S. Fraser and the introduction to Poems of G.S.Fraser by Ian Fletcher and John Lucas

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