Henry Williamson: Letters to Lionel Dakers

Scope and Content

Twenty-one letters and notes from Henry Williamson to Lionel Dakers, Organist and Master of the Choristers at Exeter Cathedral, who taught Williamson's son, Harry, at the Cathedral School and became a friend.

Collection consisting of 19 autographs of which 9 are written on correspondence cards, 2 on picture postcards and 2 typed letters, mainly from North Devon (Georgeham, Braunton and Ilfracombe) but also from London, Londonderry and Venice. Signature types include his name, initials or his printed owl logo.

The letters give insights into Williamson's work, in particular, writing the concluding volumes of 'A chronicle of ancient sunlight' and personal problems. There are references to the flight of his second wife, Christine, in 1962 and his ensuing loneliness, his prolonged overwork and his feeling of purposelessness after the 'Chronicle' project has been completed. Williamson mentions 'A test to destruction' while asking Dakers the correct title of Frank Bridge's 'The sea'. Also mentioning Christmas Eve carols in Exeter Cathedral, fishing in Ireland, Arnold Bennett, W G Hoskins, Oscar Wilde, Rupert Brooke, Katherine Mansfield, Britten's 'Requiem'.

Dr. Lionel Dakers (1924-2003) was Organist and Master of the Choristers at Exeter Cathedral, 1957-1972 and Director of the Royal School of Church Music, 1972-1989. He collected works of Henry Williamson, Siegfried Sassoon and T. E. Lawrence. He also contributed articles to the Northcott Magazine in 1969.

Administrative / Biographical History

Henry Williamson (1895-1977), writer, was born in south London and educated at Colfe's Grammar School, Lewisham. He fought in the army in the First World War and gained a deep sense of the futility of conflict as a result. He worked as a journalist for a short while before writing his first novel, 'The Beautiful Years', in 1921. This became volume one of a quartet, named 'The Flax of Dreams'. At the same time he moved to North Devon and, in 1927, wrote there 'Tarka the Otter', the book on which his fame most heavily rests, and 'A Patriot's Progress' (1930), based on his trench experiences. After 'Salar the Salmon' (1935) he became an outspoken supporter of German reform and British fascism, which led to his being briefly interned at the start of the war. His postwar work, which is arguably his most important, is a cycle of fifteen novels entitled, 'A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight', which was completed in 1960.

Conditions Governing Access

Usual EUL arrangements apply.

Acquisition Information

The letters were purchased by the University Library in 2010.

Other Finding Aids

Unlisted. This item only consists of one folder of letters.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Angela Mandrioli, 25 Jan 2011.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL restrictions apply.

Related Material

The Henry Williamson Society Book Collection consisting of all published works of Williamson is also available for reference at Special Collections and is listed in full on the Library's online OPAC.

The following Williamson archive collections are held at Special Collections: EUL MS 43, 71, 74, 78, 91, 106, 111, 126, 239, 282, 356 and 374.

Papers relating to Henry Williamson are also held at the following repositories: Dartmouth College Library, USA; Savage Club, London; Reading University Library; King's College London; Royal Society of Literature; and Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies.

Articles by Lionel Dakers are included in several issues of the Northcott Magazine 1969, in the Northcott Theatre Archive, which is also held at Special Collections.


This collection has not formed the basis for publication.