Colin Wilson Archive

Scope and Content

The Colin Wilson Archive contains in its various sub-groups extensive materials by and about Wilson.

The bulk of collection comprises drafts and proofs of his works (including some unpublished works) and works about him. There is an extensive run of correspondence, especially for the 1970s-early 2000s. There are a small number of publishing files, some copies of reviews and research files. In addition, there is a small quantity of miscellaneous items such as advertising and audiovisual material.

The principal sub-groups are the Papers of Colin and Joy Wilson (CWA Wi) and the Papers of Colin Stanley and Paupers' Press (CWA St). The material was retained by them until its transfer to the University. It is anticipated that there will be further accruals.

Smaller deposits and donations have been received from Wilson's friends and associates.

Cataloguing of the archive collections is still ongoing and this catalogue is subject to change.

Administrative / Biographical History

Colin Wilson was born in Leicester in 1931 to a working class family. As a teenager he developed an interest in science, but after reading works by George Bernard Shaw, he switched his focus to literature and decided to pursue a career in writing.

As a young adult he travelled around Europe before moving to London, where Wilson became good friends with aspiring writers, including Laura Del Rivo, Bill Hopkins and Stuart Holroyd, and famously sleeping on Hempstead Heath to save money.

He met Pamela Joy Stewart (known as Joy) in 1953 whilst working temporarily in a Leicester department store where she was a trainee manager. The couple moved to London where he continued to write, although Wilson was still legally married to his first wife at this time. He had married Dorothy Betty Troop (known as Betty) in 1951, but their relationship quickly broke down and within 18 months he had separated from his wife and son.

'The Outsider' was published on 26 May 1956, and was an instant success, selling out of its initial print run of 5,000 copies in one day. Wilson was grouped in with Holroyd, Hopkins, Kingsley Amis, and John Osborne as one of the 'Angry Young Men'. This was a group of working and middle class playwrights and novelists, disillusioned with traditional British society who became prominent in the 1950s, and was a label Wilson rejected.

In 1957, poor reviews of his second book and news reports of Wilson's personal life were overshadowing his success. On the advice of his publisher Gollancz, he and Joy left London for Cornwall. In 1959 they moved to Gorran Haven, where Wilson lived for the rest of his life, except for a period in the 1960s when he travelled to America as a visiting professor.

His literary output was prodigious but his later works never achieved the same critical acclaim as his debut. He wrote widely on true crime, mysticism and the paranormal, as well as his philosophy of 'new existentialism' and several novels and plays. He contributed numerous articles to magazines, worked on documentaries and film scripts, and contributed forewords and chapters to other authors' works.

Wilson's health began to decline in 2011 and he suffered a major stroke in 2012, losing his ability to speak. He died of pneumonia in December 2013.


Material has been divided into sub-groups by provenance.

Colin Stanley has worked extensively with the papers since the 1980s. The structure and referencing system used for those parts of the catalogue relating to Wilson's published works reflects the structure of Stanley's Bibliography (see CWA St/W/HA10), as much of the material was collected and arranged by him during the Bibliography's compilation.

The remaining material has been grouped by document type and then chronologically.

Access Information

Access to records less than 100 years old may be restricted under the Data Protection Act 1998.

Sections of the collection may be temporarily unavailable whilst cataloguing work is underway.

Other Finding Aids

This description is the only finding aid publicly available for the collection. Copyright in the description belongs to The University of Nottingham. Please contact us for further information.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Most of the collection is in a good or very good condition.

Conditions Governing Use

Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult.

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in writing from the Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections

Reprographic copies can be supplied for educational and private study purposes only, depending on access status and the condition of the documents.

Custodial History

Material in the collection has come from many different sources, and there is no single common provenance. More detailed information about provenance is given at lower levels of description.

Related Material

Printed works, including books, reviews, offprints and essays, are within the Colin Wilson Printed (CWC) collection and have been catalogued in NUSearch, the University of Nottingham's library catalogue.