Papers of Elaine Feinstein

Scope and Content

Feinstein's standing as a writer is international, and her archive is truly international in scope and significance, spanning continents, languages, literary movements and networks.

The archive is of major significance across a wide range of research disciplines including English, American and Russian literatures, translation studies, drama, biography, film and television studies, art history, gender studies, Jewish history and social history.

The archive contains papers relating to the pre-history of virtually all of Feinstein's published books as well as stage, radio and television plays, from her earliest work to the present, along with reviews of many of them - thus representing the entire process from inception to reception. Material includes working manuscripts, corrected typescripts, annotated proofs, associated correspondence, and cuttings. Work represented includes:

  • Poetry, from her earliest poems to her latest collections published by Manchester-based Carcanet Press, whose archive is also held at the University of Manchester Library and tells the other side of the publication story.
  • Translations, including her celebrated translations of Tsvetaeva. Of particular interest is the use Feinstein made of literal translations by Russian speakers, from which she produced her final 'poetic' translations, a process fully documented in her archive.
  • All of Feinstein's biographies - her life of Ted Hughes being particularly well-represented, including tapes and transcripts of interviews, drafts of the biography with extensive annotations; letters from Hughes's friends, family and lovers, including Frieda Hughes, Olwyn Hughes, Carol Hughes, Thom Gunn, Lucas Myers, Peter Redgrove, Anne Stevenson, Emma Tennant and Brenda Hedden.
  • All of Feinstein's novels.
  • Many of her plays for television and radio.
  • Some short stories, book reviews and film treatments.

Feinstein has a genius for friendship, and the archive contains a wealth of correspondence, dating from the 1950s to the 2000s, with scores of individuals and organisations of national and international importance, including fellow poets, novelists, translators, artists, literary critics, editors, publishers and agents in Britain and the United States. The number of individuals represented is huge and includes: Brian Aldiss; Al Alvarez; Martin Amis; J.G. Ballard; Samuel Beckett; Dame Gillian Beer; Isaiah Berlin; Paul Blackburn; Malcolm Bradbury; William Burroughs; A.S. Byatt; Wendy Cope; Gregory Corso; Donald Davie; Margaret Drabble; Gavin Ewart; Ruth Fainlight; Lawrence Ferlinghetti; Antonia Fraser; Allen Ginsberg; David Halliwell; Michael Hamburger; Maggi Hambling; Ian Hamilton; Seamus Heaney; dom sylvester houédard; Michael Horovitz; Ted Hughes; Olwyn Hughes; Peter Jay; Frank Kermode; Denise Levertov; Eddie Linden; Michael McClure; Michael Morpurgo; Eric Mottram; Octavio Paz; Harold Pinter; J.H. Prynne; Anthony Rudolf; Susan Fromberg Schaeffer; Michael Schmidt; Jon Silkin; Alan Sillitoe; Jon Stallworthy; George Steiner; Anne Stevenson; Charles Tomlinson; Gael Turnbull; Daniel Weissbort; Fay Weldon; and Sir Arnold Wesker.

The archive also contains manuscript diaries and journals, kept over a long period and recording every aspect of Feinstein's life. There is also a small quantity of other material, including limited edition pamphlet publications, issues of Feinstein's literary magazine Prospect and other magazines, and sound recordings.

Administrative / Biographical History

Elaine Feinstein (née Cooklin) was born into a family of Jewish immigrants in Bootle, Lancashire, on 24 October 1930. Her parents were from Liverpool and all her grandparents were from Odessa, Ukraine, having moved to the North of England in the 1890s. She was brought up in the industrial town of Leicester in the English Midlands. Her father owned a factory, and his success with it fluctuated dramatically. Although her family was never destitute, Feinstein experienced some genteel poverty in her childhood. An only child, she was raised to respect religion, but it was only after World War II that she came to realise what being Jewish meant for her.

Feinstein started writing poetry at age eight. Her father, a furniture-maker by day and storyteller by night, was, according to Feinstein, one of her major literary inspirations. After the Second World War, the fortunes of her father declined and Feinstein was overjoyed when she became the first Wyggeston Grammar School (Leicester) student to read English at Newnham College, Cambridge. This was in 1949, only a year after the first women were admitted to full membership of the University. She was the recipient of a grant provided by the Butler Education Act of 1944, receiving both her bachelor and master's degrees from Cambridge University. During Feinstein's early Cambridge days she lived in a commune in Portugal Place.

Soon after graduating in 1952, she met Arnold Feinstein, a molecular biologist and son of a Stepney tailor. In 1956 she settled in Cambridge with Arnold and their three sons, Joel, Martin (b. 1959) and Adam. The family lived in the centre of the city for more than a quarter of century.

Feinstein trained at the bar but decided not to practice. She worked as an editorial staff member at Cambridge University Press before becoming a lecturer. She was a Lecturer in English at Bishop's Stortford Training College, Hertfordshire, 1963-66; and Assistant Lecturer in Literature, University of Essex, Colchester, 1967-70. In the late 1960s Feinstein joined a poetry group in an effort to clarify her approach and better understand her own poetic voice. Thereafter Feinstein's work began to explore her ancestry and heritage as well as the horrors inflicted on modern Jews. She worked as a freelance writer from 1971 onwards. She has worked as a sub-editor and a freelance journalist writing for The Times, The Guardian, and other papers. Critics agree that the death of Feinstein's parents in 1973 marks the beginning of her movement into new thematic territory, in particular, a personal journey of exploration into Jewish history. Since 1980, when she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, she has lived as a full-time writer.

Feinstein is a distinguished, award-winning writer, having established her literary reputation as a poet with over fifteen published collections; the earliest, In a Green Eye, was published in 1966. Her rich corpus of work spans a range of other literary genres too, including translation, the novel, biography, literary criticism, plays for television and radio, journalism and memoirs. Feinstein has moved within an eclectic range of literary circles, ranging from the Beats and the Black Mountain poets of America, to the literary traditions of Eastern Europe. Feinstein also has strong links to the North-West of England, where she was born. Manchester is home to her publishers, Carcanet Press.

Feinstein has written over a dozen novels. Much of her material is drawn from personal experience, though set within the wider cultural contexts of her Jewish inheritance, feminism and European history. In the late 1960s Feinstein developed more intimately personal preoccupations with recently deceased Russian and Soviet poets Anna Akhmatova, Bella Akhmadulina, Joseph Brodsky and Marina Tsvetaeva. In particular, her deep regard for the poet Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) inspired Feinstein to explore both biography and translation. Feinstein has produced award-winning translations of work by Tsvetaeva and other Russian women poets. Her versions of the poems of Marina Tsvetaeva, first published in 1971, were a New York Times Book of the Year and were extended in Bride of Ice (Carcanet, 2010).

Through her biographies she has explored the lives and works of Tsvetaeva herself, in A Captive Lion: The Life of Marina Tsvetayeva (London: Hutchinson, 1987); writer Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799-1837) in Pushkin: A Biography (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998); Anna Andreyevna Gorenko (1889-1966), better known by the pen name Anna Akhmatova, in Anna of all the Russias: The Life of Anna Akhmatova (Weidenfield, 2005 and Alfred A. Knopf, 2006), which has been translated into twelve languages including Russian; English novelist, D.H. Lawrence (1835-1930) in Lawrence's Women: The Intimate Life of D.H. Lawrence (Harper Collins, 1993); American blues singer, Bessie Smith (1894-1937) in Bessie Smith (Lives of Modern Women Series, Penguin, 1985); and former Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, Ted Hughes. Ted Hughes: The Life of a Poet (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001) was shortlisted for the biennial Marsh Biography Prize.

Feinstein's first novel, The Circle (1970), was long listed for the 'lost' Man Booker prize in 2010. Her most recent, The Russian Jerusalem (Carcanet, 2008), won a major Arts Council Award.

Feinstein has travelled extensively, not only to read her work at festivals across the world, but to be writer in residence for the British Council, first in Singapore, and then in Tromsӧ, Norway. She was a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow at Bellagio in 1998.

Although she is a distinguished short-story writer, playwright, biographer and translator, poetry is at the heart of Feinstein's writing. In Britain her poetic connections are wide, but her horizons also extend far beyond the UK: influenced in her early work by modernist poets like Ezra Pound, in the 1950s she was excited by American experimental and avant-garde literary movements. As founder and editor of Prospect magazine (1959), she provided a key forum for the early publication of writers such as the Americans Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and Michael McClure; she elicited from Charles Olson his famous statement about Projectivism, laying the transatlantic foundations for the Cambridge School of poets.

Feinstein's poems have been widely anthologised. Her Collected Poems and Translations (2002) was a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation. In 1990, she received a Cholmondeley Award for Poetry, and was given an Honorary D.Litt from the University of Leicester. Feinstein has served on the Council of the Royal Society of Literature and as a judge for the Gregory Awards, the Independent Foreign Fiction Award, the Whitbread Poetry Prize, the Costa Poetry Prize and in 1995 was chair of the judges for the T.S. Eliot Prize. In 2005 she was awarded a Civil List pension in recognition of her services to Literature.


The archive has not been subject to full archival arrangement. Item-level divisions simply reflect Feinstein's own divisions of her papers into box files; she often added labels to these files to indicate their content and where these existed their wording is transcribed in the catalogue. The files have been arranged within overarching series, but researchers should be aware that the text on the box labels does not always reflect their exact content; this is particularly true of covering dates. Where possible, any discrepancies between box label and content have been noted in the catalogue.

The archive is divided into fifteen series, as follows:

  • EFP/1: Correspondence files
  • EFP/2: Papers relating to Feinstein's poetry
  • EFP/3: Papers relating to novels by Feinstein
  • EFP/4: Papers relating to biographies by Feinstein
  • EFP/5: Papers relating to Feinstein's works for television
  • EFP/6: Papers relating to Feinstein's radio plays
  • EFP/7: Papers relating to Feinstein's stage plays
  • EFP/8: Papers relating to Feinstein's short stories
  • EFP/9: Papers relating to Feinstein's critical writing and journalism
  • EFP/10: Miscellaneous drafts and fragments
  • EFP/11: Articles on Feinstein and reviews of her work
  • EFP/12: Personal papers, journals and autobiographical writing by Feinstein
  • EFP/13: Little magazines and small press publications
  • EFP/14: Audio material
  • EFP/15: Works by other writers

The main part of the archive, acquired in 2005, was stored in numbered box files. As these box numbers have been cited in some contexts, the original box numbers are recorded in the new catalogue descriptions as 'former reference'.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader, subject to the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1988 (DPA).

The collection includes material which is subject to the DPA. Under Section 33 of the DPA, The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the UML to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the DPA, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Some items in the archive are already closed to public inspection in line with the requirements of the DPA. However, most of the material in the archive has not been checked by an archivist for Data Protection issues. It is therefore essential that researchers contact the Library in advance with a list of the material they wish to consult; the archivist will then check the items to determine whether any further closures are necessary.

Open parts of this collection, and the catalogue descriptions, may also contain personal data about living individuals.

Acquisition Information

Elaine Feinstein's Papers were acquired by The University of Manchester Library in three tranches: the main part of the archive was acquired in 2005, with smaller accessions added in 2011 and 2014. The 2005 purchase was generously supported by the V&A/MLA Purchase Grant Fund, the Philip Larkin Memorial Fund and the Friends of the John Rylands Library.

Archivist's Note

This catalogue was produced with generous support from the Strachey Trust. The aim of the cataloguing project was to produce a basic online finding aid for Elaine Feinstein's Papers; the collection is large, and the project's duration meant that detailed entries could not be created for many of the items in the archive. However, some of the material - particularly correspondence - has been catalogued to a higher level of detail.

Elaine Feinstein is referred to as EF throughout the catalogue. MS is used to denote manuscript material, and TS typescript.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

All of the items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The material in the archive was created or accumulated by Elaine Feinstein during the course of her life and retained by her until its transfer to the Library.


Further accruals are expected.

Related Material

The University of Manchester Library also holds the archive of Carcanet Press, publishers of much of Feinstein's poetry; their archive contains correspondence with Feinstein as well as manuscripts and proofs of the poetry collections she has published with them.


Poetry collections by Elaine Feinstein:

  • In a Green Eye (London: Goliard Press, 1966).
  • The Magic Apple Tree (London: Hutchinson, 1971).
  • At the Edge (Rushden: Sceptre Press, 1972).
  • The Celebrants and Other Poems (London: Hutchinson, 1973).
  • Some Unease and Angels (London: Hutchinson, 1977).
  • The Feast of Eurydice (London: Next Editions in association with Faber, 1980).
  • Badlands (London: Hutchinson, 1987).
  • City Music (London: Hutchinson, 1990).
  • Selected Poems (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1994).
  • Daylight (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1997).
  • After Pushkin, edited by Elaine Feinstein (Folio Society and Carcanet Press, 1999).
  • Gold (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2000).
  • Collected Poems and Translations (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2002).
  • Talking to the Dead (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2000).
  • Cities (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2010).
  • Portraits (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2015).
  • The Clinic, Memory (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2017).

Translated poetry by Elaine Feinstein:

  • The Selected Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971).
  • Three Russian Poets: Margarita Aliger, Yunna Morits, Bella Akhmadulina (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1976).
  • Bride of Ice: New Selected Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2009).

Novels by Elaine Feinstein:

  • The Circle (London: Hutchinson, 1970).
  • The Amberstone Exit (London: Hutchinson, 1972).
  • The Glass Alembic (London: Hutchinson, 1973).
  • Children of the Rose (London: Hutchinson, 1975).
  • The Ecstasy of Dr Miriam Garner (London: Hutchinson, 1976).
  • The Shadow Master (London: Hutchinson, 1978).
  • The Survivors (London: Hutchinson, 1982).
  • The Border (London: Hutchinson, 1984).
  • Mother's Girl (London: Hutchinson, 1988).
  • All You Need (London: Hutchinson, 1989).
  • Loving Brecht (London: Hutchinson, 1992).
  • Dreamers (London: Macmillan, 1994).
  • Lady Chatterley's Confession (London: Macmillan, 1995).
  • Dark Inheritance (London: Women's Press, 2000).
  • The Russian Jerusalem (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2008).

Biographies by Elaine Feinstein:

  • Bessie Smith (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985).
  • A Captive Lion: The Life of Marina Tsvetayeva (London: Hutchinson, 1987).
  • Lawrence and the Women (London: Macmillan, 1993).
  • Pushkin (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1998).
  • Ted Hughes: The Life of a Poet (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2001).
  • Anna of all the Russias: The Life of Anna Akhmatova (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2005).

Short story publications by Elaine Feinstein:

  • Matters of Chance (London: Covent Garden Press, 1972).
  • The Silent Areas: Short Stories (London: Hutchinson, 1980).

Elaine Feinstein's memoirs:

  • It Goes with the Territory: Memoirs of a Poet (Richmond, Surrey: Alma Books, 2013).