Seamus Heaney Collection

Scope and Content

The Seamus Heaney Collection comprises typescript and manuscript poems, many of which were later pulished in Death of a Naturalist andDoor into the Dark. There is also a short story titledThe Blackberry Gatherers and 8 letters to Philip Hobsbaum, including discussion of Heaney's work and The Group meetings in Belfast.

Administrative / Biographical History

Seamus John Heaney was born on 13 April 1939 , the eldest of nine children, and grew up on his father's cattle-farm. In 1957 Heaney earnt a scholarship to study English Language and Literature at Queen's University of Belfast, graduating with a First in 1961. He then attended St Joseph's Teacher Training College, beginning to publish poetry for the first time in 1962. He taught for one year, before returning to St Josephs as a lecturer. It was at this time, in the spring of 1963, that he came to the attention of Philip Hobsbaum, who was then an English lecturer at Queen's. Hobsbaum would set up a Belfast Group of young poets to mirror his success in London, bringing Heaney into contact with other Belfast poets such as Derek Mahon and Michael Longley.

In 1966 Faber and Faber published Heaney's first volume of poems, Death of a Naturalist, which made him famous as "the Irish poet". He had married Marie Devlin, a school teacher in 1965 and the folllowing year their first son was born. Also in 1966, Heaney left St Joseph's to become Lecturer in Modern English Literature at Queen's University, a post he would hold for six years. During this time Door into the Dark, another volume of poems, was published and he also had a spell as a guest lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley.

In 1972 he left the lecturership in Belfast and moved to the Republic of Ireland in order to concentrate on his writing. He would later take on posts such as Professor of Poetry at Oxford (1989-94, not requiring residence) and Poet in Residence at Harvard (1982-, requiring one semester of teaching). Throughout this period Heaney divided his time between Ireland and the U.S. and continued to give very popular public readings. In 1995 he received the Nobel Prize in Literature for "works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past", as stated by the Nobel Committee. He remains one of the most celebrated modern poets.


The collection has been divided into three sections

  • Poems
  • Correspondence
  • Short Story

Items have been maintained in their original order to reflect their provenance.

Access Information

Access is open to bona fide researchers; an appointment must be made in advance of any visit.

Acquisition Information

The Seamus Heaney Collection was purchased as five seperate deposits.

MS.3.56(18) was purchased at Sotheby's, 15 December 1970.

MS.24.4(1-68), MS.22.5, MS.22.3(1-8) were purchased from Bertram Rota, 1973.

MS.26.1(1-5) was purchased from Richard Gilberston, 23 February 1976.

Other Finding Aids

A finding aid is available in the reading room in the Literary Manuscripts folder.

Alternative Form Available

Many of the poems were published, sometimes with changes, in Death of a Naturalist(Faber, 1966) and Door into the Dark(Faber, 1969).

Archivist's Note

A collection level description was created by Roy Lumb for the Archives Hub in December 2003. This list was created by Hayley Thomas in May 2006.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction and licensing rules available on request.

Appraisal Information

This material did not need appraising.


There are no anticipated accruals.

Related Material

Special Collections and Archives at the University of Liverpool also holds

Emory University Library: Special Collections and Archives holds Seamus Heaney correspondence and papers.


Heaney, Seamus (b.1939), Death of a Naturalist(Faber, London 1966)

Heaney, Seamus (b.1939), Door into the Dark(Faber London 1969)