Papers of E.H.Visiak

Scope and Content

The collection consists of manuscripts and revised typescripts of prose works by Visiak including The Shadows and Autobiography, poems including The Battle Fiends, and a short story The Queen of Beauty; notes relating to work on David Lindsay; financial and personal papers and photographs; family, personal and literary correspondence including letters from Margaret Storm Jameson (12 letters), John Masefield (15 letters and a postcard), Eden Phillpotts (6 letters and 4 postcards), Sir Arnold T. Wilson (15 letters) and Colin Wilson (44 letters and a postcard).

Administrative / Biographical History

Edward Harold Physick was born in Ealing on July 20 1878, the son of E.J. Physick the sculptor. Educated at Hitchin Grammar school and privately, in 1897 he became a clerk in the Indo-European Telegraph Company's office in Mincing Lane, London. Apart from an unhappy spell in the company's Manchester office, he remained there and continued to live with his family in London until the First World War, when he left, registered as a conscientious objector and became a schoolmaster for a short time.

E.H. Physick's aim was always to devote himself entirely to scholarship and writing and this he eventually managed to do. His first book, Buccaneer Ballads was published in 1910 with an introduction by John Masefield and Physick then altered his name to Visiak and used it thereafter both privately and professionally. After his father's death in 1921 Visiak continued to live with his mother, to whom he was wholly devoted, producing more poetry and two novels, The Haunted Island and Medusa. It was however as a critic and editor of Milton that he was best known and for which he was awarded a Civil List pension. He also wrote books on Conrad and Coleridge and many articles on literary subjects.

During the Second World War Visiak moved, with his mother, to a flat overlooking the sea in Hove. The sea was very important to Visiak as it reminded him of happy childhood visits to Lowestoft and continued to influence his writings. After his mother's death in 1952 at the age of 98 he continued to live alone in the flat for about ten years until failing health necessitated a move to a nursing home, where his room also had a sea view.

In the 1960s Visiak started to correspond with the writer Colin Wilson. When they met, in 1967, Wilson encouraged Visiak to complete the autobiography he had been working on. This book, published in 1968 under the title Life's Morning Hour, covers only the first part of Visiak's long life, his ideally happy childhood and early adolescence, from the viewpoint of the child he had been. Wilson also collaborated with Visiak on a study of David Lindsay. The success of Life's Morning Hour brought Visiak once more to the notice of the public and he continued to write, correspond and receive visitors with an enthusiasm undimmed by age. He died on 30 August 1972 aged 94.

Access Information

Open to all researchers. No reader's ticket is required but an appointment is necessary. Check for contact details and opening hours.

Acquisition Information

Given by David Physick, E.H.Visiak's nephew, in 1989


Description prepared by Gil Skidmore

Other Finding Aids

An item level list is available

Related Material

Material related to Visiak can be found in the Bodley Head archive [MS 2606], the Macmillan archive [MS 1089]and the George Bell&Sons archive [MS 1640] in Reading Univsersity Library.