Diaries of Alison Uttley

Scope and Content

The diaries are a detailed chronicle of the everyday life of Alison Uttley for 40 years, from just after her husband's death and the publication of her first books up to her last years. There is a great deal of domestic detail, such as descriptions of the weather and the countryside, gardening, cooking and cleaning (trouble with maids etc), money, shopping, her neighbours and their visits, holidays to Devon and London (and later Guernsey), films and theatre, and books read.

More personal entries deal especially with her relationship with her son John (and later his wife Helen); dealings with other members of the family, such as her brother Harry and his wife Frances and son Ronnie, and the Uttleys, Emily, George, Gertrude and Alice K; her special friends, such as 'LM', 'GL', 'EM', Walter de la Mare, Margaret Rutherford and Professor Alexander; her Scottie dogs, Hamish, MacDuff, MacTavish and Dirk; money worries (especially in the early thirties); and her memories of her husband James, and her mother and father. Especially fascinating are the diaries covering the war years, when John was a POW in Germany.

Of course, the greater part of the diaries are devoted to her writing, including the anxieties and repeated rejections at the beginning, the surprise of success, dealings with publishers (Faber and Peter de Sautoy, the Collins family, and Heinemann) and the ever-growing royalty cheques, her relationship with the illustrators of her books (especially Margaret Tempest, with whom there were running legal battles over the Grey Rabbit books in the 60's), and broadcasts on radio and television. Her methods of working are lovingly documented here, and provide a fascinating insight into how her books were inspired and created.

Extracts from the diaries have been published in Denis Judd, The private diaries of Alison Uttley: author of Little Grey Rabbit and Sam Pig (Barnsley: Remember When, 2009).


It appears that Peter de Sautoy, the previous owner of the diaries has read them closely and inserted many 'bookmarks' with notes written on them, referring mainly to the adult books of Alison Uttley, and also to important events or details. These have been left as found, as some of the notes are useful for explanatory purposes.

Some of the diaries contained items such as letters, postcards and notes, and where these were not attached by paper clip or sellotape they have been removed and placed in archival envelopes to be kept with the diaries.

In addition, entries for the two years 1947 and 1948 are in one volume, the diary for 1950 ends in May, and the diaries for 1939 and 1951 have a few entries for other years at the beginning. The volume for 1952 is a 'Year by Year Diary', which records 5 years simultaneously (1952-1956), and the 1975 book is empty apart from one entry. Finally, nearly all the diaries have Christmas card and present lists at the back (especially 1947, which has lists for several years), and there are pages missing from the 1946 and 1956 volumes (15-22 Sep & 27-28 Dec).

Closely handwritten on lined paper.