Papers of John Heath Stubbs

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 JHS
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      1 li.m.; 471 items Most of the material is in good condition. Any exceptions to this have been noted at item level.
  • Location
      Collection available at John Rylands Library, Deansgate.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of papers by and relating to John Heath-Stubbs, and essentially forms part of his own archive. The largest series in the collection consist of letters sent to John Heath-Stubbs, literary manuscripts and printed material. The correspondence mostly covers topics such as publishing and writing as well as Heath-Stubbs's academic work and speaking engagements. The majority of the literary manuscripts are annotated drafts and working copies of poems by John Heath-Stubbs; there is also a smaller number of poems by other authors and proofs of Heath-Stubbs's published work. The printed material is a miscellaneous grouping, the largest proportion of which consists of press cuttings containing reviews of Heath-Stubbs's publications.

The collection also includes photographs of John Heath-Stubbs, a small number of appointment diaries, artwork and prints, leaflets, circulars and printed copies of poems.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Francis Alexander Heath-Stubbs was born at Streatham Manor, London, on 9 July 1918. He was the elder son of Francis Heath-Stubbs, a trained solicitor of independent means, and Edith Louise Sara Heath-Stubbs (née Marr), a concert pianist.

Heath-Stubbs spent much of his childhood in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. He attended the Bembridge School, where he enjoyed studying reference works in the school library. It was here that he first began to write poetry, published in the school magazine.

At the age of eighteen, Heath-Stubbs was diagnosed with glaucoma and lost the sight in his right eye. Following the deterioration in his sight he attended Worcester College for the Blind, where he became editor of the college magazine. In 1939 Heath-Stubbs was awarded the Barker exhibition at Queen's College, Oxford, which was a scholarship intended for someone who was blind or in danger of losing their sight. At Oxford, Heath-Stubbs befriended the poets Sidney Keyes and Drummond Allison, and Philip Rawson, who later became an art professor. He attended lectures by J.R.R. Tolkien, Nevill Coghill, C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams, and was tutored by Herbert Brett-Smith and John Bryson.

Heath-Stubbs's work was first published in an anthology titled Eight Oxford Poets in 1941. The publisher was Herbert Read, poetry advisor to Routledge, and the volume was edited by Sidney Keyes and Michael Meyer. Keyes's The Iron Laurel and Heath-Stubbs's Wounded Thammuz were published by Routledge in 1942.

Heath-Stubbs graduated from Oxford in 1942, but although he began work on a B.Litt. he decided not to continue in academia. However, he continued to write and publish poetry during this time, including Beauty and the Beast (1943) and an elegy for Sidney Keyes, who was killed in action in 1943, published in The Divided Ways (1945). Heath Stubbs was also introduced to Merton College's literary society, the Bodley Club, by William Bell. Bell's anthology Poetry from Oxford in Wartime (1945) included a number of poems by Heath-Stubbs.

After leaving Oxford, Heath-Stubbs moved to London, where he initially took a teaching job at The Hall preparatory school. He resigned after a short time and worked instead on Hutchinson's popular illustrated encyclopaedia, contributing articles on literature, music, theology, plants, birds, insects and cookery. He continued to write and publish poetry, and his work appeared in Wrey Gardiner's Poetry Quarterly, Hugh Kingsmill's New English Review and John Lehmann's Penguin New Writing. T.S. Eliot invited him to edit The Faber Book of Twentieth Century Verse, which Heath-Stubbs compiled with David Wright, his friend from Oxford.

Over the next two decades, Heath-Stubbs continued to publish his work with a variety of publishers before beginning a lasting association with Michael Schmidt's Carcanet Press in Manchester. Among the work published by Carcanet was The Watchman's Flute (1978), Naming the Beasts (1982), The Immolation of Aleph (1985) and Collected Poems, 1943-1987 (1988). However, his major work, Artorius, was originally published by Enitharmon Press in 1973.

In 1952, Heath-Stubbs became the second Gregory Fellow in Poetry at the University of Leeds. During this time he came into contact with artists Jacob Kramer and Tom Watt, Bonamy Dobrée (head of the English department at Leeds), composer Peter Dickinson, lecturer Arthur Creedy and Kenneth Severs, head of the BBC in Leeds. Following his three year tenure in Leeds, he continued his teaching career at the University of Alexandria (1955-1958), the University of Michigan (1960-1961), and the College of St Mark and St John, Chelsea (1963-1973). He was also a part time lecturer at Merton College, Oxford.

Heath-Stubbs became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1953. He received the Queen's Gold Medal for poetry in 1973 and the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1989. In 1989 he was also awarded the OBE. During his lifetime he produced more than thirty volumes of poetry amongst other works of literature. His last collection, Pigs Might Fly, was published by Carcanet in 2005. He died on 26 December 2006 at the age of 88.


The collection has been arranged into the following eight series based on format:

  • JHS/1 Correspondence
  • JHS/2 Literary manuscripts and proofs
  • JHS/3 Printed material
  • JHS/4 Photographs
  • JHS/5 Appointment diaries
  • JHS/6 Official papers
  • JHS/7 Artwork
  • JHS/8 Miscellaneous material

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader. However, some material may be subject to restrictions for Data Protection, confidentiality or copyright reasons; where applicable this is noted at item level in the catalogue. Other material which has not been read in detail by the cataloguing archivist may also be subject to access restrictions or closure; this is also noted at the relevant point in the catalogue, and readers are advised to contact the Library in advance if they wish to see any of this material.

Acquisition Information

These papers and a collection of books previously owned by John Heath-Stubbs were acquired in 2007 from Golbourne Antiques, London, with financial assistance from the Robert Gavron Charitable Trust.


The cataloguing of this collection was made possible by a generous contribution from friends of John Heath-Stubbs. Anthony Astbury and Bernard Saint co-ordinated an appeal to raise funds for a blue plaque to commemorate Heath-Stubbs, and the remaining money they raised was kindly donated to the JRUL, enabling the appointment of an archivist to work on his collection for two weeks.

Thanks are also due to Bernard Saint for supplying information about some of the unidentified correspondents represented in the collection.

Archivist's Note

The cataloguing of this collection was made possible by a generous contribution from friends of John Heath-Stubbs. Anthony Astbury and Bernard Saint co-ordinated an appeal to raise funds for a blue plaque to commemorate Heath-Stubbs, and the remaining money they raised was kindly donated to the JRUL, enabling the appointment of an archivist to work on his collection for two weeks.

Thanks are also due to Bernard Saint for supplying information about some of the unidentified correspondents represented in the collection.

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.

A number of 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 Collection and Research Support Manager (Manuscripts and Archives), John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The papers were accumulated by John Heath-Stubbs during his lifetime and were purchased by the JRUL after his death in 2006.

Related Material

This collection was acquired with a collection of printed books previously belonging to John Heath-Stubbs; these have not yet been catalogued.

The JRUL also holds a number of other archives which contain material relating to John Heath-Stubbs, including:

  • A collection of eight letters from Heath-Stubbs to his friend Peter McNair (PMN).
  • Three letters/postcards from Heath-Stubbs to Norman Nicholson in the Papers of Norman Nicholson (NCN1/1/175), NCN/8/2, (NCN/13).
  • Three letters from Heath-Stubbs to Norman Nicholson in the Papers from the Norman Nicholson Book Collection (NBK/115).
  • Two letters and a typescript poem in the Papers of Grevel Lindop (GCL/1/1/67), (GCL/2/3/2).
  • Five letters from Heath-Stubbs to Chris McCully in the Papers of Chris McCully (uncatalogued).
  • One letter from Heath-Stubbs to Adam Johnson in the Papers of Adam Johnson, AJP1/35 (uncatalogued).

However, the largest quantity of material is to be found in the Archive of Carcanet Press, the company which published much of Heath-Stubbs's work from 1978 onwards. This consists of correspondence and book files, that is manuscripts, proofs and other papers relating to the publication of specific books.

The catalogued section of the Carcanet Press Archive includes the following material:

There is also a considerable quantity of Heath-Stubbs material in the uncatalogued part of the Carcanet Press Archive; this is only documented in the form of accession records and box lists. Some of the correspondence may be subject to DPA closures and not all of the references in the box lists may be accurate, so anyone interested in consulting any of this material should contact the Library in advance. The papers, with their references, consist of:

Correspondence files:

  • 1972-1974: Accession 3, Box 200/19.
  • 1980-1981: Accession 3, Box 48/13.
  • 1981-1982: Accession 3, Box 194/2.
  • 1983-1986: Accession 3, Box 32/6.
  • 1985-1987: Accession 3, Box 237.
  • 1987: Accession 3, Box 266.
  • 1989-90: Accession 4-3, Box 9.
  • 1990-1991: Accession 5-2, Box 6.
  • 1991-1992: Accession 6-1, Box 21.
  • 1993-1994: Accession 6-3, Box 31.
  • 1995-1996 : Accession 8, Box 10.
  • 1996-1997 : Accession 9, Box 5.
  • 1997-1998: Accession 10, Box 4.
  • 1998-1999: Accession 11, Box 4.
  • 1999-2000: Accession 12, Box 4.
  • 2000-2001: Accession 13, Box 26.
  • 2002-2003: Accession 15, Box 5, File 4.
  • 2004-2006: Accession 17, Box 5, File 4.

Book files:

  • Thomas Gray, Selected Poems edited by John Heath-Stubbs (1981): Accession 3, Boxes 82/7 and Box 231.
  • Naming the Beasts (1982): Accession 3, Boxes 82/8, 165/5 and 168/8.
  • The Immolation of Aleph (1985): Accession 3, Boxes 61/5 and 179/3.
  • Collected Poems, 1942-1987 (1988): Accession 3, Boxes 78/2, 80/2 and 81/2.
  • Selected Poems (1990): Accession 3, Boxes 305 and 350.
  • Sweetapple Earth (1993): Accession 5-3, Boxes 8 and 5A.
  • Galileo's Salad (1996): Accession 7, Box 10; Accession 9, Box 47.
  • The Literary Essays of John Heath-Stubbs ed. A.T. Tolley (1998): Accession 9, Boxes 15 and 33.
  • The Sound of Light (1999): Accession 10, Box 16; Accession 18, Boxes 4, 6 and 8.
  • The Return of the Cranes (2002): Accession 13, Box 5.
  • Pigs Might Fly (2005): Accession 16, Box 12.

Literary papers of John Heath-Stubbs are also held by Leeds University Library, including manuscript and typescript drafts of poems, typescript proofs, correspondence, printed material, audio and DVD recordings and signed copies of Heath-Stubbs' books.


Anthony Curtis, 'Stubbs, John Francis Alexander Heath- (1918-2006)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Jan 2010; online edn, May 2010 [, accessed 7 Jan 2011]

University of Leeds Special Collections, Leeds Poetry 1950-1980, John Heath-Stubbs [, accessed 7 Jan 2011]