Malcolm Elwin Literary Papers

Scope and Content

The archive contains material deriving from Elwin's life as biographer, editor, novelist, publisher's reader, essayist, lecturer, cricketer and friend/advisor of writers and as such it has a rich seam of research interest. The most significant and relevant of his activities, recorded in this archive, were: 1) his period as editor of the West Country Magazine, of which the anthology he edited as The Pleasure Ground (1947) was an outcrop. 2) his 20-year spell as chief reader for Macdonalds. 3) his work, under commission from Lord Lytton, on the Byron-related material in the Lovelace Papers. 4) his work as selector, general editor and editor of volumes in the idiosyncratic Macdonalds Classics series. The Elwin archive also contains papers directly related to important writers of the 1930s to 1970s. These include letters to and from publishers over four decades from 1931 and with literary figures like Hugh Walpole, Edmund Blunden, Charles Causley, Graham Greene, Compton Mackenzie, Daphne du Maurier, Wilson Knight, Ernest Martin, Father Brocard Sewell, and Henry Williamson. Many of these, including Charles Causley, Daphne du Maurier, Wilson Knight, Ernest Martin, Father Brocard Sewell and Henry Williamson are already represented in the University's collections.

Administrative / Biographical History

Malcolm Elwin was born in 1903, the son of a Nottingham businessman. He was privately educated and became a student at University College, Oxford, but seems to have left without a degree in order to embark on a literary career. As that career progressed during the 1930s he corresponded with many of the figures of the literary establishment, some of whom are represented in the archive. Elwin lived in North Stoke, Oxfordshire, during his first marriage, but eloped to North Devon with Eve Conelly and her two daughters from her marriage to the American biographer, Willard Connely, during the 1930s. Elwin was a prolific biographer, critic and editor and his oeuvre included biographies of Charles Reade (1931), Thackeray (1932), de Quincey (1935), Llewelyn Powys (1946), and Robert Louis Stevenson (1950). He also edited letters from John Cowper Powys to his brother Llewelyn Powys (original letters now in Austin, Texas) and from Llewelyn to Gamel Woolsey, and books on literary criticism including popular Victorian literature (Victorian Wallflowers, 1934), and the Romantics (The First Romantics, 1947). Later in his career, he published perhaps his best-known work on Lord Byron's wife, Annabella Milbanke which caused enormous controversy in The Times Literary Supplement when first published in 1963 and for which he had exclusive access to the Lovelace papers. This was followed by Lord Byron's Family, Annabella, Ada and Augusta (edited by Professor Peter Thomson in 1975 after Elwin's death). Elwin's first book, A Playgoer's Handbook to Restoration Drama, was published in 1928, but his biography of Charles Reade (1931) is more characteristic of his oeuvre. As a biographer, he was never afraid of making judgments on his subjects. He also had a passionate interest in cricket. Having founded a famous cricket club, the South Oxfordshire Amateurs, during his residency in North Stoke, Elwin later played for, and became the historian of, the Devon Dumplings. Although Elwin transferred his cricket loyalties to the south west, he was all too conscious of his remoteness from the literary 'centre' during the rest of his life, spent successively on the coastal fringes of Parracombe, Woody Bay and Putsborough, North Devon.

Conditions Governing Access

Usual EUL conditions apply.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL restrictions apply.

Custodial History

Retained and partially rough listed by Elwin's step daughter