Portrait of Charles Causley and photograph of Charles Causley, Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Charles Causley (1917-2003): poet, teacher and broadcaster: head and shoulders portrait of the poet in pastel by Juliet Pannett (1911-2005). Charles Causley, Ted Hughes (1930-1998) and Seamus Heaney (b 1939): portrait photograph by Carol Hughes: the three poets reading submissions for the Arvon poetry competition, 1982, signed by the poets.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles Stanley Causley, poet, teacher and broadcaster, the only son of Charles Causley and Laura Bartlett, was born in Launceston, Cornwall on 24th August 1917 and educated at Launceston National School, Horwell Grammar School, Launceston College and Peterborough Training College. His father, a groom and gardener, died in 1924 from tuberculosis exacerbated due to gas exposure during the First World War, and Charles left school at 15 to work in a builder's office and then for an electrical company.

During the Second World War he served in the Communications Branch of the Royal Navy, as a coder, but with the exception of these Navy years, he lived in Launceston, Cornwall, all his life. After the war Causley returned to Cornwall and taught there until his retirement.

Although he wrote and published plays in the 1930s (Runaway, 1936 and The conquering hero, 1937) it wasn't until after the war that his career as a writer and poet blossomed. His poetry was heavily influenced by traditional popular forms such as folk songs, verses and hymns and he was considered to be the finest writer of ballads in English in his day. Equally influential was his experience in the Navy, which provided both the substance and the atmosphere for some of his finest poetry. His first and best known book of poetry, 'Farewell Aggie Weston' is a reference to Agnes Weston, the founder of sailors' hostels. The deep rootedness of his work in the Cornish landscape led to him being dubbed 'The Poet Laureate of Cornwall', and the depth and range of his work justified the title. He received a number of honours for his work including the Queen's Medal for Poetry (1967). He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for Literature in 1958, and received an Hon DLitt from the University of Exeter in 1977. He also served on the poetry panel of the Arts Council and, in 1986, was appointed CBE.

Causley was much admired and loved by his fellow practitioners and he is closely associated with the development of a strong regional identity for creative writing in the South West. He was also instrumental in securing the literary papers of Jack Clemo (EUL MS 68) and Frances Bellerby (EUL MS 50b) for Exeter University. He died on November 4, 2003, aged 86, and was buried next to his mother's grave in St Thomas' Churchyard, barely 100 yards from where he was born. In June 2007, Causley's house, Cypress Well, Launceston was saved for posterity, thanks to funds raised by a trust founded by the poet's supporters.

Macmillan published two editions of Charles Causley's collected poems (in 1975 and 1992). His other publications include:

'Hands to dance: short stories' (1951); 'Farewell, Aggie Weston' (1951); 'Survivor's leave' (1953); 'Union Street: poems' (1960); 'Johnny Alleluia: poems' (1961); 'Dawn and dusk: poems of our time' (1962); 'How pleasant to know Mrs.Lear: a Victorian comedy for women' (1964); 'Rising early: story poems and ballads of the 20th century' (1964); 'Underneath the water' (1968); 'Figgie Hobbin' (1970); 'The tail of the trinosaur: a story in rhyme' (1972); 'As I went down zig zag' (1974); 'The Puffin book of magic verse' (1974); 'Twenty-four hours' (1977); 'Here we go round the round house' (1976); 'The Hill of the Fairy Calf: the legend of Knocksheogowna' (1976); 'The song of the shapes' (1977); 'The last king of Cornwall' (1978); 'The Puffin book of salt-sea verse' (1978); 'The Batsford book of stories in verse for children' (1979); 'The sun, dancing: Christian verse' (1982); 'Secret destinations' (1984); 'Early in the morning' (1986); 'Jack the treacle eater' (1987); 'A field of vision' (1988) 'Bring in the holly: poems for Christmas' (1992); 'The merrymaid of Zennor' (1999).

Seamus Heaney (b 1939), poet, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, was born in April 1939, the eldest of nine children. His father owned and worked a small farm in County Derry in Northern Ireland. At the age of twelve he won a scholarship to St. Columb's College, a Catholic boarding school situated in the city of Derry, From 1957 he lived in Belfast, moving in 1972 to the Irish Republic, where he now lives. His poems first came to public attention in the mid-1960s when he was active as one of a group of poets who were subsequently recognized as constituting something of a 'Northern School' within Irish writing. His first book, Death of a Naturalist, was published in 1966. He and his wife, Marie Devlin, have three children. In 1995 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, 'for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past'. In 2001 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Literature by the University of Exeter.

Ted Hughes (1930-1998), poet laureate, was born at Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire, in 1930, the son of William Henry Hughes and Edith Farrar Hughes. He was educated at Mexborough Grammar School, having moved there in 1937, when his father opened a newsagent's shop. In 1948 he won a scholarship to Cambridge, and read English at Pembroke College before changing to Archaeology and Anthropology, graduating in 1954. At Cambridge he met Sylvia Plath (d 1963), whom he married in 1956. The year after his marriage his first book of poetry, The Hawk in the Rain, was published by Faber and Faber to widespread acclaim. A number of increasingly diverse publications followed, including childrens' stories and poetry, librettos and poetry. After a short period in London and the USA he moved to Devon in 1961. In 1970 he married his second wife, Carol Orchard, who survived him. He became Poet Laureate in 1984, and received the Order of Merit just before his death. He died in London in October 1998. By his first wife he had one son and one daughter.

Juliet Pannett, portrait painter, was born in Hove in 1911. She studied at Brighton College of Art in the 1920s and received her first portrait commission at the age of eighteen from Sussex County Magazine.

In 1934 Pannett was elected a member of the Society of Graphic Artists and began teaching at a girl's school near Crawley. From 1957 to 1964 she was Special Artist to the Illustrated London News.

In 1989, at the age of 78, Pannett was commissioned to paint the Queen at Buckingham Palace. She exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, and the National Portrait Gallery and was awarded an MBE in 1993.

Carol Hughes (nee Orchard) is the wife of Ted Hughes, whom she married in 1970.

Conditions Governing Access

Usual EUL arrangements apply.

Acquisition Information

Purchased via auction, 3 Oct 2005.

Other Finding Aids

Two framed items only.

Archivist's Note

Description created by Rob Ford, 30 Mar 2007. Updated 2 Oct 2007.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL restrictions apply. Copyright of photograph belongs to Carol Hughes. Copyright of portrait belongs to Juliet Pannett.

Related Material

See also: EUL MS 50a, MS 58, MS 132, MS 174, MS 192, MS 192 add. 1, MS 263, MS 357

Bibliography

It is not know if these items have been used for publication.