Papers of John Fowles

Scope and Content

The collection consists of copy diaries c1949-1990, copy typescript and autograph correspondence (with index) and copy miscellaneous papers (draft typescript poems, diary of holiday at Ippedes, 'A nice day in the country: a private record' 22 June 1957, and other papers)

In a note written at the time of the original deposit at Exeter in 1992, John Fowles explains that he has kept a 'sort of diary' since the late 1940s. The early volumes were handwritten, but from the early 1960s the entries are typed. The diaries, called for a time 'disjoints' ('disjointed thought, notions, occurrences'), were kept erratically and were not intended as a complete literary or historic record of Fowles's life and times. However, Fowles is rightly aware of their potential value to readers of his work and he has also spoken publicly about their importance to him as a writer. He suggests the diaries contain self-truths not found elsewhere in his published writing and has indicated his wish that they one day be published. The entries are fragmentary records of events, encounters and observations which are best described in Fowles's own words as 'dabs of colour', or a 'clutter of mosaics' - Wormholes (1998).

Administrative / Biographical History

John Robert Fowles was born in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on 31 March 1926. He was educated at Bedford School, 1940-1944 and spent a year at Edinburgh University before entering military service with the Royal Marines, 1945-46. He went on to read French at New College, Oxford, receiving his degree in 1950. In 1954 John Fowles married Elizabeth Whitton, who died in 1990. He remarried his second wife, Sarah Smith, in 1998. In the 1950s and early 1960s, John Fowles worked first as a university lecturer in English in France, and later as a school teacher in Greece and London. His international reputation as a novelist was assured early with the publication in 1963 of The Collector, the success of which was followed by The Magus (1965), The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969), Daniel Martin (1977), and The Maggot (1985). In 1981 Harold Pinter's screenplay of The French Lieutenant's Woman was filmed with Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep in the lead roles. John Fowles has also published poetry, criticism, and written on historical and topological subjects, mainly about the South West of England. He has received a number of literary awards and honours, including an honorary degree from the University of Exeter in 1983. John Fowles lives at Lyme Regis, on the Devon-Dorset border.


The system of arrangement is as follows: MS 102/1 diaries; MS 102/2 correspondence, and MS 102/3 miscellaneous papers.

Conditions Governing Access

Restricted access: please refer to the Archivist for details.


Listed by Charlotte Berry, Archivist, 10 Oct 2003 and encoded into EAD 28 May 2004. Biographical history by Jessica Gardner.

Other Finding Aids

Rough handlist compiled by Jessica Gardner, Special Collections Librarian, in September 2002.

Conditions Governing Use

Restrictions apply on reproduction and quotation: please refer to the Archivist for details.

Custodial History

The original papers were held at the Library during the period 1992-1999, and were subsequently transferred to the University of Texas (Harry Ransom Center). However, copies were made and these are now held by the Library. These are the only known copies held outside of the USA.

Related Material

Other papers of John Fowles are held at the University of Texas (Harry Ransom Center), USA, and at Stanford University, USA.


Not known.

Additional Information

The original collection from which these copies were made is now held by the University of Texas.