Henry Williamson Papers

Scope and Content

The collection represents all the known manuscripts and typescripts of Henry Williamson's work, including a number of proofs.

Administrative / Biographical History

Williamson was born in south London and educated at Colfe's Grammar School, Lewisham. He fought in the army in the First World War and gained a deep sense of the futility of conflict as a result. He worked as a journalist for a short while before writing his first novel, The Beautiful Years, in 1921. This became volume one of a quartet, named The Flax of Dreams. At the same time he moved to North Devon and, in 1927, wrote there Tarka the Otter, the book on which his fame most heavily rests, and A Patriot's Progress (1930), based on his trench experiences. After Salar the Salmon (1935) he became an outspoken supporter of German reform and British fascism, which led to his being briefly interned at the start of the war. His postwar work, which is arguably his most important, is a cycle of fifteen novels entitled, A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight, which was completed in 1960.


The manuscripts and typescripts are arranged in order of final title, or, otherwise, working title.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for consultation

Acquisition Information

Henry Williamson himself gave the first series of his manuscripts to the University in May 1965. The remainder were obtained through a government allocation in lieu of inheritance tax in 1981.

Other Finding Aids

A short title guide is available

Conditions Governing Use

Usual University of Exeter arrangements apply


Many of the manuscript texts relate to published books