Ruth Tomalin Personal Archive: Henry Williamson papers and connected publications

Scope and Content

The collection is comprised of personal letters from Henry Williamson, dating from March 1952 - August 1977 (48 letters). Also twenty-seven editions of The Aylesford Review, a literary quarterly in which both Williamson and Tomalin were published, dating from Winter 1957 to Summer 1967.

Administrative / Biographical History

Ruth Tomalin was a novelist, poet, journalist and long-time confidante of the writer Henry Williamson during the period 1954-77. Born in 1919 in Kilkenny, Ireland, she was raised on the Stansted Park estate in Sussex where her father worked as head gardener. Tomalin studied journalism at King's College, London from 1938-39. She was then a Land Girl during the earlier part of World War II in Bosham, Sussex. After working as a reporter in Portsmouth from 1942-45, Tomalin went on to join the BBC. In terms of her literary work, notable publications include: All Souls (1952), The Garden House (1964), Long Since (1989), Away to the West (1972), W.H. Hudson: A Biography (1982).

Henry Williamson (1895-1977), writer, 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 Aylesford Review was a literary quarterly published by St Albert's Press in Kent, the publishing house of the British Province of Carmelites. Other noteworthy publications by St Albert's Press include Fr. Brocard Sewell's autobiography, My Dear Time's Waste, in 1966. Fr. Brocard Sewell also wrote a history of the Press's development for the review publication Matrix.

The Aylesford Review describes itself as "not restricted to articles on specifically religious subjects; articles on contemporary philosophy, literature and the arts and current affairs are within its field of reference, especially when related to religion or the philosophy of religion". The first issue appeared in Autumn 1955. The publication printed of a number of pieces by Henry Williamson in 1957, and in 1960 Williamson offered to assist the publication, which was in financial difficulties, by allowing St Albert's Press to publish a five-chapter autobiography he had written (In the Woods) and retain the profits.

A number of notable writers were published in The Aylesford Review along with Tomalin and Williamson, including: Henry Miller, Angela Carter, Muriel Spark, John Cowper Powys, Rumer Godden, Edmund Blunden, Bernard Bergonzi, Fred Uhlman, Michael and Francis Horovitz, George Bowering, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Carol Bergé, Mary Lavin, Gregory Corso and Fr. Brocard Sewell. The publication also printed work by local writers Jack Clemo and Wrey Gardiner.


The letters are mainly in chronological order and numbered

Conditions Governing Access

Usual EUL conditions apply

Other Finding Aids

Box list available.

Archivist's Note

Catalogued by Sue Inskip, CLD research and list compiled by Genevieve Timmins, 29 Apr 2014

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL restrictions apply

Related Material

Tomalin's papers connected with her biography of the naturalist W.H. Hudson have been deposited at the University of Texas. Her archive on learning to be a journalist in the late 1930s is held by King's College, London.

The Henry Williamson Society Book Collection consisting of all published works of Williamson is also available for reference at Special Collections and is listed in full on the Library's online OPAC.

The following Williamson archive collections are held at Special Collections: EUL MS 43, 71, 74, 78, 91, 106, 111, 126, 239, 282, 356, 374 and 402.

Papers relating to Henry Williamson are also held at the following repositories: Dartmouth College Library, USA; Savage Club, London; Reading University Library; King's College London; Royal Society of Literature; and Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies.