Thomas Blackburn Archive

Scope and Content

The items in this collection relate to Thomas Blackburn's personal life, his career as a poet and his teaching career. Comprises: typescripts, autograph manuscripts and other papers relating to Thomas Blackburn's poetry (2 boxes); 60 notebooks (59 of which are numbered) containing Blackburn's autograph manuscripts drafts of literary compositions and lectures/teaching notes (4 boxes); typescript and manuscript drafts and other papers relating to fictional works including The Feast of the Wolf (3 boxes), critical works including his book on Robert Browning (3 boxes), autobiographical works including A Clip of Steel (2 boxes), and drama (2 boxes); papers relating to appointments and teaching positions held by Blackburn (1 box); correspondence of Thomas Blackburn with others (2 boxes); and family papers and personalia, including Blackburn family correspondence dating to 1893, and a dissertation on his work by Dominique Gatien (1 box). There is also an audio recording on reel-to-reel tape and a gramophone disc of Blackburn reading his own work. This collection includes some family papers from the Fenwick and Bainbridge families. The majority of items relate to Blackburn's early life up, to his death. Many of the notebooks, poem typescripts and letters date from his time in Leeds. The family papers date from before his birth. The majority of the personal letters appear to come from his later life and are most likely only able to give a fragmentary example of what, with some friends, may have been a lengthy correspondence.

Additional item added to collection Nov 2017: BC MS 20c Blackburn/5/1/84 Letter from Margaret Blackburn to Colin Huggett.

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Eliel Fenwick Blackburn (1916-1977), the English writer, was born in Cumbria. A graduate of Durham University in 1940 and a pacifist, after the war he taught at Marylebone Grammar School, then at two London colleges until his retirement at 60. He made his reputation as a poet during the 1950s, and was a Gregory Fellow at Leeds University in 1956 and 1957. He published 12 collections of poetry, 1 volume of verse translations (with others), 5 anthologies, 3 volumes of criticism, a novel, Feast for the Wolf , 1971, and an autobiography, A Clip of Steel , 1969. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.


This collection is arranged into the following subfonds (sub-collections) : Poetry Collections and Published Poems Notebooks and Other Poems Fiction, Criticism and Other Writing Appointments, Teaching and Educational Publications Correspondence and Family Papers

Access Information

This collection is subject to various access conditions. Please see individual catalogue descriptions for further details on access

Acquisition Information

The earliest part of this archive to be acquired was received from the author on 28 May 1964, but the vast majority of it was purchased from Miss Julia Blackburn (the poet's daughter) on 2 September 1987. Further additions were made to it by gift of Peter Owen, the publisher, on 16 May 1988, and by purchase from Quaritch/Neate on 31 July 1991 and from Huggett on 16 February 1994.


In English.

Other Finding Aids

Lists of parts of the archive compiled by Heather Parker are held with it in Box (b) 1.

Conditions Governing Use

Material in this collection is in copyright. Photocopies or digital images can only be supplied by the Library for research or private study within the terms of copyright legislation. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain the copyright holder's permission to reproduce for any other purpose. Guidance is available on tracing copyright status and ownership.

Related Material

'Special Collections and Archives at the University of Durham Library' ( hold the following items:
- Misc.1983:1 Thomas Blackburn Papers Typescript of A Clip of Steel , and several letters and typescript poems [1 box].
- Misc.1987:1 Thomas Blackburn Poems: 2 envelopes of typescripts.
- Misc.1988:2 Thomas Blackburn Papers: recollections of Thomas Blackburn and reviews of his works, and material relating to Mrs MacVean's edition of poems by him [2 envelopes].
- Misc.1992/93:6 Letters to Dr A.A. Evans from the poet Thomas Blackburn, ca. 1960-75, and typescripts of poems, with notes by Dr Evans about his association with Blackburn.

Additional Information

260 printed books from Blackburn's personal library (including copies of his own works, books presented to him with manuscript signatures, and other books owned by him, many with autograph annotations) form a related part of the collection and are shelved with the above.