Papers of Howard Sergeant, including the Archives of 'Outposts' poetry magazine

Scope and Content


The most significant sets of correspondence are the files containing letters from other poets, 1945-1986 [U DSG/1/1-6] and the extensive correspondence between Howard Sergeant (and his first wife Dorothy) and his close friend Lionel Monteith, 1942-1989 [U DSG/1/30-36]. Files U DSG/1/1-6 contain letters from, amongst others, Kingsley Amis, Jack Clemo, Alex Comfort, Douglas Dunn, TS Eliot, Gavin Ewart, Ted Hughes, BS Johnson, C Day Lewis, Norman Nicholson, Ezra Pound, Siegfried Sassoon, Alan Sillitoe, Stevie Smith and Stephen Spender. There are also copies of poems by Charles Causley (from 1959) and Seamus Heaney (from 1983). The correspondence with Lionel Monteith covers their literary and personal lives, including discussion of poems, essays, short stories and articles they have written, the publication of the first issue of Outposts and its development as a poetry magazine, Sergeant's affair with Muriel Spark, the breakdown of his first marriage and his marriage to his second wife Jean. There is a single file of correspondence relating to Sergeant's attempts to recruit vice-presidents for the British Poetry Association in 1949 (including TS Eliot) [U DSG/1/20] and brief correspondence with George Hartley about Philip Larkin's recording of 'The Less Deceived' and setting up 'Listen Records' as a limited company [U DSG/1/24/20].

Poetry and fiction by Howard Sergeant

This series includes lists of poems written by Sergeant and published in poetry magazines over the years 1944 to 1987 [U DSG/2/1-2], as well as files relating to specific published collections, The headlands (1953), Selected poems (1980) and Fairground familiars (1985) [U DSG/2/4-6]. These files include manuscripts, typescripts or proof copies of the poems in each collection, with related correspondence with publishers, printers and fellow poets. Sergeant's early literary work is covered by a file labelled 'Whitewing series' and as well as poetry composed 1938-1940, this includes several short stories and an essay, 'Youth thinks of tomorrow', which prefigures his reasons for setting up Outposts and presents his view of the post-war world [U DSG/2/3] - this was published in the journal Plan, vol.11 no.10, October 1944 [U DSG/5/2].

Outposts Poetry Quarterly

Files are available only for issues 139-148, winter 1983 to spring 1986 [U DSG/3/2-11], containing typescripts of the poems published in each issue, correspondence with poets and reviewers, mock-ups, editorial pieces, book reviews and printed proofs. However there is a full set of published issues nos. 1-181, covering February 1944 to 1995 [U DSG/3/22-183]. This set includes the 20th anniversary edition (spring 1964) , 25th anniversary edition (spring 1969), the centenary edition (spring 1974), and the 40th anniversary edition (autumn 1983). After Sergeant's death in 1987, issues 158 onwards were edited by Roland John, who continues to run the magazine.

Anthologies edited by Howard Sergeant

This series of files makes up a substantial proportion of the archive and covers Sergeant's work as compiler and editor of the following anthologies: An anthology of contemporary northern poetry (1947) [U DSG/4/1]; The Cumberland Wordsworth (1950) [U DSG/4/2]; These years: an anthology of poems for the use of schools (1950) [U DSG/4/3]; Tradition in the making of modern poetry (1951) [U DSG/4/4-5]; A critical survey of South African poetry (1957) [U DSG/4/7-8]; Commonwealth poems of today (1967) and New voices of the Commonwealth (1968) [U DSG/4/9-47]; Poetry from Africa (1968) [U DSG/4/48]; Poems from hospital (1968) [U DSG/4/49]; Poetry from Australia (1969) [U DSG/4/50]; The swinging rainbow: poems for the young (1969) [U DSG/4/51]; Happy landings: poems for the youngest (1971) [DSG/4/51]; Poetry of the 1940s (1970) [U DSG/4/52]; African voices (1973) [U DSG/4/53-58]; For today and tomorrow: an anthology of poems for young people (1974) [U DSG/4/59]; New poems 1976/77: a PEN anthology (1976) [U DSG/4/60-61]; Poems from the medical world (1980) [U DSG/4/62-63]; The Gregory Awards anthology (1981) [U DSG/4/64]; The Gregory Awards anthology (1982) [U DSG/4/65]; How strong the roots: poems of exile (1981) [U DSG/4/66].

The sub-series on the two Commonwealth anthologies [DSG/4/9-47] includes individual files for the following continents and countries: Africa, Australia, British Guiana, Canada, Ceylon [Sri Lanka], Cyprus, Gambia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Malawi, Malaysia and Singapore, Malta, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rhodesia [now Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe], Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, United Kingdom, the West Indies and Zambia.

The majority of these files comprise correspondence with, and copies of poems by, contributors and potential contributors to each anthology. They are therefore a very useful source for tracing examples of the work of a wide range of international poets, from the well known and established (such as Margaret Attwood, Zulfikar Ghose, Wole Soyinka, Ted Hughes, Charles Causley and Ken Saro-Wiwa) to the obscure and unpublished. They can also be used as a means of studying the kinds of poetry being written in various Commonwealth countries during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Other items of note in this series include a leaflet about the reassessment method of literary criticism co-authored by Muriel Spark and Howard Sergeant [U DSG/4/14/1] and single letters found in various files from Norman Nicholson, J Redwood Anderson, Doris Lessing, Leonard Cohen, DJ Enright, Kwesi Brew, Dannie Abse, Al Alvarez, John Betjeman, Anthony Thwaite, Douglas Dunn, Gavin Ewart, Philip Larkin, Andrew Motion, Tom Paulin, Muriel Spark and Hubert Nicholson, amongst others.

Reviews, articles and lectures by Howard Sergeant

Manuscripts, typescripts, proofs and cuttings of book reviews, articles, chapters in books and lectures written by Sergeant have been collected into bundles and files spanning the 1940s to the 1980s. Some of these relate to specific journals, magazines and newspapers for which he was a regular contributor, including The Ayran Path, Britannica Book of the Year, The Elizabethan, and English. Sergeant kept a record of writings submitted for publication over the period 1959-1986 [U DSG/5/1].

Subject files

Files are available on different types of poetry and poetry movements (Concrete poetry, Imagism, the Movement, the Belfast Group) [U DSG/6/6, 21, 22 & 25]. There is an especially significant file on the Cornish poet Jack Clemo, which includes 15 poems or extracts of poems, letters from Clemo to Sergeant, an extract from a letter from Clemo to Charles Causley, and a script of a radio broadcast by Sergeant [U DSG/6/5]. There is a set of 13 files about the Gregory Awards, an award for poetry established in 1960, which Sergeant helped to judge up until 1986 [U DSG/6/8-20]. Other poets who acted as judges and from whom there are letters and reports include Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Peter Porter, Anthony Thwaite and Dannie Abse. A file on the Dulwich Group covers the running of the group in the 1960s after it re-formed [U DSG/6/7], and there are two files relating to Sergeant's visit to Canada in 1982, during which he gave poetry readings and lectures [U DSG/6/3-4].

Press cuttings

There is overlap between these scrapbooks and the series of reviews, articles and lectures [U DSG/5]. The main difference is that these press cuttings are principally reviews of and references to Sergeant's published work, rather than examples of the writings themselves.

Personal papers

Biographical information about Sergeant can be found in the 1987 pamphlet by his wife Jean, 'Howard - MBE - of Outposts', copies of his curriculum vitae from the 1950s and circa 1978 and an interview by Bruce Meyer [U DSG/8/5, 1-2 & 3].

Poetry periodicals

This series comprises 286 poetry magazines and journals containing poems, reviews or articles by Howard Sergeant, with some duplication of the material in U DSG/5. The periodicals span 1943 to 1987, and those for which there are a significant number of issues include Arena, The Ayran Path, Canadian Poetry Magazine, Contemporary Review, English, The New Beacon, Northern Review, Poetry, Poetry Commonwealth, Poetry Quarterly and The Poetry Review [U DSG/10/6-11; 14-30; 35-40; 43-52; 58-120; 152-156; 160-165; 173-187; 193-200; 212-225; 226-242]. The 1940s and the 1950s appear from this to have been Sergeant's most active period as a writer, although he was still publishing widely in the 1960s well after his appointment as a college lecturer.

Administrative / Biographical History

Herbert ('Howard') Sergeant was born in Hull in 1914 and qualified as an accountant. He served in the RAF and the Air Ministry during the Second World War and with the assistance of his friend Lionel Monteith, edited and published the first issue of his poetry magazine 'Outposts' in February 1944. Outposts is the longest running independent poetry magazine in Britain. Sergeant had been writing poetry since childhood and his first poem to be published was 'Thistledown magic', in 'Chambers Journal' in 1943. 'Outposts' was conceived in wartime and its early focus was on poets 'who, by reason of the particular outposts they occupy, are able to visualise the dangers which confront the individual and the whole of humanity, now and after the war' (editorial, 'Outposts', no.1). Over the decades, the magazine specialised in publishing unrecognised poets alongside the well established. Sergeant deliberately avoided favouring any particular school of poetry, and edited 'Mavericks: an anthology', with Dannie Abse, in 1957, in support of this stance. Sergeant's own poetry was included in the first issue of 'Outposts' (but rarely thereafter) and his first published collection, 'The Leavening Air', appeared in 1946. He was involved in setting up the Dulwich Group (a branch of the British Poetry Association) in 1949, and again, when it re-formed in 1960. In 1956, Sergeant published the first of the Outposts Modern Poets Series of booklets and hardbacks devoted to individual poets. During his lifetime he served on the Executive Councils of the PEN, the English Association, the National Book League and the Poetry Society, as well as on the panel of judges for the EC Gregory Awards and many other poetry awards and competitions. His work as a poetry editor reached far beyond 'Outposts', and he specialised particularly in Commonwealth poetry and children's poetry, as well as lecturing on how to teach poetry to children. Alongside his literary work, he had a career first as a company accountant, and then from 1963, as a lecturer. He retired as head of the School of Management at Brooklands Technical College in Weybridge in 1978 and received an MBE in the same year. After a gap of many years, he began to write poetry again and several of his anthologies date from the 1980s, including his 'Selected poems'. After his death in 1987, the editorship of 'Outposts' was taken over by Roland John.


U DSG/1 Correspondence, 1944 - 1991

U DSG/2 Poetry and fiction by Howard Sergeant, 1938 - 1986

U DSG/3 Outposts Poetry Quarterly, 1944 - 1995

U DSG/4 Anthologies edited by Howard Sergeant, [1930] - 1982

U DSG/5 Reviews, articles and lectures by Howard Sergeant, 1943 - 1986

U DSG/6 Subject files, 1959 - 1986

U DSG/7 Press cuttings, 1943 - 1983

U DSG/8 Personal papers, 1950s - 1987

U DSG/9 Miscellaneous, [1945] - 1953

U DSG/10 Poetry periodicals, 1943 - 1987

Access Information

Access will be granted to any accredited reader

Other Finding Aids

Entry in Modern English literature and drama subject guide

Conditions Governing Use

Sergeant family (in the works of Howard Sergeant only)

Custodial History

Deposited by Mrs Jean Sergeant, 30 January 1998

Related Material

Archives of the poetry magazines 'New Review' [U DP168], 'Phoenix' [U DP162], 'Reality Studios' [U DRS] and 'Wave' [U DP158]

Ts. essay 'On publishing a poetry magazine', by Howard Sergeant, with covering letter to John Fuller, 4 June 1962 [U DP151/5]

Letters from Howard Sergeant to Janice M. Green, 1978-1987 [U DX349]

Other repositories:

Poetry Library, Hayward Gallery [GB 1464]


  • Works by Howard Sergeant
  • Poetry:
  • 'The leavening air' (London: Fortune Press, 1946)
  • 'The headlands' (Putnam: Britannicus Liber, 1953)
  • 'Selected poems' (London: Fuller D'Arch Smith, 1980)
  • 'Travelling without a valid ticket' (Bradford: Rivelin Press, 1982)
  • 'Fairground familiars' (West Kirby: Headland, 1985)
  • 'A question of respect' (Bradford: Blue Bridge Press, 1986)
  • Other writings:
  • With Muriel Spark, 'Reassessment... pamphlet no.1: poetry' (London: 1948)
  • 'Tradition in the making of modern poetry' (London: Britannicus Liber, 1951)
  • Anthologies edited:
  • 'For those who are alive: an anthology of new verse' (London: Fortune Press, 1946)
  • 'An Anthology of contemporary northern poetry' (London: Harrap, 1947)
  • 'The Cumberland Wordsworth' (London: Williams & Northgate, 1950)
  • 'These years: an anthology of contemporary poetry' (Leeds: EJ Arnold, 1950)
  • With Robert Conquest & Michael Hamburger, 'New poems 1953: a PEN anthology' (London: Michael Joseph, 1953)
  • 'John Milton: a selection of poems' (London: Gray Walls Press, 1953)
  • With GM Miller, 'A critical survey of South African poetry in English' (Cape Town/Amsterdam: AA Balkema, 1957)
  • With Dannie Abse, 'Mavericks: an anthology' (London: Editions Poetry and Poverty, 1957)
  • 'Commonwealth poems of today' (London: English Association, 1967)
  • 'New voices of the Commonwealth' (London: Evans, 1968)
  • With Jean Sergeant, 'Poems from hospital' (London: Allen & Unwin, 1968)
  • 'Pergamon Poets 2: Poetry from Africa' (Oxford: Pergamon, 1968)
  • 'The swinging rainbow: poems for the young' (London: Evans, 1969)
  • 'Pergamon Poets 6: Poetry from Australia' (Oxford: Pergamon, 1969)
  • 'Pergamon Poets 9: Poetry from India' (Oxford: Pergamon, 1970)
  • 'Poetry of the 1940s' (London: Longman, 1970)
  • With Desmond Clover, 'Happy landings: poems for the youngest' (London: Evans, 1971)
  • 'Evans book of children's verse' (London: Evans, 1972)
  • 'African voices' (London: Evans, 1973)
  • 'For today and tomorrow: an anthology of poems for young people' (London: Evans, 1974)
  • 'New poems: a PEN anthology of contemporary poetry' (London: Hutchinson, 1976)
  • 'Poetry South East: an anthology of new poetry' (Southborough: South East Arts Association, 1976)
  • With May Ivimy, 'Candles and lamps: a selection of poems by members of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists' (Walton-on-Thames: Outposts Publications, 1979)
  • 'Poems from the medical world: a Falcon House anthology' (Lancaster: MTP Press, 1980)
  • 'How strong the roots: poems of exile' (London: Evans, 1981)
  • With Peter Porter, 'The Gregory awards 1980' (London: Secker & Warburg, 1981)
  • With Anthony Thwaite, 'The Gregory awards anthology 1981 - 1982' (Manchester: Carcanet New Press for the Society fo Authors, 1982)
  • With Barry Trapnell, 'Independent voices: an anthology of poems selected from the work of students at schools of the Headmasters Conference' (Walton-on-Thames: Outposts Publications, 1983)
  • With Barry Trapnell, 'Independent voices II: an anthology of poems selected from the work of students at schools of the Headmasters Conference' (Walton-on-Thames: Outposts Publications, 1984)
  • With John Fuller, 'The Gregory poems 1983 - 1984' (London: Salamander Press for the Society of Authors, 1985)
  • With KW Gransden, 'The Gregory poems 1985 - 1986' (Harmondsworth: Penguin/Salamander Press for the Society of Authors, 1987)
  • Works about Howard Sergeant:
  • Rhiannon Martyn, 'The archive of Howard Sergeant MBE: its arrangement and the creation of a finding aid' (MA, Loughborough University, 1995)
  • Bruce Meyer, 'Sergeant of Outposts: one editor's role in post World War II British poetry' (DPhil, McMaster University, 1988)
  • Jean Sergeant, 'Howard Sergeant MBE, of Outposts' (National Poetry Foundation, 1987)