Helen Waddell Papers

Scope and Content

Papers of the Ulster writer and scholar, Helen Waddell (1889-1965). The collection consists of notes, translations, holograph and typescript manuscripts of published and unpublished works by Waddell, c.1909-47, and an extensive series of correspondence with the critic and historian George Saintsbury (1845-1933), c. 1914-33. An academic of some repute and at one time considered the darling of Ulster, Waddell enjoyed a productive and successful literary career primarily concentrating on translation and medievalism. This collection of her papers stands as testimony to her literary output and process. Included can be found annotated drafts and manuscripts of some of her most important works including her first publication, Lyrics from the Chinese (1913), her seminal study of The Wandering Scholars (1927) for which she was awarded the A.C. Benson Silver Medal by the Royal Society of Literature, her play, The Abbe Prevost (1931) and the historical novel Peter Abelard (1933). Other series of Latin translations featured in the collection include incomplete drafts of her Medieval Latin Lyrics (1929), Beasts and Saints (1934), The Desert Fathers (1936) and her original workings of the posthumously published, More Latin Lyrics which appeared in 1976. An incomplete draft of the W.P. Ker Memorial Lecture entitled, Poetry in the Dark Ages which Waddell delivered to the University of Glasgow in 1947 is also present. Waddell's correspondence with George Saintsbury provides a complementary look at her career. Initiated in 1914 following their first meeting, they maintained regular contact until Saintsbury's death in 1933. The fruits of that correspondence bear witness to the strength of their friendship and admiration for each other's abilities with many personal and literary subjects touched on throughout the 324 letters that are to be found. The collection also includes a bound mock-up copy of an anthology of her writings (affectionately referred by the two as The Pig Book) that Saintsbury had compiled for publication. The preparation of this work is mentioned in the correspondence. The collection also includes a separate series of papers concerning Otto Kyllmann (d. 1957), a senior partner in Waddell's publishers, Constable & Co. These papers consist mainly of a series of letters received by Kyllmann during the period, 1900-57. A bound manuscript of the first edition of George Meredith's Poems (London, 1851), copied by an unknown hand, is also to be found.

Administrative / Biographical History

Helen Waddell (1889-1965), mediaeval scholar, poet and author. b. May 31, 1889, Tokyo, Japan, removing to Banbridge, Co. Down in 1900. Ed. Victoria College and Queen's University, Belfast and later, Somerville College, Oxford, where she was Susette Taylor Fellow. During her fellowship, spent 2 years in Paris studying the Carmina Burana and other Low Latin Goliardic compositions by the vagantes of the Middle Ages, the results of which were to form the basis of her major work, The Wandering Scholars (1927), for which she received the A.C. Benson Silver Medal by the Royal Society of Literature. Dedicated her life to the study and dissemination of mediaeval Latin literature and humanism, publishing, lecturing and broadcasting widely in her chosen field throughout her career. In addition to The Wandering Scholars, her best known works have been Mediaeval Latin Lyrics (1929), Beasts and Saints (1934) and The Desert Fathers (1936). Was assistant editor of the magazine, Nineteenth Century and received numerous honorary degrees. Suffered from a progressive neurological disorder from c. 1950. d. London, 1965.Sources:Women of Ireland: A Biographical Dictionary, Kit and Cyril O'Ceirin (Galway, 1996); Dictionary of Ulster Biography, Kate Newmann (Belfast, 1993)

Access Information

Open to consultation. Includes material in English and Latin


Description compiled by Clare McVeigh (RASCAL Project), entered by Deirdre Wildy, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

Hard copy catalogue available. Papers of Helen Waddell (MS18) compiled by Mary T. Kelly (QUB, 1981) is available for consultation in the Special Collections Office.

Conditions Governing Use

Subject to condition and copyright restrictions

Appraisal Information

This collection is particularly valuable to the student of language and literature through the availability of many of Waddell's original literary manuscripts, providing a unique insight into her methodologies and work processes, an insight which is heightened through the inclusion of her correspondence with George Saintsbury.

Custodial History

The Helen Waddell Papers were deposited in the University Library in 1979 by Miss Mary M. Martin of Banbridge, Co. Down, a niece of the late Helen Waddell per the School of English at Queen's University Belfast.



Related Material

Otto Kyllmann Papers