Papers of Hubert Nicholson

Scope and Content

This is a small archive, which contains drafts and proofs, although mostly proofs, of Nicholson's poetry, fiction and other writings, mostly literary criticism, auto-biography and a couple of examples of Nicholson's work for stage. Some of the drafts are handwritten, although most are typewritten and varying in date from across Nicholson's literary career. A few items shed light on Nicholson and his associates' social life in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s [U DNI/2/5, U DNI/3/3] and reference other notable writers such as Edith Sitwell, T.S. Eliot, Henry Miller and F.R. Leavis. However, perhaps the most valuable item in the entire collection is U DNI/3/5; a collection of Nicholson's notebooks, which cover topics as wide ranging as literary criticism, discussion of language construction and everyday observations, and includes quotes Nicholson, for varying reasons, considered noteworthy, details of Nicholson's dreams and outings he went on, and, in a few instances, what appear to be initial drafts of later fully formed works.

The deposit also includes some intriguing correspondence between Nicholson, the University of Hull Drama Department and the BBC concerning the possible adaptation of what Nicholson describes, perhaps out of necessity, as his best novel 'Sunk Island' [U DNI/4/1]. The correspondence reveals the difficulty inherent in adapting a novel for the small screen, especially one of most localised interest and by a somewhat marginal author, in terms of the level of negotiation required and the nature of that negotiation. The correspondence sheds light on the affect the BBC's budgetary limitation has upon its ability to produce certain works for the small screen, and the level of re-working of the original required to bring it to fruition. The correspondence indicates that the attempt was a failure. An interesting sub-text to this correspondence concerns the state of the University of Hull at that time. The rest of the correspondence is of both a personal and business nature, however is perhaps most noteworthy for the correspondents themselves who include: Philip Oakes, Gerald Long and John Bishop. There is some discussion of the publishing industry and the difficulties inherent in getting work published.

However, the bulk of this collection is taken up by published works. The poetry appears in both periodicals and published collections. There is evidence in U DNI/5/1/24 of Nicholson's ability to impersonate the works of other well-known poets in ironic or humorous ways. Perhaps the most noteworthy item is U DNI/5/1/31; a limited and signed edition of one of Nicholson's few attempts at lengthier verse, 'Monody'. The works of fiction are again represented by both periodicals and published works. Included is an oddity in the form of a Dutch translation of 'Sunk Island' as published by Pax (U DNI/5/2/11) The other writing includes both editions of his acclaimed autobiography relating to the 1920s and 1930s, 'Half My Days and Nights', of which the accounts [U DNI/2/5, U DNI/3/3] make a useful accompaniment, however perhaps the most interesting item is the file containing the documents concerning an interview article Nicholson conducted with T.S. Eliot, who is revealed, by Eliot's own admission, to be mellowing in later life, at least when compared with the man who wrote the vitriolic 'The Waste Land'.

Finally, the collection also contains a fairly comprehensive collection of reviews written about Nicholson's work, both fictional and poetic, and a noteworthy curiosity, which details a meeting of the Languard Literary Review, a group of amateur writings, at which Nicholson was a visiting lecturer.

Administrative / Biographical History

The journalist, poet and novelist Hubert Nicholson was born in Hull on 23rd January 1908 and worked on several provincial newspapers, including the Hull-based Eastern Morning News, before moving to London to work in Fleet Street. He joined Reuters after the war as a senior sub-editor, retiring in 1968. His first collection of poems to appear in print was "Date" (1935) and he continued to write poetry until late in life, publishing his Selected poems 1930-1980 in 1981. He also began writing novels in the 1930s, beginning with "Face your lover" (1935). His last novel, "Late light", appeared in 1987. He founded the Epsom Poetry Group in 1950 and was literary executor to the poet ASJ Tessimond (there are no papers relating to Tessimond amongst these papers). His autobiography of life in artistic and literary circles in London in the 1920s and 1930s, "Half my days and nights" (1941), was reprinted in 1983 to favourable reviews. His literary output included over 30 books, including poetry, novels, criticism and plays. He died on 11 January 1996 aged 87.


U DNI/1 Drafts and working papers: poetry, 1932-1985

U DNI/2 Drafts and working papers: fiction, 1944-1971

U DNI/3 Drafts and working papers: other writing, 1947-[1986]

U DNI/4 Correspondence, 1958-1988

U DNI/5 Published works, 1932-1988

U DNI/6 Press cuttings and reviews about Hubert Nicholson's work, 1954-1956

U DNI/7 Miscellaneous, 1948-[1985]

Access Information

Access will be granted to any accredited reader

Custodial History

The literary manuscripts and personal papers were acquired after Nicholson's death in 1996

Related Material

A small set of typescript poems, letters to Barbara Elsdale and obituaries are also held [U DP/205].