Papers of Jean Hartley

Scope and Content

Jean Hartley's personal archive reflects her 30 year friendship with Philip Larkin and includes several letters from him, papers relating to her autobiography 'Philip Larkin, the Marvell Press and me', published in 1989, and correspondence with contributors to the Larkin Society newsletter 'About Larkin'. There are also some manuscripts and typescripts by both Jean and her acquaintances.

The collection includes Jean's personal correspondence, including numerous letters from literary figures such as Ted Tarling, Tony Harrison, Maurice Rutherford and a small number of letters from Philip Larkin [U DJE/1/10/1-8]. There is also a file of correspondence relating to the Marvell Press, including letters about 'Listen' and other publishing projects [U DJE/1/1/1-16]. Further correspondence relating to the Larkin Society and Jean's published books is organised within each appropriate series.

There is a large amount of material relating to Jean's writing endeavours, both published and unpublished material. There are some typescripts for short stories and an autobiographical text to supplement 'Philip Larkin, The Marvell Press and Me' [U DJE/2/1/1-6]. Pertaining to her published books ('Philip Larkin, The Marvell Press and Me' and 'Philip Larkin's Hull and East Yorkshire') there are contracts, correspondence as well as detailed notes on amendments to 'Philip Larkin, The Marvell Press and Me' following legal advice [U DJE/2/2/1-2/3/8. U DJE/2/2/2 is closed until 2064 under the Data Protection Act]. The collection also includes research material for 'The Wayward Girls', a documentary Jean Hartley produced for Radio 4, focusing on the experiences of unmarried mothers in the 1950s [U DJE/2/4/1-12]. A large bundle of unsorted fan letters is also held here [U DJE/2/6].

The collection also includes material relating to Jean's Larkin Society activities, which is arranged in subject files. The series includes further correspondence (mostly with Larkin Society members) regarding Larkin Society affairs including the Larkin Trail, Larkin in Context Conference and Birthday Walks [U DJE/3/1/1-11, U DJE/3/3/1-8].

Jean edited issues 1-6 of 'About Larkin' as well as jointly editing issues 15-16 and there are files relating to the production of each issue [U DJE/3/2/1-8]. There is some other Larkin Society material, as well as Jean's notes and correspondence on Larkin Society affairs and correspondence regarding campaigns regarding PAL's legacy in Hull [U DJE/1/3/3].

There is also material connected with television productions and plays about Larkin to which Jean and Maeve Brennan contributed. This includes scripts and newscuttings, and comments and some suggestions for amendments. There is material for 'Philip Larkin: Love and Death in Hull' (produced by Oxford Film and Television), 'Love Again' (World Productions), 'Larkin with Women' (written by Ben Brown), and 'Pretending to be Me' (written by Tom Courtenay), together with various other newscuttings. [U DJE/4]

The collection also includes a significant amount of material relating to Jean Hartley's close friend Maeve Brennan. This includes personal correspondence and material relating to her book, 'The Philip Larkin I Knew' [U DJE/1/3]. There is also material on the issue of 'About Larkin' which she co-edited, newscuttings related to television productions as well as material relating to her death and legacy. Much of this material is incorporated within other original subject files [U DJE/1/3/1-19, U DJE/3/2/7-8, and U DJE/4/1/1-7].

Administrative / Biographical History

Jean Hartley (née Holland) was born in 1933 and was brought up in Hull's fishing community on Hessle Road. She attended Thoresby High School and read voraciously as a teenager. Outside of school, she joined the Workers Educational Association and attended Richard Hoggart's adult education lectures at the age of 15 [see U DJE/ 1/8/3]. He would later become a keen subscriber to the Marvell Press and she met several of the authors (such as Frank Redpath) who would become friends in later life at this time. Her daughter Laurien, was born in 1951.

Jean and George Hartley had met in 1947, and became friends, due especially to their shared interest and books and short stories. They became a couple only later, in 1953. After buying a handful of cut-price literary magazines, George decided that they should start a poetry magazine in Hull. After dismissing 'Poetry Hull' as a title for sounding too provincial, they settled for Jean's idea of 'Listen'. Having written to Ezra Pound and received an encouraging rejection, they started publishing 'Listen' and quoted his reply on their leaflets: 'Congrats on showing a spark of life in your distressed area. Birdie no sing in cage. Can I serve you in any other way? Cordially E. P.' Already by the second issue, Listen contained poems by Philip Larkin, Donald Davie, A. Alvarez, Kingsley Amis, John Wain and others who roughly constituted the group that became known as The Movement.

Jean's second daughter, named Alison, was born in 1954, by which time she and George had married. They acquired a typewriter and founded The Marvell Press. Jean and George were particularly struck by the poems of Philip Larkin and when they decided to publish a volume of poems, George and Jean were united in choosing to ask Philip Larkin. He assented, his only reservation being that having just been appointed Librarian at Hull University he did not want a link between his life as a poet and his profession of librarian. The Hartleys reassured him there would be no local publicity.

When Larkin moved to Hull in 1955, the Hartleys became his first friends and most weekends he would cycle from Hull to Hessle to have tea with them. Larkin took an active part in the publication process for 'The Less Deceived', about the nuts and bolts of which the Hartleys knew very little. Since they had limited resources, the book was published by subscription. The book was a great critical success and gradually became a best-seller. Collections of poems by John Holloway, Anthony Thwaite, Donald Davie, W. D. Snodgrass and an expanded reprint of Ezra Pound's 1916 memoir of Gaudier-Brzeska followed at intervals. 'Listen' appeared between 1954 and 1962 with covers designed by Stanley Chapman, Patrick Heron, Henry Moore and others.

Impatient at hearing Larkin's poems read on the BBC's Third Programme by over-elocuted actors, in 1965, the Hartleys formed a recording company, Listen Records. They inaugurated it with an L. P. record of Larkin reading the whole of 'The Less Deceived'. It was followed by LPs of Robert Graves, William Empson, Thom Gunn, Larkin (reading 'The Whitsun Weddings'), Kingsley Amis and Stevie Smith.

By 1968, the Hartleys' marriage, never easy, became so strained that Jean and the girls left George and she enrolled on an English Literature BA degree course at Hull University, followed by a MA in Victorian Studies. Here her association with the Marvell Press ended, though Larkin remained Jean's friend until he died in 1985. She also remained friends with Maeve Brennan and many others from the poet's circle of acquaintances. After graduating she taught at Amy Johnson School, later lecturing at the Hull College of Further Education. Jean felt passionately committed to this work, as Hull College was where she and countless others attained the qualifications which gave them entry to higher education. It was while working at Hull College that she met Peter. They fell in love and lived together for more than 15 years.

Jean was also heavily involved with Ted Tarling's publishing efforts, and agreed to become Business Manager for 'Wave', which eventually ran for eight issues, and introduced poems by Joan Barton, Anne Stevenson and Frank Redpath.

Jean retired from teaching in 1989, the year that her autobiography, 'Philip Larkin, the Marvell Press and Me', was published. She was keen to tell her side of the story, feeling that she had been sidelined from accounts of the Marvell Press's association with Philip Larkin. Following from this first publication, in 1995 she released a guidebook, 'Philip Larkin's Hull and East Yorkshire', and over the years has led many groups on the walking trail that it contains. It was re-published and expanded by the Philip Larkin Society in 2005. In 1992 she also wrote a programme for Radio 4 entitled 'The Wayward Girls', which discussed single motherhood in Hull during the 1950s, informed by her own experiences staying at Sutton House (a local home for unmarried mothers) when Laurien was born.

Since the inception of the Philip Larkin Society in 1995 Jean has been a member of the Committee, and has edited the society's newsletter 'About Larkin' as well as holding the post of Deputy Chairman. In 2010 she was involved with Larkin25, the various celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of Philip Larkin's death. This has included substantial contributions to the planning of the Larkin Trail, based on her 'Philip Larkin's Hull and East Yorkshire'. The trail was officially launched by Jean on 20th April 2011 and takes in many of the sites where Larkin lived, worked and visited, and which inspired his poetry.

She received an honorary doctorate from the University of Hull in January 2011. Jean Hartley continued to be involved in the literary life of the city until her death on 18 July 2011.


U DJE/1 Correspondence and Subject Files

U DJE/2 Typescripts and material relating to publications by Jean Hartley

U DJE/3 Philip Larkin Society

U DJE/4 Philip Larkin media productions

Access Information

Some of the records in this collection contain sensitive personal information. In accordance with data protection legislation, records containing sensitive personal information are not available for public inspection for 75 years if the information relates to adults, or 100 years if the information relates to children. In some circumstances access may be granted for research purposes. To request access or for further information please contact

Access to all other material will be granted to any accredited reader.

Please note that we do not currently have accessible copies of cassette tapes; please contact us to discuss access at

Custodial History

Purchased in 2005, with the aid of a grant from the Friends of the National Libraries.

Related Material

Papers of Jean Hartley [U DX186]

Philip Larkin Society Material [U DX329]

Paper of Tony (Anthony John) Topham [U DTO]

Papers of Joan Barton [U DX340]

Archives of the Poetry Magazine Wave [U DP158]