Letters from Norman Nicholson

Scope and Content

This series contains letters sent by NCN to his cousin Doreen Cornthwaite, charting their long friendship from the time of their first meeting in 1968 to three years before NCN's death. These letters are affectionate, informal, and often humorous, and they form an interesting contrast to NCN's more 'literary' correspondence with other writers. Doreen Cornthwaite became a close friend of NCN and his wife and, as this correspondence makes clear, NCN valued their friendship and was particularly grateful for Doreen's support during Yvonne's final illness and after her death. As well as arrangements for exchanging visits and news of family and friends, NCN's letters also include many references to his activities as a writer. He discusses his own publications, and (a particular concern of his) their reception and the reviews they received; those referred to include A local habitation, Wednesday early closing, Sea to the west and The candy-floss tree. The correspondence covers numerous other topics relating to NCN's writing career, including: his busy schedule of reading engagements, and his return to readings after a long hiatus during Yvonne Nicholson's final illness; numerous radio and television appearances; his receipt of various honours and prizes, including honorary degrees, the Cholmondeley Award for Poetry in 1967, the Society of Authors Travelling Scholarship which enabled him to visit Norway in 1974, a Civil List Pension for services to literature in 1976, the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1977, the OBE in 1981, and the publication of the Festscrhift volume, Between comets: for Norman Nicholson at 70 in 1984; his acquaintance with other poets (including Anne Ridler, Charles Causley and Irvine Hunt); and his thoughts on the work of other writers (including Irvine Hunt and John Fowles). NCN also makes some interesting references to his own archive: regretting his decision to destroy most of his literary manuscripts before realizing their value, he subsequently sold manuscripts to Northern Arts in Newcastle, and some of his archive (including letters from T.S. Eliot and Edith Sitwell) at auction.

In addition to NCN's letters, the correspondence includes a number of letters written by Yvonne Nicholson. There are also one or two further items which Doreen Cornthwaite kept with the correspondence, including a copy typescript of NCN's essay, 'Memories of the W.E.A.'.


Doreen Cornthwaite stored her letters from NCN in two folders. Originally they formed a single chronological sequence, although here they are grouped into bundles based on the year from which they date. The material listed in DCN/1/1-6 (dating from 1968-1976) came from Cornthwaite's first folder, and DCN/1/7-18 (dating from 1977-1985) were stored in a second folder. The majority of the letters were sent from Millom, Cumbria, and are typescript with handwritten emendations and autograph; where holograph letters occur, this is stated in the catalogue.