Black and white portrait photograph of Charles Causley, by Nicholas Elder

Scope and Content

Framed Black and white portrait photograph of Charles Causley, taken by Nicholas Elder, 1971. The photograph is part of a limited edition and this item is numbered 1/50.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles Stanley Causley, poet, teacher and broadcaster, the only son of Charles Causley and Laura Bartlett, was born in Launceston, Cornwall on 24th August 1917 and educated at Launceston National School, Horwell Grammar School, Launceston College and Peterborough Training College. His father, a groom and gardener, died in 1924 from tuberculosis exacerbated due to gas exposure during the First World War, and Charles left school at 15 to work in a builder's office and then for an electrical company.

During the Second World War he served in the Communications Branch of the Royal Navy, as a coder, but with the exception of these Navy years, he lived in Launceston, Cornwall, all his life. After the war Causley returned to Cornwall and taught there until his retirement.

Although he wrote and published plays in the 1930s (Runaway, 1936 and The conquering hero, 1937) it wasn't until after the war that his career as a writer and poet blossomed. His poetry was heavily influenced by traditional popular forms such as folk songs, verses and hymns and he was considered to be the finest writer of ballads in English in his day. Equally influential was his experience in the Navy, which provided both the substance and the atmosphere for some of his finest poetry. His first and best known book of poetry, 'Farewell Aggie Weston' is a reference to Agnes Weston, the founder of sailors' hostels. The deep rootedness of his work in the Cornish landscape led to him being dubbed 'The Poet Laureate of Cornwall', and the depth and range of his work justified the title. He received a number of honours for his work including the Queen's Medal for Poetry (1967). He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for Literature in 1958, and received an Hon DLitt from the University of Exeter in 1977. He also served on the poetry panel of the Arts Council and, in 1986, was appointed CBE.

Causley was much admired and loved by his fellow practitioners and he is closely associated with the development of a strong regional identity for creative writing in the South West. He was also instrumental in securing the literary papers of Jack Clemo (EUL MS 68) and Frances Bellerby (EUL MS 50b) for Exeter University. He died on November 4, 2003, aged 86, and was buried next to his mother's grave in St Thomas' Churchyard, barely 100 yards from where he was born. In June 2007, Causley's house, Cypress Well, Launceston was saved for posterity, thanks to funds raised by a trust founded by the poet's supporters.

Macmillan published two editions of Charles Causley's collected poems (in 1975 and 1992). His other publications include:

'Hands to dance: short stories' (1951); 'Farewell, Aggie Weston' (1951); 'Survivor's leave' (1953); 'Union Street: poems' (1960); 'Johnny Alleluia: poems' (1961); 'Dawn and dusk: poems of our time' (1962); 'How pleasant to know Mrs.Lear: a Victorian comedy for women' (1964); 'Rising early: story poems and ballads of the 20th century' (1964); 'Underneath the water' (1968); 'Figgie Hobbin' (1970); 'The tail of the trinosaur: a story in rhyme' (1972); 'As I went down zig zag' (1974); 'The Puffin book of magic verse' (1974); 'Twenty-four hours' (1977); 'Here we go round the round house' (1976); 'The Hill of the Fairy Calf: the legend of Knocksheogowna' (1976); 'The song of the shapes' (1977); 'The last king of Cornwall' (1978); 'The Puffin book of salt-sea verse' (1978); 'The Batsford book of stories in verse for children' (1979); 'The sun, dancing: Christian verse' (1982); 'Secret destinations' (1984); 'Early in the morning' (1986); 'Jack the treacle eater' (1987); 'A field of vision' (1988) 'Bring in the holly: poems for Christmas' (1992); 'The merrymaid of Zennor' (1999).

Nicholas Elder, photographer, was born in Oswestry, Shropshire, 1949. He studied photography and film at Plymouth College of Art and Design in the late 1960s. Several of his portraits are housed at the National Portrait Gallery, London, and at the University of Texas.

Conditions Governing Access

Usual EUL arrangements apply.

Acquisition Information

It is not known when this was deposited with the Fine Art Curator. Not on inventory prior to transfer to archive collections.

Other Finding Aids

One framed portrait only.

Archivist's Note

Description created by Rob Ford, 4 Apr 2007. Updated 2 Oct 2007.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL restrictions apply.

Related Material

Charles Causley's archive and library are held at EUL 50a. See also EUL MS 290, MS 317, MS 357. Early papers of Causley are held at the University of Buffalo, USA. A collection of letters to Ben Evan Owen are held at Reading University Library.


This photograph is featured in the catalogue 'Charles Causley: A Tribute from the Artists', which relates to an exhibition at the University of Exeter in 1987.