Letters to Percy Horton

Scope and Content

An extensive sequence of original letters sent by Walter Strachan to his friend, the artist Percy Horton, over a 41-year period; the final two letters in the sequence (/184-5) were sent by Strachan to Horton's widow, Lydia, after Horton's death in 1970. Strachan retrieved all of these letters either from Lydia Horton or the Hortons' daughter Katherine sometime after 1970. They represent the other side of the correspondence described in WJS/1/8 (letters from Horton to Strachan). Their subject matter is wide ranging, encompassing the many and varied projects and activities of both men, including Strachan's work as poet, translator, and expert on the livre d'artiste; there are also references to exhibitions attended and recommended, reading matter, politics and current events, and family news. For an indication of some of the specific topics discussed, see the detailed entry for Horton's letters at WJS/1/8.

The sequence includes some photocopied letters which were obtained by Geoffrey Strachan after his father's death; these comprise numbers /3, /31, /32-3, /35-7, /43-4, /45 (which is marked up with pen for printing), /53-4, /59, /61-4, 65 (which is a photocopy of a typescript poem by Strachan entitled 'Autumn mood'), and /66-8. Letter /58 refers to Percy Horton's portrait of Strachan's wife, Margaret, and is stored with a photocopy of a published version of Strachan's related poem 'Portrait-drawing: to Percy Horton'.

Many of the letters are undated; when Walter Strachan looked over them in preparation for writing his memoirs, he attempted to put them all in a chronological sequence and annotated some of the undated letters with speculative dates. Geoffrey Strachan subsequently added post-it notes to some of the undated letters with his own postulated dates. These notes (now removed) recorded dates for specific numbered letters as follows:

  • /2 Circa 1930?
  • /4 1930?
  • /5 1931?
  • /8 Early 1932.
  • /14 1933?
  • /17 Late April/May 1933?
  • /25 Walter Strachan's suggested date for this piece was 1935, but Geoffrey Strachan suggests it must be no later than 1932 due to a reference to his mother's illness (she died in September 1932).
  • /31 25 January 1936.
  • /38 1935, 1936 or 1937
  • /39 1934, 1935 or 1936
  • /60 1941
  • /140 1962/63?

A number of the letters are either incomplete or their component sheets have become separated; some of these have been reconciled, but those that remain fragmentary are as follows: WJS/3/1/5-6, /8, /10-11, /13-14, /16, /20-22, /26-7, /35-7, /39, /41, /43, /56, /60, /69, /74, /78, /80-81, /83, /85-7, /91, /95, /102, /106, /130, /135, /140-41, /143, /147-8, /161, /167, /172 and /182.

Also included in the file are: a large bundle of typescript quotes from Strachan's letters to Horton, apparently intended as notes for his autobiography (/186); a smaller bundle of typescript quotes from Strachan's letters to Horton (/187); and a large bundle of word processed, edited transcripts of letters from Walter Strachan to Percy Horton and Tom Jason Wood, made by Geoffrey Strachan for publication in Only connect... (/188).


According to his son Geoffrey, Walter Strachan filed his own letters to Horton in three batches, marked: "1929-1955: This is much of my life"; "1935 to 1952"; and "File 2: 1956-1970". The letters are now arranged in a single chronological sequence, although the order and dating of both Walter and Geoffrey Strachan have been followed.

Related Material

Horton's letters to Strachan, which form the other side of this correspondence, are included in the collection at WJS/1/8.