Arnold Bennett Papers

Scope and Content

The collection includes several hundred letters and postcards, literary manuscripts, and pictorial material. The manuscript of the novel Lilian and Bennett's Journal covering the period 21 September 1906 to 18 July 1907 are of particular interest. The latter has been published by Penguin. An important addition to the Library's Bennett holdings has been the bequest of Mary Kennerley, the daughter of Bennett's sister Tertia. This includes some 30 first editions of Bennett's works, most of which carry his manuscript dedication, a typewritten manuscript of The Peggy Stories written for children by Tertia Bennett, family photographs and most importantly a series of letters from Arnold to Tertia and her husband written over a period of 30 years. Recent deposits include over 50 signed first editions, letters from Arnold Bennett to family and friends including his brother Septimus and partner Dorothy Cheston Bennett; diaries, watercolours, sketches and photographs by Septimus Bennett.

Administrative / Biographical History

Enoch Arnold Bennett was born in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent on 27 May 1867. His infancy was spent in poverty, which gave way to prosperity as his father succeeded as a solicitor. From this background he became a novelist. His enduring fame is as a chronicler of the Potteries towns, the setting and inspiration of some of his most famous and enduring literary work and the place where he grew up. Bennett did not pursue a career as a writer until after leaving his father's practice and moving to London in 1889 when he won a literary competition in Tit Bits magazine. Encouraged to take up journalism full-time he became assistant editor of Woman in 1894. Just over four years later his first novel A Man from the North was published to critical acclaim, followed in 1902 by Anna of the Five Towns the first of a succession of stories which detailed life in the Potteries and displayed his unique vision of life in its towns. Between the end of 1903 and 1911 Bennett lived mainly in Paris. During this time he continued to enjoy critical success with the publication of many novels including The Old Wives' Tale (1908). After a visit to America in 1911 where he had been publicised and acclaimed as no other visiting writer had been since Dickens he returned to England where the Old Wives' Tale was reappraised and hailed to be a masterpiece. By 1922 he had separated from his French wife, but shortly thereafter he fell in love with the actress Dorothy Cheston and lived with her until his death in 1931 from typhoid. His ashes are buried in Burslem cemetery. Although Arnold Bennett never returned to the Potteries to live he never forgot the debt which he owed to his birthplace for giving him a unique setting for so many of his novels, a setting which he enhanced with his penetrating description of people and places. It is perhaps unfortunate that Bennett felt the 'The Five Towns' sounded more euphonious then 'The Six Towns', and thus relegated the town of Fenton almost to oblivion, but as a chronicler of The Potteries he assured for the district a permanent place in English literature.

Reference: Steve Birks, Arnold Bennett - Son of Stoke-on-Trent ( ).  Accessed November 2001


The collection is arranged in the following series: Correspondence, literary manuscripts, non-archival materials, Arnold Bennett Society, pictorial, miscellaneous.

Access Information

There are no restrictions on access to these papers. Viewing is by prior appointment.

Acquisition Information

This collection was acquired in a series of purchases and donations from different depositors from 1966 onwards.


English, French

Other Finding Aids

Listed to file level.

Authority records exist for Arnold Bennett (GB 152 AAR1929) and Tertia Bennett (GB 152 AAR1930).

Conditions Governing Use

There are no restrictions on the use of this archive, apart from the requirements of copyright law.


Further deposits may be made.

Related Material

A collection of Arnold Bennett documents are held at Hanley Museum in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Other papers are at London University, British Library, Manuscript Collections, University of Texas at Austin USA.


Published works about or using the collection: Reference: Bennett, Arnold The journals [of] Arnold Bennett (Harmondsworth. Penguin. 1971. 1984 ).

Published works about or using the collection: Reference: Phillips, M. and Potter, J. Septimus Bennett: Artist in Arms, A Sheffield Munitions Worker 1915-1918 (Durham, Pentland Press, 2001).

Additional Information

English, French