Papers and Correspondence of Sydney Goodsir Smith (1915-1975)

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 237 Coll-497
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      English, and Scots.
  • Physical Description
      circa 25 bound files and folders; circa 12 separate letters; 2 separate pamphlet volumes; 1 separate file miscellaneous letters, poems and typescript; miscellaneous loose typescript Access to records in a fragile condition may be restricted.
  • Location
      Df.5.90/12-13; Gen. 784/9/29; Gen. 1733/108-109; Gen. 1752-1775; Gen. 1957/10-11; Gen. 1966/29; Gen. 2104/4/1-83; E96.12; E2000.15; E2005.27

Scope and Content

The collection is composed of: notebooks containing drafts of poems, 1932-1938, 1939-1941, 1944-1946; typescript of, and manuscript correspondence with notes by MacDiarmid, The refugees; four quatrains of poem For my newborn son, 1942, signed by Smith's son, Robin; corrected typescript of Gulls ride the storm, or, Agin black spats, 1942; Ishmael, or, Ye gods and little bitches, 1946; manuscript and typescript of The predicament of poetry today, 1948; signed proofs and copy of The wanderer and other poems, 1948; The carlin wife, 1949; notes for, galley proofs of part of, and page proofs of part of Carotid Cornucopius, 1947, 1964 and also letters from C. M. Grieve; manuscript of Carotid Cornucopius with typescript of preface by C. M. Grieve; author's typescript of So late into the night published in 1952; galley proofs and actor's prompt copy of The Wallace, 1960; manuscript, corrected typescript, duplicated script, and typescript with notes for screenplay Kynd Kittock's land, 1964; manuscript and corrected typescripts of The twa brigs, 1964; To Hugh MacDiarmid manuscript and corrected typescripts, and duplicated script with letter from G. Bruce, 1967; corrected typescripts, single sheets, and duplicated script of Full circle; corrected typescripts to Li Po; corrected typescripts of The little odyssey of Ou Tis; corrected typescript of The mask of Minos; corrected typescript and revised typescript of The rout of spring; galley proofs of Under the Eildon tree; corrected typescripts of The vision of the prodigal son and Said Heraclitus; translation of A. A. Blok's The twelve; working drafts of poems; letter to 'Dear Tommy' with typed article, A publisher of the nineties, 1938; letter to H. T. MacPherson, Dunfermline, 1955; letters to various persons about Burns and The merry muses of Caledonia, and proof of title page, 1955-1959; letters to Hamish Henderson, 1966; miscellaneous poems, typescript and holograph sent to C. M. Grieve, 1938-1943, also letters to Grieve enclosing typescripts of poems, 1939-1942, 1962 and 1964; and, letters to Stella Cartwright, 1969.

Material at E2005.27 is composed of three folders of material, containing: copy of The barrier of Scottish, copies of play The prince in Skye, various poems in typecript, foreword to collection of poems, copy of a letter to Maurice Lindsay, letters and accounts, letter of invitation from General Sir Edmund Allenby, and envelope of miscellaneous letters; copy of The bodach of Garbh Eilean, miscellaneous sketches and scribbles, graphic work and cards, envelope containing ephemera and cuttings, articles from Scottish field August 1962, and assorted cutting and review articles and letters from newspapers; envelope containing three obituary pieces in typescript, music, and printed poems. There is also an illuminated manuscript poem entitled Sydney Goodsir Smith: The eldritch sang in a paper cover which states 'by Roger Poole'.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sydney Goodsir Smith was born in Wellington, New Zealand, on 26 October 1915. He was the son of Sir Sydney Alfred Smith (1883-1969) the New Zealand-born medico-legal expert and Regius Professor of Forensic Medicine at Edinburgh University (1928-1953). The young Sydney came to Scotland at the age of two. He briefly studied medicine at Edinburgh University in the 1930s, and then studied at Oriel College, Oxford, from which he was expelled, although he did manage to graduate with the degree of MA in History in 1937. Due to chronic asthma he was turned down for service in both the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, but during the early 1940s his first poems began to appear, Skail wind 1941, and The wanderer and other poems 1943. Other poems and collections include The deevil's waltz 1946, Under the Eildon tree 1948, Orpheus and Euryidice 1955, Figs and thistles 1959, and Kynd Kittock's land 1965. Smith's first play The Wallace was commissioned for the Edinburgh International Festival in 1965. He experimented with a novel too, Carotid Cornucopius 1947. Sydney Goodsir Smith died in Edinburgh on 15 January 1975.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Dear Tommy letter, etc., acquired November 1965, Accession no. E66.33. Manuscripts and typescripts The carlin wife and Carotid Cornucopius etc., purchased K. D. Duval, May 1970, Accession no. E70.23. Letter to MacPherson, 1955, purchased K. D. Duval, December 1974, Accession no. E74.40. Holograph For my newborn son, purchased 1976, Accession no. E76.26. Typescript So late into the night, purchased May 1978, Accession no. E78.14. Poem Gulls ride the storm and misc. poems etc., purchased Duval, February 1981, Accession no. E81.16. Letters to Henderson, 1966, acquired April 1986, Accession no. E86.16, Accession E2005.27 purchased as Lot 148, Lyon and Turnbull, February 2005.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Thorne, J. O. and Collocott, T. C. (eds.). Chambers biographical dictionary. Revised ed. with supp. Edinburgh: W. and R. Chambers,1982. (2) Keay, John. and Keay, Julia (eds.). Collins encyclopaedia of Scotland. London: Harper Collins, 1994.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various references to Smith related material (check the Indexes for more details): an address by C. M. Grieve, 1963, at Gen. 1781; typescript with manuscript additions Three men make a revolution a poem in six stanzas, in an anthology Poetry in Scotland edited by Norman MacCaig for Poetry Review circa 1965, at Gen. 767/28/1, f.15; letter from C. M. Grieve, 1959, Gen. 1730-1732; letter from G. M. Brown, 1967, at Gen. 1779; mention in a letter of Marion, his wife, as sending a poem to Dame Edith Sitwell, 1955, Gen. 1730-1732; and, Christmas card 'from Hazel and Sydney' to Helen B. Cruickshank, at Gen. 1966/31. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission notes: correspondence and literary manuscripts, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, Ref. Acc 3477, 7298, 10397 NRA 29187 Smith, and correspondence and papers, 1923-1974, Ref. Acc 10281, 10397, 10426, and letters (13) to Hector MacIver, 1941-1943, Ref. Acc 5001; and, letters (11) to Cedric Thorpe Davie, 1948-1955, St. Andrews University Library, NRA 32979 Davie.