Papers relating to Welland's Owen research during the 1990s

Scope and Content

The material described in this section of the catalogue relates to DW's WO research and related activities during the 1990s. This was a period when he actively renewed his long-standing interest in WO, and - encouraged by the poet's nephew Peter Owen - began work on a book, 'The posthumous life of Wilfred Owen', which was to trace the great extent to which the survival of WO's reputation as a poet was dependent on the dedicated efforts of his friends and successors. DW began the book in medias res, with the period dating from the late 1940s-early 1950s, when he himself had been heavily embroiled in the WO story. To this end, he drew extensively on his own archive from that time; he rearranged some of his early papers into labelled files (listed in DSW/1/1), followed up some new lines of enquiry, and undertook two Mellon-funded research visits to consult the Blunden and Sassoon papers held at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, at the University of Texas at Austin. The papers listed here document all of DW's work on the book: there are extensive research notes (transcripts of original documents, with DW's own commentary) from his two American visits; correspondence relating to his research with WO scholars and others, including David Daiches, Dominic Hibberd, John Haffenden, Sir Rupert Hart-Davis, Peter Owen, and George Sassoon; most important is the manuscript of the only surviving sections of the book: the first, complete, section dealing with the period 1946-1948, and part of the second section which was to cover 1948-1951. To inform his writing, he attended a conference on literary biography, 'Writing the Lives of Writers', in 1995, and his papers relating to this conference are also included here.

DW's other main project during this period was a proposed book on English poets of the Great War, which he was to author jointly with Martin Taylor as a volume in the Dictionary of literary biography series; DW was to take responsibility for the sections on WO, Blunden and Sassoon. Work on this was broken off following Martin Taylor's death in 1996, but the archive includes correspondence and contractual papers relating to the project, as well as some work by Taylor on First World War poets.

DW also became active in the Wilfred Owen Association during the 1990s. Initially disappointed at not being consulted when the Association was set up in 1989, he subsequently became one of its joint Vice-Presidents in 1993. That year was a particularly busy one for the Association, which was involved in numerous events to mark the centenary of WO's birth. The archive includes correspondence, photographs, newsletters and leaflets charting the events and activities of the Association during the 1990s; of particular note is DW's correspondence with Peter Owen, the son of WO's brother Colin, who was also prominent in the organisation.

There are also some publications acquired by DW, including a number of early printed items by or relating to WO and Sassoon; it seems that during this period he began actively purchasing books to fill gaps in his personal collection, and there are a large number of booksellers' catalogues which reflect this activity. News cuttings and printed ephemera further illuminate DW's interests during the 1990s (and earlier): as well as articles on WO and war poets, DW also kept cuttings relating to the writing of biography and to literary archives and manuscripts.


Where there was evidence that DW had organized papers into files or folders himself, these files have been retained intact (notably the first series of correspondence and subject files, and some of DW's research files). The rest of the material, which was largely unsorted, has been organized into series based on subject or record type.