Papers of John Wain

Scope and Content

The collection consists of correspondence, photographs, poems, novels, plays, and broadcast scripts.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Barrington Wain was born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1925, the son of a dentist, and educated at the High School, Newcastle-under-Lyme. Ineligible for military service because of poor eyesight, Wain went up to St John's College Oxford in 1943 to read English. His tutor, C.S. Lewis, introduced him to the conservative literary group, the Inklings, although Wain remained on its periphery. His contemporaries included Philip Larkin, Elizabeth Jennings and Kingsley Amis, with whom he was later associated in a significant strand of post-war poetry The Movement.

In 1947 Wain married and moved to Reading to work as a lecturer in English at the university. As well as teaching he developed his writing, publishing criticism, poetry and fiction. Wain's first book of poetry Mixed Feelings was published in a limited edition at Reading in 1951 and in 1953 his first novel Hurry On Down appeared and was greeted with great acclaim. Wain also did some work for the BBC on the literary magazine programme First Lines which brought him into contact with new writing and other writers.

By 1955 Wain's health was precarious and his marriage was breaking down. He made the decision to leave his job in Reading and become a freelance writer, a way of life which he continued, producing a great variety of literary journalism, critical works, poetry, plays, autobiography and 13 novels, for the rest of his life. In 1960 he married again and settled in Wolvercote near Oxford and from 1973-1978 he was Oxford Professor of Poetry. John Wain died in Oxford in 1994 at the age of 69.

Access Information

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Acquisition Information

Gift of John Wain


This description was compiled by Gil Skidmore

Other Finding Aids

No finding aids are available for this collection

Related Material

Reading University Library also has a collection of books and periodical articles by or relating to John Wain, mainly donated by the author. From 1974 onwards John Wain's literary papers were deposited with and later purchased by Edinburgh University Library.