Papers of John Gawsworth

John Gawsworth (1912-1970), born Terence Ian Fytton Armstrong, was a poet, bibliographer and bibliophile who cultivated the friendship and championed the causes of many writers who he felt were unjustly neglected. He collected a vast literary correspondence much of which was sold as he descended into alcoholism.

This collection of his writings together with transcripts of much of his correspondence was salvaged by his friend and literary executor Ian Fletcher. Transcripts of letters from the following writers can be found in the collection:

  • Lord Alfred Douglas (1870-1945) 
    Best known as the friend and nemesis of Oscar Wilde, he was also a poet of the 1890s whose work was neglected in the 20th century.
  • George Egerton, pen name of Mary Chavelita Dunne (1859-1945)
    A writer of short stories and plays, she was born in Australia, but was much travelled, living in Ireland, America and Norway before settling in London. Her subject was the lives of working-class women and although very popular when first published in the 1890s her writing fell out of favour in the 20th century. Befriended by John Gawsworth in 1929 she corresponded with him until her death.
  • Havelock Ellis (1859-1939)
    Most famous for his seven volume work Studies in the Psychology of Sex, in the late 1930s he conducted a correspondence with John Gawsworth, transcripts of which, together with letters about Ellis written after his death, can be found in the collection.
  • Edgar Jepson (1863-1938)
    A writer of fiction including some supernatural and fantasy stories that are still remembered, he was a friend of Arthur Machen and corresponded with John Gawsworth in the late 1930s. 
  • Arthur Machen (1863-1947)
    Born in Wales, its landscape inspired his romantic and sometimes macabre writing. He worked as an actor and a journalist, often struggling to make ends meet. He moved to Amersham in the 1920s where he gathered round him a circle of faithful friends and admirers. One of these was John Gawsworth whose notes on Machen and his work together with transcripts of their correspondence can be found in the collection.
  • E.H.W. Meyerstein (1889-1952)
    A writer and scholar best remembered for his life of the poet Thomas Chatterton, he also wrote poetry and short stories and cultivated literary friendships.
  • M.P. Shiel (1865-1947)
    A writer of novels full of ‘frenetic vigour’, he was born in Montserrat in the West Indies. At fifteen he was crowned by his father as King of Redonda, a rocky islet nearby, and allowed his fictitious title to be perpetuated by his first bibliographer, John Gawsworth. Some of Shiel’s short stories, together with notes and bibliography by Gawsworth and transcripts of their correspondence can be found in the collection.
  • Bertram Warr (1917-1944)
    A Canadian poet of the Second World War, he corresponded with John Gawsworth and some of his poems and letters can be found in the collection.
  • Anna Wickham, one of the pseudonyms of Edith Hepburn (1883-1947)
    Born in Wimbledon, she spent much of an unsettled childhood in Australia before returning to England in 1904 to study acting and opera. An unhappy marriage stifled her creativity, her husband committing her to an asylum for the summer of 1913 after the success of her first published poetry. After her husband’s death in 1929 she became the centre of a literary circle in her Hampstead home and continued to write. John Gawsworth was enthusiastic about her poetry and was trying to publish some of it when she committed suicide.

More information

  • A handlist is available at the Special Collections Service or to download as a pdf here (172 KB)
  • A full description is available from our online database
  • Manuscript number MS 3547
literature correspondence, personal papers, literary manuscripts, art works gawsworth

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