Skip to main content

Archive of John Masefield


  • How to

The archive comprises:

  1. Autograph drafts and copies of published works, 1906-1967.
  2. Autograph drafts and copies of unpublished works and works printed in ephemeral publications, 1901-1967.
  3. Typescripts of published works with authorial corrections, [1911-1946].
  4. Typescripts of unpublished works and works printed in ephemeral publications, [1918-1964].
  5. Bound and unbound typescripts of published works, c.1909-1967.
  6. Galley and page proofs, 1905-c.1960.
  7. Miscellaneous papers, correspondence, and printed works, 1902-1968.


  • Creation: 1901-1968


7.188 Linear metres (135 boxes)

Language of Materials

  • English
  • Chinese
  • French
  • Spanish; Castilian

Conditions Governing Access

Some material is closed.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. Dep. c. 304].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

Dep. c. 304-340, d. 248-304, e. 95-140

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 21638


The archive of the poet, novelist and playwright John Masefield (1878-1967), Poet Laureate from 1930-1967.

Biographical / Historical

John Edward Masefield (1878–1967) was born in Ledbury, Herefordshire. After his mother’s death in 1885 and his father’s consequent mental health struggle and death in 1891, Masefield spent his early years with an uncle and aunt in the Herefordshire countryside. He attended Warwick School, before training as an officer in the merchant marine. While seafaring life was rough, he took delight in ships and would retain a lifelong infatuation for maritime endeavours and the sea, as expressed in his most famous poem ‘Sea-Fever’ published in 1902. Throughout the 1890s, Masefield joined voyages to the southern hemisphere, experiences he would draw on in his later narrative poems. He was no stranger to adventure, and in 1895, he jumped ship in New York to travel rough in the United States.

On his return to London, he began to write seriously while working as a clerk. Due to the popularity of his first collection of verse Salt-Water Ballads (1902) and an introduction to W.B. Yeats, he became a full-time writer and entered the literary world. In the following decades, Masefield continued writing and publishing verse collections, narrative poems, and drama. He also wrote adventure novels and children’s books, including The Midnight Folk (1927) and The Box of Delights (1935).

In 1903, he married Constance de la Cherois Crommelin (1866-1960), with whom he founded and organised the ‘Oxford Recitations’, a competition which encouraged the ‘beautiful speaking of poetry’ and ran from 1923-1929. Their daughter Judith competed in the ‘Recitations’ and wrote poetry of her own, while their son Lewis was a talented musician. The Masefield family lived in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, retaining connections with Oxford and its community.

Masefield was regarded a traditional English poet, relying on conventional forms and metres. In 1930, King George V appointed him as Poet Laureate although he declined a knighthood more than once. By the 1950s, his poems were taught in schools and he had received honorary degrees from universities including Oxford, Yale, and Harvard. He held the Laureate role humbly and diligently until his death in 1967. His ashes were interred in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey.

Further details are given in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.


The arrangement retains the structure of the original catalogue and is organised according to the type of content, such as manuscript, typescript, proof, etc. The files are arranged into seven series.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Deposited by Judith Masefield in 1968.


  • C. Babington Smith, John Masefield: A Life (1978).
  • P.W. Errington, John Masefield: The 'Great Auk' of English Literature. A Bibliography (2004).
  • J. Masefield, The Midnight Folk (1927).
Catalogue of the Archive of John Masefield
Original catalogue by unknown person/s. EAD version 2023 by Kelly Frost, Rachael Marsay and Charlotte McKillop-Mash.
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
This is the first edition of this catalogue. Further material will be added in subsequent editions as a result of ongoing cataloguing work.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom