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Ivor Treby archive


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The collection comprises Treby's correspondence and papers (as selected and foliated by Treby) mainly personal correspondence with friends, including other gay writers, as well as working correspondence concerning Treby's research into Michael Field and his own poetry publications. There is a strong emphasis on his literary life rather than his working life as a biochemistry teacher. In addition, there are literary papers - mainly poetry, with some prose (including original manuscripts and audio recordings) as well as the original manuscripts of scientific textbooks he wrote; originals and copies of his art; and papers going back to the nineteenth century, including letters from the First World War period, from his research into his own family history.


  • Creation: 1884-2012


4.5 Linear metres (30 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

Some material is closed.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to copy material must be obtained from the rights holder.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Treby 5, fols. 1-2].

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Treby 1-27, MSS. Treby digital 1-17, MSS. Photogr. c. 555-558

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 9100


Correspondence and papers of Ivor Treby, poet, gay literary activist and Michael Field researcher.

Biographical / Historical

Ivor C. Treby (1933-2012) was born and raised in Plymouth, the son of shipwright Frederick Herbert Treby (1898-1976) and his wife Phyllis Hayes Treby (née Hayes) (1908-1975). Ivor Treby attended Exeter College, Oxford University as a student, studying Biochemistry, and subsequently based himself in London. He was a professional biochemistry teacher, latterly in Paddington College, which became the City of Westminster College. He took early retirement in the 1980s and dedicated his retirement to global travel (he would go abroad many times a year, favouring the USA in particular, and often travelling for long periods) and his literary life. He published his poetry under his own imprint, De Blackland Press, as well as continuing to submit it for publication to poetry journals as he had done while teaching. By the time of his death, he had around 400 poems in print in poetry magazines and journals internationally, and also gave public (and occasionally radio) readings of his poetry. In addition, some of his poems were set to music and performed.

A gay man whose formative years were spent during the period when homosexual life was illegal in the United Kingdom, he was out to his parents and also out to his colleagues at the time of his arrest for public indecency in 1977, a charge which endangered but did not end his teaching career. He considered himself a gay literary activist; many of his poems have a gay theme and he was an early member of the Gay Authors' Workshop, along with writers like Elsa Beckett and Kathryn Bell, who were lifelong friends and correspondents. He was also friends with numerous other gay (and gay-allied) writers, activists and historians, including Catherine Armstrong, Donald West, Rex Batten, Javant Biarujia and Mark Turner. He had an interest in gay men's experience in the twentieth century, ranging from a friendship with an elderly man who was a connection to Edwardian gay life, to Treby's own recorded memories of cottaging and bathhouses in London.

Treby also dedicated years of his retirement to researching the two Victorian/Edwardian women poets who wrote under the pseudonym Michael Field, becoming an established authority on the subject at the moment that interest in Michael Field was starting to rise. He researched and published the Michael Field catalogue: a book of lists (tracking down original manuscripts of Field's correspondence and poetry around the world) as well as multiple anthologies of Field's poetry.

In addition to his passion for travel, he was interested in classical music, opera, theatre and horror films and literature, and also a witty cartoonist, who embellished many of his letters and postcards with cartoons and speech bubbles. He also had an interest in his family history.

He died of cancer in December 2012, following two years of treatment.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bequeathed by Ivor Treby, 2012.

Related Materials

Additional Ivor Treby papers can be found at Bristol University (Ref: DM2610). The Bodleian holds a large collection of original Michael Field materials (MSS. Eng. poet. a. 2, c. 28-31, c. 33-40, c. 66, d. 54-112, d. 204-206, e. 60-85, e. 137-148, f. 18-23, g. 3-4; Eng. lett. c. 418-434, d. 120-121, d. 400-408, e. 31-33, e. 142-143; Eng. misc. b. 47, b. 191, c. 301-304, c. 653-657, d. 333-337, d. 973-986, e. 335-343, e. 941, g. 16-17; Eng. th. d. 37-38 ).

Separated Materials

Copies of Ivor Treby's books on Michael Field that were bequeathed with the archive have been added to the Bodleian Library's book collections.

The Michael Field catalogue: a book of lists (1998) Music and silence: the gamut of Michael Field (2000) Uncertain rain: sundry spells of Michael Field (2002)

Catalogue of the Ivor Treby collection, 1884-2012
Shelfmarks: MSS. Treby 1-27, MSS. Treby digital 1-17, MSS. Photogr. c. 555-558
Finding aid prepared by Charlotte McKillop-Mash
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom