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Archive of J.W. Lambert


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Lambert's papers consist of correspondence and working papers, and had previously been annotated and sorted into subject files by his widow, Catherine Lambert. The correspondence (consisting of nearly 3,000 letters, mainly from distinguished writers, performers and politicians) has now been re-sorted into a single alphabetical sequence. The working papers include notes and drafts for The Bodley Head Saki and The Bodley Head, 1887-1987; manuscripts of articles, reviews, broadcasts and lectures, and a small collection of Lambert's own poems and short stories. Eighteen printed books and a quantity of printed ephemera which originally formed part of Lambert's papers were transferred to the Department of Printed Books and to the John Johnson Collection, respectively.


  • Creation: c.1935-1986


10.20 Linear metres (68 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

Most of Lambert's papers are currently available to readers, but some of the letters have been placed in a restricted category and are not available. The suffix =Res. indicates restricted material.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark, e.g. MS. Eng. c. 2289]

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Eng. c. 2289-2355; Photogr. c. 14

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 6888


Correspondence and working papers of Jack Walter Lambert (1917-86), literary and arts editor for the Sunday Times.

Biographical / Historical

Jack Walter Lambert was born at Forest Hill in 1917, the only child of Walter Henry Lambert, a marine surveyor, and Ethel Mary Mutton. He was educated at Tonbridge School, which he left in 1934 to become a journalist on the Electrician, before moving to the Newspaper World in 1937 and the Fruitgrower, Florist, and Market Gardener in 1938. In 1939 his Penguin Guide to Cornwall was published, and in the following year he married Catherine Margaret Read, daughter of Alfred Read, a gifted baritone from whose singing teacher Lambert himself took lessons. In June 1940, Lambert volunteered for the Royal Navy, where he served with distinction in the Atlantic, Arctic and North Sea, and was mentioned in dispatches in 1944. After the war, Lambert joined the Sunday Times where he became successively Assistant Literary Editor (1948-60), Literary and Arts Editor (1960-76) and Associate Editor until his retirement in 1981. He died on 3 August 1985, aged sixty-nine.

During his Arts editorship of the Sunday Times the paper was famous for the quality of its literary, theatrical and musical coverage, and employed such critics as Cyril Connolly, Harold Hobson and George Steiner. Lambert had a wide acquaintance in the world of the arts, and his correspondence reflects his many friendships and professional dealings with distinguished practitioners in the field. He also served on numerous committees, including the Royal Literary Fund, the Council of RADA, the British Theatre Association, the Arts Council, the Council of the Society of Authors and Opera 80. He was awarded the CBE in 1970 in recognition of his public service.

Lambert made many broadcasts on the Home Service of the BBC and latterly for Radio 3. (He was particularly well-known for the programmes the Critics and Critics' Forum.) He also wrote numerous articles and reviews, principally for the Sunday Times. None of these have been collected, although Lambert did publish three books after the war: The Bodley Head Saki (1963); Drama in Britain, 1964-73 (1974), and the posthumously published The Bodley Head, 1887-1987 (1987), which was completed by Michael Ratcliffe.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were purchased from Catherine Lambert in 1988, with the support of the John S. Cohen Foundation and the Purchase Grant Fund administered by the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Catalogue of the archive of J.W. Lambert, mainly c.1935-1986
Judith Priestman
Language of description
Script of description
Conversion to EAD supported by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom