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Archive of Neville Coghill


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The collection includes a series of photographs, playbills, theatre programmes and letters relating to these performances, as well as production books for the other plays directed by Coghill - most notably A Midsummer Night's Dream, which he directed in 1945 for John Gielgud at the Haymarket Theatre, London.

A large proportion of the papers concerns Coghill's work for the Oxford University Drama Commission in the 1940s and his attempts to found a Chair of Drama at Oxford and to acquire a theatre for the University. His correspondence with members of the academic, theatrical and film worlds reflects his efforts to legitimise and establish a permanent home for drama in Oxford. Since he usually retained carbon copies of his outgoing letters, both sides of the exchange are in many cases preserved.

Coghill was Chairman of the Oxford Repertory Theatre and later a Curator of the Oxford Playhouse, which was acquired by the University as its theatre in 1961 after plans to build a new theatre were abandoned. A quantity of correspondence, Curators' minutes and financial papers relating to the Playhouse is preserved in the collection, as are letters and documents relating to Richard Burton's benefactions to the University.


  • Creation: 1930-1979


4.62 Linear metres (42 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Eng. lett. c. 798, fols. 1-2].

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Eng. lett. c. 798-809; Eng. misc. a. 32, b. 442, c. 1013-1022, d. 1435, d. 1437-1438; Photogr. c. 8-10, g. 5

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 14939


Papers of Neville Coghill, 1930-1979, Fellow and Tutor of English Literature at Exeter College, Oxford, and subsequently Merton Professor of English Literature.

Biographical / Historical

Nevill Coghill (1899-1980) was Fellow and Tutor of English Literature at Exeter College, Oxford, and subsequently Merton Professor of English Literature. A lively and unorthodox teacher, he reached a larger audience than most scholars are accustomed to with his modern English version of The Canterbury Tales, first published in 1951. He was also associated with the Inklings, the informal Oxford literary group centred on C.S. Lewis, whose other members included J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams. He was, however, best known as the most influential amateur theatrical director of the period, particularly for his open-air productions performed in college gardens under the auspices of the Oxford University Dramatic Society. For further details see the Dictionary of National Biography.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Coghill papers were bought, through Bertram Rota Ltd., from Mrs. Carol Martin, in 1986.

Related Materials

For a history of the Oxford University Dramatic Society, see Humphrey Carpenter, OUDS (Oxford &c., 1985). Coghill's involvement with University drama is described in chapter 7, 'The Coghill Era'. See also To Nevill Coghill from Friends, ed. John Lawlor and W.H. Auden (1966), and John Wain, 'Nevill Coghill', Dear Shadows (1986). A selection of Coghill's essays has been reprinted in The Collected Papers of Nevill Coghill, ed. Douglas Gray (Sussex &c., 1988).

For Coghill's prompt-book for the Burton-Taylor Dr. Faustus (1966), see MS. Eng. misc. c. 922.

Other material relating to OUDS and drama at Oxford will be found in the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library .

Catalogue of the archive of Neville Coghill, 1930-1979
Finding aid prepared by J. Priestman
1991, EAD version 2007
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