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Letters of Barbara Pym to Henry Harvey, with cartoons

 Single Item
MS. 9827
Held in our offsite storage facility

  • Request

Manuscript letters from Barbara Pym to Henry Harvey, dating from their time as undergraduates at Oxford in 1933 to the last years of her life. The collection also contains a series of pencil sketches of Pym and Harvey's Oxford acquaintances. In folder, with notes by Henry Harvey:

  1. Original card folder 'Barbara's letters' [loose at top of box].
  2. 'Batch 1' 1933-1936 (6 letters), beginning during her time as an undergraduate.
  3. 'Batch 2 (early 1938 to Helsington - Minna Carthgaten)' (5 letters) sent to Harvey in Finland, 1938. Written in third person.
  4. 'Batch 3 (May 1938-Jan. 1940) (9 letters)'.
  5. 'Batch 4 (1942-1952) (11 letters and 1 postcard)'.
  6. 'Batch 5 (1975-79) (3 letters, 5 postcards, 2 Christmas cards)'.
  7. '13 envelopes': 13 empty envelopes addressed to Henry Harvey, etc., from Barbara Pym; photocopy of letter from John Barnicot to Harvey, Mar 1933.
  8. 4 black and white photograph prints of Barbara Pym: three in garden with friends [c.1933-1936] and one in W.R.N.S. uniform, Aug 1944.
  9. Postcard from 1935; and printed copy of Pym's article 'A Year in West Oxfordshire', from Places: An Anthology of Britain by Ronald Blythe, 1981.
  10. 6 letters from Pym, and 1 postcard to her, 1934-1935. With envelope [loose in box] annotated 'found 1992'.
  11. Originals and photocopies of 'Oxford portraits': 10 pencil sketches by Henry Harvey, 1930s. Sitters include Barbara Pym, Robert ('Jock') Liddell, John Barnicot, Philip Hope-Wallace, Christopher O'Driscoll and Henry Harvey [one by Philip Hope-Wallace].

Also contains (deposited later):

  1. 2 cartoons in blue ink and pencil, of Henry Harvey lecturing and with Ronald Botrell and Arthur King. Artist unknown [signed 'Sigtuna'], c.1942-1943.


  • Creation: 1933-1981


1 box

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 9827].

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


MS. 9827

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 9827, 9828


Letters of Barbara Pym to Henry Harvey, with cartoons.

Biographical / Historical

Barbara Mary Crampton Pym (novelist) was born in Oswestry on 2 June 1913, the elder of two daughters of a Shropshire solicitor, Frederic Pym and his wife, Irena. She went on to read English at St Hilda's, Oxford, in 1931. Here she met Henry Harvey, with whom she maintained contact throughout her life, and was the inspiration for a character in her first novel, Some Tame Gazelle, written shortly after her graduation.

Pym spent much of the 1930s travelling and living in Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, before moving to Bristol to work as a postal censor during the war, and then as part of the Women's Royal Naval Service. Having never married, Pym continued to live with her sister Hilary in London, where she took a job with the International African Institute.

Her first novel ( Some Tame Gazelle) was finally published in 1950, as the first of six similar stories, but the success of this style waned in the 1960s, and her work ceased to be published. However, in 1977 she featured in the Times Literary Supplement list of most underrated writers of the twentieth century, and consequently had her novel Quartet in Autumn published and shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Pym was elected to the Royal Society of Literature in 1979, shortly before she died of cancer in January 1980.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Given by Henry Harvey, 1993.

Related Materials

Bodleian Library Special Collections:

  1. MSS. Pym 1-178 - literary papers, diaries, and correspondence, 1922-1979.
Catalogue of letters and cartoons from Barbara Pym to Henry Harvey
Finding aid prepared by Tilly Guthrie
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom