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Papers of C. Day-Lewis [pseudonym Nicholas Blake] and his wife Jill Balcon

 Collection

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The archive comprises the personal correspondence of C. Day-Lewis and Jill Balcon; papers relating to the Poet Laureateship; literary papers of C. Day-Lewis (including posthumous material); business and financial papers; printed material; photographs; audio material; and objects.

Dates

  • Majority of material found within Bulk, 1928-2009
  • 1778-2009

Extent

9.3 Linear metres (66 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

English, some correspondence in French.

Conditions Governing Access

Material of a sensitive personal or corporate nature is closed.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish must be obtained from the rightsholder.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark, e.g. MS. 6681/1].
Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. 6681/1-58; MSS. 6681 Photogr. 1-4; JL 935-936, 952; MS. Cons. Res. Objects 76.

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 6681, 9417

Overview

The archive of the poet and novelist C. Day-Lewis [pseudonym Nicholas Blake] (1904-1972) and his wife, the actress Jill Balcon (1925-2009).

Biographical / Historical

Cecil Day-Lewis (1904-1972) was born in Ballintubbert, County Laois, Ireland; his family moved to England in 1905. Day-Lewis attended Sherborne School before entering Wadham College, Oxford in 1923 to read Classics. At Oxford, he met W.H. Auden, who became a major influence on his early work as well as a life-long friend.

Day-Lewis took up teaching positions after leaving Oxford and began to publish poetry. Along with Auden, Stephen Spender and Louis MacNeice, he became one of the influential young poets of the 1930s. He married Mary King in 1928 and they had two sons. Having a family to support, Day-Lewis began to write detective fiction under the pseudonym Nicholas Blake. The success of the Blake novels encouraged Day-Lewis to become a full-time writer.

During the war, Day-Lewis worked for the Ministry of Information and, in 1946, he began to work part-time for the publishing company Chatto & Windus. In 1948, he met his second wife, the actress and broadcaster Jill Balcon, daughter of the film producer Michael Balcon: they married in 1951 and had two children, Tamasin and Daniel. The family moved to Greenwich in 1957.

C. Day-Lewis was awarded a CBE in the 1950 King's Birthday Honours and elected Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford in early 1951. In 1964, he took up the post of the Charles Eliot Norton Chair in Poetry at Harvard and was appointed Poet Laureate in 1968, a role he held until his death in 1972.

Jill Balcon (1925-2009) was educated at Roedean School and studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama before embarking on a long and successful career as an actress and broadcaster. She became well-known for her radio work and was a great promoter of poetry, frequently giving live poetry readings (often alongside her husband).

Jill nurtured the legacy of C. Day-Lewis's writing after his death. She moved to a cottage in Steep near Petersfield, which she shared with the military historian Antony Brett-James until his death in 1984. Jill died in 2009 and was buried alongside her husband in Stinsford, Dorset.

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

Note on naming: C. Day-Lewis is used consistently throughout the catalogue unless given in quotations or used in book/publication titles. C. Day-Lewis consciously did not use the name Cecil when publishing. 'C.' and 'C' have both been used in published works, so following institutional guidelines, C. has been used in this instance. With regards to the hyphen in Day-Lewis, whilst this was purposely omitted for some years, it was reinstated towards the end of his life and has therefore been retained.

Arrangement

The collection as it stands largely appears to have been curated by Jill Balcon (C. Day-Lewis was known to be casual about retaining records) and many of the items have been annotated by her. The arrangement as far as possible reflects this original order. Correspondence has been retained in its basic original order (personal letters arranged by surname; poet laureateship letters by date; condolence letters without arrangement; and business letters by content). The majority of the photographs have been listed together in one series though many were originally among the correspondence and newspaper cuttings relating to the Poet Laureateship.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Daniel Day-Lewis and Tamasin Day-Lewis to the Bodleian Library in 2012, accompanying an initial literary bequest by Jill Balcon following her death in 2009.

MSS. 6681/17-18 deposited separately in 2013.

Related Materials

At the Bodleian Library:
  1. MS. Eng. c. 8238. fols. 51-53: Two undated poems by C. Day-Lewis.
  2. MS. Eng. c. 6829. fols. 66-68: Letters from C. Day-Lewis and Jill Balcon to Dame Cicely Veronica Wedgewood, 1968, n.d.
  3. MS. Eng. poet. c. 58. fols. 24-30: Autograph poems of C. Day-Lewis, 36 leaves.
  4. MS. Spender including MS. Spender 45: Correspondence between Stephen Spender and C. Day-Lewis, also Natasha Spender and Jill Balcon, 1933-2001. See also MS. 6647.
Held elsewhere:
  1. British Library, Archives and Manuscripts: C. Day-Lewis, collection made by the author of fifteen poems and some prose, 1964, Add MS 54199.
  2. Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin: C. Day-Lewis Collection, 1927-1971, Manuscript Collection MS-1095 (various manuscripts and correspondence).

Bibliography

  • Day-Lewis, C., The Buried Day, 1960.
  • Day-Lewis, Sean, C. Day-Lewis: An English Literary Life, 1980.
  • Stanford, Peter, C Day-Lewis: a Life, 2007.
Title
Catalogue of the papers of C. Day-Lewis [pseudonym Nicholas Blake] and his wife Jill Balcon (1928-2009)
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid prepared by Rachael Marsay
Date
2019
Language of description
English
Sponsor
Catalogued with the generous support of the Roy Davids bequest.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Contact:
Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom