Letters and papers of Edmund Blunden and family
The collection contains: A. Correspondence, 1918-1960s, mainly letters sent from Edmund Blunden to Mary Blunden, also letters sent to Mary Blunden and Mary Clare Ross from various correspondents; B. Family Papers, 1908-2004, containing commonplace books, scrapbooks, newspaper cuttings, various papers and correspondence relating to biographies, and papers relating to Mary Blunden; and C. Audio material, 1966-1987, containing vinyl and audio cassette records of interview and readings.
- Creation: 1908-2004
2.85 Linear metres (23 physical shelfmarks)
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Some material is closed.
Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark, e.g. MS. 6441/1].
Full range of shelfmarks:
MSS. 6441/1-23 (formerly Blunden 3-21)
Collection ID (for staff)
CMD ID 6441
Letters and papers relating to the poet and university teacher Edmund Blunden and his first wife, Mary Blunden (née Daines, later Cooper Keeble).
Biographical / Historical
Edmund Charles Blunden, poet and university teacher, was born on 1 November 1896 in London, the eldest of nine children. At an early age, Edmund moved with his family to Yalding in Kent. He attended Christ’s Hospital in Horsham, Sussex from 1909 to 1915 and he maintained associations with the school throughout his life. His last year was overshadowed by the First World War and he joined the Royal Sussex regiment as Second Lieutenant in August 1915.
Whilst Blunden survived the war, the experiences of trench warfare would remain with him for the rest of his life. He fought on the front line and was awarded the Military Cross in 1917. His poetry about the war created during these years (and perhaps even more so in retrospect), gave him familiarity to readers as a war poet and he is commemorated as such in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, along with his close friend and fellow poet, Siegfried Sassoon. Blunden’s prose work Undertones of War was highly praised though it was not published until 1930.
During the last year of the war, when on camp in Suffolk, he met and married Mary Daines (1900-1957) on 1 June 1918. Their first child, Joy, was born in July 1919, but died within a few weeks. Her death impacted Edmund greatly and he grieved for her for the rest of his life. Mary and Edmund had two more children – Mary Clare (1920-2011) and John Clare (1922-c.1984), both named to commemorate the poet, John Clare. Mary Clare, known as Clare, married Philip Sydney Ross (1918-1981) in 1943.
Alongside his literary activities, Edmund had started studying at Queen’s College, Oxford in 1919, though this was cut short, partly for financial reasons. He travelled to Buenos Aires on SS Trefusis in 1922 and two years later accepted the post of Professor of English at the Imperial University of Tokyo, a post he held until 1927. Mary and the children did not accompany him. Relations between Mary and Edmund declined during the 1920s and they divorced in 1931. Both remarried: Mary married Cyril Cooper Keeble (1905-1985) in 1932 and Edmund married the writer Sylva Norman (née Nahabedian, 1901/2-1971) in 1933.
Blunden's second marriage did not last long; shortly after the marriage was dissolved in 1945, Blunden married a young teacher and Oxford graduate, Claire Margaret Poynting (1918-2000), who shared his love of literature and cricket. They went on to have four daughters.
Blunden spent much of the 1930s and early 1940s in Oxford, having become a fellow and tutor in English Literature at Merton College in 1931. After another venture to Japan between 1947 and 1950 in a diplomatic role, Edmund returned to the Far East with his family in 1954, taking up the position of Professor of English Literature at the University of Hong Kong.
Throughout his literary career, which included periods working for various journals and newspapers (he became assistant editor for the Times Literary Supplement in 1944), Blunden published volumes on his favourite authors such as John Clare, Percy Shelley and Charles Lamb, as well as his own poetry.
Publically acknowledged for his works to literature, in 1951 he was made a CBE, received the Queen's Gold Medal for poetry in 1956 and was made a companion of the Royal Society of Literature in 1962. Upon his retirement in 1964, the family returned to Suffolk.
Though his health was deteriorating, Edmund Blunden was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford in 1966, a post he had to resign after two years. He died at his home in Long Melford in 1974 aged 77.
Envelopes, where extant, are filed after relevant letter.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gifted by Mrs Mary Clare Ross in October 2009.
Annotated printed books deposited at the same time have been transferred to Bodleian Rare Books (described as 'Blunden family collection' on online library catalogue).
- Barry Webb, Edmund Blunden: A Biography (London, 1990).
- Carol Z. Rothkopf and Barry Webb (eds), More than a brother: correspondence between Edmund Blunden and Hector Buck, 1917-1967 (London, 1996).
- Catalogue of letters and papers of Edmund Blunden
- Finding aid prepared by Rachael Marsay
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Catalogued with the generous support of the Roy Davids bequest.