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Archive of Michael Sayers


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The papers comprise:

  1. Personal and business documents and correspondence
  2. Diaries and notebooks
  3. Writing projects
  4. Interviews


  • Creation: 1878, c. 1922-2015


12.45 Linear metres (88 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 12451/1].

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. 12451/1-88

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 12451


Archive of Michael Sayers (1911-2010), writer

Biographical / Historical

Michael Sayers was born in Dublin in December 1911, the son of Philip Sayers, a Jewish-Lithuanian immigrant and businessman with Irish Republican sympathies. He was educated at Cheltenham College, and briefly studied law in London, before attending Trinity College Dublin, where he studied French under Samuel Beckett.

After graduating he returned to London. He sent some examples of his poetry to T.S. Eliot, who was impressed with his work and commissioned him to write drama criticism for Criterion. While living in London, Sayers shared flat with Rayner Heppenstall and George Orwell.

Sayers had ambitions of writing for theatre, and left London in 1936 for New York, where he worked for theatre designer Norman Bel Geddes. In 1938 he married Mentana Galleani, daughter of Italian anarchist Luigi Galleani, with whom he had two sons, Sean and Peter.

Sayers went on to take up journalism for left-wing magazines Friday and PM and for the newsletter The Hour. Through the latter he met Albert E. Kahn, with whom he collaborated in writing Sabotage, The Plot Against Peace, Great Conspiracy.

After the Second World War, Sayers had some success in writing for television, including for NBC dramas, and his play Kathleen had a short run on Broadway 1948. However, his Communist sympathies and wartime writing brought him to the attention of the House Un-American Activities Committee and he was blacklisted. He left America for a period, first for London, and then for France.

In 1955 he divorced from Mentana. While in Paris he met American painter Sylvia Thumin, and they married in 1957.

While blacklisted Sayers wrote TV scripts for Sapphire Films as Michael Connor, including for The Adventures of Robin Hood, and wrote TV dramas under his own name for British and German TV, including The Walking Stick. Sayers returned to America in 1967, when he was invited to work on screenplay for Casino Royale.

Sayers died in New York in May 2010.


There was little evidence of original order in this collection, so the papers were divided into series that will create a usable order. There is a great deal of overlap between personal and business correspondence and documents, so these were grouped together. Diaries and notebooks all contain a mixture of notes and drafts for various writing projects, as well as other notes on Sayers’ day-to-day life, etc., so were grouped together rather than put with writing projects. Writing projects were arranged first by type of work, then by date of individual project. Interviews could not be fitted into any other series, so were given their own.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Private purchase from Sean and Peter Sayers. Transferred to Bodleian in two tranches on 16 June 2017 and 13 July 2017.

Catalogue of the archive of Michael Sayers
Finding aid prepared by Francesca Alves
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom