Poems and letters of Edmund Blunden
Comprises seven folders of poems and letters containing:
- Letters to Derek and Audrey Hirst from Edmund and Claire Blunden, Hong Kong, 1953-1955 [the Hirsts were living in the Blundens' house in Tonbridge] relating to house, family and cricket news; with letter from the Scottish Association for the Speaking of Verse ; and letter from [E] Pickering-Clarke, n.d. [closed].
- 'Some Early Poems': autograph manuscript poems, mostly fair-copy with some amendments, marked up for the printer, many mounted on backing-sheets, [n.d., 1916-1920]. With list of contents. Also includes annotated newspaper cutting of review of Barry Webb's biography of Edmund Blunden from the Sunday Times, 2 Dec 1990; and fragment of envelope addressed to Wm Attree, Westhill Lodge, Brighton, 27 Mar 1839.
- 'The Poems of Edmund Blunden. Cobden-Sanderson Ltd.': autograph manuscript poems, mostly fair copy with some amendments and title page and preface marked up for the printer [1916-c.1929, published 1930].
- 'Poems': autograph manuscript poems, lightly amended and marked up for the printer [c.1919-1929].
- 'English Poems By Edmund Blunden. Richard Cobden-Sanderson... 1925': autograph manuscript poems, lightly amended and marked up for the printer [c.1925].
- Autograph manuscript poems 'My Window' [published 1930] and 'Return of the Native' [dated Ypres, 1929].
- Autograph manuscript poems, mainly fair copy, lightly amended (many written on 'scrap' paper including various letters, one with poem 'To A Friend' by 'S.H.' and one with prose on Dryden and the sublime, both in 19th century hand, and one with list of expenses for Jan 1841, on reverse), with various poems to Claire [c.1939-1944] and list by Edmund Blunden of 'Poetical Pieces written or gathered since the Macmillan volume' [Nov 1942].
- Creation: 1839-1990
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Some material is closed.
Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 6492].
Collection ID (for staff)
CMD ID 6492
Manuscript poems and 25 letters of Edmund Blunden (1896-1974), poet and university teacher.
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.
The poems and letters were originally arranged in a green compartmentalised file ('Seven-in-One File') entitled 'E.B. Poems / mainly fair copies'. The seven folders correspond to the divisions in the original file.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
This collection was purchased by the Bodleian Library in 2010.
- Carol Z. Rothkopf and Barry Webb (eds), More than a brother: correspondence between Edmund Blunden and Hector Buck, 1917-1967 (London, 1996).
- Barry Webb, Edmund Blunden: A Biography (London, 1990).
- Catalogue of poems and letters 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.