Letters to Edmund Blunden
Comprises letters sent to Edmund Blunden from various correspondents (some annotated with name by Blunden), arranged alphabetically:
- Letters A-E, including: A.C. Aitken; Adrian Bell; Charles Bell; work by Frances Blunden; Wilfred Blunt; Ronald Blythe; Alan Bott; Margaret Bottrall; Vera Brittain; Peter Cadogan; Keats-Shelley Memorial Association; Richard Church; Leonard Clark; H. Clifford Smith; C. Day-Lewis; Walter de la Mare; Patric Dickinson; T.S. Eliot; D.J. Enright (with typescript poem 'Rice', 1953); Paul Engle; and Ifor Evans.
- Letters F-L, including: Joy Finzi; Heathcote William Garrod; Eric Gillett [= closed]; Robert Gitting; Douglas Grant (with autograph manuscript poem, n.d.); John Hadfield; Christopher Hassall; Geoffrey Lang; and Trevor Leigh-Hunt.
- Letters M-R, including: Harold Macmillan; G.D. Martineau; Hugh Macdonald; Sir Edward Marsh; Max Martyn; Stanley Morison; Richard Murry [= closed]; Hazel Napier; Harold Nicolson; A.D. Peters; William Plomer; Kathleen Raine; Neville Rogers; Alan Ross; and A.F. ('Tony') Rye.
- Letters S-Y, including: Siegfried Sassoon (with autograph manuscript copy of poems 'October Trees' and 'An Admonition' dated 1953); F. Cary Slater (with two typescript copy poems); Stephen Spender; Margaret Stanley Wrench; William Force Stead; Anne Tibble; Honor Tracy; Alec Waugh; Dennis Welland; Laurence Whistler; John Dover Wilson; and Ursula Wood (later Vaughan-Williams). Letter from Oliver Warner has draft autograph poem by Blunden beginning 'Not to drink wine' on reverse [n.d.].
- Unknown senders [one telegram, one postcard, one letter].
- Three letters from Edmund Blunden, 1946-1958, with draft review of two cricket books (by Bruce Harris and E.W. Swanton) .
- Three empty envelopes, two not labelled.
- Creation: 1945-1958
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Some material is closed.
Oxford, Bodleian Libraries,[followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 6493[.
Full range of shelfmarks:
Collection ID (for staff)
CMD ID 6493
Letters sent to and by 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.
These letters have been arranged alphabetically by surname.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Simon Rydings, 2010, via the Friends of the Bodleian in memory of Rydings' late father, Henry Anthony Rydings, Librarian at Hong Kong University 1961-1968 (a friend of Edmund Blunden).
- 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 letters to Edmund Blunden, 1945-1958
- Finding aid prepared by Rachael Marsay
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Catalogued with the generous support of the Roy Davids bequest.