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Literary papers of Elizabeth Jenkins


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Contains Elizabeth Jenkins' autograph manuscripts for several novels and biographies; and autograph manuscripts for shorter non-fiction works (essays and lectures).


  • Creation: 1962-1982


1.2 Linear metres (8 boxes)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 15051/1].

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

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. 15051/1-8

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 15051


Literary papers of Elizabeth Jenkins, 1962-1982.

Biographical / Historical

Elizabeth Jenkins (1905-2010), novelist and biographer, was born Margaret Elizabeth Heald Jenkins in 1905 at Brockton House in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. Her father, James Heald Jenkins (1875-1958), had established Caldicott School there the previous year. The school was named after Elizabeth's mother, Theodora Caldicott Ingram (1867-1948). Elizabeth had two brothers, Romilly Heald Jenkins (1907-1969) and David Caldicott Heald Jenkins (1910-1987). Jenkins studied English and history at Newnham College, Cambridge (though she did not receive a degree, as women were ineligible until 1948). After Cambridge, she settled in London; her father bought her a Regency house in Downshire Hill in 1939 where she was to live for the next fifty-five years.

Her first novel, Virginia Water, was published by Victor Gollancz in 1929 and though it had a favourable reception, Jenkins later found the work an embarrassment and sought to exclude it from her lists of published work (she would also buy and destroy any copies she could find). She wrote four novels and two biographies in the 1930s, working in the mornings at the King Alfred School in North London as a senior English mistress. Her novel, Harriet, for which she was awarded the Femina Vie-Heureuse literary prize, was published in 1934. Her biography of Jane Austen was published in 1938 and Jenkins became a founder member of the Jane Austen Society, established in 1940. During the Second World War, she left teaching for war work with the Assistance Board for Refugees, later working for the Board of Trade and then the Ministry of Information.

After the war, Elizabeth returned to writing full time and continued to write both fiction and non-fiction. She wrote biographies of Henry Fielding (1947), Elizabeth I (1958), and Joseph Lister (1960). In 1954, she wrote her best-selling novel The Tortoise and the Hare about a disintegrating marriage. She was a founder member of The Charlotte M. Yonge Society, established in 1961.

Jenkins' novel Dr Gully (1972) was based on the notorious case of the poisoning of Charles Bravo and she wrote an account of the case of the poisoner Neill Cream for a Reader's Digest collection of accounts of criminal investigation, Great Cases of Scotland Yard (1978). An interest in spiritualism led to writing The Shadow and the Light (1982) about the medium Daniel Dunglas Home. Her final novel, A Silent Joy, was published in 1992.

In 1981, Elizabeth was appointed OBE for services to literature. Her memoir, The View from Downshire Hill, was published in 2004.

Custodial History

The manuscripts for The Tortoise and the Hare and Jenkins' earlier novels were not preserved by the author (see Bodleian Library Record, Vol XXIII, no.4, April 1990, p.336).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated to the Bodleian Library by Elizabeth Jenkins, July 1988.

Related Materials

Bodleian Libraries

  1. MS. Eng. lett. c. 759, fols.166-168 - letters to R.W. Chapman from Elizabeth Jenkins concerning his work on Jane Austen, 1951, n.d.
  2. MS. Eng. lett. c. 780, fols.65-67, 188 - letters to K.M. Chapman from Elizabeth Jenkins, 1951, 1960.
  3. MS. 12052 - letters to A.L. Rowse from Elizabeth Jenkins, 1960-1993.

Cambridge University Library

  1. MS.Add.8900 - Femina Vie Heureuse Prize, English Committee, 1919-1940 [2 letters].
Catalogue of literary papers of Elizabeth Jenkins, 1962-1982
Finding aid prepared by Rachael Marsay
Language of description
Script of description
Catalogued with the generous support of the Roy Davids bequest

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom