To mark the release of a Stand magazine Special Edition on Geoffrey Hill, we explore his literary archive
The Geoffrey Hill literary archive is one of the treasures of Special Collections. This near complete record of Hill’s work covers his creative output from the 1940s up to the 2007 collection ‘A Treatise of Civil Power’.
The archive is remarkable not only for its range, but for the detail and evidential value of the material. Nearly 70 notebooks show the minutiae of the research and drafting behind Hill’s poetry. A single poem could be revised many times over several years (and notebooks), before taking on its final form.
Other parts of the archive document Hill’s teaching work at the Universities of Leeds, Cambridge and Boston. Detailed correspondence with publishers, universities, colleagues, friends and associates is also included.
The image shown here is from an often overlooked series in the archive: photographic portraits of Hill (BC MS 20c Hill/8/3). This covers professional and amateur photographs of Hill taken throughout his life.
This photograph of Hill, presumably taken in the garden of his parents’ house in Bromsgrove, is a particularly evocative item.
The photograph is also part of a larger archive: of portraits of Hill throughout his life, or notebooks for poems which would draw on childhood experience. When seen in this context, the individual image becomes part of a much wider network of evidence of a life and work.
Stand Magazine will shortly produce an issue focusing on Hill, including some unpublished poems by him.