Sarah Prescott, our Literary Archivist, writes Special Collections holds the papers of academic, poet, critic and translator Francis Berry.
Although well known as a poet, Berry was also influential as a critic and educator. He did not teach at Leeds: Berry’s papers are held here due to his long friendship with G. Wilson Knight.
Many of the drafts and manuscripts in the collection were deposited by Berry in the early 1980s. A large collection of his correspondence was acquired via his son, Scyld in 2017. These letters have now been catalogued and are available for research.
The letters give a rounded picture of Berry’s life and work. They reveal his interests, friendships, work with colleagues, passion for literature and teaching.
The collection includes long series of letters from William Empson, Philip Hobsbaum and G. Wilson Knight. Berry taught and lectured in English Literature throughout his adult life, and many of these letters concern this aspect of his work. They give a fascinating insight into the perceived value and teaching of English literature in the post-war years.
There are also small groups of letters from other significant poets including T.S. Eliot, Philip Larkin and Herbert Read. Many offer fascinating reflections on older poets trying to understand a new generation.
The correspondence is part of a larger archive which includes drafts of Berry’s major poetry and critical works. The catalogue for the full collections is now available online.