Anthony Thwaite, who has died aged 90, was a poet and critic. He was also the editor of his friend Philip Larkin’s collected poems and letters.
Special Collections has the privilege of holding his literary archive, along with the papers of his wife, Ann. The archive was first deposited in the 1980s, with regular accruals in the years since.
The archive is incredibly wide ranging. Some items relate to Thwaite’s early childhood, much of which was spent in Yorkshire where his father, Hartley Thwaite, was a bank manager in Leeds. Other items, including family and local history material predate Thwaite’s birth. These were collected by his father, who was also a keen amateur historian.
Thwaite’s extraordinary literary career, which spanned many decades, is documented in detail. Files include drafts of his poetry and other works, ordered chronologically, with some of the earliest material written during his National Service near Leptis Magna in Libya. Other documents relate to Thwaite’s time at Oxford University as president of the Poetry Society, and early publications in the Listener, the New Statesman, the Times Literary Supplement, and the Spectator.
Thwaite’s influence within and beyond the literary world is made clear in his archive. Broadcast scripts and associated material highlight his roles as producer, literary editor and presenter at the BBC. Other files of correspondence and manuscripts detail his work as literary Editor of the New Statesman, co-editor of Encounter magazine, editor of the Poetry list at Secker and Warburg, and as Editorial Director of André Deutsch.
His extensive work in education, including appointments at universities and his engagement with creative writing foundations around the world, is also documented.
Perhaps the greatest strength of the collection is the series of thousands of letters from hundreds of correspondents as diverse as Geoffrey Hill, Shirley Hughes and Kingsley Amis. The letters span the entirety of Thwaite’s working life and show his huge network of influence on post war literature.
The Anthony Thwaite collection is an exceptionally valuable resource, documenting the decades of activity of a literary life well lived.