Papers of the Novelist L. P. Hartley

Three books lying flat on a table showing cover designs

Jane Donaldson writes:

Over the years, I have worked on a number of projects and in multiple teams at John Rylands Research Institute and Library, so I am familiar at a surface level with many of the collections. Since September 2021, I have been undertaking the role of the Library’s Creative Arts Archivist, initially while Jessica Smith was seconded to the Palladium email archive project, and now as her maternity leave cover. This role has given me the opportunity to delve further into some of the riches of the Rylands.

Handwritten label on the cover of a handwritten manuscript, for L.P. Hartley's novel titled 'The Imperfect Witness' but was published under the name 'The Betrayal', LPH/1/6/1.
Cover of a handwritten manuscript, for L.P. Hartley’s novel titled ‘The Imperfect Witness’ but was published under the name ‘The Betrayal’, LPH/1/6/1

One of my tasks has been to physically rearrange the papers of the novelist L. P. Hartley. The collection has developed over a number of years and contains several accessions, and the arrangement did not fully reflect the functional nature of the archive. A formal catalogue for the collection had yet to be produced. During lockdown, Jess and two Masters in Archives and Records Management (MARM) students from Liverpool University on cataloguing placements worked remotely to catalogue the collection in EAD (Encoded Archival Description). Their work can be read in an earlier blog post.

This meant that the physical arrangement no longer corresponded with the intellectual organisation. So when we returned to working onsite at the Rylands, I was tasked with rearranging the material. This was mainly a matter of checking the contents of the boxes, re-numbering, and re-housing the material to reflect the new arrangement.

Some of the material took a while longer as, although listed separately on the finding aid, there was not always a distinct arrangement in the physical file. Some research had to be undertaken, including looking at the L. P. Hartley Book Collection, to ensure the material did not slip into the wrong area. The new catalogue also incorporated a couple of small collections that had not been catalogued into the main collection.

There were also a couple of items that were missed on the original listing, but these were quickly identified as I was able to look at the physical collection, and all items are now accounted for. As all the cataloguing had been undertaken without being able to look at the physical collection, this was considerably less than I thought it would be.

Handwritten letter in blue ink from Joan Hall to L P Hartley, LPH/2/7/15
Letter to Joan Hall from LP Hartley LPH/2/7/15

The updated arrangement will enable researchers to view the development of Hartley’s work through the different periods of his life, from school books to unpublished work in later life, with the correspondence covering much of Hartley’s life.

As I’ve been working on the archive, I have been able to show my colleagues some of the items it contains. Interest, especially from the Reading Room, helps to increase knowledge of collections, which in turn can be used to help with enquiries. And I am sure some of us will be soon be watching the classic film, ‘The Go-Between’ with the stars of the day, Alan Bates and Julie Christie.

Extract from a typed letter from Daphne Du Maurier to L. P. Hartley, 1 November 1960. LPH/2/1/4.
Extract from a letter from Daphne Du Maurier to L. P. Hartley, 1 November 1960. LPH/2/1/4.

John Hodgson is Head of Special Collections at The University of Manchester Library.

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