The John Fowles Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, the University of Texas at Austin

By Sibley, Joan | Twentieth Century Literature, Spring 1996 | Go to article overview

The John Fowles Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, the University of Texas at Austin


Sibley, Joan, Twentieth Century Literature


The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, the principal rare books and manuscripts library of The University of Texas at Austin, is noted for its collections of British, American, and French literary materials, with major Additional strengths of photography, music, film, and theater arts. The Ransom Center's acquisition of the John Fowles Papers, the majority of which were obtained from the author in 1991, serves to enhance the Center's twentieth-century British literary holdings. The Fowles collection documents the author's activities as a novelist, translator of French plays, screenplay writer, essayist, local historian, and museum curator from about 1926 to 1992, though most of the materials date between 1953 and 1991. This collection offers extensive material for critical, bibliographical, and textual study of the works of John Fowles, but as yet contains relatively little in terms of more personal information such as personal correspondence and financial or legal records. The papers, now catalogued, occupy 54 boxes (approximately 24 linear feet) and are available for use by scholars.

A 52-page archival inventory (produced using Microsoft Word on a Macintosh computer) describes the collection and is available on the Internet at the UT-Austin World Wide Web Home Page or from the Office of the Research Librarian at the Ransom Center in paper or diskette form. The papers are arranged in the following five series: I. Works, 1953-1991 (35 boxes); II. Adaptations of Fowles's Works, 1968-1987 (5 boxes); III. Works about Fowles, 1963-1991 (10 boxes); IV. Personal Papers, 1926-1990 (2 boxes); V. Miscellaneous, 1965-1992 (2 boxes).

The majority of the collection consists of manuscripts in the Works series, including The Magus, The Aristos, The French Lieutenant's Woman, The Ebony Tower, Daniel Martin, Mantissa, and A Maggott. Additional manuscripts represent poems, plans, several translations from the French (Cinderella, "Don Juan," "Lorenzaccio," The Lottery of Love, "Martine," and Ourika) various nonfiction works (such as Shipwreck, Islands, Land, The Tree, and The Enigma of Stonehenge), contributions to books by others, and book reviews, as well as curtorial and local history writings. The collection also contains a number of unpublished essays, novels, plays, poems, short stories, and screenplays.

Materials relating to the works include notes, clippings, multiple handwritten and typewritten drafts, printer's copies, galleys, and page proofs, many heavily revised. Of special note among the manuscripts of Fowles's major published works are an early "urdraft of The Magos," a file of work notes for The Magus which includes clippings embodying Fowles's vision of the character Alison, and a notebook for Daniel Martin. While this collection does not contain all known manuscripts of The Collector and The French Lieutenant's Woman (The University of Tulsa holds a collection of these manuscripts), it does include an unpublished group of poems called "Sequence Four" (written as an exercise during the writing of The Collector), as well as the final typescript for The French Lieutenant's Woman.

During the writing and publishing of his works, Fowles kept related correspondence, clippings, contracts, and other items in the folders along with his manuscripts, and this original order has been maintained. The correspondence is usually from agents, editors, co-authors, and commissioners of works among others, and serves to elucidate the evolution of Fowles's works. Major correspondents include Julian Bach, Anthony Sheil, Tom Maschler (Jonathan Cape Limited), Ray A. Roberts (Little, Brown, and Company), Fay Godwin, and Michael Bogdanov, John Russell Brown, Peter Gill, and Sir Peter Hall (all of The National Theatre). Fowles's original file folders, also preserved in the collection, frequently include title information, dates, identifications of draft progression, or other notes. Brief descriptive notes, with information Fowles apparently jotted down as he was preparing his papers for shipment to the Ransom Center, provide valuable commentary on the works. …

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