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National Library of Wales
Watkins, Vernon, manuscripts

Reference code(s): GB 0210 MSVERNWAT

Held at: National Library of Wales

Title: Vernon Watkins Manuscripts

Short Title: Watkins, Vernon, manuscripts

Creation date(s): [1920s]-1988

Level of description: Fonds

Extent: 70 volumes

Name of creator(s): Vernon Watkins


Administrative/Biographical history: Vernon Phillips Watkins (1906-1967), poet, was the second of three children of William and Sarah Watkins. He was born in Maesteg, Glamorgan, on 27 June 1906 but grew up in Swansea, Glamorgan, and on the Gower. He attended Repton School, Derbyshire, 1920-1924, then (for one year) studied modern languages at Magdalene College, Cambridge. He was briefly a clerk at Lloyds Bank in Cardiff but after a breakdown he returned home to Swansea and moved to the Lloyds Bank branch in St Helens. He served with RAF Police and Intelligence, 1941-1946, but otherwise remained with Lloyds for the remainder of his working life. In 1941 he published his first collection of poems, Ballad of the Mari Lwyd (London, 1941), followed by The Lamp and the Veil (London, 1945), Selected Poems (Norfolk, Conn., 1948), The Lady with the Unicorn (London, 1948), The Death Bell (London, 1954), Cypress and Acacia (London, 1959), Affinities (London, 1962), and Fidelities (London, 1968) which appeared posthumously. As a poet he was scrupulous, working through numerous drafts to reach a final version and often undertaking further revision after publication. In addition to original poetry he translated European verse into English, including Heine's The North Sea (London, 1955), and wrote essays on other poets. He corresponded widely with literary figures and became friends with the likes of W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, Philip Larkin and, in particular, Dylan Thomas. In 1944 he married Gwendoline (Gwen) Mary Davies (b. 1923), a colleague at RAF Intelligence, and they had five children. Following his retirement in 1966 he lectured at the University College of Swansea. He was then appointed Visiting Professor of Poetry at the University of Washington but died on 8 October 1967, shortly after arriving in Seattle to take up his post. Some of his previously unpublished works appeared in Uncollected Poems (London, 1969), Selected Verse Translations, ed. by Ruth Pryor (London, 1977), The Breaking of the Wave (Ipswich, 1979), and Ballad of the Outer Dark, ed. by Ruth Pryor (London, 1979).


Scope and content/abstract: Papers, [1920s]-1988, of Vernon Watkins, comprising drafts of poems published in collections and elsewhere, 1934-1967, unpublished poems, [1920s]-1967, and verse translations from German, French, Greek, Italian, Spanish and Hungarian, [1920s]-1967; drafts and translations of verse dramas, [1920s]-[1940x1967]; prose articles and essays, [1935]-1967; radio scripts, 1948-1967; talks and lecture notes, 1947-1967; correspondence, 1937-1988, including letters to Gwen Watkins following her husband's death; diaries, 1931, 1966; bibliographical lists of his poetry, [?1941]-1967; and some literary material relating to posthumous publications, 1976-1978.


Language/scripts of material: English, German

System of arrangement: Arranged according to NLW MSS reference numbers: NLW MSS 21263-21266E, 22440-22489, 22552-22553, 22728-22729, 22841E, 23752-23762.

Conditions governing access: Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to abide by the conditions noted on the 'Modern papers - data protection' form issued with their readers' tickets.

Conditions governing reproduction: Usual copyright laws apply. Information regarding ownership of Vernon Watkins copyright can be found at (viewed June 2010)

Finding aids: The manuscripts are described more fully in the NLW typescript lists Vernon Watkins Manuscripts, Group I (1979) and Group II (1988, [2001]). Descriptions of NLW MSS 22440-89, 22552-3E, 22728-9, 22841E are also available in Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, VIII (Aberystwyth, 1999).


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information: All records have been retained.

Accruals: Accruals are not expected.

Archival history: Following his death his papers and manuscripts, which had been distributed to a large number of locations and individuals, were assembled and sorted by Gwen Watkins and Ruth Pryor (see Ruth Pryor, 'The Palethorpe Papers, or, A bibliographer's nightmare', Poetry Wales, 12.4 (Spring 1977), 44-51); other material remained in private hands, later coming into the possession of Dylans Bookstore, Swansea. NLW MSS 23752-62 were gathered together [by Dylans Bookstore] from the estate of Vernon Watkins's sister, Dorothy, and from 'sundry other sources'.

Immediate source of acquisition: Purchased from Bertram Rota Ltd, London, [1974] (NLW MSS 21263-6E); purchased from Dylans Bookstore, Swansea, January and August 1983, April 1986 (NLW MSS 22440-89), July 1988 (NLW MSS 22552-3E), May 1991, February 1992 (NLW MS 22841E), September 1998 (NLW MSS 23752-62); purchased at auction from Sotheby's, London, 14 December 1989 (NLW MSS 22728-9).


Related material: Further papers include NLW MSS 20787E, 23136D, 23185D, 23979D; NLW ex 1003, 2551; NLW Minor Deposits 722B; NLW, David Jones (Artist and Writer) Papers; British Library, Add. MSS 54157-54167; Hull, Brynmor Jones Library, DX/73/1; Swansea University Archives, LAC/120. Printed books owned by Vernon Watkins acquired as part of the archive are also in the National Library of Wales.


Note: Title based on contents. Some letters to Gwen Watkins and a few other items relating to Gwen Watkins and Ruth Pryor post-date Vernon Watkins' death.

Archivist's note: Description revised by Rhys Jones. The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: NLW, Vernon Watkins Manuscripts, Group I (1979) and Group II (1988, [2001]); Vernon Watkins, New Selected Poems, ed. by Richard Ramsbotham (Manchester, 2006); Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales, ed. by Meic Stephens (Oxford, 1986); Y Bywgraffiadur Cymreig 1951-1970 (London, 1997); Meic Stephens, 'Watkins, Vernon Phillips (1906-1967)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [] [accessed 13 July 2010]; Ruth Pryor, 'The Palethorpe Papers, or, A bibliographer's nightmare', Poetry Wales, 12.4 (Spring 1977), 44-51; Jane L. McCormick, 'The Prose of Vernon Watkins' (unpublished master's thesis, Simon Fraser University, 1969).

Rules or conventions: This description follows ANW guidelines based on ISAD(G) second edition, AACR2 and LCSH.

Date(s) of descriptions: July 2010

Children's literature
Drama | 20th century
English literature | Welsh authors
English poetry | 20th century
English poetry | Welsh authors
German drama | Translations into English
Poetry | Translations into English
Radio scripts | Wales
Watkins, Vernon Phillips, | 1906-1967 | Archives

Personal names
Pryor , Ruth
Watkins , Gwen
Watkins , Vernon Phillips , 1906-1967

Corporate names


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