Elizabeth Jennings Letters and Poetry Manuscripts
Manuscript Collection Number 282
Accessioned: Purchase, 1993.
Extent: 12 items (.1 linear ft.)
Content: Letters and poems.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: September 1993 by Anita A. Wellner.
The British poet Elizabeth Jennings has published more than 20 books of poetry since the 1950s. She writes short, meditative lyrics that are known for their simplicity, control, and range of feeling. These qualities have linked Jennings to a group of poets, usually referred to as The Movement, who were writing in England during the 1940s and 1950s. The members of this group, poets like Kingsley Amis, Thom Gunn, Philip Larkin, and John Wain, never consciously formed a movement, but their poetry reveals a shared love for simplicity and an acceptance of regular meter and rhyme.
Elizabeth Jennings was born on July 18, 1926, in Boston, Lincolnshire. She claims that she discovered poetry at age 13 and began to write, encouraged by a teacher and her uncle. Jennings attended St. Anne's College, Oxford, from 1945 to 1949 and was greatly stimulated by the intellectual atmosphere there. It was at this time that she began to associate with poets of The
Movement; some of her first published poems appeared in Oxford Poetry 1948, edited by Kingsley Amis and James Michie. Jennings worked in the Oxford City Library from 1950 to 1958 and as a publisher's reader from 1958 to 1960. During this time she published three books of poetry and a book for children entitled "Let's Have Some Poetry!" (1960). In the early 1960s, Jennings suffered a breakdown and was confined to a hospital. The poems she wrote after her release are collected in Recoveries (1964) and The Mind Has Mountains (1966).
Jennings is an extremely prolific poet. She writes quickly, revises little, and claims that her poems "come out very clean." She differs from the other poets of The Movement in her devotion to Roman Catholicism, a theme that pervades much of her poetry. Jennings also writes about friendship, relationships, places, and art. She does not write autobiographical poems, but her religious concerns, mental illness, and other personal experiences influence the themes and insights expressed in her poetry.
Bissett, William. "Elizabeth Jennings." Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 27: Poets of Great Britain and Ireland 1945-1960, edited by Vincent B. Sherry, Jr. Detroit: Gale Research, 1984. pp. 163-170.
This small collection of undated writing by Elizabeth Jennings consists of two autograph letters to Mr. C. S. A. Huggett; one autograph letter to her friend, Veronica [Wedgwood]; and eight autograph poems.
Jennings's letter to Veronica requests information about the Caravaggio and Rembrandt art collections at Great Britain's National Gallery. The two letters to Mr. Huggett are in response to his letters requesting information about her publications.
Titles of the poems include "The Wood," "Meaning," "Contemplation," "Actors," "A Vision," "Thoughts on Dying," and "The City." In addition, the collection includes one untitled poem with the first line "You in colours, I in sound."
The poems are arranged in alphabetical order by title. The slipcase in which these poems were originally housed is stored in F3.
Ms 186 Elizabeth Jennings Papers
Ms 283 Elizabeth Jennings Poetry Notebooks
Ms 284 Elizabeth Jennings Poetry Manuscripts
Series I. Elizabeth Jennings Letters, [n.d.]
F1 Letters, [n.d.]
Two letters to Mr. Huggett and one letter to Veronica
Series II. Poetry manuscripts, [n.d.]
F2 Autograph poems, [n.d.]
Seven titled poems, one untitled poem.
F3 Slipcase, [n.d.]