University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Sydney Goodsir Smith Papers

1954 - 1960


Manuscript Collection Number: 226
Accessioned: Puchase 1972
Extent: 58 items (.4 linear ft.)
Content: Letters, typescripts, manuscripts, proofs, notes, exhibition catalogs
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: 1991 by Wendy van Wyck

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Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
(302) 831-2229

Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Sydney Goodsir Smith was one of the most important authors of the twentieth-century Scottish Literary Renaissance. As a vital member of Edinburgh’s literary circle, Smith was known for his emotional love poetry and nationalistic concern for the cultural and political affairs of Scotland. Smith, however, was neither raised nor educated in Scotland. He was born in Wellington, New Zealand, on October 26, 1915 and attended preparatory school in England. After a brief stay at Edinburgh University in the early 1930s, he graduated from Oxford in 1937 with an M.A. in history. After graduation, Smith settled permanently in Edinburgh, drawn by its beauty and culture.

In the late 1930s, Smith began to write poetry using his own individualized version of the Scottish language. With the publication of The Deevils Waltz in 1946 and Carotia Cornucopius in 1947, Smith exhibited an increasing confidence in the innovative language of his poetry. His next books, Under the Eildon Tree (1948) and So Late into the Night: Fifty Lyrics, 1944- 1948 (1952), are collections of love poems which are considered Smith’s best. In the 1960s, Smith’s works grew increasingly nationalistic in tone. His play The Wallace (1960) celebrates the Scottish nation and mourns its cultural and political oppression. Similar themes are expressed in his poems The Vision of the Prodigal Son (1959) and Gowdsmith in Reekie (1954). Sydney Goodsir Smith died in Edinburgh on January 15, 1975.


Aitken, W.R. “Sydney Goodsir Smith, 1915-1975: A Checklist of His Books and Pamphlets.” In For Sydney Goodsir Smith, Loanhead: M. Macdonald, 1975. pp. 85-91

Sherry, Vincent B., Jr. (Ed.). Dictionary of Literary Biography. Volume 27. Poets of Great Britian and Ireland, 1945-1960. “Sydney Goodsir Smith” by David S. Robb. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1984. pp. 340-346. Includes a critical bibliography.

Scope and Content Note

The Sydney Goodsir Smith Papers date primarily from the late 1950s and early 1960s, an especially nationalist phase in Smith’s literary career. The collection contains several drafts and advance proofs of Smith’s play The Wallace and manuscripts of his long dramatic poems, Gowdsmith in Reekie and The Vision of the Prodigal Son. Also present are seventeen pieces of correspondence and the manuscripts of about twenty prose pieces, including essays, reviews, and scripts from radio talks.

Series List

I.   Correspondence

II.  Material toward The Wallace, a play in five acts and five

III. Poetry

IV.  Prose

V.   Miscellaneous Manuscript Worksheets 

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

               Series I.  Correspondence
               All letters are to Sydney Goodsir Smith
               unless otherwise indicated.

1         F1   To Ian [?] from Sydney Goodsir Smith
               1958 May 21    TLS  1p
               Notes on verso in Smith’s hand.  Concerns Smith’s
               declining to write a critical review.

               From Christopher Murray Grieve (Hugh MacDiarmid)
               1959 Jan 27         ALS  1p
               Notes on verso in Smith’s hand.  Concerns Grieve’s
               declining an invitation because he has finished a tour
               and is preparing to go abroad.

               From Donald [?]
               1959 Mar 10         ALS  1p
               Apology to Smith for having him write a script
               that was not used.

               From Ruthven Todd
               1959 May 7          TLS  2pp
               Concerns Todd’s recent activities, including his
               love life, reading tour, preparations to become a U.S.
               citizen, and his book on Dylan Thomas.

               From B.H. Alexander
               1959 Jul 8          TLS  1p
               Alexander informs Smith that he will be paid a
               reduced fee for a script that was never used.  The
               script was for a radio talk on Kurt Wittig’s book.

               From Sir Tyrone Guthrie
               1959 Jul 17         ALS  2pp
               Note: with envelope.  Guthrie says he will not be
               available to direct The Wallace.

               From Michael Charlton
               1959 Sep 16         ALS  4pp
               Concerns the state of affairs of Scottish art.

          F2   To the Editor of “The Spectator” from Sydney
               Goodsir Smith
               1960 Jan 18         TLS  2pp
               With autograph corrections.  Protesting David
               Craig’s review of “Honour’d Shade.”

               From Legman [?]
               1960 Jan 21         TLS  2pp
               Notes on verso in Smith’s hand.  Concerns Smith’s
               advice to Legman and Legman’s acquisition of a set of
               books belonging to James Barke.
               1960 Feb 6          TLS  1p
               With autograph corrections and notes on verso in
               Smith’s hand.  Protesting David Craig’s review of
               “Honour’d Shade.”

               To exebition [sic] officer from Sydney Goodsir
               1960 Mar 17         TNS  1p
               Smith accepts an invitation to “Films on Art.”

               From David Miklejohn
               1960 Apr 14         ALS  1p
               Notes on verso in Smith’s hand.  Miklejohn
               expresses outrage at English control of Scottish

          F3   From A.D. Fraser
               1960 Aug 11         ALS  1p
               Request for Smith to write articles about the art
               exhibitions at The Edinburgh International Festival.

               From Leonard J. Paterson, Vice President of The
               Scottish Union of Students
               1960 Aug 17         TLS  1p
               Notes on verso in Smith’s hand.  Request for Smith
               to serve as a judge of student productions at the
               Edinburgh International Festival.

               From A.D. Fraser
               1960 Aug 23         ALS  1p
               Notes on verso in Smith’s hand.  Concerns critical
               notices of art exhibits.

               From Tom Gourdie (Secretary, Exhibitions
               1960 Sep 11         ANS  1p
               Notes on verso in Smith’s hand.  Invitation to an
               art exhibition at the Kirkaldy Art Gallery.

               From William Arrowsmith, English Editor of The
               Hudson Review
               n.d.           TLS  1p
               Notification that books and poems sent by Smith
               have been received.

          F4   Autograph drafts of letters to various individuals
               from Sydney Goodsir Smith.  13pp

               Series II.  Material toward The Wallace, a play in five
               acts and five prologues
               The Wallace was first broadcast as a radio play in
               1959, and its first stage production was in the
               Assembly Hall during the Edinburgh International
               Festival, Aug-Sep 1960.  It was published in book form
               in the same year by Oliver and Boyd.

1         F5   Early version, n.d.
               TS [carbon] 95pp (95 leaves)
               Contains Dramatis Personae and text, lightly
               revised in author’s hand.  Pages 65, 72, 89, and 90 are
               in top copy typescript, apparently representing a
               revised version of the discarded material.  This
               version differs from the published text.

          F6   Act I, n.d.
               TS, 23pp (23 leaves)
               Heavily revised in the author’s hand.

          F7   Act I, n.d.
               TS, 45pp (45 leaves)
               Lightly revised.  Apparently a later version.

          F8   Prologues, n.d.
               TS, 7pp (7 leaves)
               Heavily revised and with autograph notes in the
               author’s hand.  Includes “Note on Prologue” and
               prologues II-V.

          F9   Appendix, Two Songs, Three Songs, n.d.
                    AMs, 8pp (3 leaves)
                    “Appendix Three Songs and Postscriptum”
                    written on cover.
               Two Songs
                    TS, 1pp (1 leaf).
                    Autograph revisions.
               Three Songs
                    TS, 2pp (2 leaves)
                    “To precede Postscriptum” written on
                    top.  Contains notes about where the songs should
                    be inserted.  Autograph revisions.

          F10  Postscriptum: Auctorial Note for Pedants, n.d.
               TS, 10pp (8 leaves)
               Heavily revised in author’s hand.  Includes at
               least two versions and several duplicate pages.

               Miscellaneous typescript pages, n.d.
          F11  TS, 11pp (9 leaves)
               Heavily revised in the author’s hand.
          F12  TS, 10pp (8 leaves)
               Revised in author’s hand.
          F13  TS, 13pp (11 leaves)
               Includes six typescript carbon pages of insertions
               and one page from the radio play script.

          F14  Autograph notes, n.d.
               AMs, 13pp (7 leaves)
               Includes a list of corrections.

          F15  Advance Proof (First Gathering), [1960]
               14pp (4 leaves)
               Published by Oliver & Boyd.  Revised in the
               author’s hand.  “Author’s marked set.  Checked S.G.S.”
               is written on the first page.

               Series III.  Poetry
               Consists of manuscripts and proof material
               relating to two long poems by Goodsir Smith.

          F16  Gowdsmith in Reekie, May 1954
               TS, 19pp (19 leaves)
               Heavily revised in the author’s hand with many
               passages added and deleted.  Typed signature at the
               end: “Quod S.G.S. makar.  Embrotoun, May 1954.”

          F17  The Vision of the Prodigal Son, n.d.
               TS, 12pp (13 leaves)
               Contains many variants from the advance proof.
               Typed signature “Sydney Goodsir Smith” at the

          F18  The Vision of the Prodigal Son, Jan 25, 1959
               Advance Proof, 21pp (7 leaves)
               Revised in the author’s hand and signed at the end
               “Embrotoun 25 Janiveer 1959.”  The author provides a
               glossary of some 90 words on verso of sheet 6.

               Series IV.  Prose
               Contains manuscripts of articles, reviews, essays,
               radio talks, announcements, etc.

1         F19  Festival Drama to Come (Essay), n.d.
               TS, 3pp (3 leaves)
               Title altered in manuscript to read “Festival
               Cinderella Tries Again.”  Edited, but not in the
               author’s hand.  Typed signature “by Sydney Goodsir
               Smith” after the title.

          F20  Knight of Cromartie (Newspaper Article), n.d.
               Galley Proofs, 3pp (3 leaves)
               Revised and added material in the author’s hand.

          F21  The Man Who Died Laughing (Radio Talk), n.d.
               AMs, 6pp (3 leaves)
               Autograph draft for a broadcast discussion with
               Robert Kemp concerning Sir Thomas Urquhart’s lesser-
               known works.

          F22  The Man Who Died Laughing (Article), n.d.
               TS, 41pp (41 leaves)
               Typescript draft of an article which was later
               reworked into dialog form for the broadcast discussion
               with Robert Kemp.  Heavily revised in the author’s hand
               with a typed signature “Sydney Goodsir Smith 18 Royal
               Terrace, Edinburgh.” at end.

          F23  The Man Who Died Laughing (Radio Talk), n.d.
               TS, 29pp (29 leaves)
               BBC Script marked “R.K.” and “S.G.S.” for the
               broadcast discussion with Robert Kemp concerning Sir
               Thomas Urquhart and his lesser known works.

          F24  The Merry Muses of Caledonia, n.d.
               Announcement, TS, 1p (1 leaf)
                    Draft of announcement for the Auk Society
                    Edition of Burn’s The Merry Muses of Caledonia, of
                    which Smith was an editor.
               Advance copy of Prospectus, 4pp (1 leaf)
                    A further draft of Smith’s announcement is
                    written on the last page.
               The Merry Muses of Caledonia (Galley Eleven), 1p
               (1 leaf)
                    Contains Smith’s “Personal Preface,” revised
                    in his hand.

          F25  Plan for Program of a Burn’s Night Supper, n.d.
               AMs, 6pp (2 leaves)
               “Intro by S.G.S.” written on first page.  Contains
               an outline of the festivities (Hugh MacDiarmid to toast
               “The Immortal Memory” etc.).

               The Scottish Tradition in Literature (Review of
               Kurt Wittig’s book of the same title), n.d.
2         F26  TS, 11pp (11 leaves)
               Heavily revised.  Wittig’s book was published in
               1958.  Apparently, Smith was to review the book on a
               radio program, but the review was never used.  (See
               letter of 1959 July 8 from B.H. Alexander).
          F27  TS, 14p (14 leaves)
               “from Sydney Goodsir Smith, 18 Royal Terrace,
               Edinburgh 7.” typed at the beginning.

          F28  Sir David Lindsay and Sean O’Casey: Rebels in the
               Theatre (Essay), n.d.
               AMs, 3pp (2 leaves)
                    Contains additional unrelated manuscript
               TS, 8pp (8 leaves)
                    Typed on half-sheets of paper and
                    heavily revised.  Unrelated manuscript notes on
                    verso of page 6.  An essay on “Chagall” appears on
                    the verso of page 7.  Typed signature “by Sydney
                    Goodsir Smith” after the title.

               Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromartie (Radio Talk),
          F29  AMs, 12pp (6 leaves)
               Notes for the radio talk.  Titled “Urquhart.”
          F30  TS, 8pp (8 leaves)
               Typescript draft of a radio talk.  “To George
               Bruce (Scott. Life & Lett.), BBC Abrdn, from Sydney
               Goodsir Smith” typed at the top of second page.
               Heavily revised.  Typed signature “Sydney Goodsir
               Smith, 18 Royal Terrace, Edinburgh.” on last page.
          F31  TS [mimeo], 9pp (9 leaves)
               BBC duplicated Script for Smith’s talk on the
               first program of the Scottish Life and Letters Series,
               Wed. May 25, 10:10 pm.

          F32  Sir William Wallace, Guardian of Scotland (Article
               of Talk), [c. 1959]
               TS, 2pp (2 leaves)
               An introduction to The Wallace, mentioning the
               radio adaptation “you will hear on Monday night.”
               Typed signature “by Sydney Goodsir Smith” after the

          F33  Fragments of Typescript Articles, n.d.
               TS, 11pp (11 leaves)
               Includes reviews of works by Scottish painters, a
               fragment on Scottish nationalism, part of a review of a
               Saltire Classics edition of Barbeur’s “The Bruce,” an
               excerpt entitled “English Chronicler” and a fragment of
               an article entitled “John Jamieson D.D., Preserver of
               the Scots Language, 1759-1838.”

               Series V.  Miscellaneous Manuscript Worksheets
               Rough drafts of reviews, announcements, and
               essays.  Many are written on the backs of letters,
               envelopes, handouts, stenciled artist exhibition
               catalogs, etc.  Subjects include articles on art
               exhibitions, the theatre, classics of Scottish
               Literature and Auk Society publications.

2              Rough drafts of reviews and essays on artists,
               exhibits and galleries, n.d.
          F34  AMs, 20pp (8 leaves)
               Some titles include “Modern Art Gallery,”
               “Scottish Painting,” etc.
          F35  AMs, 19pp (9 leaves)
               Includes articles on Scottish painters and

          F36  Misc. material dealing with artists, exhibits and
               10pp (10 leaves)
               Includes several exhibition catalogs and press

          F37  Rough drafts of reviews and articles on theatre
               and literature, n.d.
               AMs, 19pp (10 leaves)
               Some titles include “Scottish Nat. Theatre,”
               “Theatre-Scotland,” a piece on Stevenson’s Kidnapped
               and an article on his own play, The Wallace.

          F38  Misc. drafts of articles, reviews and other prose works
          -41  AMs, (46 leaves).  Includes Smith’s essay “England
               on Scotland” and a manuscript copy of the same essay
               entitled “Now We Know,” in another hand.

          F42  Misc. notes and lists
          -43  AMs, (24 leaves)

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