The Desmond Clarke Collection

11 January 2018

By Karen Watson

We were fortunate enough to have three boxes of correspondence, poems and literary documents given to the University of Sussex Special Collections by Desmond Clarke. Desmond worked in book marketing and was the sales and marketing director at Faber & Faber during the 1980s. This meant he was in charge of promoting the famous Faber poetry list under Poetry Editor Craig Raine that included Wendy Cope, Douglas Dunn and Seamus Heaney. All these names are included in the collection in various forms.

Typescript for Rain Charm for the Duchy by Ted Hughes, with handwritten note by the poet; SxMs184/1/2/8

Typescript for Rain Charm for the Duchy by Ted Hughes, with handwritten note by the poet; SxMs184/1/2/8

Desmond was also the director of the Book Marketing Council and in 1983 came up with the idea of the Best of Young British Novelists campaign. Desmond was able to persuade several bookshops, including all the branches of WH Smith and several hundred libraries, to stock and display the mostly unknown novelists’ books. The idea was cemented by the now iconic group photograph taken by Lord Snowdon. Granta magazine published a special issue that year of the authors’ work and has taken the idea forward each year. The collection has some press and publicity about this event.

There are a large number of Wendy Cope poems; some handwritten, some labelled first draft. Several have been published in Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis and others in Men and their Boring Arguments. There were outbursts of laughter reading through the poems in the office and a lot of reading aloud to colleagues during the cataloguing of this collection.

The documents by Ted Hughes include the poem ‘Rain Charm for the Duchy’, given to Desmond to get published when Hughes was first made Poet Laureate in December 1984.  The second line of the title is ‘A blessing Devout Drench for the Christening of Prince Harry’. With the recent Royal wedding announcement, the documents have renewed significance. Ted Hughes wrote words for a  song for the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson in 1985  and this, including musical score by Howard Blake, is part of the collection.

The Honeybee and the Thistle, a song written for the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, with words by Ted Hughes and music by Howard Blake; SxMs184/1/2/4

The Honeybee and the Thistle, a song written for the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, with words by Ted Hughes and music by Howard Blake; SxMs184/1/2/4

The collection is unusual as it contains very little written by Desmond himself. It is named after him as the donor and collector of the documents, some of which were created especially for him. The Desmond Clarke poem by Wendy Cope is a good example of this. There are cards and correspondence written to Desmond from many authors, including Vikram Seth. His relationship with poet Craig Raine is represented through some correspondence and poems; they went on to further work together on the literary journal Areté, where Desmond was a member of the advisory board.

Desmond was a hugely charismatic, warm and intelligent gentleman who I was privileged to meet when the papers were given to us. I wanted to capture some of his stories about the collection so Desmond agreed to a short interview in March 2017, and this is now part of the collection. I felt it important to capture some of the person who was so skilled in making other people and their literary creations shine.

The collection fits well with our other Special Collections; Ted Hughes and Wendy Cope are stored alongside other literary greats Virginia Woolf, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Madge and Langston Hughes, representing a large and varied collection of writers and poets, their work and lives


Lantern slides of travellers return

5 January 2017

By Anna Manthorpe

Traveller children with a dog cart, 1920s; R/L 39/1/7

Traveller children with a dog cart, 1920s; R/L 39/1/7

We had been aware for some years of the existence of a number of lantern slides of travellers held by East Sussex County Council’s Schools, Library and Museum Service, having borrowed them to scan as a security measure in 2009. Some of the images were then used in a WRVS Heritage Plus project concerning the lives of travellers, and published in Hidden Photographs of a Hidden People; in and around the south country hop gardens (2010). We were delighted when it was agreed recently that the lantern slides should be transferred to The Keep for safekeeping and to make the images fully available for everyone to enjoy.

The lantern slides were formerly held in a large wooden box thought to have been owned by Dr Edwin Percy Habberton Lulham (1865-1940). Lulham had a very interesting and varied career. He was initially a professional cricketer: he was in the Sussex team, and played for England in 1894. He became a doctor, graduating from Guy’s Hospital in 1896. He worked at the Sussex County Hospital in Brighton as a ‘dresser’ for the Senior Surgeon, Dr Blaker, and practised as a doctor in Ditchling and Brighton. In 1911, he was enumerated at 38 Sweyn Road, Margate, the home of Dr Thompson, but lived in Ditchling. He was at 11 Prince Albert Street, Brighton, from at least 1915-1923.

Dr Lulham tends a patient, 1920s; R/L 39/2/2

Dr Lulham tends a patient, 1920s; R/L 39/2/2

Lulham also wrote poetry inspired by the Sussex countryside, which included Songs from the Downs & Dunes (1908). He became interested in rural life and customs, and is known to have given talks illustrated with lantern slides. He was an authority on gypsy life and was an honorary member of the Gypsy Lore Society. It is thought that he stopped practising as a doctor during the 1920s due to sciatica and high blood pressure, and concentrated on photography and public lectures. He committed suicide on 27 June 1940, and was then living at Haven, Hurstpierpoint.

In 2009, the lantern slides had not been scanned in any order, and cataloguing involved arranging them in a way that made sense; in the process it became clear that not all the images were by Lulham. Lantern slides were available commercially, and it is likely that some were obtained from photographers with similar interests. But Lulham was certainly responsible for the majority of those depicting gypsy life in the 1920s and 1930s, two of which show him tending to traveller patients.

A large number of the lantern slides also depict rural life and crafts. It is not always clear whether the photographs were taken locally, but a considerable proportion are labelled and include fine views of the harvest at Housedean Farm, near Lewes, and the Clergy House at Alfriston under restoration. Even when there seems to be is no known local connection, the images still provide fascinating viewing, ranging from the activities of a mole catcher to convicts working in a quarry, possibly HM Prison Portland, Dorset. There are a number of forgotten crafts such as rope-making using a rope walk, charcoal burning, and bee-keeping using hives in the form of straw skeps.

The digitised images are now available for viewing in The Keep’s Reference Room (reference R/L 39) and browsing is highly recommended!



The Keep News: Anna Mendelssohn archive now available to researchers

29 September 2015                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

By Simon Coleman, Archivist

University of Sussex Library Special Collections and The Keep are pleased to report that the archive of the avant-garde poet and artist, Anna Mendelssohn, is now catalogued and available to researchers.

This rich and varied collection comprises many thousands of draft poems (mostly unpublished) and drawings, with correspondence, life-writing, paintings, prose writing and other papers. It includes over 770 notebooks and sketchbooks which provide a wealth of insight into both her creative processes and private thought world.

Anna Mendelssohn (original name: ‘Anne Mendleson’) was born into a Jewish family in Stockport, 1948. She became involved in radical left-wing politics at the University of Essex between 1967 and 1969: she dropped out after her second year. As one of the ‘Stoke Newington Eight’, she was convicted in 1971 (after the longest trial in British legal history) of being involved in the bombing campaign conducted by the ‘Angry Brigade’ and sentenced to ten years in prison. After her release on parole in 1976 she returned to academic study, eventually winning a place at Cambridge University in 1983 to take the English Tripos. During her undergraduate years (which extended to 1989 because of illness and personal difficulties) she self-published a number of small poetry collections and began contributing to journals. In the 1990s she had three poetry pamphlets (beginning with Viola tricolor, 1993) published by Cambridge-based ‘Equipage’ and began to achieve wider recognition. Selections of her work appeared in significant anthologies such as Conductors of Chaos (ed. Iain Sinclair, 1996) and, in 2000, her only perfect-bound volume, Implacable Art, was published by Folio Equipage. In Conductors of Chaos she was anthologised with a group of avant-garde poets associated with the British Poetry Revival.

Pages from notebook c. 1975 (ref: SxMs109/2/A/13)

Pages from notebook c. 1975 (ref: SxMs109/2/A/13)

A highly experimental writer, operating on the outer fringes of the human imagination, Mendelssohn was influenced by 20th century French surrealist poetry and writers such as ‘H.D.’ and Osip Mandelstam. Her work explored feminist ideology, themes of loss, love and violence, experience of nature and radical left-wing political thought. Her art was also innovative, taking inspiration from Cubo-surrealism.

There is much content of a very personal nature within the archive, some of it contained in her letters. Her correspondents were wide-ranging, and included poets, academics, artists, writers, editors and family members. Several of these poets and academics etc were Mendelssohn’s friends and her long draft letters to them often covered an astonishing diversity of literary, artistic and social topics, with lengthy (and often unhappy) narration of her personal troubles and the turbulent events of her youth. While the bulk of the collection covers the period 1977 to 2009, there is significant earlier material. Twenty exercise and drawing books which Mendelssohn used during her incarceration in Holloway Prison survive and there are also items from her childhood, chiefly secondary school exercise books and adjudicators’ forms from elocution and drama competitions.

The cataloguing of the Mendelssohn archive will open up the work of this unique writer and political activist to researchers across a wide spectrum of interests and topics. The collection will be valuable for exploring areas such as female and late modernist / contemporary avant-gardism, feminist literature, 20th century political activism and its relationship to art, and prison writing.

International Women’s Day: Trix Kipling, writer and psychic

14th March 2015

By Jo Baines

Alice Fleming (1868 – 1948) – known as Trix Kipling –  is remembered as Rudyard Kipling’s younger sister. However, she was also a writer – albeit eclipsed by her brother’s fame.  She wrote poetry and fiction throughout her life, both with her family and independently.  In 1884, Trix wrote a volume of poetry, ‘Echoes’, with her brother Rudyard. This was followed by ‘A Pinchbeck Goddess’ in 1897 and ‘Her Brother’s Keeper’ in 1901. She wrote numerous stories and articles for the press in both India and England – including, in 1885, works for ‘Quartette, the Christmas annual of the Civil & Military Gazette’ in collaboration with her brother Rudyard and their parents. In 1902 she published a volume of poetry, ‘Hand in hand, Verses by a mother and daughter’, with her mother Alice Kipling.  She was also praised for writing excellent letters. Some of Trix’s work and correspondence can be found in the Trix Kipling Papers, the MacDonald Papers and the Baldwin Papers.

Trix Kipling 1872 Trix was given her nickname by her family when she was young, as she was “such a tricksy little baby”. When she was three years old, she and her brother Rudyard were placed in a boarding home in Southsea, Portsmouth whilst her parents returned to India for five years. Rudyard’s dislike of the home, and feelings of abandonment, are well documented; it seems likely that Trix felt similarly.

After her education was completed, Trix returned to India in 1883. Six years later, at the age of 21, Trix married Colonel John Fleming – a man ten years her senior. Her family, always a close unit, disapproved of the match; it was to prove a source of tension in later years.

Trix was unwell with  mental health issues throughout her life; her first bout of illness occurred in 1898. In 1910, shortly after Trix and her husband had moved from India to Edinburgh, Trix received the news that her mother had died and her mental illness returned once again. The death of her father three months later exacerbated matters, and Trix struggled with her health for the next decade. She was moved around regularly, something she resented in later years; Trix’s husband and her family were frequently at odds over her treatment.

Trix returned to Scotland in 1932 and lived in Edinburgh for the rest of her life. She was very active, and enthusiastically supported the foundation of the Kipling Society and regularly wrote articles for the Kipling Journal. She ran a charity shop and enjoyed visiting Edinburgh Zoo regularly; she often talked to the elephants in Hindustani!

Trix was also known  for having inherited her ancestors’ gift of ‘second sight’. From an early age she could see ghosts and spirits and later became able to communicate with the deceased. Trix was a member of the Edinburgh Psychic College and contributed to the Psychic Press under a pseudonym, ‘Mrs Holland’.

Hilton Brown notes that it is a great pity Trix was not better known for her writing qualities and close relationship with her brother: “one feels at any rate that her contemporaries did not make all of her that should have been made.”. Much has been written about Trix in relation to her brother; the books ‘Trix: Kipling’s Forgotten Sister’ and ‘A Circle of Sisters’, both available to view at The Keep in the Reference Room, discuss Alice Fleming’s remarkable life in more depth.

Education and Outreach: Writing Lives – Voices of prisoners in HMP Lewes

Opening Speech19th September 2014

By Kirsty Pattrick –  Mass Observation Project Officer

Last Wednesday afternoon over 40 people attended an event here at The Keep to hear readings of poetry; writing that was inspired by Mass Observation archive material and written by men at Lewes Prison.

Writing Lives: Voices of prisoners in HMP Lewes arose out of a collaborative project involving the University of Sussex, Mass Observation Archive (MOA), East Sussex Library and Information Service and HMP Lewes.

Funded by the University of Sussex to look at “Using Materials from the Mass Observation Archive to Elicit Prisoners’ Subjective Understandings of Everyday Life”, the project team comprised of Dr Lizzie Seal, Dr Bethan Stevens and Dr Tamsin Hinton-Smith (University of Sussex), with Kirsty Pattrick (MOA), Abigail Luthmann (East Sussex Library and Information Service), Emma Bach (prison librarian) and HMP Lewes through Joanne Lupton.

Working with poet Evlynn Sharp to facilitate creative writing workshops in the prison library over a period of four weeks, the research team chose material from MOA comprising two themes: belonging and time, and two forms of writing: letters and diaries. Evlynn used this material as the basis of focused writing exercises in each session inviting responses by prisoners and also members of the team participating.

Feedback from Wednesdays event included:

 I found the poems very honest and felt sad – they were written simply and conveyed difficult feelings very clearly.’

 ‘Very moving accounts which spoke to the heart.  Clearly these writers have potential.’

 ‘I found the poems very expressive and moving.  It’s great the writing you are producing and good to her your voices.  Brilliant. Thank you.’

 ‘A great project, a great idea – Very inspiring.’


Three of the poems:

Distances2  Leaving Governed by Time2


Also, feedback from the men who took part:

Basically, if you had to ask what people got out of this, you know, I would have to say, this was about confidence.’

‘I see this as a guide, you know like when you’ve got a bike, and you first ride a bike, you need stabilisers, you know it’s the guide, for confidence, for me personally, because I’m quite a shy bloke, believe it or not.’

It’s been a very humble environment, very understanding. It was comfortable. I felt comfortable.’

‘It’s shown me potential that I never thought I had.’


It’s something that I never dreamed I’d do.’


‘You’ve got to understand the environment where we’re in, because you know, we’re all locked away and probably feeling the worst, and then we’ve come to this course, and look at the subjects we’ve done. We’ve done time, belonging, writing letters. Now, thinking about it, we could have all started having a gripe, time, spending time in here, I hate it, but it’s brought out things like people writing about family, people writing about loss. It’s brought everything that you wouldn’t really have thought.’


As a result of these workshops a creative writing residency will be taking place at Lewes Prison and a larger research project is being explored by the University of Sussex and the Mass Observation Archive.