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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Edmund Blunden Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1918-1982
Creator: Blunden, Edmund (1900-1974)
Extent: 6.00 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0829
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Correspondence and manuscripts of the British scholar and poet.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs Series V, Box 7

Access: This collection is open for research.

Use: Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Acquisition: Gift of Edmund Blunden beginning in 1964.

Preferred Citation: Edmund Blunden Papers, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

Edmund Blunden was born in London on November 1, 1896. In 1900, his family moved to Yalding in Kent. He was schooled at local schools until the age of twelve, when he was sent to boarding school at Christ's Hospital in Sussex. He won a scholarship to Oxford but in 1915, before he completed his studies, he enlisted in the army. In spring 1916 he joined the Royal Sussex Regiment and saw action in France. He won a Military Cross for a reconnaissance mission under constant fire. He was released from duty in 1919, having served two years in the trenches.

In 1918 he married Mary Daines. Their first child, Joy, died when she was five weeks old, most likely from contaminated milk.

In the years immediately following the war, he sent some poems to the Daily Herald. Through this contact, he met Seigfried Sassoon and began a long friendship with him. He returned to Oxford, but with a family to support he left to work at The Athenaeum and The Nation in London. He published his first book of poems, The Waggoner , in 1920. Also in 1920 he collected and published poetry by John Clare. He named his next two children, Clare and John, for the poet.

Perhaps suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, Blunden continued to write. Literary research interests and publishing poetry took away from study time. Publishing poetry and working part-time also could not support his family. In addition, his relationship with Mary was deteriorating, so he accepted a professorship in English at Toyko University, where he served from 1924 to 1927. Mary did not go with him. While in Japan, he wrote Undertones of War, a memoir.

He continued to write and associate with the literati of the day and his literary reputation grew, but he was unhappy in his personal life. He filed for divorce from Mary in 1929. He had had an affair with his secretary in Japan, Aki Hayashi and, though the affair was over before he left Japan, he brought her back to London with him and set her up in a flat. During this time, in addition to his poetry, he published works about Leigh Hunt and poems of Wilfred Owen. In 1931 his divorce from Mary was finalized. Also in that year, he took up a tutoring position at Oxford.

In 1933 he married Sylva Norman, a writer at The Nation. This marriage also did not last and they separated in the fall of 1939. He continued to write poetry, prose, biographies, and essays. He married Claire Poynting in 1945 with whom he eventually had four more daughters. Blunden was opposed to war and had a difficult time during and after World War II. He tried to avoid politics but due to his pacifism he was labelled a Nazi, even though he served as an officer on the University's Officer Training Corps. In 1947 he was appointed cultural advisor to the liaison mission to Japan. He was kept busy in Japan with lectures with the result that his appointment was extended so that he did not return to England until 1950. At this time he went to work for the Times Literary Supplement.

He was very active in the literary life of England between 1950 and 1953, but in September 1953 he moved his family to Hong Kong to work at Honk Kong University. Life continued to be very busy, and he kept publishing.

In 1969, he retired and returned to England, where he continued to write and publish and to receive awards. He died in 1974.

This collection is made up of eight series. Series I is comprised of correspondence, listed by name of correspondent, whether the letter is to or from Blunden. The letters are assumed to be from Blunden to the correspondent unless otherwise noted. There are several letters from and to third parties and this is noted in the entry. Series II is made up of essays written by Blunden. Series III is Miscellaneous, which contains such things as transcriptions of other writers' poetry by Blunden and a bibliography of Blunden's works. Series IV is an inventory of the pamphlets. These pamphlets are not shelved with the collection, but rather they are shelved with the Blunden books. Series V is made up of about forty photographs, mostly showing Blunden in intimate scenes, such as with his family at tea. Paul Engle and Somerset Maugham appear in photos with Blunden. Series VI is comprised of Blunden's poems, mostly handwritten in Blunden's meticulous script. Series VII is made up of reviews and Series VIII is speeches.

The University of Iowa Special Collections Department also houses a collection of Blunden's books.
See Blunden's web site at Edmund Blunden. This includes a chronology and bibliography.

See Loveman, Samuel. Collection of 24 letters concerning John Clare. Special Collections MsL L9116co.

Browse by Series:
The detailed description has not been entered into the repository.
To view the content list, please follow this link.

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.

Personal Names:
Blunden, Edmund, 1896-1974

20th century

Poets, English


Geographic Names:

Genre/Form of Materials:
Manuscripts (Document genre)
Personal papers
Research (Document genres)

English & American Literature