Grevel Lindop

Poet, biographer, critic, essayist and writer on just about everything

Papers and Questions at the Rylands Library

It feels slightly weird sometimes to be part of an archive. Are you still alive if bits of your past are boxed up in climate-controlled conditions with books and records going back to pre-Christian times?

I found myself wondering about it when I met Laura Outterside, a researcher who is writing a dissertation on poets and other artists who have already given parts of their personal papers to archives for preservation.

Laura Outterside: Asking Questions about Archives


Laura, a delightful and friendly person who is as lively and funny as she is analytical and inquiring, wanted to know how I first came to deposit papers (letters, research notes, poetry mansucripts and other things) in Manchester’s John Rylands Library, and also whether it changed the way I felt about my own notebooks, letters and emails, and how I felt about other people possibly using them in future.

It was actually the Rylands that approached me first of all back in 2001, as they were interested in the material I’d collected in the process of editing the works of Thomas De Quincey, the Manchester-born essayist and Romantic-period ‘Opium Eater’. Later, my own poetry notebooks and many letters, including those to me from the poet and scholar Kathleen Raine, went into the Rylands’s Modern Literary Archive – a collection of papers from contemporary writers, then looked after by one of its founders, Stella Halkyard, and now by the wonderful and meticulous Fran Baker. Fran also has the huge task of caring for the archives of Cartcanet Press, the Manchester poetry publisher, to which they’re now adding email as well as paper. A formidable mass of material!

A glimpse of the amazing architecture of the John Rylands Library

I don’t have a lot of personal attachment to my old notebooks, incoming letters, manuscripts and so on: they feel like the dead leaves a tree has shed. I’ve moved on, or I hope I have. But if other people find them interesting or useful, that’s great. My guess is they will be used for things I can’t even imagine. Who knows what will interest people a hundred years from now? If they find my bits and pieces useful, then that’s great. But I am curious to know what Laura will come up with. What will other writers and artists say? What ideas do they have about these accidental by-products of their work? I hope Laura will let me see what she writes.

If you’d like to see what the Modern LIterary Archive has to offer, a good starting-point is here:

2 comments to “Papers and Questions at the Rylands Library”

  • […] Grevel Lindop was kind enough to share his writerly reflections on being ‘archived’ and his own Blog includes an account of the […]

  • […] For a specialist library like the Rylands people are often unaware that our collections are constantly growing as we acquire new items from contemporary writers, poets and novelists, translators, book binders and printers. The exhibition, POALA, explored the connection between our archives and these ‘living’ writers and artists through portraiture. Each participant was asked to be photographed in a meaningful place or location for them. Michael Schmidt,the poet, novelist, critic and Managing Director of Carcanet, is seen in his office sat at his desk, surrounded by shelves full of books with his computer partially hidden behind him. It’s easy to imagine him there creating some of the work and archival material boxed on our shelves. Similarly, the poet Grevel Lindop,photographed at Lud’s Church, Derbyshire, a very different environment and atmosphere to the previous image, but easy to picture him pondering on the landscape and taking inspiration from such a setting; and again those thoughts are captured in volumes and in archive format on Rylands’ shelves. Grevel Lindop gives his thoughts on being in the archive at Rylands in his blog here. […]

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