Roy Fuller Letters

Identity elements

Reference code

TxAM-CRS 113

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Level of description



Roy Fuller Letters


  • 1937-1992 (Creation)


3 boxes

Name of creator


Biographical history

British poet and novelist, Roy Broadbent Fuller was born in Failsworth, Lancashire 11 February 1912. After the death of their father, Roy Fuller and his brother, along with their mother, Nellie Broadbent Fuller, moved to Blackpool. Admitted as a solicitor in 1934, he then married Kathleen Smith in 1936. With their young son and only child, John Fuller, the couple moved to London just before the outbreak of World War II. There, Roy Fuller joined the Woolwich Equitable Building Society, a home-mortgage company, with whom he remained until his retirement in 1987. Fuller left the Woolwich for military duty during World War II, from 1941-1946, when he served as a Lieutenant with the Royal Navy, first as a radar mechanic in Kenya, then as a radio and radar officer at the Admiralty. As soon as the war ended and he was demobilized, Fuller returned to the Woolwich, rising from Assistant Solicitor to Solicitor to the Society (1958-1969), and finally to Director (1969-1987).

The influence of William Wordsworth, Hugh Wystan Auden, and to some extent Alexander Pope, was apparent in Fuller's earliest published poetry, Poems (London: Fortune, 1939). Though Poems spoke to the fear and tension engendered by the Spanish Civil War, Fuller's next two books of poetry, The Middle of a War (London: Hogarth Press, 1944), and A Lost Season (London: Hogarth Press,1944) are refreshed and informed more by his own war experiences, particularly the less glamorous aspects of tedium, and shortages suffered by most of the civilian population in England at the time. Fuller credited the discipline of military life with the precision and complex structure of this more mature poetic style. The time Fuller spent in East Africa was particularly valuable in providing time to write and new experiences to explore, especially those of a generally urbane and family-oriented Englishman faced with the possibilities of violence and early death, the persistence of loneliness for loved ones and well-known scenes, and the ever-present vicissitudes of difficult and often boring war-time travel. Africa's influence on Fuller was profound, as evidenced in several poems from A Lost Season. Fuller's sense of war's darkness was highlighted by the exotic and primal aspects of the African landscape. As one of the most significant of the World War II English poets, Fuller spoke in a more studied manner, and with the voice of the home-front denizen, rather than that of the fighting man.

After the end of World War II and his demobilization, Fuller continued writing and publishing important poetry, but he also turned to write fiction, including Savage Gold (1946), a collection of boy's adventure tales, which also draws on the author's fascination with Kenya, and With My Little Eye (1948), a work on crime detection. Subsequent to the immediate postwar lull in literary activity, English poets by the 1950s seemed to coalesce into a group eventually called The Movement. This group was generally dedicated to robust and ironic poems, forthright in tone, and often intricate in versification. Before the war, Fuller's work had already become famous for these very characteristics; thus, he emerged as both The Movement's father figure and a link between English poetry of the 1930s and 1950s. Other poets in The Movement included Philip Larkin, Donald Davie, D.J. Enright, Elizabeth Jennings, and Thom Gunn. Two important anthologies of these poets' work including poems by Fuller, New Lines: an Anthology, and New Lines II, were edited by Robert Conquest and published by Macmillian in 1956 and 1963 respectively. During this interesting period of English literary development, Fuller published two more verse collections and four novels.

Noteworthy among Fuller's postwar works are three books of poetry. Epitaphs and Occasions (1949) owed much to 18th-century poetry's assertion of civilization's need for balance in viewpoint and poetic style, as well as complexity and integrity of poetic execution. Counterparts (1954); and Brutus's Orchard (1957) presented Fuller's wry honesty and increasingly more assertively dramatic poetic voice, recalling the classical literary influences propounded by the 18th-century poets themselves. Again Wordsworth's influence was also noticeable. By 1962, when Fuller's Collected Poems: 1936-1961 appeared, he was acknowledged as one of the leading poets of the post-Auden generation. Buff (1965) contained the third sonnet sequence published by Fuller, and New Poems (1968) won the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize. Not as romantic as Dylan Thomas or George Barker, Fuller persistently grew as a poet and by the end of his career possessed a dryly witty, ironic and dramatic style, always humane and honest in its evaluation of the writer himself, as well as the society in which he lived and to which he owed his best efforts as a citizen of the world.

Not only a poet and novelist but a formidable civic servant, Fuller served as the Vice-President of the Buildings Societies Association (1969-1987); a Governor of the BBC (1972-1979); member of the Arts Council (1976-1977); Member of the Library Advisory Council for England (1977-1979). Other awards and honors included the Queen's Medal for Poetry (1970); the Cholmondeley Award, Society of Authors (1980); and an honorary D.Litt., University of Kent (1986). Fuller's autobiography was published over the course of several years in several volumes; Souvenirs (1980); Vamp Till Ready (1982); Home and Dry (1984); The Strange and the Good: Complete Memoirs (1989). Roy Fuller died in Blackheath, London September 27, 1991.

Austin, Allan E. "Roy (Broadbent) Fuller," in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 20: British Poets, 1914-1945. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Edited by Donald E. Stanford, Louisiana State University. The Gale Group, 1983, pp. 132-140.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

This collection contains over 275 letters of correspondence in Series 1, serving to portray the longtime relationship between Roy Fuller and Julian Symons which started on terms of business and grew to a close friendship. The letters are primarily from Roy Fuller to Julian Symons with occasional addendums from Kate Fuller. There are several letters from Julian Symons in response. In addition, there are some letters from John Fuller to the Symons, from Roy Fuller to Jack Clark, and from Roy Fuller to Sebastian Barker. The folder list contains a brief description of each individual letter and its focus, often with a list of Subjects. Especially lyrical and poetic are Roy Fuller's war letters starting when he was stationed in Africa (Kenya and Nairobi) and Ariel through the office of the Admiralty (folders 1000-1370).

In Series 2, there are 64 letters from Roy Fuller with three annotations from Jack Clark and five from Kate Fuller, one letter from Jack Clark, one from Kate Fuller, six from John Fuller, Roy Fuller's son, and several others from miscellaneous individuals. The letters from Roy Fuller date from 1958 to 1990 and are primarily handwritten postcards to Jack Clark, Co-founder of the Poem-of-the-Month Club. Many of these letters are regarding or, at least, in reference to Fuller's position as advisory to the Poem-of-the-Month Club. However, Fuller and Clark were also close friends, and Fuller feels free, in these letters, to discuss everything from his failing health to how he met his wife, along with many other personal remarks. Most of the letters from John Fuller and the one from Kate Fuller were written after Roy Fuller's death. The few other items in this series include poems, obituaries, newspaper clippings, and pamphlets pertaining to Roy Fuller's life and/or subjects exchanged between Fuller and Clark.

List of Abbreviations Used:

  • ALS - Autograph letter, signed.
  • AL - Autograph letter, unsigned.
  • ANS - Autograph note, signed.
  • APCS - Autograph postcard, signed.
  • TLS - Typed letter, signed.
  • TL - Typed letter, unsigned.
  • TPCS - Typed postcard, signed.
  • RF - Roy Fuller
  • POMC - Poem-of-the-Month Club
  • TCV - Twentieth Century Verse

System of arrangement

This collection is organized into the following series:

Series 1, Julian Symons
Series 2, Jack Clark

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These materials are stored offsite and require additional time for retrieval.

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Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Languages of the material

  • English

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Finding aids

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Custodial history

Immediate source of acquisition

Correspondence with Julian Symons purchased from Kathleen Symons in 1998. Correspondence with Jack Clark purchased from Jack Clark through Bloomsbury Book Auctions of London in 1996.


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