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Hugh MacDiarmid manuscripts related to First Hymn to Lenin and Other Poems

Identifier: MSS 0225

Scope and Content Note

The Hugh MacDiarmid manuscripts consist of manuscript material relating to the publication and promtion of First Hymn to Lenin and Other Poems, published in Dublin by the Unicorn Press in 1931. All of the material was written by MacDiarmid, who worked at the Unicorn Press and frequently wrote enthusiastic announcements and reviews of his own work under the pseudonums "A.L." and "James McLaren." Consisting primarily of pencilled autograph manuscripts with some typescripts, the collection containing 12 items, including the title poem, the introductory essay, announcements and advertisements, and two reviews of First Hymn to Lenin and Other Poems, both written by Hugh MacDiarmid under the pseudonyms A. L. and James McLaren.


  • Creation: circa 1931


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Restrictions on Access

The collection is open for research.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical Note

Hugh MacDiarmid was born Christopher Murray Grieve on August 11, 1892 in Langholm, a small Scottish town along the English border. Grieve's literary influences came early; among his first teachers in Langholm was the Scottish composer Francis George Scott who would later collaborate with him on a variety of projects. When Grieve enrolled in 1908 at the Broughton Junior Student Center in Edinburgh, his primary English instructor was George Ogilvie who became his most important literary mentor.

In 1910, following the death of his father, Grieve began working as a journalist. Like many others of his time, Grieve's life was interrupted by the onset of World War I and he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps with which he served from 1915 - 1919. Following his demobilization in 1919, Grieve settled with his wife Peggy in Montrose, Scotland, where he had a job as a journalist with the Montrose Review. In addition to his journalism, Grieve's poetry and essays began appearing in a variety of journals and newspapers. In November 1920, Grieve launched the first of his many publishing and editorial projects, the anthology series Northern Number in which he published new poetry by contemporary Scottish poets. He was soon involved in other such efforts including The Scottish Chapbook (1922-1923), the Scottish Nation (1923), and the Northern Review (1924). In October 1922, Grieve brought out the first number of Scottish Chapbook and introduced a new author whose work exemplified the qualities that he felt were necessary for a regenerated Scottish literature. The author was Hugh MacDiarmid and in subsequent months his Scots lyrics were well received by poets and critics, including Grieve himself, who wrote glowingly of MacDiarmid's achievements. Within a few years, the literary world was generally aware that C.M. Grieve and Hugh MacDiarmid were the same person. By the 1930s, he had for the most part adopted his alter ego as his primary public persona, writing poetry and prose and even delivering speeches as Hugh MacDiarmid.

The figure of Hugh MacDiarmid also maintained a high profile in the world of Scottish politics. Grieve had been active in Fabian Society and Labour Party work as early as 1908 and was a contributor to A.R. Orage's The New Age where he began his lifelong fascination with the Social Credit economic theories of C.H. Douglas. Active in literary politics as well, MacDiarmid founded the Scottish center of PEN in 1927.

Although MacDiarmid remained active politically and wrote prolifically throughout the 1930's, the decade was one of great turmoil in his personal life. In 1929, MacDiarmid moved his family to London to serve as editor of Vox, a radio journal begun with great expectations by author Compton Mackenzie. Following the failure of Vox, MacDiarmid moved to Liverpool in May 1930 to work as a public relations officer. He left his family in London and the separation led to divorce the following year and, ultimately, complete estrangement from his two children.

In 1931 MacDiarmid married Valda Trevlyn and joined yet another literary enterprise. He accepted a directorship with the Unicorn Press, a London publisher which recruited him to serve as literary advisor. MacDiarmid's inability to pay his share of the directorship inevitably led to a financial dispute and he was asked to leave the press within the year. Faced with financial ruin and a state of physical and emotional stress, MacDiarmid, his wife Valva, and their infant son Michael moved to the island of Whalsay, one of the Shetland Islands off the Scottish coast. MacDiarmid lived on Whalsay in extreme poverty and often in poor health--he suffered a complete breakdown in 1935--for nearly ten years. During this period MacDiarmid produced some of his finest poetry; however, he saw only three collections of his poems published--Stony Limits and Other Poems (1934), Second Hymn to Lenin and Other Poems (1935), and the slim retrospective Selected Poems (1934).

MacDiarmid may have remained on Whalsay even longer if he were not conscripted for National Service in 1941, at the age of forty-eight, to work in factories and in the Merchant Service until 1943. Following the war, MacDiarmid continued to struggle financially until 1950 when the British government awarded him a civil list pension honoring his lifelong achievement. MacDiarmid was now able to live with some degree of financial security and in 1951 he Moved to Lanarkshire, Scotland.

Hugh MacDiarmid died on September 9, 1978, just two months before the publication of his Complete Poems 1920-1976, edited by his son Michael Grieve and his biographer W.R. Aitken. MacDiarmid lived to read final proofs for the book and was able to contribute an author's note before his death.

Buthlay, Kenneth. "Hugh MacDiarmid" in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Volume 20. British Poets, 1914-1945. Stanford, Donald E. (ed.). Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1983. pp. 210-223. Murray, Timothy. "Hugh MacDiarmid" in Hugh MacDiarmid An Exhibition Celebrating the Centenary Of His Birth. Newark: University of Delaware Library, 1992. pp. 7-10.


12 item (1 box)


Manterials related to the publication and promtion of Scottish author Hugh MacDiarmid's manuscript First Hymn to Lenin and Other Poems, published in Dublin by the Unicorn Press in 1931.


Purchase, 1991.

Related Materials in This Repository

MSS 0224 Hugh MacDiarmid papers


Processed by Timothy Murray and Wendy Van Wyck, 1991.

Finding aid for Hugh MacDiarmid manuscripts related to First Hymn to Lenin and Other Poems
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2006 August 9
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

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Newark DE 19717-5267 USA