Skip to main content

Elizabeth Jennings papers

Identifier: MSS 0186

Scope and Content Note

The Elizabeth Jennings papers date from circa 1940 to circa 1977, bulking from 1958 to 1969. The collection contains letters from Jennings to her parents dating from 1957 to 1959. Also included are approximately 150 titled poems, 17 poetry notebooks, and miscellaneous prose works, including The Inward War, an unpublished biography of Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Jennings's autobiography, also never published.

Eight of the notebooks, dating from April 27 to June 22, 1977, contain four hundred and eighty-six poems, representing an extremely productive phase in Jennings's career. Among the miscellaneous material are two of Jennings's childhood notebooks and three BBC radio scripts from 1958.


  • Creation: 1940-1977
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1958-1969


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Restrictions

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

The British poet Elizabeth Jennings (1926-2001) has published more than 20 books of poetry since the 1950s. She writes short, meditative lyrics that are known for their simplicity, control, and range of feeling. These qualities have linked Jennings to a group of poets, usually referred to as The Movement, who were writing in England during the 1940s and 1950s. The members of this group, poets like Kingsley Amis, Thom Gunn, Philip Larkin, and John Wain, never consciously formed a movement, but their poetry reveals a shared love for simplicity and an acceptance of regular meter and rhyme.

Elizabeth Jennings was born on July 18, 1926, in Boston, Lincolnshire. She claims that she discovered poetry at age 13 and began to write, encouraged by a teacher and her uncle. Jennings attended St. Anne's College, Oxford, from 1945 to 1949 and was greatly stimulated by the intellectual atmosphere there. It was at this time that she began to associate with poets of The Movement; some of her first published poems appeared in Oxford Poetry 1948, edited by Kingsley Amis and James Michie. Jennings worked in the Oxford City Library from 1950 to 1958 and as a publisher's reader from 1958 to 1960. During this time she published three books of poetry and a book for children entitled "Let's Have Some Poetry!" (1960). In the early 1960s, Jennings suffered a breakdown and was confined to a hospital. The poems she wrote after her release are collected in Recoveries (1964) and The Mind Has Mountains (1966).

Jennings is an extremely prolific poet. She writes quickly, revises little, and claims that her poems "come out very clean." She differs from the other poets of The Movement in her devotion to Roman Catholicism, a theme that pervades much of her poetry. Jennings also writes about friendship, relationships, places, and art. She does not write autobiographical poems, but her religious concerns, mental illness, and other personal experiences influence the themes and insights expressed in her poetry.

Bissett, William. "Elizabeth Jennings." Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 27: Poets of Great Britain and Ireland 1945-1960, edited by Vincent B. Sherry, Jr. Detroit: Gale Research, 1984. pp. 163-170.


2.3 linear foot (281 items)


The Elizabeth Jennings papers document the work of British poet Elizabeth Jennings (1926-2001). Associated with The Movement, Jennings was a prolific writer. The collection contains letters, notebooks, miscellaneous prose, and juvenilia.


Purchases, 1968-1985.

Related Materials in this Repository

MSS 0282, Elizabeth Jennings letters and poetry manuscripts

MSS 0283, Elizabeth Jennings poetry notebooks

MSS 0284, Elizabeth Jennings poetry manuscripts

Shelving Summary

  • Boxes 1-7: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes


Preliminary processing in 1973. Revised by Wendy van Wyck, 1990-1991. Encoded by Thomas Pulhamus, March 2010. Further encoding by Lauren Connolly and Tiffany Saulter, May 2016.

Finding aid for Elizabeth Jennings papers
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2010 March 8
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA