New Exhibition: Accessions Old and New

Published and archival material from the University and Science Fiction collections is currently on display outside the Special Collections and Archives (SCA) reading room, as part of our current exhibition highlighting ‘Accessions Old and New.’

Recently acquired archives relating to science fiction authors Harry Harrison and John Brosnan complement SCA’s extant collection of published works by these writers, and several of their books and manuscripts are now on display. Items from the Harrison archive on view include story ideas for the comic Flash Gordon (Harrison wrote the daily and weekly scripts for this comic from 1958 to 1968), and an early outline of his book The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World (1972). Outlines and drafts produced by Brosnan also feature in the exhibition, including material relating to an unpublished sequel to his novel Mothership (2004), produced shortly before his untimely death in 2005.

One of SCA’s most recent acquisitions is the collection of Joel Lane, a noted writer and critic of horror, dark fantasy and occasional science fiction. As well as a selection of his books, other more peculiar-looking items lurk amongst the display cabinets…

British Fantasy Award for best collection, awarded to Joel Lane's 'The Earth Wire' (1994). The award represents Cthulhu, the fictional entity created by H. P. Lovecraft.

British Fantasy Award for best collection, awarded to Joel Lane’s ‘The Earth Wire’ (1994). The award represents Cthulhu, the fictional entity created by H. P. Lovecraft.

British Fantasy Award for best short story of the year, awarded to Joel Lane's 'My Stone Desire' (2008).

British Fantasy Award for best short story of the year, awarded to Joel Lane’s ‘My Stone Desire’ (2008).

These awards are amongst a number won by Lane for his poetry and stories. Their presence in SCA’s exhibition certainly makes people look twice!

One of the display cases is also dedicated to the Allotts: Miriam and Kenneth, former English professors at the University of Liverpool, writers and literary scholars. As well as material relating to their poetry and plays, the exhibition features a small selection of letters to the Allotts from the likes of Graham Greene, Philip Larkin and Sylvia Plath.

Our ‘Accessions Old and New’ exhibition, which also includes items relating to Charles Sydney Jones, will be up until the end of 2015.

New online listing: the papers of Kenneth and Miriam Allott

Miriam Allott

Miriam Allott

The papers of Kenneth (1912-1973) and Miriam (1920-2010) Allott have now been catalogued and are searchable on the University of Liverpool Special Collections & Archives website

The Allotts were both former English professors at the University of Liverpool, as well as renowned writers and literary scholars. They met whilst at the University and were married 63 years ago this month, on 1 June 1951. Kenneth was appointed to a professorship, the A. C. Bradley Chair in Modern English Literature, in 1964, a role that Miriam would succeed him in after his untimely death just nine years later. This appointment made her the first female professor in the English department, and only the second woman in the University to hold a position as Chair. Later on in life she reflected that whilst she was at first reluctant to apply for Kenneth’s former role, she felt ‘pleased and privileged to be allowed to carry on in and with his name.’ Soon after Kenneth’s death she established a lectureship in poetry at the University in his memory, something which still continues to this day; this event has seen Liverpool host talks from the likes of Seamus Heaney, Andrew Motion, and Kathleen Raine.

The Allott collection contains a wealth of material relating to their academic careers at the University, including a substantial number of lecture notes. There is also a significant amount of material on the literary works produced by the Allotts from the 1930s onwards. Miriam published extensively throughout her life, producing numerous books, essays, and articles on John Keats, Elizabeth Gaskell, E. M. Forster, and the Brontë sisters. The Allotts also shared a passion for the Victorian poet Matthew Arnold and between them produced several editions of his work. Kenneth was a well-respected published poet, and also co-wrote several plays with friend and playwright Stephen Tait. One of these plays, first shown in Cambridge in 1950, was an adaptation of E. M. Forster’s novel, ‘A Room with a View’; letters from Forster, retained in the archive, indicate the ‘immense admiration’ he felt for this play. Letters to the Allotts from various literary greats, including Graham Greene, Siegfried Sassoon, and Kingsley Amis, also feature amongst the abundance of correspondence kept by the couple.

The archive also includes some personal material which sheds great light on the personalities, convictions, and aspirations of the Allotts. During the Second World War, Kenneth, at that time working as a schoolmaster in London, applied to a local tribunal for exemption from fighting as a conscientious objector. A copy of his (thankfully successful) application survives, and reveals not only his strong pacifist stance but his passionate regard for education, something he demonstrated throughout his life:

‘It is a miserable business to shut myself off from the mass of one’s fellow countrymen, to know that one is likely to be regarded as a shirker or at least a crank, but my conscience tells me that it is my duty to refuse any kind of war service absolutely….The best service I can perform now is to continue the job at which I am most skilled and which I believe to be of paramount importance for the future, the work of educating people to cherish decency, humanity, love of their fellow beings, and the higher values of civilisation. This is a loyalty I can serve.’

Kenneth Allott, with one of his many beloved cats.

Kenneth Allott, with one of his many beloved cats.

The Allotts are still celebrated in the University today. As well as the Kenneth Allott Lecture the University hosts the Miriam Allott Visiting Writers Series. This year also saw the launch of the Allott Room, situated in 19 Abercomby Square.


Josette Reeves, Archives Cataloguer