Cecil Day-Lewis archive acquired by Bodleian

Oxford University's Bodleian Library receives donation of the former poet laureate's extensive archives.

Cecil Day Lewis and family in 1968
Cecil Day Lewis, his son Daniel and wife Jill reading some of the letters congratulating him on his appointment as Poet Laureate in 1968. (Photo by Chris Ware/Keystone Features/Getty Images)

The former poet laureate, Cecil Day-Lewis has had his written archives donated to the Bodleian library at Oxford University by his children, the actor Daniel Day-Lewis and food writer Tamasin Day-Lewis.

The  extensive archive includes personal letters, working drafts of poems, essays and several crime novels published under the nom de plume Nicholas Blake.

Cecil Day Lewis was an alumni of the University and contemporary of other Oxford poets including WH Auden, which Chris Fletcher - keeper of special collections at the Bodleian - feels makes this acquisition particularly pertinent, saying: "It is a wonderful archive – a great archive in its own right but it makes particular sense for us because of the local context."

The library is today holding a symposium of his life and work, including new exhibits of archival items, and panel discussions on Day-Lewis’s poetic output.

Speaking on the BBC Today programme this morning, Tamasin Day-Lewis said she welcomed the chance this will give to re-assess her father’s literary legacy:

I think perhaps it could be a good idea we have [overlooked him in the past] because people don’t necessarily come into their own when they’ve just died. They aren’t necessarily assessed correctly when they’ve died, or indeed when they’re alive. So people are re-assessed at different stages… As far as his own work is concerned, I think he will live on.

She also noted that much of her father’s aim as poet laureate was to make poetry accessible to a wider audience, and hopes that the Bodleian archive will continue to pursue this ambition.

Wanting people to read and appreciate poetry, and for it to not just be a thing they go through as children and then never read again, was something he  believed passionately in.