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Hanley, James: letter (1933)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0096 MS1160
Held at: Senate House Library, University of London
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Full title: Hanley, James: letter (1933)
Date(s): 1933
Level of description: Fonds
Extent: 1 item
Name of creator(s): Hanley | James | 1901-1985 | author and playwright
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Hanley, James (1901-1985), novelist and playwright, was born in Dublin in 1901, the son of Edward Hanley, a ship's stoker. The only school Hanley attended was St Alexandra's Roman Catholic primary school, near his home. At the age of twelve he left school and joined the merchant navy, serving in a submarine during the First World War. Three years later he jumped ship at New Brunswick to enlist in the Canadian Black Watch and eventually saw action in France. Invalided out of the army suffering from the effects of gas, he returned to the sea, working as a stoker on troop carriers, which he featured in some of his novels. He continued to educate himself, mainly by reading Russian literature, and having come ashore in the late 1920s earned a precarious living in a variety of jobs in docks, on the railway, and for a while at Aintree racecourse. Many of his early stories were published in the Liverpool Echo, the editor of which, E. Hope Prince, became his mentor. Hanley's first novel, Drift (1930), and his first volume of stories, The German Prisoner (1930), were published shortly before his move to Wales, where he settled first at Glan Ceirw, Ty-nant, near Corwen in Merioneth, and then, in the autumn of 1941, at Bodynfoel Lodge and Tan-y-ffridd in the village of Llanfechain, Montgomeryshire. His second novel, Boy (1932), was originally published in an edition of 145 copies for subscribers only. An expurgated trade edition followed, but when in 1934 it was issued in a cheap edition, copies were seized by the police and the book was successfully prosecuted for obscenity. The publisher was fined 400 and copies of the book were burnt. Hanley forbade republication of the novel during his lifetime and it was not reissued until 1990.

The first of Hanley's novels about the Furys, a Liverpool Irish family, appeared in 1935 and a volume of autobiography, Broken Water, in 1937. On the outbreak of the Second World War he found work with the BBC and later with the Ministry of Information, but his home remained in Llanfechain until 1963, when he and his wife moved to London. During the war he wrote three novels of the sea which are among his best work: Hollow Sea (1938), The Ocean (1941), and Sailor's Song (1943). He also wrote the autobiographical No Directions (1943). Many of his stories and radio plays were broadcast on the BBC Third Programme during the 1940s. During his long residence in Wales, Hanley wrote four books: a collection of essays, Don Quixote Drowned (1953), and the novels The Welsh Sonata (1954), Another World (1971), and A Kingdom (1978). His 'Selected Stories' appeared in 1947 and 'Collected Stories' in 1953. Hanley died of bronchial pneumonia in November 1985.


Scope and content/abstract:

Letter from James Hanley to Frank Hollings, bookseller, offering to sell manuscript of his first novel Drift and also the manuscript of Captain Bottele, 6 Nov 1933.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:


System of arrangement:

1 item only.

Conditions governing access:

Open for research.

Conditions governing reproduction:

May be photocopied subject to copyright restrictions.

Finding aids:

Catalogued on the ULRLS archives catalogue.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Purchased from Bertam Rota, October 2008.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Imported from the Senate House catalogue and edited by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
2008-10-02; Feb 2009.

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