AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area

Comfort Papers

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0103 COMFORT
Held at: University College London
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Full title: Comfort Papers
Date(s): 1937-c1990
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 52 boxes, 4 files
Name of creator(s): Comfort | Alexander | 1920-2000 | poet and novelist
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born in London, 1920; educated at Highgate School, Trinity College Cambridge (Robert Styring Scholar, Classics, and Senior Scholar, Natural Sciences), and the London Hospital (Scholar); visited Buenos Aires and West Africa, 1936; refused military service in World War Two, 1939-1945; 1st Class Natural Science Tripos, Part I, 1940; 2nd Class Natural Science Tripos, 1st Division (Pathology), 1941; BA, 1943; married Ruth Muriel Harris, 1943; Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, Cambridge, 1944; Member of the Royal College of Surgeons and Licentiate, Royal College of Physicians, London, 1944; MA, Cambridge, 1945; Diploma in Child Health, London, 1945; one son, Nicholas, born, 1946; Lecturer in Physiology, London Hospital Medical College, 1948-1951; PhD in Biochemistry, London, 1949; Honorary Research Associate, Department of Zoology, University College London, 1951-1973; DSc in Gerontology, London, 1963; Director of Research in Gerontology, Zoology Department, University College London, 1966-1973; President, British Society for Research on Ageing, 1967; first marriage dissolved and married Jane Tristram Henderson (d 1991), 1973; Clinical Lecturer, Department of Psychiatry, Stanford University, 1974-1983; Professor, Department of Pathology, University of California School of Medicine, Irvine, 1976-1978; Consultant psychiatrist, Brentwood VA Hospital, Los Angeles, 1978-1981; Adjunct Professor, Neuropsychiatric Institute, University of California at Los Angeles, from 1980; Consultant, Ventura County Hospital (Medical Education), from 1981; member of the Royal Society of Medicine; member of the American Psychiatric Association; a prolific author, best known for books on sexual behaviour - in which he advocated greater sexual freedom, including the bestselling and widely translated The Joy of Sex and its sequels - but wrote on a diverse range of subjects; an anarchist, and published works on anarchy; a pacifist, and active in the movement for nuclear disarmament; died in Banbury, Oxfordshire, 2000. Publications include: Fiction: No Such Liberty (1941); The Almond Tree (1943); The Powerhouse (1944); Letters from an Outpost (1947); On This Side Nothing (1949); A Giant's Strength (1952); Come Out to Play (1961); Tetrarch (1980); Imperial Patient (1987); The Philosophers (1989). Poetry: France and Other Poems (1942); A Wreath for the Living (1943); Elegies (1944); The Song of Lazarus (USA, 1945); The Signal to Engage (1947); And All But He Departed (1951); Haste to the Wedding (1961); Poems (1979); Mikrokosmos (1994). Plays: Into Egypt (1942); Cities of the Plain (1943); Gengulphus (1948). Songs: Are You Sitting Comfortably? (1962). Non-fiction: The Silver River (1938); Art and Social Responsibility (1946); First Year Physiological Technique (1948); The Novel and Our Time (1948); Barbarism and Sexual Freedom (1948); Sexual Behaviour in Society (1950); The Pattern of the Future (1950); Authority and Delinquency in the Modern State (1950); The Biology of Senescence (1956); Darwin and the Naked Lady (1961); Sex in Society (1963); Ageing, the Biology of Senescence (1964); The Process of Ageing (1964); Nature and Human Nature (1966); The Anxiety Makers (1967); The Joy of Sex (1972); More Joy (1974); A Good Age (1977); as editor, Sexual Consequences of Disability (1978); I and That: Notes on the Biology of Religion (1979); A practice of Geriatric Psychiatry (1979); The Facts of Love (1980); What is a Doctor? (1980); Reality and Empathy (1984); with Jane T Comfort, What about Alcohol? (1983); The New Joy of Sex (1991); Against Power and Death (1994). Translation: The Koka Shastra (1964).


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers, 1937-c1990, of Alex Comfort.

The first deposit (6 boxes) comprises letters received, 1937-1964, on his literary and other interests, with the letters of 1937-1945 focussing particularly on literary subjects, including poetry in the 1940s, but latterly more varied, including ideas and activism in anarchism, pacifism, and nuclear disarmament, as public speaker, broadcaster and pamphleteer, including for example letters from Bertrand Russell, 1960-1962; copies of letters from Herbert Read, 1941-1964; a few personal papers, 1936-1946, including The Times announcement of the birth of Comfort's son, 1946; papers relating to peace campaigns in which Comfort was involved, 1944-1961; lecture notes and poetry, stories, and articles by Comfort on pacifism, politics, and science, 1941-1960 and undated; printed papers relating to Comfort's interests, 1945-1962.The second deposit (46 boxes, 4 files) comprises 14 boxes of correspondence relating to Comfort's work, publications, and other interests, some dating back to 1949 but largely dating from the 1960s to 1980s; manuscripts and, particularly, typescripts of both published and unpublished verse and prose, both scientific and non-scientific, including for example 'I and That', 'The facts of love', 'A practice of geriatric psychiatry', 'Reality and empathy', 'The Power House', 'More joy', 'A giants strength', 'Darwin and the naked lady', 'Come out to play', 'The Almond Tree', and 'Letters from an outpost'; printed articles by Comfort, the topics including old age and some sexual subjects; scripts for talks and broadcasts; press cuttings, dating largely from the 1950s and 1960s, relating to Comfort and his work; a file of slides of India, 1962, and two files of scientific slides; printed papers by other authors on various scientific topics.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The first deposit is arranged largely in keeping with the original order as received by University College London, with the correspondence arranged chronologically. The second, uncatalogued, deposit is as received by University College London.

Conditions governing access:

Due to the sensitive content of this collection many files are either closed or access to readers is restricted. We require at least four weeks' notice prior to your planned visit to process your request. Please contact Special Collections with as much information as possible about your research and what you would like to consult. However due to the content of the collection and the limited finding aids we may not be able provide access. This is to ensure compliance with existing data protection legislation..

Conditions governing reproduction:

Normal copyright restrictions apply.

Finding aids:

Draft handlist and card index to personal and corporate names for the first deposit available at University College London Special Collections. The second deposit is uncatalogued and only a summary list exists.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers, one deposit received in 1973 and the second, made by Nicholas Comfort on behalf of his father, in 1992, were deposited on permanent loan.

Allied Materials

Related material:

University College London Special Collections also holds letters to Alex Comfort from Os and Margaret Marron, 1945-1946 (Ref: MS ADD 111); a letter from Hugh Harris, 1953, one from Robert Greacen, 1965, and one from Philip O'Connor, 1968 (Ref: MS ADD 160); a letter from A C Boyd and reply by Comfort, 1956 (Ref: MS ADD 195); a letter to Comfort from Herbert Read, 1943 (Ref: MS MISC 4R); galley proof of Robert Greacen's Even Without Irene, 1968, including a description of Comfort (Ref: MS MISC 5G); various fiction and non-fiction publications by Alex Comfort.

State University of New York College at Buffalo holds correspondence and literary papers.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Who's Who; Encyclopaedia Britannica online; National Register of Archives; British Library OPAC. Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with 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:
Jun 2001

Related Subject Search

* To search for other records with similar subjects, tick any subjects above then click "Run New Search"

Related Personal Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"

Related Placename Search

* To search for other records with similar placenames, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"