Jennings, Elizabeth, 1926-2001

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Elizabeth Joan Jennings was born on July 18, 1926, in Boston, Lincolnshire, England, to Henry Cecil Jennings, a medical officer of health, and Helen Mary Turner. Raised as a Roman Catholic, she attended Rye St. Antony School and later Oxford High School. When Jennings was thirteen years old she discovered poetry, first struck by Chesterton's The Battle of Lepanto. She found early encouragement in teachers and an uncle, himself a poet. Jennings studied English at St. Anne's College, Oxford from 1944-1949 where she was first published in 1949 in the annual anthology, Oxford Poetry (1949). By 1953 she also published Poems (1953) through Oscar Mellor's Fantasy Press. Jennings and a number of friends from Oxford, including Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, Donald Davie, and Thom Gunn were the main contributors to Robert Conquest's anthology New Lines (1956) in 1956. This established the "Movement," a literary movement that was anti-romantic and focused on themes of rationality and sobriety.

A Way of Looking (1955) garnered Jennings the Somerset Maugham Award in 1956. The award was established for young writers to enrich their craft by traveling abroad, and Jennings did so by means of a three month stay in Italy. Those three months influenced Jennings throughout the rest of her life and work. In 1961 Jennings published Song for a Birth or a Death (1961), a book of religiously inspired poetry, and, in 1962, she was featured in the first volume of the Penguin Modern Poets (1962). At this time she was hospitalized for mental illness, during which time she wrote poems like "Sequence in Hospital," appearing in Recoveries (1964).

Upon her release, she published prolifically, often returning to and revising her previous work, which appeared in successive editions of her Collected Poems (1967). She also published the book Growing Points (1975) in 1975 which featured dominant themes of destruction and rejuvenation, as well as children's poetry with advice to children.

Jennings earned financial success with the titles Selected Poems (1979) and Collected Poems (1986); the latter earned her a W.H. Smith Award in 1987. Yet, she seems to have experienced financial difficulty later in life despite being one of the most well-known and respected poets of the time. Many considered her eccentric and she was criticized by the press for receiving the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (C.B.E) at Buckingham Palace in 1992 looking like a "bag lady."

Her poems and letters reflect her many friendships as well as her interest in the arts with various collections of books, music boxes, and doll house furniture. Jennings died of heart failure in Oxford on October 26, 2001.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Elizabeth Jennings papers 2 Georgetown University, Joseph Mark Lauinger Memorial Library
creatorOf Elizabeth Jennings manuscripts, 1973-1992, 1986-001 The University of Tulsa, McFarlin Library
creatorOf MODERN LITERARY MSS. Vol. VIII C. Notebook containing some fourteen poems, mostly religious, a book-list, sketches, etc.; bef. 7 May 1942 (f. 14b)-aft. 4 Dec. 1943 (f. 22b). Paper; ff. ii+26. 165 x 100mm. 1942-1943.Elizabeth Joan Jennings, poet: Juve..., 1942-1943 British Library
contributorOf Paul West papers Pennsylvania State University Libraries
creatorOf MODERN LITERARY MSS. Vol. VIII B. Notebook containing the part of Marmullah, with cues, from an unpublished play; circa 1941-1942, n.d. Autograph extract. Paper; ff. i+11. 160 x 100mm. 1941-1942.Elizabeth Joan Jennings, poet: Juvenilia: circa 1940-19..., approximately 1941-1942 British Library
contributorOf Gawsworth (Armstrong)/Shiel/Redonda Papers University of Iowa Libraries
creatorOf A. W. RUSSELL AND RUTH PITTER CORRESPONDENCE. Vol. IV. (ff. 87). Drafts of essays on Pitter by various authors named in the index to the present catalogue; 1968-1969. Followed (ff. 86-87) by notes and adaptations to the text of the festschrift by A. ..., 1968-1969 British Library
creatorOf Stephen Oliver: Shorter secular vocal works, 1965-1987 British Library
creatorOf MODERN LITERARY MSS. Vol. IX (ff. 127). Poems, etc.; circa 1955-1964. Partly typewritten. Four of the poems on ff. 1-7b were first collected in A Way of Looking, 1955; four, on ff. 8-13b, in A Sense of the World, 1958; two, on ff. 14-16, in Song for ..., approximately 1955-1964 British Library
creatorOf Ambit Poetry Magazine records Pennsylvania State University Libraries
creatorOf Elizabeth Jennings collection of papers, 1961]-1967 The New York Public Library. Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature.
creatorOf Poetry Book Society. Poetry Book Society records, 1962-1970 (majority 1966-1970) University of Maryland (College Park, Md.). Libraries
creatorOf Elizabeth Jennings Papers Boston College. John J. Burns Library
contributorOf Woodberry Poetry Room Collection of Broadsides Houghton Library
creatorOf Tablet Publishing Company editorial correspondence Boston College. John J. Burns Library
creatorOf Elizabeth Jennings poetry manuscripts, 1957–1966 University of Delaware Library - Special Collections
creatorOf Elizabeth Jennings papers Pennsylvania State University Libraries
referencedIn Derek Parker Collection TXRC96-A45., 1955-1970 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Elizabeth Jennings letters and poetry manuscripts, undated University of Delaware Library - Special Collections
referencedIn Sir Alec Guinness Archive, 1914-2003 British Library: Western Manuscripts
creatorOf A. W. RUSSELL AND RUTH PITTER CORRESPONDENCE. Vol. III (ff. 183). Correspondence of A. W. Russell; 1967-1969, n.d. The names of the writers and recipients are given in the index to the present catalogue.includes:ff. 1-11 John Leslie Thomas Arlott, wr..., 1967-1969 British Library
creatorOf MODERN LITERARY MSS. Vol. VIII A. Notebook containing two poems, drawings and (ff. 4b-5, 7-13) a vocabulary; circa 1940. Imperfect by the excision of f. 14. Paper; ff. ii+14. 160 x 100mm. 1940.Elizabeth Joan Jennings, poet: Juvenilia: circa 1940-1943..., approximately 1940 British Library
referencedIn co. Surrey.Elizabeth Jennings: Rubbing of shield from ledger stone of, at Beddington: 1771.Beddington, Surrey: Rubbings of brasses and ledger stone at. British Library
creatorOf John Keats collection of papers, 1816-1948, 1816-1924 The New York Public Library. Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature.
referencedIn Bradbury, M. mss. II, 1949-1993 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
creatorOf Elizabeth Jennings papers, 1940–1977, 1958–1969 University of Delaware Library - Special Collections
creatorOf Elizabeth Jennings poetry notebooks, 1981–1992 University of Delaware Library - Special Collections
creatorOf Elizabeth Jennings Papers Washington University in St. Louis, .
creatorOf Elizabeth Jennings papers 1 Georgetown University, Joseph Mark Lauinger Memorial Library
referencedIn Stephen Oliver Collection British Library: Music Collections
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associatedWith Causley, Charles, 1917- person
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associatedWith Clark, Leonard person
associatedWith Colvin, Sidney, Sir, 1845-1927 person
associatedWith Cookson, William, 1939- person
associatedWith Edwards, Amelia Ann Blanford, 1831-1892 person
associatedWith Eliot, T. S. (Thomas Stearns), 1888-1965. person
associatedWith Forman, H. Buxton (Harry Buxton), 1842-1917 person
associatedWith Forman, Maurice Buxton person
correspondedWith Fuller, Roy Broadbent, 1912- person
associatedWith Gawsworth, John, 1912-1970. person
correspondedWith Gielgud, John, 1904-2000 person
associatedWith Gordan, John Dozier, 1907-1968 person
correspondedWith Guinness, Alec, 1914-2000 person
associatedWith Higham, David, person
associatedWith Howe, W. T. H. (William Thomas Hildrup) person
associatedWith Hunt, Leigh, 1784-1859 person
associatedWith Jarrell, Randall, 1914-1965 person
associatedWith Keats, John, 1795-1821. person
associatedWith Kern, Jerome, 1885-1945 person
associatedWith Levi, Peter. person
associatedWith Locker-Lampson, Frederick, 1821-1895 person
associatedWith Lowell, Amy, 1874-1925 person
associatedWith Lynd, Helen Merrell, 1896- person
associatedWith Marsh, Edward Howard, Sir, 1872-1953 person
correspondedWith Maugham, W. Somerset (William Somerset), 1874-1965 person
associatedWith Mellor, Oscar, person
correspondedWith Merwin, W. S. (William Stanley), 1927- person
correspondedWith Muir, Edwin, 1887-1959 person
associatedWith Parker, Derek, 1932- person
associatedWith Poetry Book Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Rich, Adrienne Cecile. person
associatedWith Sharp, William, 1855-1905 person
correspondedWith Sitwell, Edith, 1887-1964 person
associatedWith Tablet Publishing Company (London, England) corporateBody
associatedWith Thomas, Edward, 1878-1917 person
associatedWith Tiller, Terence, 1916- person
associatedWith Tolkien, Priscilla, 1929- person
correspondedWith Wedgwood, C. V. (Cicely Veronica), 1910-1997 person
associatedWith West, Paul, 1930- person
associatedWith Whitall, William Van R person
associatedWith Wise, Thomas James, 1859-1937 person
associatedWith Woodberry Poetry Room (Harvard College Library). corporateBody
associatedWith Woodhouse, Henrietta F person
associatedWith Young, Owen D., 1874- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Lincolnshire ENG GB
Oxford ENG GB
Authors, English
English poetry
Poets, English
Women authors, English
Women poets, English
Poets, English
Women writers


Birth 1926-07-18

Death 2001-10-26



Ark ID: w6p37r6h

SNAC ID: 87999034