Correspondence from the Herbert Read Archive
FROM THE BROTHERTON SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
‘Yours ever, Herbert’: Correspondence from the Herbert Read Archive
June 2018 marked 50 years since the death of Sir Herbert Read (1893-1968). His description in the Dictionary of National Biography as ‘poet, literary critic, and writer on art’ hints at the breadth of his cultural influence but falls short of the ‘half-a-dozen fields’ that Read half-joked had made his legacy, and perhaps the man himself, hard to characterise. ‘[I]n dissipating my talents’, he wrote, ‘I have made it difficult for my contemporaries to recognize the underlying unity of my purpose and my practice. I am left with the hope that someday someone will take the trouble to trace “the figure in the carpet”.’1
One potential means of tracing this protean figure is through Read’s library and extensive archive. His relationship with the University of Leeds began in 1912 when, aged nineteen, he registered as an undergraduate to study for a degree in law and economics. Special Collections began to acquire Read’s library and personal papers in 1996, and a grant from the Strachey Trust enabled the final uncatalogued section of the archive to be re-boxed and box-listed in 2017.
As would be expected, the archive is as diverse as Read’s many projects and interests. There are manuscript poetry notebooks, essay typescripts, boxes of prints and photographs of art and sculpture. It is Read’s correspondence, however, that most effectively reveals both his cultural reach and the depth of his engagement with generations of artists, writers and thinkers. ...
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