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Margaret Drabble Research Files

Identifier: MsC0931

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Scope and Contents

The materials in this collection consist of the files assembled by Margaret Drabble from 1990-1995 and used in the writing of her monumental 1995 biography of fellow British novelist Sir Angus Wilson. The files have been categorized by UI Special Collections into five sections: Administrative Materials, which contain papers concerning the logistics surrounding the research and writing; Alphabetical Files, which comprises the largest portion of the collection. The files contain correspondence, photocopies of documents (including letters to and from Wilson), and other materials arranged alphabetically by the last name of the person sourced or, in a few cases, the subject term. The files contain letters from famous correspondents including Peter Ackroyd, Martin Amis, Louis Auchincloss, John Bayley, Saul Bellow, Frederick Busch, Hortense Calisher, William Golding, Nadine Gordimer, Ian McKellen, Michael Moorcock, Iris Murdoch, V.S. Naipaul, Michael Ondaatje, V.S. Pritchett, Muriel Spark, Peter Shaffer, Stephen Spender, and Peter Ustinov. These files have been retained in the same order as Drabble originally arranged them. An Index to the Alphabetical Files provides a full list of the subjects here. Angus Wilson: A Biography: The original typescript and revised, complete typescript of Drabble's work, which include corrections, inserts, and notes made or added by Drabble; Research Materials, comprised of raw material (such as subject files, copies of vital documents, etc.) that Drabble used to assemble her biography; and Notebooks, consisting of the numerous notebooks Drabble used in her research. Drabble's research files are a valuable contribution to the study of biography. They provide a accessible window into the methods by which a skilled biographer assembles and manipulates material to create a significant historical and literary monument. In addition, they nicely complement the Papers of Angus Wilson by providing an "outsider's" view of his life and works and presenting much of the raw material that goes into making up a life. Note: In the box list, "AW" refers to Angus Wilson. "MD" refers to Margaret Drabble.


  • Creation: 1990-1995


Conditions Governing Access

At this time, access to this collection must be expressly granted by Margaret, Lady Holroyd (Margaret Drabble).

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Biographical / Historical

Margaret Drabble was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, on June 5, 1939. She read English at Newnham College, Cambridge and, after leaving college, joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1960, where she understudied for Vanessa Redgrave. However, she left the RSC after only a few years, to pursue a career as a novelist. Her first novel, A Summer Bird Cage, was published in 1963. Drabble would go on to publish a number of acclaimed novels, including, among others, The Millstone(winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize, 1965), Jersualem the Golden (winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, 1967), The Needle's Eye (1972), The Realms of Gold (1975), The Middle Ground (1980),The Gates of Ivory (1991), and The Witch of Exmoor (1996).

In addition to her works of fiction, Drabble is a notable literary scholar, who has edited several noted volumes (such as The Oxford Companion to English Literature, 1985 and 2000), produced works on Wordsworth and Hardy, to name a few subjects, and written full-length studies of novelists Angus Wilson and Arnold Bennett. She has also written numerous plays, short stories, and screenplays.

Drabble married her second husband, the writer Michael Holdroyd, in 1982. She was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1980, and in 2008 was promoted to Dame Commander of the British Empire, for services to literature.


4.75 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Acclaimed British novelist and scholar. Research files, including administrative material, research materials, and corrected typescripts for her 1995 biography of novelist Sir Angus Wilson.

Method of Acquisition

This collection was acquired from Margaret Drabble following the publication of her book in 1995.

Related Materials

WILSON, ANGUS (FRANK JOHNSTONE), 1913-1991. Papers of Angus Wilson, 1906-1992. 77.5 ft.   British author. Heavily revised manuscripts and typescripts of Wilson's short stories, reviews, novels, lectures, articles, and television scripts; notebooks, correspondence, etc. For some additional information about the collection, see Frederick P. W. McDowell, "The Angus Wilson Collection" MsC199. (Finding Aid)

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Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)