[The Purposeful Snail] Nobody ever talks to a snail, when sane - (Written on abandoned typescript
The Transgressor - first two lines
only. Ts in 2a/157. Ms, 1 leaf).
Robin Hyde's poetry manuscripts at The University of Auckland Library 1962- 1996
Robin Hyde died in London 23 August 1939, aged 33. The papers she had taken with her to England, and others accumulated during her travels were returned to her family in Wellington, among them many of the poetry manuscripts that form the present collection. Hyde’s older sister Hazel Wilkinson initially sorted the mass of papers. In a letter of 5 May 1945 offering them for safekeeping to W.R Edge. Hyde’s appointed trustee/executor, Hazel wrote:
I am sorry I have been so long sending these but it has been a big job sorting things out. I am afraid a lot of the articles and poems are quite valueless as they are not complete, but they arrived in this condition from England. Edge received the letter 14 May 1945, and the manuscripts arrived in Auckland a few days later.1
W.R. Edge was the lawyer who had made Hyde a will in 1935 when she was still living at the Grey Lodge in Avondale.2 After her death he was also the appointed legal guardian of her son, Derek Challis. He acted as Hyde’s literary executor 1939-1952, a role that devolved onto Derek when he turned twenty-one. W. R. Edge, Rosalie Rawlinson and her daughter Gloria had been close friends of Hyde’s and in 1945 they undertook a detailed sorting of the returned literary papers. No description of this process has been published, though Gloria Rawlinson’s biography of Hyde, now being prepared for publication by Derek Challis, may offer insights into this stage of the archive’s history. The Hyde papers remained physically in the Rawlinsons’ house, and Gloria seems to have taken over responsibility for subsequent attempts to get material published. Her letters to John Schroder 1947-1952, now in the Turnbull Library, give some incidental information about the sorting and much more about the difficulties encountered in publishing the poetry.
By October 1947 Gloria had assembled the typescript of what became Houses by the sea, and the later poems of Robin Hyde (Christchurch: Caxton, 1952), the introductory essay of which indicates that she had done a lot of work on the chronology of Hyde’s poems and intended in time to publish more of the material still in manuscript. She mentions (p.20) that over 500 poems by Hyde are known to her and that Houses by the sea was selected from over 300 of these previously unpublished in book form. The 500 are the basis of the collection at Auckland University. Gloria’s introduction is dated 1947 but it took three and a half years to get Houses by the sea published once Caxton had accepted the book in November 1948. The delay and its frustrations may in part explain why Gloria did not persist further with publication of Hyde’s poems after 1952, despite her call for a Collected Poems in an essay on Hyde’s poetry that she contributed to C.R Allen’s The Wooden Horse l.4 (1950), 26-28.
Probably as part of the preparation of Houses by the sea, Gloria organised the poetry manuscripts into a chronological sequence determined by dates of composition, pre-1930 through 1939. Even with Hyde’s fair copy manuscript books to hand, this must have been a difficult job, and the sequence seems to have been refined over a lengthy period. In a letter of 22 October 1947 to John Schroder, Gloria speaks of having to reshuffle the order of one part of the Houses typescript after discovering an error in her dating (Schroder Papers, ATL Mss 280-10). In 1959 she typed lists of poems and/or title pages for each part of the sequence, signing and dating the lists. I have not seen or heard of any account of this process and the archive carries no other external indicators of its organisation. Gloria’s lists are therefore extremely important and each has been preserved in its place at the head of the section it describes. Judging by Gloria’s annotations on some of these lists, she was still adjusting the sequence in 1959.
Sometime between 1959 and 1962, Gloria handed over the poetry archive to Derek Challis who retained the later part of it (mostly poems written in China through to those written in England October 1938-August 1939). He gifted the remainder to the University of Auckland Library in 1962, along with manuscript and typescript material relating to Hyde’s novels. Derek retains the fair copy manuscript books which had enabled Gloria to assemble the sequence chronologically, and which she had returned to him with the poems themselves.
The University library housed the poems in six boxes (Iris Wilkinson Papers B-13, B-14) which did not reflect Gloria’s chronology, so that although the poems remained in sequence, the shape of that sequence was lost (see Box Contents 1962 below). The poems were seldom looked at, though the library’s prose material has been regularly examined over the years by Hyde scholars and students. D.I.B. Smith’s edition of Passport to Hell (Auckland: AUP, 1986) and Patrick Sandbrook’s 1985 doctoral thesis on The Godwits Fly both derive textual authority from manuscripts relating to those novels held at Auckland.
I received an Auckland University Research Committee grant in 1994 to make a detailed inventory of Hyde’s poetry manuscripts in preparation for a Collected Poems. That project is in my opinion the logical conclusion of Gloria Rawlinson’s sequencing and her intention to publish more of Hyde’s poems. In December 1994 Mary Paul and I listed the contents of each section as we found it (see Preliminary Lists 1995). I then established the present ordering of sections pre-1930 through 1937 so that Gloria’s chronology could be seen as clearly as possible:
1a Poems pre-1930 not published in book form.
1aa Poems found in G.R.’s ordering of Section 1a but published in The Conquerors and Persephone in Winter.
1b Poems published in
The Desolate Star.
1c Manuscripts pre-1930
2a Poems 1930-March 1935 not published in book form.
2b Poems 1930-March 1935 published in The Conquerors, Persephone in Winter, and Houses by the Sea Part I.
2c Manuscripts 1930-1935
3a Poems 1935-1936 (approx.) not published in book form.
3b Poems 1935-1936 (approx.) published in Persephone in Winter, and Houses by the Sea Part I.
3c Manuscripts 1935-1936 (approx.).
4a Poems late 1935-July 1936 published in Persephone in Winter, and Houses by the Sea Parts I and II.
4b Poems 1936 not published in book form.
4c Manuscripts 1936
5a Poems 1937 published in Houses by the Sea Part II
5b Poems 1937 not published in book form.
5c Manuscripts 1937
6a The Book of Nadath Manuscript.
In December 1995 Lisa Docherty and I began assigning item numbers to the collection (see Notes on Method). Gloria Rawlinson had gathered all typescript versions of a particular poem at one position in her chronology. We have followed her lead, and where a version was found separate from its fellows, we have generally shifted it to join them. Since we do not have the fair copy manuscript books it has not been possible to check chronological accuracy as such; we are following Gloria’s knowledge of composition dates.
Gloria differentiated between typescript and manuscript. All manuscript versions of poems within each section were found grouped together at the rear of that section. We have therefore given each manuscript a unique item number and cross-referenced it to any existing typescript. There appears to be no attempt at chronological ordering among manuscripts but they are always correctly positioned according to the section in which their typescript versions are to be found. If a poem exists only in manuscript, we can therefore be reasonably certain that it has been correctly located according to section. Where we found manuscript and typescript in different sections, we have shifted the manuscript to the appropriate section because Gloria appears to have treated the typescripts in more detail. The manuscripts, it should be noted, are harder to identify – many have a title different from their typescript versions, or no title at all, and some are incomplete or fragmentary.
Gloria Rawlinson died in July 1995. She knew of the inventory project but plans to speak with her about it were delayed because of her illness and eventual hospitalisation. Her own papers, currently held by Riemke Ensing, may disclose more description of her long involvement with Hyde’s poems.
Thanks are due to Derek Challis for his generosity in giving me access to those poems (1938-1939) still in his possession, and for access to the fair copy manuscript books, which reveal what Gloria Rawlinson knew about the development of Robin Hyde’s poetry 1925-1939.
1. Information and quotation of Hazel Wilkinson from Derek Challis, letter of 22 March 1996 to Michele Leggott. Used here with permission.
2. See Hyde, 1935 Journal at APL, 22 March. The letter to
W.R.E. (see 2c/278-295 ) is dated 11 June 1935.
Box contents 1962
The old Iris Wilkinson Papers B-13 consisted of one box containing the manuscript of
The Book of Nadath. The remainder of Hyde’s poems were in B-14, which consisted of five boxes as follows.
Poems late 1935 to July 1936 in Persephone in Winter and Houses by the Sea parts I and II. Poems 1936 not published in book form. [1936 Mss]
Poems 1935-36 not published in book form. [Poems 1935-36 published in Persephone in Winter and Houses by the Sea Part II. [1935-36 Mss]
Poems pre-1930 and not published in book form. Poems pre-1930 published in The Conquerors and Persephone in Winter. The Desolate Star typescript. [Pre-1930 Mss]
Poems 1930-Mar 1935 published in The Conquerors, Persephone in Winter and Houses by the Sea Part I.
Poems 1930-Mar 1935 not published in book form. [1930-Mar 1935 Mss]
Poems 1937 published in Houses by the Sea Part II. Poems 1937 not published in book form. [1937 Mss]
A rough list of the order in which the poems were found in 1995 was made by Michele Leggott and Mary Paul prior to their work. These lists are available for researchers to use if required.
- ca 1930 - 1937
- From the Collection: Rawlinson, Gloria (Person)
- From the Collection: Leggott, Michele J. (Person)
- From the Collection: Hyde, Robin (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Access to the photocopied collection is unrestricted. Access to originals is only by permission of the Team Leader, Cultural Collections (Special Collections) Librarian.
From the Collection: 0.3 metres (2 boxes)
Language of Materials
From the Collection: English
Part of the Special Collections, University of Auckland Repository
5 Alfred Street
Private Bag 92019
Auckland 1142 New Zealand