(link to Contents Page) The Leeds University Library mini Field Trip, October 2015

The October 2015 mini Field Trip

The Dennis Wheatley Archive, Special Collections, University Library, Leeds

By Darren Nugent :

Whilst “fishing” for lost/forgotten Dennis Wheatley correspondence last Summer I stumbled across The Dennis Wheatley Archive, kept by Leeds University as part of their Special Collections in the University Library.

I was surprised I hadn’t heard of this collection before, particularly as it is only a short train journey away from my home (I don’t even need to change trains). A quick search of the online Dennis Wheatley Museum found no mention of it. Intriguing!!

I delved deeper and found that there are 22 boxes in the archive. Surely, I thought, the DW community will be aware of these. So I sent a quick email to our very own CB and expected a nodding, knowledgeable explanation of the archive.

Imagine my further surprise when Charles responded “this material is new to me.”

WHAT???!! This way my Eureka moment - I felt like Howard Carter.

Early on a Saturday morning, 3rd October 2015 (yes it took 2 months), Charles Beck and I met outside the University Library in Leeds and, with bursting excitement, climbed the steps into the building.

Darren (right) and Charles on the steps to the Library

Having contacted staff in advance we were expected and were led to a large, wooden table and the first three boxes were brought to us to look through. As we opened the first box and viewed the contents we realised that our 3 hour time limit (Saturday hours) was no where long enough to give each box a thorough examination. It was crammed – and the boxes were large (24”x18”x8”).

The staff informed us that they had only recently acquired the collection (2014), it had been initially offered to the British Library who turned it down and referred the owner to the University Library at Leeds. The collection had been transferred from “Misland Capital”.

We already had a list of the boxes with a brief summary of their contents, so we decided to prioritise. Charles was keen to view Box 18 as he was curious about one of the contents: MS Letter to Posterity on occasion of Princess Elizabeth's marriage to Prince Phillip. Charles had informed me that “I know where the MS we all know about is, and it's not in the Leeds University Library.”

Box No 18
i) MS Letter to Posterity on occasion of Princess Elizabeth's marriage to Prince Phillip (November 1947)
ii) MS floor plans of house (date unknown)
iii) Photographs, negatives, invitations, promotional material (dates unknown - broad date range judging by photographs)
iv) Ceremonial regalia - four pieces (date unknown)

Box 18 was brought out and placed on the table, Charles opened the lid and there, lying on top, was Dennis Wheatley’s handwritten manuscript of Letter to Posterity.

The ceremonial regalia is curious. It is probably Masonic (one of the labels states “made expressly for the Grand Lodge”), but I am not aware of any Masonic connection with DW.

As you will see in the description of each box below there are months and months of work to go through it all. We only had 3 hours and it took time to savour each find (new Christmas cards, publicity fliers, research materials, the Living Portrait script, Semisi Maya artwork and correspondence, decades of receipts, invitations, letters, letters and even more letters, etc., etc., etc....... . We had time to skim through about half of the boxes and decided a more organised follow up visit was necessary.

Therefore, we simply took our time feasting on a few of the boxes, savouring each moment without taking notes and just a few photos. We can do all that later – they’re not going anywhere.

It was over far too quickly, and at 1pm we were back out in Leeds city-centre where we met up with Nat, had lunch and enthusiastically discussed our findings of the last 3 hours.

I am planning to return to the University Library on numerous occasions to spend a full day, making a full, detailed list of each box.

The Library’s provisional catalogue reads as follows :

Box No 1
i) Financial correspondence & memos, draft tenancy agreements (c.1900-1936)
ii) Roadmap of Belgium, Picture Show magazine, brochures, pamphlets, cuttings,
children's artwork (magazine December 1934; rest unknown)
iii) Personal correspondence (c.1920-1970, mainly 20s & 60s)
iv) Personal correspondence (c.1910-1950, mainly 10s & 40s)

Box No 2
i) Financial correspondence & memos (c.1820-1920)
ii) Personal correspondence, business correspondence related to Wheatley & Sons Wine Merchants (c.1930-1940)
iii) Correspondence with F.W. Stephen & Co. chartered accountants (1957)
iv) Personal correspondence (in two parts) (c.1930-1960)

Box No 3
i) Two letters to DW, business cards (1912, 1914, business cards unknown)
ii) Family correspondence, some professional & financial correspondence (c.1955-1975)
iii) Professional correspondence, financial correspondence & memos, some personal correspondence (c.1955-1975)

Box No 4
i) Financial correspondence & memos relating to travel abroad (c.1960-1970)
ii) Personal & family correspondence (c.1960-1970)
iii) Personal & professional correspondence (in two parts) (c.1932-1977)

Box No 5
i) Mixed correspondence & papers (mostly personal) (in two parts) (c.1927-1977)
ii) Personal & professional correspondence, misc. papers (c.1922-1968)

Box No 6
i) Residential/building papers & plans, personal correspondence (c.1892-1922)
ii) Promotional material, Wheatley & Son receipts, greeting cards/postcards, MS/TS draft for article on Semisi Maya (1922-1950)
iii) "Living Portrait" TV interview/profile/documentary on DW transcripts & production notes (1967)

Box No 7
i) Travel brochures & maps (date unknown)
ii) Accountant/auditor balance sheets (Wheatley & Sons), misc. Financial memos (domestic) (c.1899-1922)
iii) Photographs, cuttings, illustration(?) (date unknown)
iv) Postcards, personal correspondence, photographs, travel brochures, maps, baggage labels, wedding invite, funeral programmes (c.1960-1977)

Box No 8
i) Commemorative/promotional scroll announcing move of Justerini to new premises (1954)
ii) Shares certificate, Memorandum & Articles of Association of The Avenue Advertising Company Ltd. (1931, 1929)
iii) Misc personal/domestic documents, Christmas cards, photographs, invitations (c.1929-1971)
iv) Correspondence re: party to launch 50th novel (1964)
v) Duplicate Last Will and Testament (1943)
vi) Correspondence with press & booksellers re: publication of first novel (c.1933)
vii) Correspondence & promotional material re: Semisi Maya exhibition (c.1967)
viii) Compiled literary sales & earnings figures (c.1931-1938)
ix) Various photographs (c.1930-1970)

Box No 9*
Various personal & professional memos, documents, correspondence; various publicity material (c.1930-1977)

Box No 10*
i) Various correspondence & memos (mainly personal & family) (c.1961-1975)
ii) Various correspondence & memos (mainly personal & family) (c.1913-1939)
iii) Various correspondence & memos (c.1892-1976)
iv) Various correspondence (1929- 1962)

Box No 11*
i) Bills, receipts, invoices (in two parts) (c.1860-1950)
ii) Personal & professional correspondence, memos (c.1924-1973)

Box No 12
i) Professional correspondence & memos (c.1930-1932)
ii) Family correspondence (c.1971)
iii) Personal correspondence, personal, domestic, travel and financial memos (in three parts) (c.1945-1975)
iv) Two photographs of D.W., professional correspondence (c.1930-1970)

Box No 13
i) Family & personal correspondence (c.1963-1977)
ii) Personal correspondence (c.1971)
iii) Various correspondence, memos, papers relating to Wheatley & Sons/Justerini & Brooks wine merchants (1930-1973)
iv) Personal correspondence (c.1960-1972)

Box No 14*
Personal & family correspondence (in four parts, not ordered) (c.1915-1977)

Box No 15*
i) Financial memos (c.1845-1919)
ii) Misc professional correspondence, memos, MS (c.1916-1973)

Box No 16*
i) Personal correspondence (c.1943-1972)
ii) Personal/family correspondence, memos (c.1968-1974)
iii) Business correspondence, memos, travel documentation (c.1928-1973)
iv) Personal & family correspondence (c.1916-1973)

Box No 17
i) Photographs of house (lithograph copies) (c.1970)
ii) Personal & professional memos (c.1925-1936)
iii) Personal correspondence (1960)
iv) Financial memos/receipts (c.1926)
v) Personal correspondence (c.1953-1973)
vi) Booksellers' pamphlets, promotional material, press cuttings (c.1935-1948)

Box No 18
i) MS Letter to Posterity on occasion of Princess Elizabeth's marriage to Prince Phillip (November 1947)
ii) MS floor plans of house (date unknown)
iii) Photographs, negatives, invitations, promotional material (dates unknown - broad date range judging by photographs)
iv) Ceremonial regalia - four pieces (date unknown)

Box No 19
i) Personal correspondence (c.1919-1924)
ii) Professional correspondence (c.1966-1967)
iii) Various correspondence (in three parts; part 1 contains negatives & 1 item of fan art) (c.1927-1977)
iv) Small publications/greeting cards/gift calendars (c.1936-1973)

Box No 20
i) Personal correspondence (1916)
ii) Personal correspondence (c.1929-1974)
iii) Personal correspondence (c.1916- 1970)
iv) Family correspondence & personal memos(1974-1976)
v) Professional & financial correspondence (1960-1962)
vi) Personal correspondence (c.1914-1969)
vii) Financial correspondence & memos (c.1929-1930)

Box No 21
Military commission documents, artwork, prints, menus, brochures, photographs + folder containing discharge certificate

Box No 22
Scrapbook of press cuttings


Charles’s supplementary comments :

When Darren rang me about material in the Leeds Special Collections, initially I thought he was referred to the Hilda Gosling material, of which I was aware. How wrong I was – this is a completely different collection.

I have emailed Misland Capital to try to ascertain its origins, but haven’t had a reply yet. My suspicion is that it is part of the material that ‘mysteriously’ came up for auction at an obscure Bournemouth Auctioneer in August 1984, and about which I have talked at one of our Conventions. Maybe we will never know, but it is a magnificent collection of bits and pieces from across DW’s ages, and contains some truly fascinating material – including its ‘Letter to Posterity’ – which is a pencil draft of the ink manuscript that was eventually buried in DW’s garden.

After the Sayer Collection which figured extensively in Phil Baker’s biography, and arguably one other, it is the largest collection of DW’s personal papers that I know of. It is therefore of enormous importance, and Darren and I will be paying it many further visits. It is good to know of its existence, and that it will be looked after carefully.

Congratulations Darren for unearthing it, and congratulations to Special Collections for having the foresight to acquire it to preserve for posterity.

Darren and Charles

December 2015

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