Guide to the Paul Potts Papers

Collection Title: Paul Potts Papers
Dates: 1939-1948
Identification: MS156
Creator: Potts, Paul, 1911-1990
Extent: 1 Boxes
Language of Materials: English
Abstract: Paul Potts (1911-1990) made his living during the 1930s selling leftist poems on the street of London. His later poems include Instead of a Sonnet (1944), and A Ballad for Britain on May Day (1945), though his best known prose work is the autobiographical Dante Called You Beatrice (1960). Potts' work regularly appeared in leading poetry magazines of the day, but despite this, Potts rapidly became disillusioned with poetry and eventually gave up publishing it at all. The Paul Potts Papers consist of notebooks, letters, manuscripts, typescripts, and some photographs. The two notebooks range from 1946-1947 (approximately 275 pages) and include draft poems and prose, as well as articles and essays in different stages of completion.
Acquisition Information: Purchase
Processing Information: Processed by Benn Joseph, June, 2009.
Conditions Governing Access: There are no restrictions on use of the materials in the department for research; all patrons must comply with federal copyright regulations.
Repository: Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections
Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL,
URL: http://www.library.northwestern.edu/spec
Email: special.collections@northwestern.edu
Phone: 847-491-3635

Biographical/Historical Information

Paul Potts (1911-1990) has been called both "the people's poet" and "one of the most shamefully neglected" poets of the 20th century. During the 1930s he made his living selling leftist poems on the street of London. His later poems include Instead of a Sonnet (1944), and A Ballad for Britain on May Day (1945), though his best known prose work is the autobiographical Dante Called You Beatrice (1960). Potts' work regularly appeared in leading poetry magazines of the day, but despite this, Potts rapidly became disillusioned with poetry and eventually gave up publishing it at all.

Potts was also appreciated for eulogies written for his friends, which included George Orwell, Dylan Thomas, and Patrick Kavanagh. He was a close friend of George Orwell, and stayed with him and his family at Barnhill on the island of Jura, Scotland, in June-July 1946. Potts was also known for his book reviews in the London Sunday Telegraph, starting in 1964.

Potts, also known as Paul Hugh Patrick Howard Potts, was born July 17, 1911 in Datchet, Berkshire, England, as a Canadian citizen born abroad, and was brought up in British Columbia, Canada. He died August 26, 1990.

Scope and Content

The Paul Potts Papers consist of notebooks, letters, manuscripts, typescripts, and some photographs. The two notebooks range from 1946-1947 (approximately 275 pages) and include draft poems and prose, as well as articles and essays in different stages of completion. The notebooks also include sketches and lists of people, as well as a 13-page story about a "colonial" meeting and falling in love on a Hebridean ferry. Other writings contained here include "A Cook's Guide to Modern Poetry", "Basic Socialism", "On Being a Canadian", "All My Worldly Goods", "My Party Card", as well as several on Walt Whitman and one on his friend, George Orwell.

In addition to the notebooks, there is a file of manuscripts and typescripts which include writings on Ezra Pound, Walt Whitman, and additional Potts poems, essays, and book reviews. Items of note include letters from editors and friends, along with a three page letter written by Potts while at Orwell's Barnhill house in Jura, to an unknown recipient.

Three photographs are also included; two are portraits of Potts, while a third is of a small child, possibly George and Eileen Orwell's adopted son, Richard. This photograph is tucked inside the smaller of the two manuscript notebooks (folder 1).

One oversize folder (*L/F) contains a poster advertising Paul Potts' appearance at The Plough in Norwood Green, England, for "Poet's Pub", 22 February, 1939. Potts is described here as "One of the hick poets belonging to the plain people who work the Canadian prairie".

Subjects

Personal Name

Potts, Paul, 1911-1990

Subjects

Poetry, Modern--20th century

Poets, Canadian (English)--20th century


Container List / Contents

  • Writings and letters, 1939-1948
    • Manuscript notebooks, vols. 1-2, 1946-1947Folder 1
    • Various writings, 1945-1946Folder 2
    • Various writings, 1947Folder 3
    • "A Ballad of the Paralyzed Upper Lip", 1947Folder 4
    • "Journey Under Arrest", 1947Folder 5
    • "The Paps of Jura", 1947Folder 6
    • "My Party Card", 1947Folder 7
    • "Sebastian Castellio (1515-1563)", 1947Folder 8
    • "Call It What You Like", circa 1947Folder 9
    • Letters, circa 1946-1948Folder 10
  • Other materials, 1939-1948
    • Press clippings, letters of appreciation, and commissions for review, 1939-1948Folder 11
    • Photographs, undatedFolder 12
    • Poster, Paul Potts at The Plough, 1939Folder 13
        Scope and Contents: Oversize folder, *L/F