Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to explore archives of key South West writers during Exeter visit

Credit Charles Causley, with kind permission of the author's Estate

Notebook containing draft poems © Charles Causley, with kind permission of the author’s Estate

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will be able to explore fascinating documents belonging to some of the South West’s most important writers during their visit to Exeter next week.

The Royal couple will see a notebook, letters and manuscripts from Ted Hughes, Agatha Christie and Charles Causley during their tour of Exeter Cathedral. The items – treasures held by the University of Exeter – give an enticing look into the minds of some of the region’s most beloved literary figures.

The Prince of Wales, who is patron of the Exeter Cathedral Development Appeal, and The Duchess of Cornwall will hear about restoration work and meet with community groups, including Devon Wildlife Trust, Exeter City Community Trust and the Met Office.

The visit will also celebrate the city’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature, including the display of the documents from the University of Exeter’s Special Collections, home to the archives of many of the South West’s most important and well-known writers

Caroline Walter, University of Exeter Special Collections archivist, who will show the Royal couple the exhibits, said: “Literary archives are uniquely placed to provide researchers with insight into the relationship between author and text and to evidence the hard work behind the finished creation.

“The University holds a wonderful collection of South West writers’ archives and we are thrilled to share some of these gems with the Royal couple. On display will be notebooks containing draft poems from Cornish poet Charles Causley, a fine manuscript copy of Ted Hughes’s Under The North Star, and a fascinating letter from Agatha Christie discussing potential changes to a stage adaptation of Murder at the Vicarage.”

Christine Faunch, Head of Heritage Collections, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to display some of our wonderful literary collections, which were featured in Exeter’s successful application to become a UNESCO City of Literature”

The University of Exeter’s Special Collections hosts the archives of Cornish poet Charles Causley. The collection includes all Causley’s literary manuscripts, including his notebooks and letters, photographs and diaries are also included. The correspondence includes letters to Causley from writers such as Siegfried Sassoon, Ted Hughes, Jack Clemo, AL Rowse and C Day-Lewis. On display at the cathedral will be Charles Causley’s notebooks containing many of his most well-known poems, including Eagle one, eagle two, Timothy Winters, Sibard’s Well, and several from his lyrical children’s collection Figgie Hobbin. The different colour inks and amendments in the notebooks show a fascinating glimpse into Causley’s drafting process and the convoluted way a poem may take shape.

Held in the Agatha Christie archive are around 5,000 letters from the offices of Hughes Massie and Co. Ltd. relating to Agatha Christie’s literary estate. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will be shown a letter from Agatha Christie discussing the proposed stage adaptation of Murder at the Vicarage, which shows the diligence with which Christie considered her plotlines. Her attention to detail extends to the flora contained in the script; considering which fruits would be most appropriate for the season it is set in and discussing the merits of various poisons and their alternate horticultural applications.

The Special Collections archive for former Poet Laureate, and passionate environmentalist and campaigner, Ted Hughes, is the complete set of manuscripts and typescripts collectively entitled Cave Birds, some 232 sheets of draft and finished text and notes. On display at Exeter Cathedral will be a manuscript volume of Under the North Star, a collection of his beautiful, if often bleak, children’s poetry. The manuscript is written in Hughes’ hand, bound in a ‘dummy’ Rainbow Press binding, and includes a lovely illustration of fish drawn by Hughes himself. Also on show will be a limited edition volume of Hughes’ Howls and Whispers, with hand coloured prints by Leonard Baskin, who was Hughes’ close friend and collaborator.

Professor Janice Kay, Provost and Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Exeter, said: “At the University of Exeter we are very proud to support the City of Literature programme, and to be home to incredible artefacts associated with the South West’s most important writers. We hope the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall enjoy learning more about our Special Collections”

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