In 2008, the Nobel Laureate, Doris Lessing (1919-2013) made a substantial initial gift of personal papers to the University of East Anglia, with which she had a 25 year association and where she held the title of Distinguished Fellow in Literature. Some 29 boxes of material from this deposit are available for public access.
In 2013, following the author’s death, the University received the remainder of her personal archive, which Lessing had bequeathed. This 2013 tranche includes further personal papers, correspondence and notebooks and diaries.
Lessing's appointed biographer has privileged access to the 2013 deposit during the writing of Lessing’s biography, at which point, where appropriate, material will catalogued and made available for public access. In August 2015, Lessing's literary executors released some exhibits from this material to celebrate the launch of the British Archive for Contemporary Writing. These can be viewed in our Featured items section. A selection of interviews with Lessing are also shown here.
Earlier material donated in 2008, is already accessible within the Archive and contains correspondence with Margaret Drabble, Muriel Spark, Iris Murdoch and Rebecca West, as well as Kurt Vonnegut, Raymond Carver and Ingmar Bergman. It includes the ‘The Whitehorn letters’, 90 love letters written between 1943 and 1949 charting the writing of Lessing’s first novel, ‘The Grass is Singing’, and reflections on the War, Rhodesia, pregnancy and motherhood, and her eventual move to London.
The earlier collection comprises a number of sub-collections:
The Whitehorn letters [, 215KB], 110 letters written by Doris to R.A.F. Pilot Officer John Whitehorn and his friend Coll MacDonald between 1944-1949. They provide insight into Doris's personal life in Rhodesia. Two letters from the collection can be viewed here.
General correspondence [, 191KB], 1969-2007. 29 boxes. The collection does not hold any manuscripts of published or unpublished works.
Doris Lessing / Margaret Drabble correspondence [, 185KB], 1978-2008. 1 box of letters and postcards donated by Margaret Drabble.
Other papers of Doris Lessing, including manuscripts of published works are held at Harry Ransom Humanities Research Centre, University of Texas at Austin.