Wyndham - The John Wyndham Archive - 1930-2015

The John Wyndham Archive is the author's Estate Collection. As such, it contains a large number of holograph manuscripts and corrected typescripts of his novels and short stories (including several unpublished and incomplete works), non-fiction articles and scripts for radio, screen and stage plays....

Full description

Main Creator: Wyndham, John
Other Creators: Harris, Ralph, Wells, Herbert, Brunner, John Killian Houston, Aldiss, Brian, Newnes, George, Blish, James, Harris, Vivian
Archive level description: Sub-fonds
Physical Description:37 boxes and 1 oversize item
Summary:The John Wyndham Archive is the author's Estate Collection. As such, it contains a large number of holograph manuscripts and corrected typescripts of his novels and short stories (including several unpublished and incomplete works), non-fiction articles and scripts for radio, screen and stage plays. The Archive also contains large amounts of correspondence with various editors and publishers, some fan mail and a collection of over 350 letters to Grace Wilson written during the Second World War. There are also a small number of taped conversations between Wyndham and his brother, Vivian Beynon Harris.
Reference Number:Wyndham

The original order of the papers has been preserved as far as possible. The collection has been arranged under the following headings:

  • Published Novels
  • Unpublished Novels
  • Published Short Stories
  • Unpublished Short Stories
  • Non-Fiction Articles
  • Playscripts/Radioscripts
  • Miscellaneous Stories, unidentified and untitled fragments
  • Poetry and miscellaneous notes/drafts
  • Press-Cuttings
  • Letters to Grace Wilson
  • Correspondence
  • Fan Mail
  • Vivian Beynon Harris Related Material
  • Wyndham Related material

The arrangement has been described in more detail at the appropriate levels

Biographical/Administrative Information:

John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris was born on 10th July 1903 in Knowle, Warwickshire. His father was a barrister from South Wales and his mother was the daughter of an iron master. Wyndham experienced an unsettled childhood following the separation of his parents in 1911. His education was conducted at various schools, finishing with Bedales, a progressive co-educational boarding school, in Petersfield, Hampshire. Wyndham thrived at Bedales, and inspired by the science fiction of H.G.Wells began writing his own stories. After Bedales Wyndham chose not to attend university, believing it a mistake to do so without enough money to take a full part in the social activity - a decision he later regretted. Wyndham instead embarked upon a wide variety of occupations, including farming, law, commercial art and advertising.

Wyndham had begun to write short stories seriously in 1925 and was one of the few English exports to be published in the American Pulp magazines. Yet, he was not comfortable with the label science fiction, preferring the term "logical fantasy" instead. Nonetheless, he was published frequently in American and British science fiction magazines and was described as early as 1937 as "the best of our modern science fiction authors". His early work, however, did not bring him any great recognition and the Second World War brought an enforced break to his burgeoning writing career. During the war years Wyndham served as an official censor and from 1943 in the Royal Corps of Signals taking part in the Normandy landings. After the war, he began to write once again and in 1951 The Day of the Triffids was published under the pseudonym John Wyndham. The book launched Wyndham's name on both sides of the Atlantic and its enduring success has seen it remain in print ever since it was first published.

Wyndham's post-war works indicate a definite shift in basic subject matter. According to John Clute "he wrote effectively for a specific UK market at a specific point in time - the period of recuperation that followed World War Two." He wrote about perfectly familiar people and surroundings which makes the scenarios he presents more plausible to the reader. His novels are mainly concerned with catastrophe and its effects upon society. In The Day of the Triffids, the carnivorous plants had been farmed and controlled very successfully until the rain of the meteors caused mass blindness and the plants grew out of control. The Kraken Wakes 1953 and The Chrysalids 1955 both share the same themes as "Triffids" with the prospect of the end of mankind.

Wyndham continued to publish very successful work such as the novels The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)Chocky and two collections of stories The Seeds of Time and Consider Her Ways.. Due to the high popularity of Wyndham's work many of his stories were turned into radio, television and film versions. There were radio versions of Chocky and The Trouble with Lichen and film versions of The Day of the Triffids and perhaps most notably the film version of The Midwich Cuckoos titled Village of The Damned.

Despite his affability and his fame as an author Wyndham maintained a dislike for personal publicity. His desire for privacy and his wish to be judged solely on his work, led Wyndham to instruct that his personal papers be destroyed, although an extensive collection of his wartime letters to Grace Wilson have survived. Wyndham for many years lived at the Penn club in London, where he met his lifelong partner, Grace Wilson, a school teacher. They eventually married in 1963 and moved from London to Hampshire, near to Bedales, his former school, where Wyndham's last years were occupied with his house, his friends and the countryside he adored. John Wyndham died on the 11th March 1969. He left behind his wife, Grace and his brother Vivian Beynon Harris.

John Wyndham remains best known as the author of The Day of the Triffids. He was one of the few science fiction writers who crossed over into mass appeal due, perhaps, to the accuracy of his portrayal of British unease in the 1950's. His best-selling novels, often featuring traumatic disasters, remain in print and have frequently been adapted for radio and television. Recent BBC Radio 4 adaptations of The Kraken WakesChocky and The Midwich Cuckoos, and the optioning of virtually the entire Wyndham catalogue by film makers, show that interest in the author remains strong and that his works retain relevance. At least one biography is being planned. John Wyndham remains a popular but often critically neglected writer.