Saturday, 26 April 2008

Yet more typescripts

It must be three, if not four weeks now that I have been wading through the innumerable pages of typescripts in the Gurney archive, discovering their groupings and provenance, but the end is now in sight! There is a small bundle of pages left to be sorted, but nearly all of the TSS are sorted, filed and, increasingly, a temporary catalogue of the new locations has been produced (the collection is still open to public access during cataloguing, so paper trails have to be maintained where it has been necessary to reorganise materials).

The Blunden typescript has been a wonderful find, allowing, for instance, the identification of the missing poem in the set of poems from January 1925, 'To Hawthornden' - now therefore complete.

One small matter to be resolved as yet surrounds a little blue notebook used by Gurney during a walking tour with John Haines in August 1919 (although Leonard Clark dates it more broadly 1919-22). The notebook is not in the archive (nor is it in the Haines archive, which is being catalogued at the Gloucestershire Archives at the moment) and there is some conflicting evidence amongst the typescript transcriptions of the volume. Joy Finzi later (1950s) noted on some of the typescripts which manuscript source they came from. This is sometimes confusing as she has written this on typescripts that are transcriptions of variants of the poem from a different source to the one she annotates. In the case of the Haines book, there is also an index to a typescript of the volume, probably made by Joy, which doesn't include some of the poems she has annotated as being from the volume. Some of these are on quite different papers and one questions whether they were in fact from the source. There are two gaps in the extant 'Blue book' typescript, and hopefully the coming week will see a resolution of this, and the final identification of the remaining TSS. Some of Joy Finzi's annotations and approximations in the archive prove accurate; others can be misleading. Some poems she has noted as being 'written at Dartford' (viz. after December 1922). However, a number of these are found to belong to the black notebook sent to Edward Marsh (founder/editor of the Georgian Poetry volumes (Poetry Bookshop, 1911-22)) earlier in that year.

During the latter part of this week I have begun to read through the poems written in 1926. This was Gurney's fourth year in the mental hospital, and he was nearing the end of his creative career, ceasing to write music in 1927 (or at least, this is the last extant music ms) and poetry apparently a few years later. I have found myself to be startled by this poetry: Gurney's early work came during the war, and these works formed the only two volumes of poetry published in his lifetime. '80 Poems or So' and, in particular, 'Rewards of Wonder', mark his true maturity as a poet, but these still evoke a rather parochial frame of reference (dare one say), with Gloucestershire, London and the war featuring heavily. His prolific output of 1925 is full of memory and contains much homage-making/paeans to the Americas and American poets (quite obsessively so when one considers some of the unpublished collections such as 'Poems in Praise of Poets' and 'Poems to the States'). However, 1926 seems to bring a marked change in his poetry: he leaves his parochial reference points and obsessions in the background and writes poetry that is timeless and universal - perhaps influenced by his interest at that time in northern European epics, such as the 'Kalevala'. One can't help thinking that, for this reason, these c.200 poems are some of Gurney's most important work. He has become overarchingly relevant, and achieved his ideal of producing art worthy of, and perhaps as enduring as that of the Elizabethans.

Some will probably argue differently.

Monday, 7 April 2008

More typescripts and Edmund Blunden

Since returning to the archive after a brief break over Easter I have resumed wok on the typescripts.  One of the frustrations of the archive is that, when compiling his 1954 Hutchinson collection of poems, Edmund Blunden sifted through typescripts and removed what he wanted, making a note on the title pages of those poems he had taken.  A few of these typescripts would be the only source for some of poems in the archive, but they aren't to be found amongst the folders of typescripts.  

During the collation of the set of typescripts identified by George Walter as being the volume '80 Poems or So' I was interested to see that some of the missing typescripts in the double set (a carbon copy having been made by the typist) appeared in Blunden in different versions.  Since one copy of the double set was given to Gurney, many of which were revised or corrected, I had thought that Blunden had perhaps removed that revised version.  This spurred me on to try and locate the original typescript submitted by Blunden to Hutchinson, in the hope that I could confirm whether or not this could be the case.  

Hutchinson is now part of Random House, and so I made a telephone call to their office and spoke to the archives department (who were glad to receive a phone call - apparently an unusual occurrence!).  The assistant archivist was enormously helpful, and although they couldn't immediately be sure of finding it, various avenues of enquiry were launched.  

Returning to the archive today, I was looking through the stack with my supervisor and co-editor, Tim Kendall.  One of the boxes opened at random was one containing correspondence regarding Leonard Clark's 1973 edition of Gurney's poems, labelled 'Leonard Clark Bequest'. Previously I had found in this collection three bundles of typescripts which were those prepared for his book, and I had taken these hoping that it might yield the missing typescripts. When today Tim Kendall plucked a similar typescript out of the collection I presumed it to be another working copy.  However, back in the office a brief inspection revealed it to be the Blunden, containing many of the missing typescripts!  Unfortunately, not all were there, as he also removed a number of poems that didn't make it into the collection.  These may be in the Blunden collections in Columbia, Iowa, Texas or Worcester College Oxford -- or maybe not. The afternoon was spent making a careful note of the contents of the bundle and, after a brief telephone call to one of the Trustees confirming that it was right to do so, returning the typescripts to their rightful place for the first time since May 1951.  Alas, the typescripts from '80 Poems or So' I thought might be those containing Gurney's manuscript revisions were not those I hoped for, so the question of which version of the poems are the latter remains to be resolved.  

I feel sorry to have bothered the archivists at Random House, but the correspondence between publisher and editor may be of interest, should one be allowed to see it.  

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Typescripts and catalogue revisions

This week has been spent sifting through typescripts. One of the strange things about some of the Gurney archive is that many poems - and sometimes whole collections - exist only in typescript (TS). It would be wonderful to one day re-discover the original manuscripts from which they were transcribed.

I have been examining watermarks, paper types and layout in order to bring together some disparate typescripts. A set of typescripts of poems from 1926 are now re-unified, and the two different typescript sources for the extant c.1921-2 pink marbled notebook, are separated out from each other and some of the missing pages brought in from other locations. One version was obviously typed directly from the source, and then handed to Gurney who corrected some poems and completed some of those fragments. These revisions are written in a bright blue ink which is rather distinctive and is similar to the ink used in his compositions of late 1924, so can perhaps be dated to this time. They were then retyped, giving the second TS, titled 'Marbled book with later additions'. Some of these poems found their way into Rewards of Wonder.

Having brought together some of the August-September 1926 collection, original mss for many of which are extant, I was wondering whether there was any intention for a named collection at that time to which these might be allocated. I therefore returned to the asylum correspondence - without luck on that front, but I did stumble across two letters I inadvertantly missed in my compilation of the catalogue of musical works in 2006. Frustratingly these shed new light on some of his work, including the identification of another missing work or two and an idea for another work.

One letter to Marion Scott, dated Aug 5th [1925], speaks of the four movement Quartett in E flat, which in the catalogue is only identified by a reference in one of Finzi's lists and dated 1925. The entry should now be moved to between the Gloucestershire Quartett in C and the F minor movement/quartett, since the letter refers to the F minor quartett as being the next to be written. Gurney writes, 'The Quartett in Eb for strings is just finished -- a noble one, with a Fugal last movement'. Later in the letter he gives more detail: 'a 4/4 grave 1st movement. a quite short G major slow movement and a Scherzo in C mi[nor] more important. an Introduction and (2/3 of it) Fugal movement in 3/2 time -- for last -- one of the unpretending and great things of music perhaps. Next to an F minor -- after which I may do as I please -- having probably equalled Beethoven's great name in them.'

There is also talk of the Lights Out cycle, which was brought together in 1925 from Edward Thomas settings made between 1918-22, except for the last, The Trumpet, which was written shortly before this letter, in July 1925. Gurney notes, 'The new song got done in two days, (the Trumpet -- but also a fine setting of "Words" . . .)'. More importantly, at the end of the letter Gurney writes, 'By the way -- the song "Words" is so fine that save its length it should go into the Thomas book instead of the "Trumpet".'

The second letter that was missed is undated, but probably also dates from 1925. In it he mentions 'an Heroic slow movement for cello, SQ and Piano', notes the last work he had written as being 'an Heroic Elegy in Em for piano and strings' (related to the Heroic Elegy for organ?) and also tells Marion Scott that 'he would like to write a Walt Whitman Choral Symphony which should beat the fine Sea Symphony.'

All rather interesting, but rather frustrating that I missed it previously! Not the only omission I should imagine. Digging into the dark recesses of the archive is almost certainly going to yield more omissions.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

The beginning!

Hello and welcome to my new blog!

For some years now I have been researching the work of the Gloucester composer and poet Ivor Gurney. In January 2008 I began a full time PhD based at the Gurney archive in Gloucester, where I am cataloguing all of the manuscripts and transcribing all of the poetry for a complete OUP edition, which I am co-editing with Professor Tim Kendall at Exeter University. My work on the music is continuing alongside all of this, and I hope to post on this blog details of some of the exciting finds that I make. Some of these excitements may be exciting only to myself, but I hope some might share them!!

But what have I done so far? Well, in January I was inducted as an honorary member of staff at the Gloucestershire archives and received some training in the ways of the cataloguing system they use. Since this time I have done some work on the poetry, transcribing a few unpublished poetry collections from 1925 before realising that one should really start at the beginning, so I started to reconstruct the chronology of the poetry from the beginning. It has been fascinating to work through the notebooks used by Gurney during 1917, identifying which poems the drafts relate to and discovering the order in which the published poems were written, as well as the many that didn't make it into the published volumes. These include a number of unpublished love poems written at Seaton Delaval whilst he was engaged to Annie Nelson Drummond. It can sometimes be slightly tricky to put a firm date on when a notebook was in use, and thus when the poems were written (poems were sometimes sent to Marion Scott in letters at later dates than their apparent composition, judged by their placing in the volume), and there is also the question of whether Gurney worked in the notebook from front to back, or worked from either end, but it is all rather good fun, and is most satisfying when one can date something with certainty.

Today I was looking at some of the music sketchbooks, as I had decided to do some detailed cataloguing of the music. I had compiled the first catalogue of musical works during 2006 and had begun to make a few revisions to this as I was finding things in the archive and elsewhere (such as the removal of the missing setting of probably Robert Burns mentioned by Finzi in a letter: I came across the programme and found that the setting apparently performed in the recital at the RCM wasn't anything to do with Gurney and just happened to be performed alongside the Gurney as a pair.) One revision I have thought I would make is the thorough expansion of the dating of manuscripts. i.e. where I have given editorial dates, because no date was given on the mss and no identifying references were to be found in correspondence, to give a full justification of that dating. (Quite obvious really, but something I didn't think about at the time, just going through the process of dating things and recording the outcome.)

To get back to the point: today I was looking through a sketchbook and came across a couple of sketches I hadn't been able to identify previously. I read through the dots on the one page and immediately recognised it as a piece I have been working on in my idle moments for the past six months: it was the first chorus entry in the Whitman cantata, 'Anthem of Earth'. I had previously dated this large work for baritone, chorus and orchestra as c.1921, it being on the same paper and in a hand akin to that used for the score of the Gloucestershire Rhapsody, which Gurney dates as 1919-1921. However, today's identification changes this, suggesting that the cantata was written in direct parallel with the Rhapsody, since the sketch immediately precedes a very rough outline of the setting of Edward Thomas's 'Lights Out', composed in March 1919. I was also able to identify another unlabelled sketch from later on in the book, which happened to be another work I have edited in the last 18 months: part of the 1919 A major string quartet, although here sketched in A flat major.

Some might find this rather tedious; others merely of passing interest. However, if you do feel an element of excitement as you read about these fresh snippets of information, please do visit again to hear how things are progressing. I don't know how often I will be posting on this blog, and can't guarantee a wave of exciting discoveries with every visit, but do call again if it might be of interest!