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[MACLEAN, Alasdair]

A Collection of Papers and Correspondence from the Gollancz Archive Relating to the Publishing History of Each of Alasdair Maclean's Four Books (One Unpublished)

V.p.: N.p., V.d.

A small quantity of typed and holograph contracts, correspondence and associated materials, between and concerning Alasdair Maclean, his publisher, and other interested parties. Various sizes and dates, the whole housed in three manila folders. Some browning and general edgewear consistent with age, but a well preserved collection.


In 1972 Giles Gordon, long time Editorial Director at Gollancz, left the company to become a literary agent and to devote more time to his own writing. His place at Gollancz was taken by Kevin Crossley-Holland, who set about rejuvenating the company's poetry list. One of his first signings was Alasdair Maclean, a crofter from Ardnamurchan, whose unpublished poetry had been shown to Crossley-Holland by George MacBeth. First contact was made in August 1972, when Crossley-Holland wrote to Maclean about his poems: 'I do think they are extremely impressive; I kept feeling that their concerns are, to some extent, my concerns and their song the kind of song I respond to.'



-- ALS from Maclean to Crossley-Holland, 8 August 1972: 'Dear Mr. Crossley-Holland, George Macbeth tells me that you are interested in my volume of poems and that if I offer it to Gollancz there is a possibility that they may publish it. [...] Any slight hesitation I have is due to my feeling at times not very much at home in the British poetry scene nor seeing much signs of kinship anywhere on this side of the water except with Lawrence, who is long dead.';

-- ALS from Maclean to Crossley-Holland, 13 September 1972, enclosing the manuscript ('Here's my book, which I'm very pleased to offer to Gollancz.) and, in reference to a recent radio broadcast where he fears his accent did him no favours: 'I had a good deal of my upbringing in Glasgow, where my father had gone to look for work, and the Glasgow component in my accent comes out strongly on the air in all its great ugliness.' Corssley-Holland's reply (6 November 1972) accepts the collection for publication: 'I think you have recorded beautifully the tension in each of us between our life-force and the pressures and tensions and regrets that bear down on us. And I do personally respond very strongly to poems that are so open, poems that no matter how much they may yeild [sic] to a second or thirs or subsequent reading, offer a lot the first time round.';

-- ALS from Maclean to Crossley-Holland, 5 December 1972, enclosing proposed blurb by Maclean in holograph (and used unchanged on the book's dustwrapper), and suggesting the title West and North for the book. 'I would like to dedicate the book 'To My Parents' [...] About cuts -- I'd like to drop 'Mother at the Fireside' [a short, affecting poem about impending death] because it wouldn't be understood at home and might hurt. [...] 'I don't much care for the tradition of the anonymous blurb with its concealed self-praise. I think that the reader is better served by a factual statement of intent by the writer, with his name appended to it. I enclose the sort of thing I prefer.' (The blurb did appear with Maclean's name attached. The final title for the book, From The Wilderness, is suggested by Crossley-Holland in a letter to Maclean dated 19 December 1972. After initial opposition, Maclean warmed to it and, in an ALS dated 26 January 1973, writes: 'I think that we should settle on 'From the Wilderness' as the title. You're the editor and I must assume that you know what you're doing, otherwise we have no basis for a relationship. And I'm quite sure that you do know.');

-- Original typed Memorandum of Agreement for the book between Gollancz and Maclean, 5 January 1973, signed by Maclean and Chairman of Gollancz John Bush

-- Original typed agreement for the US edition of the book, 11 October 1974, signed by John Bush;

-- Author's biographical form, completed by hand and at length by Maclean on 25 March 1973;

-- An exchange of correspondence between Crossley-Holland and Trevor Royle of the Scottish Arts Council, March 1973, concerning Maclean having been put forward for a bursary, in which Crossley-Holland is effusive, and rather moving, in his praise for Maclean: 'This, for my money, is the most outstanding first collection with which I have been associated as poetry editor in ten years, here and at Macmillan. I can't for the life of me think why Faber passed him up. [...]...I am proud as poet as well as publisher to be associated with him.'

-- A collection of correspondence, Summer/Autumn 1973, relating to the book being made the Christmas Choice of the Poetry Book Society, and a copy of the Poetry Book Society Bulletin for Christmas that year;

-- Long ALS from Maclean to Crossley-Holland, 27 July 1973, discussing the book (now nearing publication), reading in public (he declines) and future projects, as well as the impossibility of writing in his current, noisy lodgings: 'It's difficult to stay sane in such an environment never mind write poetry. There are lots of days I just give up and lie staring at the ceiling. Yet there are major snags also to living in my father's house in Ardnamurchan.';

-- ALS from Maclean, 24 September 1973, informing Crossley-Holland of the death of Maclean's father;

-- Long TLS from Maclean to Crossley-Holland, 16 December 1973, discussing indifferent reviews and unsatisfactory press interviews, but full of plans for the future and news of a loan of a quiet studio in Hampshire in which to write. (Despite initial critical ambivalence, From The Wilderness went to a second impression, and was acquired by Harper & Row for US publication);

-- Long ALS from Maclean to Crossley-Holland, 23 October 1974, enthusing about the sale of the US rights to the book, and with news of improved domestic circumstances (a caravan overlooking the Sound of Mull at the end of his brother's garden);

-- A large collection of correspondence relating to the book from outside parties: extract and anthology permission, broadcast requests, invitations to speak etc.


Kevin Crossley-Holland approached Maclean with an offer to publish his collection of poems, Waking The Dead, in January 1976, having been sent them late in 1975 together with a 4pp. description, in Maclean's hand, of each of the poems submitted. In February an advance of £150 was agreed, and in March the Memorandum of Agreement was drawn up and sent to Maclean for signature.

Waking The Dead was published on 18 November 1976.

-- Memorandum of Agreement dated 18 March 1976, signed and dated by Maclean on 4 April;

-- 4pp. reader's report on the submitted poems, undated and in an unknown hand (although probably Crossley-Holland's). A highly detailed, perceptive and illuminating breakdown of each and every poem considered for inclusion in the collection;

-- ALS from Maclean to Crossley-Holland, 7 March 1976, responding to Crossley-Holland's letter (present) discussing which poems to include in the collection. Maclean is happy to hand over full editorial control, and writes about the library assistant job he has taken to raise some money for the purchase of a second-hand caravan: 'Then it will be heigh-ho for a quiet spot by the sea somewhere and I shall write my fucking head off.';

-- ALS from Maclean to Crossley-Holland, undated ('Monday'), supplying the author's blurb to appear on the dustwrapper of the book. (This appeared unaltered and in full on the book, with only the final sentence dropped on the grounds of being 'unnecessarily antagonistic': 'If I could arrange for myself to be spared any one class of reader I would arrange to be spared the incurably literal-minded.').


Published on 14 June 1984.

-- Original typed Memorandum of Agreement between Maclean and Gollancz for the book, 22 December 1983, signed by Maclean;

-- Original typed Memorandum of Agreement between Gollancz and Penguin, 20 August 1984, for the paperback rights to the book, with a signed extension to the Agreement, 18 August 1993;

-- Collection of correspondence relating to the gestation of the book: 'When [Maclean] last wrote to me, in February, he was living on a shoe-string in his late father's croft house far out on Ardnamurchan Point, working on a prose book about the place & its life.' (ALS Dawn MacLeod to Livia Gollancz, 24 August 1981). 'Yes, I am engaged on a book. It's called 'Night Falls on Ardnamurchan' and is woven around two journals, one kept by my late father, who was a working crofter of this halet, and a subsequent one kept by me, during a recent winter I spent up here trying to write.' (ALS Alasdair Maclean to Livia Gollancz, 11 September 1981). 'Dear Bruce [Hunter, Maclean's literary agent], You ask me yet again for a typescript of the Ardnamurchan book. It's easy to sit in a comfortable office in London and write plaintive little notes -- easy but not very helpful. I could do that much for myself. I despair of ever making you understand what life is like for me here. I live in a cottage without sanitation, bath, running water or electricity. [...] I spent most of last winter and spring scouring the beaches for miles around for driftwood for fuel.' (Photocopied TLS Maclean to Bruce Hunter, 11 June 1982). 'This is an incomplete manuscript, and a sad one. [...] [H]is bitterness, and the sense of defeat and misery which ooze from these pages, are awfully depressing. [...] Personally, I can see no possible future for the wretched man unless some charity or charitable publisher bails him out. His poetry is excellent. He has a real talent. But the present manuscript is unpublishable, and unfinished (Reader's report, 20 August 1982). 'Dear Livia,... I've been in touch with Alasdair Maclain [sic] who accepts your proposal. This will confirm therefore that you will now make a payment of £250 which secures an option on the book to see the rest of it and make editorial suggestions. (TLS Hunter to Livia Gollancz, 20 September 1982);

-- Collection of correspondence between Livia Gollancz and interested parties, looking to secure bursaries or other monies for Maclean to enable him to continue to write. 'Dear Livia, I'm sure you will be pleased to learn that your efforts on my behalf have borne fruit. I've been awarded a £5000 Scottish Arts Council bursary. I'm very grateful to you indeed.' (ALS Maclean to Gollancz, 24 August 1983);

-- Lengthy and detailed correspondence between Maclean and Livia Gollancz (Gollancz's letters heavily annotated by Maclean) relating to the editing of the book in preparation for publication, and clearing poetry quotations used in the book (December 1983/April 1984);

-- Small collection of correspondence between Livia Gollancz and various interested (or uninterested) parties, looking to secure paperback publication of the book (these rights were eventually secured by Penguin) (Most of 1984);

-- TLS Maclean to Gollancz, 3 January 1985, thanking her for news of the book's (second) reprint.


-- 4pp. typescript outline by Maclean of the proposed book;

-- Original typed Memorandum of Agreement between Maclean and Gollancz, 5 September 1984, initialled and signed by Maclean. (Cancelled in August 1985);

-- Collection of correspondence arising from submission of the first portion of the book (now called Grey Streets Red River), including an unfavourable reader's report (?by Livia Gollancz): 'This was a great disappointment to me. It is extremely self-indulgent self analysis, and not a book about Glasgow per se -- not at all what I expected, and not at all what I discussed with Alisdair [sic].... I am rather wondering whether perhaps we should.... give up the idea of the book. However, this would probably mean giving up Alisdair [sic] Maclean, so we should discuss the matter to decide what to do.' Also present is a copy of the TLS from Livia Gollancz to Bruce Hunter declining the material and cancelling the contract.

A comprehensive collection of material, rare outside an author's own archive, telling the story of an entire literary career.


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