Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Fainlight mss., 1935-1982 [bulk circa. 1950-1982], consist of the papers of poet, Harry Fainlight, 1935-1982. The collection also includes correspondence of his sister, Ruth Fainlight, regarding Harry Fainlight written during and after his lifetime, as well as materials about him that she gathered and created after his death.

Harry Fainlight was born in New York in 1935 to an English father and a naturalized American mother. Though the family relocated to England when he was age one, Harry, his sister, and his mother returned to America for the duration of World War II. While at Brighton and Hove Grammar School, Fainlight won a scholarship to read English literature at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He worked as an advertising executive in London before going to live in New York City. During his time there he worked on films and befriended Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Gregory Corso, and Lawrence Felinghetti.

After returning to live in London in the mid-1960's, Fainlight read his work at the International Poetry Incarnation at the Albert Hall in June 1965. This event brought together American Beat poets with their English peers and had seven thousand attendees. The same year, Fainlight's twelve page booklet, Sussicran ("Narcissus" backwards) was published. This is the only work Fainlight published in his lifetime. In 1967, Fainlight participated in the funeral and resurrection performance for the International Times, being carried in a coffin through the streets of London. Throughout the 1970's, Fainlight suffered mental health problems and was hospitalized several times. His relationships with family and friends, including fellow literary figures, suffered due to his behavior. By 1976, Fainlight isolated himself in a remote cottage in Wales. He passed away in a field outside his home after a struggle with bronchial pneumonia in September 1982. Ruth Fainlight edited and published a posthumous volume of Harry Fainlight's poetry called Selected Poems in 1986.

The collection is arranged into the following series: I. Biographical Materials, II. Correspondence, III. Poetry Manuscripts and Typescripts, IV. Poetry Notebooks, V. Poetry Collections, VI. Personal Writings, VII. Photographs, VIII. Publicity, IX. Financial, X. Ephemera, XI. Posthumous, XII. Audio-Visual, XIII. Realia.

Among the Correspondence of Harry Fainlight are letters from other literary figures, publishers, poetry and art organizations, and legal, government, mental health entities, and classified advertisement respondents. Literary correspondents include: Roger Garfitt, Allen Ginsberg, Michael Horovitz, Ted Hughes, Robert Nye, Alan Sillitoe, and Stephen Spender.

Poetry manuscripts and typescripts often include multiple iterations of Harry Fainlight's poems with handwritten editing. Poetry notebooks also represent Fainlight's poetry writing process though often provide additional information about the time, place, and context of writing through Fainlight's notes and reminders on the first and last pages. Poetry collections include Harry Fainlight's unpublished City: A Sequence of Poems and London: A Book of Poems. Personal Writings, like Harry Fainlight's letter drafts offer intimate revelations of the poet's emotions, and thoughts. Publicity represents Fainlight's involvement in cultural events and includes materials related to his classified advertisements. Posthumous includes Ruth Fainlight's work on Selected Poems, the unpublished A Group of Poems, and other materials commemorating her brother's life and work.

An inventory is available as well as a list of poetry notebooks.

Acquired: 2008

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.