Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Tynan, Kenneth mss. consist of manuscript diaries of director and theater personality Kenneth Tynan (1927-1980). Born in Birmingham, England, Tynan stuttered as a child but was highly precocious, and was already keeping a diary by the age of six. A brilliant pupil at King Edward's School in Birmingham, Tynan won a scholarship to Oxford at the end of WWII, where he became an intellectual and social leader among the undergraduates. Noted for his flamboyant dress and extravagant style, he wrote and edited Oxford college magazines, and was tutored by C. S. Lewis, for whom he retained a life-long admiration.

Tynan's active career as a theater critic began in 1952, when he was hired by the London Evening Standard. Two years later he left for The Observer and quickly rose to prominence, championing the new realism in the theater of "The Angry Young Men" and playwrights such as Samuel Beckett. In the late Fifties he became known in the United States through a series of reviews in The New Yorker. In 1963 he was appointed Literary Manager of the British Royal National Theatre, where he established a global reputation.

Controversy marked Tynan's later career, and his battles against censorship led to such works as the erotic revue Oh! Calcutta!, which became one of the most successful theater hits of all time. He remained at the National Theatre until 1973. From the mid-1970s on, he worked on a series of projects exploring sexual themes, including sadomasochism. Tynan died in Santa Monica, California in 1980 at age 53. The publication of his diaries in 2001 led to renewed controversy due to their frank discussion of sexuality and his personal life. The editor of the diaries noted in his introduction that passages were omitted that the publishers thought might lead to charges of slander.

The collection is arranged by the following series: I. Diaries, 1970-1980; II. Earlier Diaries; III. Writings. The first series consists of twenty-five individually bound handwritten diaries chronicling the last ten years of Tynan's life, 1970-1980. The earlier diaries include Tynan's unpublished volumes from the years 1939 (when he was twelve) and 1941 (at the age of fourteen, during the Second World War) and offers insights into this early period of his life. The final series features a proof typescript of The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan, a book covering the aforementioned 1970-1980 period, edited by John Lahr, and published by Bloomsbury in 2001.

An inventory is available.

Acquired: 2011

Collection size: 29 items

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.