The Ada Clarke collection relating to D H Lawrence

Item author: Ada Clark; D H Lawrence.
Item date: 1875-1977
Grant Value: £10,000
Item cost: £519,453
Item date acquired: 2017
Item institution: University of Nottingham
Town/City: Nottingham
County: Nottinghamshire

Ada Clarke was the younger sister of D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), the Nottinghamshire writer who was also a student of the University College of Nottingham, the predecessor of the University of Nottingham.

The collection was the last major cache of DH Lawrence papers still in private ownership. It comprises over 600 items and includes two of Lawrence’s University College of Nottingham notebooks; autographed manuscripts of poems, short stories and essays; corrected proofs of his writing; first editions of his works; personal correspondence from Lawrence; a diary entry; and artefacts such as his own paintings and artist's palette, sandals and a poncho. The collection had been transferred in batches and loaned by the family to the University since 1992, and the University was given the opportunity to purchase in 2016. With the generous support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Foyle Foundation, the Friends of the National Libraries, the Aurelius Trust, the Duke of Portland's Trust and the Thriplow Trust, the University’s fundraising campaign was successful. The collection now forms part of our DH Lawrence Collection, which was designated in 2008 by the former Museums, Libraries and Archives Council as being of national and international importance.

The importance of the Clarke Collection for DH Lawrence studies cannot be overstated. Ada Clarke was Lawrence's closest sibling, so a wide range of invaluable, unique and irreplaceable items were passed to her by Lawrence and other family members. Anybody studying DH Lawrence's early life and writing, and his links to the Nottinghamshire region, simply has to refer to these items.

The correspondence totals approximately 340 letters and postcards, including 178 letters from Lawrence to Ada Clarke, 39 to Gertie Cooper (a close friend of his youth with whom he kept in contact to the end of her life), 13 to Jack Clarke (Ada’s eldest son: Lawrence’s dearly-loved nephew), and other letters to family members and close childhood friends. It also includes extremely rare letters sent between Lawrence’s family members which offer a unique insight into family dynamics in the Lawrence household during the author’s childhood and youth. In addition, there are important letters written to Ada Clarke after Lawrence’s death and concerning his life and estate.

The two University College Nottingham notebooks reinforce Lawrence’s connection with the University. One of the notebooks begins with Lawrence’s notes on lectures in Botany and then it is turned around and used from the back for early drafts of 87 poems. The other book contains drafts of 84 poems.

The collection also includes manuscripts of his short stories ‘The White Stocking’, ‘Legend-Ruby Glass’, ‘Ballad of Another Ophelia’ and ‘The Fly in the Ointment’, a typescript of ‘Rex’ as well as other essays.

We are extremely grateful to the Friends of the National Libraries for supporting this important purchase.

Ada Clarke and her brother D H Lawrence, 1926.
Ada Clarke and her brother D H Lawrence, 1926.
Opening lines of a poem from DH Lawrence's University College, Nottingham notebook, 1911. Courtesy of Manuscripts and Special Collections, University of Nottingham.
Opening lines of a poem from DH Lawrence's University College, Nottingham notebook, 1911 (La/L/9/62). Images courtesy of Manuscripts and Special Collections, University of Nottingham.