Sylvia Lynd played an important role in 20th-century literary culture as a judge for the Book Society (the British equivalent of the American Book-of-the-Month Club) and the Femina Vie Heureuse Prize. The Hampstead home that she shared with her husband, the writer and journalist Robert Wilson Lynd, was a notable literary meeting place, and the Lynds’ circle included many publishers, literary journalists and writers, including Victor and Ruth Gollancz, J.B. Priestley, Rose Macauley, and Hugh Walpole. Other guests at their home included James Joyce (who held his wedding reception there) and W.B. Yeats. In her own right Lynd was a significant pastoral poet, but will perhaps be best remembered for her prominent role as a literary tastemaker and influential female judge on the new book clubs and literary prizes formed during the interwar years.
The University of Reading holds the Archive of British Publishing and Printing, along with related book trade material, including the Mark Longman Library (formerly the library of the National Book League). It also holds several collections of the papers and literary manuscripts of 20th century authors, with a notable focus on modern poets and Irish writers. With this in mind, the Special Collections at Reading is a natural home for the papers of Sylvia Lynd. Acquisition of the diaries and autobiographical material will complement material in the publishers’ archives in particular, where substantial evidence about the Book Society and wider aspects of inter-war literary culture is contained, and also the recent acquisition of the Margaret Irwin papers (who was also closely connected to the Book Society) along with other collections of prominent female public figures of the 20th century, notably the papers of Nancy Astor and the papers of Pearl Craigie (President of the Society of Women Journalists).
The University of Reading’s wide-ranging archive collections are open to public access: our users include scholars, students, writers and members of the public. It also enhances its academic and public outreach programmes, with regular events which draw on their publishing and literary holdings. The Lynd collection will be used primarily for research purposes, including a current postdoctoral project on the history of the Book Society, and is also likely to attract interest from scholars of Lynd’s work and those interested in the wider context of inter-war literature and Irish writing. It will also contribute to the University’s growing focus on the teaching of the history of the book and on the use of special collections in undergraduate learning. The material will also be used alongside other archival documents as part of planned exhibitions accompanying conferences and public events.