Manuscript Collections: Papers of Frank Templeton Prince

Prince workshop on Wednesday April 30th, 2014
Wednesday April 30th saw Special Collections hosting a poetry workshop based on the F.T. Prince Archive. The archive was gifted to the university by the poet and Milton scholar F.T. Prince, but embargoed until 2012. Prince helped found the university’s English department when he joined the university in 1946.

Portrait of Frank Templeton Prince (1912-2003)

Portrait of Frank Templeton Prince (1912-2003)

The afternoon event was a chance for university alumni to see some of the archive’s treasures, including unpublished letters by T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, and E.M. Forster. It was also a chance to get to know Prince’s poetry: though many of the workshop participants had been taught by Prince, it was the first time they had been given a chance to discuss his work. Beatrice Clarke, who studied English under Prince in the 1960s called it ‘the best kind of keeping alive of a scholarly man’s work – respectful, but properly questioning and critical’. Another seminar participant, Michael Hinds, noted it was ‘the first time I had experienced working and talking around manuscript material’ and found it ‘very enjoyable and rewarding’. The session was led by Dr Will May, a Senior Lecturer in English at the University.


Papers of Frank Templeton Prince (1912-2003)

Prince was born in Kimberley, South Africa, the son of a Jewish diamond expert and a Scottish Presbyterian. He was educated at the Christian Brothers’ College, Kimberley, and then came to the UK to read English at Balliol College, Oxford. From 1940-6, Prince served in the Army Intelligence Corps. In 1946 he joined the English Department at the University of Southampton, where he was Professor 1957-74. Prince subsequently taught at the University of the West Indies, in the United States and in North Yemen. He delivered the Clark Lectures at Cambridge University in 1972-3.

Extract from a draft of The Swimmers

Extract from a draft of ‘The Swimmers’ from the collection MS 328 Papers of Professor Frank Templeton Prince

Prince was a poet of some renown. He is probably best remembered for his collection Soldiers Bathing (1954), the title poem of which is one of the most anthologised poems of the Second World War. Written in 1942, it presents soldiers relaxing by a river and culminates in a power evocation of the naked Christ on the cross. Initially championed by T.S.Eliot, Prince’s poetry was to quickly fall out of fashion. He was admired by and influenced the New York school, a group of writers that flourished in the 1960s, and was regard by John Ashbery, the group’s most famous poet, as one of the most significant poets of the twentieth century.

The Prince archive (MS 328) contains an important collection of Prince’s poetry and prose writings, as well as a range of correspondence with notable literary figures, including W.H.Auden, Stephen Spender, C.S.Lewis, E.M.Forster and T.S.Eliot who, as editor at Faber and Faber, was a supporter of Prince’s poetry.


New Prince related acquisitions

Over the last few months, the University of Southampton has acquired two further collections of papers relating to Frank Prince.

The first of these (MS 328 A4131) is a collection of papers of Professor Jacques Berthoud (1935- 2001). Berthoud was recruited by Prince to join the English Department at the University of Southampton and worked alongside Prince at the University until 1979 when he moved to the University of York. A native of Berne, Berthoud was educated in South Africa.

The second collection (MS 328 A4165) is that of the poet W.G. (Bill) Shepherd (1935-2012). Of particular significance here is a series of 35 letters from Prince to Shepherd, 1986-2000, in which they discuss poetry and the genesis of some of the Prince’s writing.

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