The Stevie Smith Archive: Five Treasures

I’ve been back from Tulsa, where I was working in the Stevie Smith archive, for about three weeks now.  It was a very rich trip, and I will take some time to process all the treasures I found there.

Today, though: some of the quirkier finds in the archive.

  1. A lock of Stevie Smith’s hair
A lock of Stevie Smith's hair.
A lock of Stevie Smith’s hair. Stevie Smith papers, 1924-1970. Coll. No. 1976.012. McFarlin Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. The University of Tulsa.

I’d seen this in the catalogue, and was prepared, but wasn’t ready to be quite so choked up as I found myself. Relics are painful: the whole complex contrary person  you met in the writing is now reduced to a few strands of hair.

I always imagine Smith as grey-haired – as she is in so many photographs – so it was a shock to see how bright this hair is, brown with gold running through it. She must have been quite a young woman when this lock was snipped.

2. Appointment diaries

Stevie Smith's appointment diaries
Stevie Smith’s appointment diaries. Stevie Smith papers, 1924-1970. Coll. No. 1976.012. McFarlin Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. The University of Tulsa.

My favourite was the Enid Blyton diary. Sparsely used: perhaps because Smith was too busy entering its competitions and reading its helpful tips. Can you identify an ox-eye daisy?

3. Smith’s passport

Stevie Smith's passport
Stevie Smith’s passport. Stevie Smith papers, 1924-1970. Coll. No. 1976.012. McFarlin Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. The University of Tulsa.

Look at that cover. See, the pound may be in freefall post-Brexit, but at least we can look forward (/backwards) to sleek navy passports.

Stevie Smith's passport.
Stevie Smith’s passport. Stevie Smith papers, 1924-1970. Coll. No. 1976.012. McFarlin Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. The University of Tulsa.

‘Profession: Author’

4. An autograph album

Stevie Smith's autograph album
Stevie Smith’s autograph album. Stevie Smith papers, 1924-1970. Coll. No. 1976.012. McFarlin Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. The University of Tulsa.

Some extraordinarily detailed autographs and drawings in here. People have always found elaborate ways to waste time.

Drawing from Smith's autograph album.
Drawing from Smith’s autograph album. Stevie Smith papers, 1924-1970. Coll. No. 1976.012. McFarlin Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. The University of Tulsa.

5. Postcards

 

Stevie Smith's collectable postcards.
Collectable postcards. Stevie Smith papers, 1924-1970. Coll. No. 1976.012. McFarlin Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. The University of Tulsa.

So. Many. Postcards. I’ve written before about Smith and the postcard, and clearly she did keep and send lots and lots of them. Tiny collectable postcards, postcards from Smith, postcards from old aunts, unused postcards. Postcards from Smith’s father also, as we know, but sadly only a photocopy of the famous ‘Off to Valparaiso love Daddy’ one.

All images shared with permission of the McFarlin library, overlaid where appropriate with a watermarked transparency. Many thanks to Marc Carlson at the University of Tulsa.

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2 thoughts on “The Stevie Smith Archive: Five Treasures

  1. hullconference October 16, 2016 / 11:39 am

    Really moving, especially the lock of hair and passport that so firmly figure Stevie as a person!

    Liked by 1 person

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