The Nobel laureate Doris Lessing (1919-2013) had a long association with the University of East Anglia and was our first Distinguished Fellow of Literature.

We are proud to host her vast archive of correspondence. 

"The Doris Lessing Archive at UEA is an extraordinary and unique record of her life and work." 

The late Patrick French, Doris Lessing's authorised biographer

The Doris Lessing Archive consists of two tranches of fascinating letters and working papers.

The first deposit (of 30 boxes) was made in 2008, following the  announcement that Lessing had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. These boxes are available to all visitors by prior appointment

In 2019, in partnership with the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, BACW celebrated Doris Lessing's centenary with an archive exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre, an international conference and a range of other public events.

Available material

The 2008 deposit includes correspondence with Margaret Drabble, Muriel Spark, Iris Murdoch and Rebecca West, as well as Kurt Vonnegut, Raymond Carver and Ingmar Bergman.

The collection also includes ‘The Whitehorn letters’, 110 fascinating love letters written between 1943 and 1949. They chart the writing of Lessing’s first novel, The Grass is Singing, and reflections on the War, life in Southern Rhodesia (modern day Zimbabwe), pregnancy and motherhood – plus her eventual move to London.

Embargoed material

In 2013, following the author’s death, the University received the remainder of her personal archive (109 boxes), which Lessing had bequeathed. This tranche includes further personal papers, correspondence, notebooks and diaries.

Lessing's authorised biographer the late Patrick French had privileged access to the 2013 deposit during the writing of Lessing’s biography (not yet published). After its publication, where appropriate, material will be catalogued and made available for public access.

Lessing's personal diaries will remain embargoed until 2043. 

Other Lessing archives

Other Doris Lessing's papers, including manuscripts of published works (45 boxes), are held at Harry Ransom Humanities Research Centre, University of Texas at Austin. A smaller collection is held at the McFarlin Library at the University of Tulsa.