University of Texas, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

John Collier:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Descriptive Summary

Creator Collier, John, 1901-
Title John Collier Papers
Dates: ca. 1920-1976
Abstract The papers of John Collier represent his transition from a poet to writer of novels, short stories, and screenplays. The bulk of the papers are manuscripts covering several genres, although a substantial amount of correspondence is also included.
RLIN Record # TXRC99-A5
Extent 5 boxes, 1 galley folder (2.10 linear feet)
Language English.
Repository Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

John Collier, a writer of various genres, was born in London on May 3, 1901. He obtained a private education, and began writing poetry at age nineteen, and was first published in 1920. During the early 1930s he concentrated on writing novels and short stories. One of Collier's most popular works from this period was His Monkey Wife, first published in 1930. In this short novel, Collier covers the controversial topic of conjugal love between a man and a chimpanzee. Collier became best known as a writer of fantasy, and though largely unpopular in his native country, gained significant popularity in the United States.

In 1935 Collier moved from England to Hollywood where he began writing screenplays. He would remain an active screenwriter for the next thirty years, as well as do substantial writing for television. Some of Collier's screenplays include Elephant Boy (1937), I Am a Camera (1955), and The War Lord (1965). Collier devoted much effort during the late 1960s to the transformation of Milton's Paradise Lost into a screenplay. However, despite being published in book form, his hopes of turning the screenplay into a film were never realized. Collier's other published works include Gemini (poetry collection, 1931), Tom's A-Cold (novel, 1933), Defy the Foul Fiend (novel, 1934), Presenting Moonshine (short story collection, 1941), Fancies and Goodnights (short story collection, 1951), Pictures in the Fire (short story collection, 1958), The John Collier Reader (short story collection, 1972), and The Best of John Collier (short story collection, 1975).

Collier died of a stroke in Pacific Palisades, California on April 6, 1980. For the most part, his work has been ignored by scholars, but still holds wide appeal among readers of fantasy.

Scope and Contents

The papers of John Collier, ca. 1920-1976, represent Collier's transition from a poet to writer of novels, short stories, and screenplays. The bulk of the papers are manuscripts covering several genres. A substantial amount of correspondence is also included in the papers. The papers are divided into two series: I. Works, ca. 1920-1975, n.d. (4.8 boxes), and II. Personal Papers, ca. 1930-1976, n.d. (0.2 boxes).

The Works Series is subdivided by genre: Novels, Poems, Reviews, Screenplays, and Short Stories, the majority of which fall into the latter two categories. Of specific interest within the Screenplays subseries is an original screenplay for The African Queen, on which Collier was a collaborator, which was not used for the final film. However, the bulk of the Screenplays subseries deals with Collier's adaptation of John Milton's Paradise Lost. Some correspondence documenting Collier's ongoing negotiations with agents and collaborators concerning the adaptation are also included in the Paradise Lost group. A large percentage of this correspondence is with Howard Hausman, Martin Poll, and Jan Stussy, ca. 1967-1970. In addition to the correspondence, there are multiple holograph an typescript drafts of the adaptation. Manuscripts for fifteen short stories, most of which date from 1955-1958 are also present. Among the short stories best represented is Asking For It, of which there are multiple drafts. The Novel subseries contains holograph manuscripts by Collier, including an original of His Monkey Wife, probably his best known novel. The Poems subseries includes both holograph manuscripts and typescripts of what became the published book Gemini. The small Reviews subseries contains reviews by Collier of other novels, as well as a scrapbook of newspaper reviews of his own work, Presenting Moonshine.

The Personal Papers Series is minuscule compared to the Works series. Contained in this series are an announcement of a poetry award given to Collier, a contract concerning the publication of Defy the Foul Fiend, and a very small amount of outgoing correspondence to John Beevers, Louis Golding, and Alannah Harper. Of particular note within this series is a notebook kept by Collier that records short story titles, information regarding dates of composition, length of writing time, payment received, and the publisher of the story. This record book also contains listed groupings of possible stories to be released as collections, notes for short stories, and some sketches.

The order of the collection appears to have been somewhat influenced by Bertram Rota Ltd., the dealer from which it was obtained. On the whole, this order has been maintained, though the Paradise Lost correspondence was put in chronological order during processing. Additionally, many of the items seem to have been labeled by the author and/or the dealer, and these were assumed largely reliable for the task of identification and description.



Open for research

Index Terms

Barker, Lee
Milton, John, 1608-1674 -- Paradise Lost
English literature -- 20th century
Document Types

Administrative Information


Purchases, 1967-1976, (R3732, R4786, R7297)

Processed by

Dale Sauter, 1999


Benstock, Bernard, and Thomas F. Staley, eds. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 77. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1989.

Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series, Vol. 10. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1983.

Richardson, Betty. John Collier. Boston: Twayne, 1983.

John Collier Papers--Folder List

Series I. Works, ca. 1920-1975, n.d.

Subseries A. Novels, 1937?, n.d.
box folder
1 1 Easy Go Grange, holograph original manuscript of first chapter of an unfinished novel with corrections, 1937?,
2-3 His Monkey Wife, holograph manuscript, n.d.,
Subseries B. Poems, ca. 1925-1926, n.d.
box folder
1 4 Typescript original of two poems, ca. 1925-1926,
"Three Men in One Room," composite holograph and typescript, much amended, with later revisions for print, n.d.,
"The Apology," introduction, holograph manuscript, n.d.,
Subseries C. Reviews, 1941?, n.d.
box folder
1 5 Reviews of Presenting Moonshine, scrapbook, 1941?
6 Review of The Search by C. P. Snow and four other novels, n.d.,
Subseries D. Screenplays, ca. 1937-1975, n.d.
box folder
1 7 African Queen, original screenplay typescript, 11 April 1947,
8 Ballet Story, typescript, n.d.,
box folder
2 1 Evening Primrose, first draft typescript, 1937?,
Finding Ernie
box folder
2 2 Holograph manuscript, record of steps and disagreements during development from verbal description of story outline to complete screenplay, with corrections, 1972, 1973?,
3 Composite holograph and typescript, first draft script, used for working copy, with corrections, n.d.,
4 Composite holograph and typescript with corrections, n.d.,
5 Typescript, first material after starting on screen version, 1970,
6 Typescript, final fourth [?] material with corrections, 4 July 1971,
7 Typescript, third uncut version, July 28, 1971,
box folder
3 1 Typescript, final fifth material, October 1971,
2 For Elissa, typescript, 1953?,
3 The Leaning Tower of East Side Plaza, typescript with corrections, n.d.,
4 Mary, holograph manuscript, original screenplay, with corrections, n.d.,
Paradise Lost
Correspondence, ca. 1967-1975, n.d.
box folder
3 5 Fragments, n.d.
6 1967-1969
7 1970, 1975
8 First presentation of concept of film, typescript with corrections, 18 January 1967,
9 First outline of possible adaptation for motion picture, typescript, June-July 1967,
34 p
10 Rough outline of principal sequence, typescript with corrections, 1967?,
11 Layout of first half of screenplay containing arguments pro & con for certain aspects of the work, holograph manuscript with corrections, 1967?,
12 'A Second Beginning,' holograph manuscript, with corrections, 13 November 1967,
box folder
4 1 Working copy, typescript with corrections, n.d.,
2 Draft of last scenes, holograph manuscript with corrections, n.d.,
3 Final screenplay, typescript with corrections, 30 September 1968?,
4 Draft of fall sequence, typescript with corrections, n.d.,
5 Uncut version, typescript, n.d.,
6 Final version prepared for publication, typescript with corrections, May 5, 1972,
7 Introduction to published version
Typescript with corrections, n.d.,
Composite holograph and typescript with corrections, 14 October 1972,
Typescript with corrections, n.d.,
Early version, holograph manuscript with corrections, n.d.,
box folder
4 8 Foreword written for use in connection with the screenplay
Typescript with corrections, n.d.,
Typescript, n.d.,
box folder
4 9 Notes on certain aspects of the production
Holograph manuscript, with corrections, n.d.,
Typescript, n.d.,
box folder
4 10 Notes and comments on the projected screenplay, typescript with corrections, n.d.,
11 Notes and fragments, n.d.,
box folder
5 1 Pictures in the Fire, typescript of short story version, 1937?, 28p; three typescript drafts for screenplay, n.d,
27p, 50p, 35p
2 Time Stands Still, outline, typescript with corrections, 10 January 1951,
3 Wet Saturday, typescript with corrections, n.d.,
Subseries E. Short Stories, ca. 1920-1975, n.d.
box folder
5 4 Alien Corn, typescript with corrections, ca. 1958-1959,
5 Asking for It (original version titled Characters More Important Than Plot)
Typescript with corrections, 1958-1959,
Holograph manuscript with corrections, 1975?,
The Chaser -- see folder 5.21
box folder
5 6 Cupid Paid, holograph manuscript, with corrections, ca. 1920-1923,
7 A Dog's a Dog, with two alternative drafts numbered I & II, holograph manuscript with corrections, February or March 1956?,
8 Don't Call Me, I'll Call You, holograph manuscript with corrections, n.d.,
9 Eyes and No Nose, typescript with corrections, 4 February 1967,
Great Possibilities -- see folder 5.21
folder box
10 5 Mademoiselle Kiki, original holograph manuscript with corrections, 1938?,
box folder
5 11 Man Overboard, original holograph manuscript with corrections, ca. 1957-1958,
The Mask and the Maiden -- see folder 5.13
box folder
5 12 A Matter of Taste, original holograph manuscript with corrections, December 1955 or January 1956?,
13 The Naked Truth in Viridian Springs, Arizona (published title, The Mask and the Maiden), holograph manuscript, with corrections, March 1956?,
14 None So Blind, original holograph manuscript with corrections, December 1955?,
Pictures in the Fire -- see folder 5.1
box folder
5 15 Reindeer on the Way, original holograph manuscript with corrections, 1937?,
16 Son of Kiki, incomplete holograph manuscript with corrections, n.d.,
17 The Tender Age, original holograph manuscript, with corrections, November 1955?,
Think No Evil, galley proofs with corrections, 21 November 1957 - early summer 1958,
12p (removed to galley folder)

Series II. Personal Papers, ca. 1930-1976, n.d.

box folder
5 18 Award, pages from This Quarter, announcing winner of poetry award, 193?
19 Contract, memorandum of agreement with Collier re "Defy the Foul Fiend,"21 June 1934,
20 Outgoing correspondence, 1935, n.d.
21 Short story record book, holograph entries in bound notebook, ca. 1937-1976; also includes information on account with Matson, lists for collections of short stories, notes for short stories, and some sketches

John Collier Papers--Index of Correspondents

  • Barker, Lee (Doubleday & Co., Inc.)--3.6
  • Hausman, Howard (William Morris Agency, Inc.)--3.6-7
  • Krasner, Jack (J. H. Cohen & Co.)--3.6
  • Poll, Martin (Marpol Productions, Inc.)--3.6-7
  • Stussy, Jan, 1921- (UCLA)--3.5