University of Texas, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

John Osborne:

A Preliminary Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Osborne, John, 1929-1994
Title John Osborne Papers
Dates: 1956-1994
Abstract: The papers of this British playwright consist of manuscripts of many of his works, correspondence, newspaper and magazine articles, scrapbooks, posters, programs, and business documents.
Extent 50 boxes, 8 oversize boxes, 3 oversize flat file folders (32.676 linear feet)
Language English.
Repository: Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin

Scope and Contents

John Osborne's work as a playwright, author, actor, producer, director, and contributor to numerous newspapers and periodicals is represented in this collection, which consists of holograph manuscripts and notebooks, typescripts, page and galley proofs, correspondence, newspaper and magazine articles, scrapbooks, posters, programs, and business documents. The material spans five decades beginning in the mid-1950s just prior to his important play, Look Back in Anger (1956). Credited with launching a dramatic renaissance in Britain, Osborne's literary style is known for its verbal pyrotechnics and repeated themes of anger, defeat, and disillusionment. Osborne's skill at sulphuric prose is also present in his correspondence where passionate beliefs are expressed with eloquent vitriol.

Osborne's three books, consisting of two autobiographies and a volume of collected prose; nearly all of his plays dating from his early Look Back in Anger to his last, DéjàVu; significant correspondence; and journalism are well represented in this collection. Frequently, both holograph and typescript material are present for his books, plays, and other writings, providing continuity from conception to publication. The material is arranged in six series: Works, Correspondence, Information about J.O., Printed Material, Personal, and Works by Others.

In the first series, Osborne's works are arranged by title in the following categories: books; stage, screen, and television plays; adaptations and film; and articles, reviews, and other writings. In some cases holograph notebooks contain more than one title. These are alphabetized by the first title in the notebook. Likewise, some play scripts are combined or have undergone name changes over time. Osborne's adaptations include the works of Strindberg, Ibsen, Wilde, and De Vega. A holograph notebook of the Academy Award winning film, Tom Jones, is also present. The Articles, Reviews, and Other Writings section consists of Osborne's articles, columns, reviews, and letters to the editor written for numerous newspapers and periodicals. Identification of publication and date is provided whenever possible. As with his books and plays, holograph manuscripts and typescript drafts accompany the final piece. Many of these writings reappear in Osborne's volume of collected prose, Damn You, England.

The Correspondence series contains letters written to Osborne and some of his wives, Osborne's replies (usually typed carbons), postcards, telegrams, greeting cards, invitations, contracts and other agreements, and Osborne family genealogy. Osborne corresponded with colleagues, critics, friends, family, fans, and those with whom he had legal and business dealings. The correspondence was originally housed in 2-ring binders and one expanding file. Osborne retained both incoming and outgoing correspondence in the binders, arranged in approximate date order by subject (usually play titles) and by alphabetical division in the expanding file. Osborne frequently composed his responses on the back of the incoming correspondence. Much of his outgoing correspondence was prepared by his secretaries and sent in his absence. Drafts of many letters exist, typed and handwritten, as well as typed transcripts of telegrams.

While the original subjects of the 2-ring binders are maintained, the letters are rehoused in folders and arranged in alphabetical order. Osborne's subject titles are used, although some subject areas overlap or are duplicated. The correspondence is arranged in five subseries. The largest is Works (arranged by title), followed by Personal, including correspondence with his wives and family, the Osborne genealogy, and "household and domestic matters" at Osborne's London house on Chelsea Square. The subseries Business contains correspondence with agents, publishers, lawyers, theaters, and production companys regarding contracts, fees, and royalties. Osborne's category of "Fans, Friends, and Lunatics" describes the next subseries which includes several folders with similar titles.

The Miscellaneous/General subseries contains correspondence from Osborne's alphabetical expanding file. The purpose of this file is unclear since subject areas are mixed and the dates range from 1958-1992. The topics of censorship and rejected scripts are also included in this series.

In order to document the original groupings of the 2-ring binders, the following is a list of their contents:

  • Agents and Publishers (General)--including Foreign Agents
  • Chelsea Square: Household, domestic matters
  • English State Company
  • Epitaph for George Dillon (and Dillon Productions), Look Back in Anger, The Entertainer
  • Hedda Gabler; A Sense of Detachment
  • Inadmissible Evidence
  • J.O. fan letters and general enquiries; lunatics
  • J.O. Personal, A-M and N-Z
  • J.O. Productions; Randle Productions; Holly Productions; National Westminster Bank (J.O. Private Account)
  • J.O. Royalties, Performing Right Society, Fees
  • J.O. T.V. Plays: A Subject of Scandal and Concern, Very Like a Whale, The Right Prospectus, The Gift of Friendship, Ms or Jill and Jack, Little Lord Fauntleroy
  • Luther; Plays for England: The Blood of the Bambergs and Under Plain Cover
  • Lytton Strachey (screenplay); The Hostage and Charge of the Light Brigade
  • A Patriot For Me, May 1966
  • Penelope Gilliatt; Nolan
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, A Place Calling Itself Rome, Watch It Come Down, The End of Me Old Cigar
  • Royalties, Performing Right Society Royalties, Fees, Contracts, Agents
  • Time Present and The Hotel in Amsterdam; West of Suez
  • The World of Paul Slickey

A smaller series, Information about J.O., contains a miscellany of items including a list of published works (1957-73), astrological chart, and Osborne Productions receipt book dating from 1969-71. The Printed Material series contains a wealth of newspaper and magazine clippings, scrapbooks, and play programs. The Personal series includes bank statements, check stubs, posters, and photographs of Osborne, Penelope Gilliatt, Mary Ure, and stage productions of his plays. The last series, Works by Others, contains extracts from Robert Asprey's The Panther's Feast, Joe Orton's film script Up Against It, Tony Richardson's book Part of All sent to Helen Osborne for commentary, and a masters thesis by Dolly Beechman on Osborne's Look Back in Anger. Nearly two dozen of Osborne's published plays, some in foreign language, were transferred to the HRHRC book collection.

Generally, the collection is in good condition with few deteriorating elements, such as tape, present. The scrapbooks and newspaper clippings are in the most perilous condition, the majority being brown and brittle.



Open for research

Administrative Information


Reg. No. 13432

Processed by

Liz Murray, 1995

John Osborne Papers--Folder List

Series I. Works, 1958-1994

Subseries A. Books
Almost a Gentleman
box folder
1 1 Holograph notebook, "Notes for Vol. II"
2 Holograph notebook, "Memoirs. Vol. II"
3-5 Holograph manuscript
[folder 1-3 of 6]
box folder
2 1-3 Holograph manuscript
[folder 4-6 of 6]
4-5 Holograph and typescript fragments
box folder
3 1-3 Corrected typescript
4-6 Corrected typescript
box folder
4 1-6 Corrected typescript
[folders 1-6 of 9]
box folder
5 1-3 Corrected typescript
[folders 7-9 of 9]
4-6 Setting copy
box folder
6 1-3 Page proofs
A Better Class of Person
4-5 Tape transcriptions
6 Notebook transcriptions
box folder
7 1-2 Incomplete typescript, carbon copy, May 1980
3-4 Corrected typescript
5 Miscellaneous pages relating to the demise of George Devine
Bound typescript, October 1980
8 Bound corrected typescript, J.O. master copy, March 21st
1 Page proofs, photocopy, 1981
2 Corrected page proofs, Chapter 1
3 Damn You, England, page proofs, photocopy, 1994
[oversize articles and copies removed to Box 51]
Subseries B. Stage, Screen, and Television Plays
box folder
9 1 Almost a Vision, rehearsal script
2 The Charge of the Light Brigade, first draft screen play, Part II, Balaclava, March 15, 1965,
[Woodfall Films Ltd. bound copy]
3 Holograph notebook, March 1966
4 Holograph notebook, continued, Scene II
5 Early sketches, holograph manuscript
6 Act I, holograph notebook, November 29, 1988
7 Act II, holograph notebook, November 29, 1988
box folder
10 1-2 Original edited typescript, December 9, 1988
3 J.O. corrected bound copy, with holograph notes December 9, 1988
4-5 Carbon copy typescript, with holograph insert pages, December 9, 1988
box folder
11 1 Revised text for Faber and Faber edition
2-3 Setting copy
4 Page proofs (agent), 1990
5 Page proofs (author), 1990
6 Page proofs, performance edition, 1991
7 Page proofs, Dramatic Publishing edition, 1992
Galleys, two corrected copies
[removed to Box 52]
The End of Me Old Cigar
box folder
12 1 Holograph notebook
2-3 Bound version (4 copies), July 1974
4 The Entertainer, acting edition, certified copy no. 2
5 For the Meantime: Time Present, The Hotel in Amsterdam, Coriolanus, holograph notebook
The Great Bear or Minette
box folder
13 1 Book I, holograph notebook
2 Book II, holograph notebook
3-4 The Hostage, A Draft Screenplay, corrected typescript
Inadmissible Evidence
5 Holograph notebook, 12/5/63
6 Cont. from A, holograph notebook
box folder
14 1 Look Back in Anger, seventh draft, screen play, August 20, 1958
[copy no. 15]
2 Look Back in Anger and Other Plays, photocopy page proofs
3 Introduction to Look Back in Anger and Other Plays, Holograph ms. and corrected typescripts
4 Holograph notebook and ms. pages
5 Holograph notebook
Moll Flanders
6 Notes, 4/6/61
[carbon typescript]
7 Notes, 4/11/61
[corrected typescript]
8 Screen play, corrected typescript, n.d.
box folder
15 1 Ms or Jill and Jack, three bound copies
No Fancy Salaries, No Queer Folk or An Actor's Life for Me
2 Holograph manuscript and notebook
3 Part II of an extract of autobiography for television, edited typescript outline and holograph notebook
4 Part II of an extract of autobiography for television, edited typescript
5 Quick, Quick, Slow [title changed to No Fancy Salaries...], Part One and Two, edited typescript
6 Quick, Quick, Slow, Part One and Two, revised carbon typescript
7 Notes for Play, No. 7: An Artificial Comedy, holograph notebook
box folder
16 1 Panic Stations, holograph notebook
A Patriot For Me
2 With Entertainer, holograph notebook
3 Holograph notebook, July 18, 1964
4 Scene II, continued, holograph notebook
5 A Place Calling Itself Rome, holograph notebook
Plays for England
box folder
17 1 Number One, holograph notebook
2 Number Two, April 1962
[holograph notebook]
3 A Sense of Detachment, August 1971
[holograph notebook]
Separations, I, The Gift of Friendship
4 Holograph notebook
5 Holograph notebook, continued
6 A Subject of Scandal and Concern, holograph notebook
box folder
18 1 Time Present, holograph notebook
Too Young to Fight, Too Old to Forget
2 Holograph notebook, September 1977
3 Draft, TV screenplay, January 23, 1978
[holograph manuscript]
4 First version, corrected typescript
5 First draft, May 8, also dated Dec. 1979 typescript
[two copies]
6 First draft, May 8, also dated Dec. 1979 corrected typescript
7 Typesetting proofs, 5/2/85
box folder
19 1 Try a Little Tenderness, holograph notebooks
Watch It Come Down
2 Holograph notebook
3 Bound copy
West of Suez
4 Holograph notebook, February 1971
5 With Separations (1) and (2), Dancer, Coriolanus (July), Judas, holograph notebook
box folder
20 1 What About Me?, holograph notebook
The World of Paul Slickey
2 Introductory pages, typescript
3 Bound typescript, Brandt & Brandt
4-5 Miscellaneous holograph notebooks
6 Miscellaneous manuscript fragments
Subseries C. Adaptations and Film
box folder
21 1 A Bond Honored, from Lope de Vega, August 30, 1965
[holograph notebook]
The Father, from August Strindberg
2 Holograph manuscript and typescript, 7/19/88
3 Corrected typescript
4 Bound copy
5 Published version, translated by Peter Watts
6 Hedda Gabler, from Henrik Ibsen. Holograph manuscript, 4/14/70
7 The Picture of Dorian Gray, from Oscar Wilde, typescript
box folder
22 1 Strindberg's The Father and Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, corrected page proofs, Faber & Faber edition, 1989
2 Tom Jones, holograph notebook
Subseries D. Articles, Reviews, and other Writings
The Spectator, articles and book reviews
box folder
23 1 Books of the Year, 1986-93
2 Book Reviews, 1986-88
3 Book Reviews, 1989-92
4 "Royalty and Royalties,"June 5, 1993
5-6 Edited typescripts of articles, n.d.
box folder
24 1-4 The Spectator, "Diary" column, 1985, 1992-94, and undated
box folder
25 1 List of articles and radio programs, 1956-76
Typescripts of published and unpublished articles
2 Albion's Seven Deadly Sins
3 Anyone for Scum?
4 Barry Humphries
5 BBC article
6 The Biggest A.Y.M. in the Business
7 The Diddy Man
8 English Stage Company: Fifteen Years
[oversize material removed to Oversize Flat File]
9 The Epistle to the Philistines
10 The Folly of Youth
11 General election: October 1974
12 Honourable Men, Dishonourable Money
13 The Impossibility of the Well Made Play
14 Introduction to Swift's "A Modest Proposal" and "The Song of Soloman"
15 Intellectuals & Just Causes
16 A Letter to My Fellow Countrymen ["Damn you, England" letter]
17 Looking Back With Love on a Playful Spirit
18 The Lord Thy God is an Angry God
19 Months in the Country
20 Music Hall
21 A Night to Remember
22 Rising Above It or All Very Family
23 Sorry, It's Nobody
24-25 Theatre Critics
[oversize material removed to Box 53]
box folder
26 1 This Alien Blight
2 This Monumental Swindle Called the Common Market
3 To Serve is Perfect Freedom
4 What is Hedda Gabler About?
5 Workers, Wives, and Women
6 Untitled articles
7-8 Book reviews
[oversize material removed to Box 53]
9 Book reviews, New [Evening] Standard
[oversize material removed to Box 53]
10 Letters to the Editor, 1977-94
11 The Mail on Sunday articles
[oversize material removed to Box 53]
Miscellaneous writings
box folder
27 1 J.O. contribution to The Anti-Booklist, 1981
2 Conversation with Richard Findlater
3 "Conversations" storyline for Regent Productions Ltd., Dec. 1991
4 Forward, re: Jeffrey Bernard "Low Life"
5 Notes on trip to L.A., for Memoirs, 1985
6 Excerpt from At the Royal Court ed. by Richard Findlater (1981)
7 Holograph ms. and typescripts re: Handel
8 Holograph ms. and typescripts "Items"
9 Ms. and typescript fragments

Series II. Correspondence, 1958-1993

Subseries A. Correspondence Arranged by Work
box folder
28 1 A Bond Honoured, 1963-70
2 Damn You, England, 1993
3 Danger (Radio Play), 1977-78
4 The End of Me Old Cigar, 1974-76
5-6 The Entertainer, 1958-75
7 Epitaph for George Dillon and Dillon Productions, 1958-75
box folder
29 1 The Gift of Friendship, 1971-75
2 Gross (aborted collaboration with Michael Medwin), 1975-76
3 Hedda Gabler, 1970-75
The Hostage and Charge of the Light Brigade
4 1966-72
5 1965-77
6-8 Inadmissible Evidence, 1964-69
9 Indian Mutiny, 1974
box folder
30 1 Little Lord Fauntleroy, 1974-75
2-3 Look Back in Anger, 1958-76
4-5 Luther, 1960-76
6 Lytton Strachey, screen play, 1971-74
7 Moll Flanders, 1961-64
8 Ms or Jill and Jack
A Patriot For Me
box folder
31 1-2 September 1964-April 1966
3-4 May 1966
5 The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1972-75
6 A Place Calling Itself Rome, 1972-76
box folder
32 1 Plays for England, 1961-72
2 The Right Prospectus, 1969-74
3 Secret Agent, 1974-75
4-5 A Sense of Detachment, 1972-75
6 Sir Charles Dilke, film/screen play, 1967-74
7 A Subject of Scandal and Concern, 1959-71
box folder
33 1-2 Time Present and The Hotel in Amsterdam
3 Tom Jones, 1961-64
4 Very Like a Whale, 1969-70
5 Vivien, film, 1989
6 Watch It Come Down, 1974-76
box folder
34 1-2 West of Suez, 1971-72
3-6 The World of Paul Slickey, 1958-59
Subseries B. Personal Correspondence, 1954-90
box folder
35 1 A, 1967-78
2 B, 1961-76
3 C-J, 1958-76
4 K-Q, 1961-76
5 R-S, 1964-78
6 T-Z, 1959-76
J.O. Family Letters
box folder
36 1 General
2 Nellie Beatrice
3 Grandma Grove
4 Aunt Queenie
5 Jack and Bessie Grove
6 Uncle Sidney
7 Osborne Genealogy
Bennett, Jill
8-9 1967-79
10 Divorce papers and 1990 article re: J.B.'s death
Chelsea Square (J.O.'s London house), 1965-78
box folder
37 1 A-C
2 D-Q
3 R-Z
4 Renovation by Henry Wise and Partners, 1967
5-7 Gilliatt, Penelope, 1961-90
box folder
38 1-2 Gilliatt, Penelope and Nolan Osborne, 1967-76
3 Lane, Pamela, 1954-86
4 Osborne, Nolan, 1975-88
5 Rickards, Jocelyn, 1960-87
6 Ure, Mary, n.d.
Subseries C. Business Correspondence
box folder
39 1-2 Agents and Publishers (General) including foreign agents, 1974-77
3 1970-74
Contracts, royalties, fees, agents, Performing Right Society Royalties, 1959-76
4 A-J
5 K-Z
National Westminster Bank
6 1973-76
7 1964-72
English Stage Company
box folder
40 1-5 1961-76
6 1975-84
box folder
41 1 Fees, 1961-76
John Osborne Productions
2 1973-76
3 1960-72
4 Oscar Lewenstein Plays, Ltd., 1976
5 Performing Right Society, 1960-75
box folder
42 1 Randle Productions, 1971 and Holly Productions, 1960-70
2 1974-76
3 1966-73
4 1958-65
Subseries D. Fans, Friends, and Lunatics Correspondence
box folder
43 1-2 Fans and friends, 1965-82
Fans, general enquiries, and lunatics
3 1972-77
4 1969-70
5 1966-76
6 1957-65
Subseries E. General and Miscellaneous Correspondence
Correspondence from expanding file, 1958-92
box folder
44 1 A - D
2 F - L
3 M - S
4 T - Z
5 Censorship of the Theatre, 1957-67
6 Rejected scripts, 1967-70
7 Oddments and campaigns

Series III. Information about J.O., 1969-1973

box folder
45 1 List of published works, 1957-73
2 Astrological chart
3 Osborne Productions receipt book, 8/69-2/71

Series IV. Printed Material, 1957-1992

Magazine articles and newspaper clippings
box folder
45 4 Reviews of J.O.'s works
[oversize material removed to Box 53 and Oversize Flat File]
5 "Albert Finney in "Luther,""Newsweek, 10/23/63
6 The Entertainer, press reviews
7 J. O. Interviews
46 Programs of domestic and foreign productions
Scrapbook No. 2, Dec. 1956-Sept. 1957
[removed to Box 54]
Scrap album, 1956-1961
[removed to Box 55; oversize material removed to Oversize Flat File]
Scrapbook No. 4, Oct. 1960-Nov. 1961
[removed to Box 56]
Scrapbook No. 5, Nov. 1961-Oct. 1964
[removed to Box 57]

Series V. Personal, 1956-1994

47 Post Office Savings Bank Pass Book, 1956; Bank statements, Barclays, various accounts, 1988-1994
48-49 Check stubs for two checking accounts, 1987-1994 and 1988-1994
[removed to Box 58 and Oversize Flat File]
[removed to Oversize Flat File]

Series VI. Works by Others

box folder
50 1 Asprey, Robert B., The Panther's Feast extracts, carbon typescript,
2 copies
2 Beechman, Dolly, "A Study of the Play "Look Back in Anger" by John Osborne." M.S. Thesis, Temple University, March 1970
3 Orton, Joe, Up Against It (An original film script) typescript, n.d.
4-7 Richardson, Tony, Part of All, photocopy typescript, with correspondence between Helen Osborne and Tracey Scoffield of Faber and Faber.
[carbon typescript and holograph notes of H.O.'s commentary on the text]