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MS 428

Reference code

MS 428


Susan Hill archive



Administrative / Biographical history

Hill, Susan (b.1942)

Susan Hill, a prolific author known primarily for her novels, was born in Scarborough on February 5, 1942. She was an only child; her mother was a dressmaker, her father held a number of jobs after serving in the RAF during the war. The family moved to Coventry in 1958, where Hill attended a girls’ grammar school. Hill began writing at an early age, and at the age of 15 she wrote to novelist Pamela Hansford Johnson asking for advice. Johnson, who was C.P. Snow’s wife and a novelist in her own right, became Hill’s mentor, and encouraged the publication of Hill’s first novel The Enclosure in 1961. Hill was at that time reading English at King’s College, University of London. After leaving university, she worked as a journalist and wrote Do Me a Favour, published in 1963. In 1968, Hill wrote later in her autobiographical Family, “a door opened.... Between 1968 and 1974…I wrote six novels, two collections of short stories and half a dozen full-length radio plays. I worked with great intensity, before I had finished one book, there was always an idea for the next, bubbling up from below.” The six novels and short story collections are Gentleman and Ladies (1968), A Change for the Better (1969), I’m the King of the Castle (1970), The Albatross (1971), Strange Meeting (1971), The Bird of Night (1972), A Bit of Singing and Dancing (1973), and In the Springtime of the Year (1974). Prizes followed: I’m the King of the Castle won the Somerset Maugham Award, The Albatross won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, and The Bird of Night won the Whitbread and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Personal tragedy struck in 1972, when Hill’s partner David died suddenly of a heart attack. This loss inspired In the Springtime of the Year, a novel about a recently widowed young woman. David’s death was followed two years later by Hill’s mother’s death from cancer. Hill moved to Stratford upon Avon in 1974 and married Shakespeare scholar Stanley Wells the next year. They have two children, Jessica (born 1977) and Clemency (born 1985). Another daughter, Imogen, was born prematurely in 1984 and died when she was five weeks old. Hill wrote about this experience in Family, published in 1989. After her marriage, Hill moved to Oxfordshire, where she now lives.

In 1976, Hill abandoned a novel she had begun, titled “Land of Lost Content,” and declared that she might never write again. She did not write another novel for seven years, but did continue to work as a professional writer: as a literary critic, a short story anthologist, and author of a non-fiction book about her life in an Oxfordshire village, The Magic Apple Tree (1982). Hill began writing novels again in 1983, beginning with The Woman in Black (1983), Lanterns Across the Snow (1987), Air and Angels (1991), The Mist in the Mirror (1992) and Mrs de Winter (1993). The Woman in Black was adapted as a play by Stephen Mallatratt in 1987 and has played in the West End since 1989. Hill has also written children’s stories, including Can it Be True?, winner of the Nestlé Smarties Prize in 1988. She continues to edit short story collections, and has published short story collections of her own, including The Boy Who Taught the Beekeeper to Read (2003). She has recently turned her hand to crime fiction with the Simon Serailler series. Over the years, I’m the King of the Castle, Strange Meeting, The Albatross, A Bit of Singing and Dancing, and The Woman in Black have been selected as set texts for GCSE and A level examinations. Hill maintains a website at http://www.susan-hill.com/.



Extent & medium

33 boxes

Content description

The Susan Hill Archive consists of writings, correspondence, photographs, printed material, and other material which document the early writing life of Susan Hill. The bulk of the material is writings, which occupies 29 boxes. The archive spans the years 1957-2002, but most of it dates from 1957 to 1983.

The archive is organised into the Susan Hill Papers and the Susan Hill Collection, to preserve the different provenance of the papers and further details of the contents of each collection is given at the appropriate level.

The Susan Hill Papers, include writings, correspondence, printed material, photographs, and other material.

Conditions of access and use area

This collection is open for research. The correspondence between Susan Hill and Pamela Hansford Johnson in box 31 is restricted to 2042. This file may, however, be used for teaching purposes.
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