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MS 679

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MS 679


Moelwyn Merchant archive



Administrative / Biographical history

Merchant, William Moelwyn (1913-1997)

Moelwyn Merchant was an academic, novelist, sculptor, poet, and Anglican priest.

He was born William Moelwyn Merchant in Port Talbot, Glamorgan on 5 June 1913 and educated at University College, Cardiff.

In 1939, he began lecturing at University College, Cardiff, before moving to Exeter University in 1961, where he was appointed Professor and Head of English. While at Exeter, he transformed the department, inviting his friend Ted Hughes to lead weekly poetry seminars with the undergraduates, as well as co-founding the Northcott Theatre.

Throughout his career, he was a highly regarded art critic and Shakespearian scholar, producing widely used editions of Shakespeare’s work. In 1975, he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Alongside his teaching career, he published three poetry books:
Breaking the Code (1975)
No Dark Glass (1979)
Confrontation of Angels (1986)

Merchant was very active in the Church of England. He was ordained as a deacon in 1940 and a priest in 1941. He acted as Canon of Salisbury Cathedral and Chancellor for four years between 1967 and 1971, before returning to Wales in 1974 to become vicar of Llandewi Brefi near Tregaron until he retired in 1978. He wrote a series of fictionalised accounts of biblical stories including:
Jeshua: Nazareth to Jerusalem (1987)
Fire from the heights (1988)
A Bundle of Papyrus (1989)
Inherit the land (1991)

In his 60s, Merchant took up sculpture, strongly influenced by Barbara Hepworth, a close friend. His work was displayed in various exhibitions, several alongside the work of Josef Herman.

In 1975, he conducted a series of interviews for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Encore programme: interviewees included Paul Scofield, Peter Pears, Olivia Manning, Peter O'Toole, John Piper, Christopher Fry, Josef Herman, Tanya Moiseiwitsch and Barbara Hepworth.

Aged 66, Merchant visited Eton College and was immediately taken with it, lecturing to the boys on numerous occasions. The Old Etonian Association elected Merchant as an Honorary Old Etonian.

He married Eluned (Lynne) Hughes, in 1938 and they had one son and one daughter. His son, Paul Merchant became a poet, and some of his papers are also represented in this archive.

Moelwyn Merchant died in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire on 22 April 1997.



Extent & medium

14 series

Content description

The papers cover various aspects of Merchant’s professional life and the personal friendships he made though his academic, literary, religious, and artistic endeavours.

The largest series of papers is a collection of correspondence and other related papers.

There is also a large collection of academic and literary papers collected during his writing career, including drafts and research notes for his fiction and non-fiction works, as well as papers relating to his later career as a sculptor and a range of both informal and formal photographs of Merchant.

There is a significant collection of AV material, including recordings of Merchant and recordings made by Merchant in the course of his work.

A proportion of the papers relate to his son Paul Merchant and his poetry.


The papers were accumulated and stored by Moelwyn Merchant, as well as his son Paul Merchant, until their transfer to Eton College Library. Some weeding of the paper took place after their arrival at Eton College, with Merchant’s consent.
Some papers have been retained by the family.

Associated material

Housed with the archive are papers relating to the acquisition of the collection by Eton College Library and papers relating to the death of Moelwyn Merchant [shelf R.5]. These were added after the collection was acquired and are housed with the papers for reference purposes.

It includes:
Letters and papers relating to the acquisition of the Moelwyn Merchant archive by Eton College, including an initial box list of material drawn up in 1988.
Obituary for Moelwyn Merchant, 1997, written by Mario Risoli for The Western Mail
Memorial order of service for Moelwyn Merchant, held on 26 July 1997 at All Saints’ Church, Leamington Spa (2 copies)
Draft by Michael Meredith for words of appreciation from Merchant, given at Merchant’s memorial service

Eton College Library also holds copies of Merchant's work, as well as book's from Merchant's collection, which were given at the same time as the archive, and all of which are searchable via the Library's catalogue

Publication note

‘Fragments of a Life’ by Moelwyn Merchant (Dyfed, Wales: Gomer, 1990) – An autobiography by Merchant, which contains added biographical details relevant to items in this archive.

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