Fletcher, Ian (writer, academic)

Reference: MS 4619Date: 20th CenturyExtent: 8 boxes

Ian Fletcher (1920-1988) was a scholar of late Victorian and early modernist literature. He was born in a nursing home in Streatham, the only child of John Archibald Fletcher and Katherine Margaret Richardson, and grew up in Catford, South London. His family had strong Scottish antecedents and for a while as a young man he spelled his name Iain as a gesture to Scottish nationalism.

Fletcher was educated at Dulwich College. However, his parents separated and eventually he left school at the age of 15 to earn a living. He worked as a librarian in Lewisham Public Library and at the same time he set out to write poetry and read widely. He began collecting a library of lesser known and neglected writers of the 1890s. His friendship with John Gawsworth whom he met in 1939 was based around this interest and they remained loyal friends throughout their lives.

During the Second World War, Fletcher joined the army and served in the Middle East. He was stationed in Cairo between 1941 and 1946, when Cairo was something of a literary centre. Fletcher came into contact with numerous other poets who also became friends, including Bernard Spencer, George S. Fraser and Ruth Speirs. Some of their papers can also be found in Special Collections at the University of Reading.

Fletcher always retained an interest in making sure that the work of Second World War poets was not underestimated or forgotten, supporting the Salamander Oasis Trust in their production of anthologies and putting on an exhibition, based on his donated collection, at the University of Reading Library in 1981.

After the war, Fletcher returned to librarianship and also took an active part in the London literary scene. He published his first book of poetry in 1947, and helped to edit two short-lived literary magazines, Colonnade and Nine. He continued to research the last part of the nineteenth century and in 1953 wrote a book on Lionel Johnson. This was brought to the attention of the University of Reading’s professor Donald J. Gordon, who offered Ian Fletcher a lectureship at the university based on the strength of it.

Fletcher had a distinguished career at the University of Reading, gaining a PhD, his only degree, with a thesis on the history of the little magazine in 1965 and progressing to a professorship in 1978. He was a generous benefactor of both the library and its fledgling archive, particularly in the areas of his research interests and of contemporary writing. Outside work Ian Fletcher captained and amateur cricket team and found personal happiness through his 1965 marriage to Loraine Hollyman. Hollyman was a student at the University of Reading and later went on to become a lecturer in the English Department. She took an MA at the University of Arizona and later a PhD from Birkbeck University.

Ian and Lorraine Fletcher made frequent trips to America with Ian Fletcher as a visiting lecturer. In 1982, after taking early retirement from the University of Reading, he took up a post at Arizona State University. Fletchers’ last years were clouded by ill-health, but he remained mentally alert to the end, dying in hospital in Birmingham in 1988.

The collection consists of type and handwritten poems and works by Ian Fletcher, transcripts of broadcasts which Fletcher did, his work on Colonnade and Nine and various correspondence between him and other writers and academics.

The collection also includes some material relating to the ‘W B Yeats Images of a Poet’ exhibition which was co-created with Professor Donald J. Gordon. Further information on Professor Gordon’s Yeats exhibition collection can be found here.

More information

A full description is available on our online database.

A handlist for the whole collection can be found here.

For information on the papers of George S. Fraser; Ruth Speirs and John Gawsworth please contact Special Collections.

See also Ian Fletcher Archive at the Arizona State University – Hayden Library.