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13 October 2021

A Bear called Paddington: published 13 October 1958

by Alison Bailey, Lead Curator Printed Heritage Collections 1901-2000 and Curator of Paddington: The Story of a Bear.

A woman in a face-mask stands in front of a cut-out of Paddington bear in the British Library exhibition, Paddington: The Story of a Bear
View of Paddington: the story of a bear – exhibition at the British Library

The first stories about Paddington – the bear famous for his kindness, politeness and love of marmalade – were published by Collins (now HarperCollins Publishers) on 13 October 1958.

Perhaps you already know the background to Paddington’s creation? On Christmas Eve 1956 Michael Bond saw a toy bear sitting all alone on the shelf in Selfridges department store in London. He bought the bear as an extra Christmas present for his wife and they called him Paddington – after the station. Several months later, when Michael was looking for inspiration for some children’s stories, he saw the bear and wrote 8 chapters in 10 days.

Here at the British Library in London we are celebrating Paddington and Michael Bond in our Paccar 2 exhibition Paddington: The Story of a Bear, which runs until 31 October 2021. To illustrate Bond’s creative process we are lucky enough to have Michael’s ‘Notebook’ from 1957 (loaned by the Estate of Michael Bond) in which he wrote notes and ideas for his early Paddington stories.

Michael’s agent, Harvey Unna, who had encouraged him to write children’s stories, sent the manuscript to several publishers. It was followed up by Barbara Ker Wilson - then children’s books editor at Collins and herself a writer. In her report (lent to the exhibition by HarperCollins Publishers) she suggests Collins accept the stories for publication and notes her appreciation of both the character of Paddington and the overall style of the writing. The publisher’s reader she sent the manuscript to was equally enthusiastic – and we display the response (again lent by HarperCollins Publishers) next to Wilson’s report.

So, on 13 October 1958, A Bear called Paddington, was published. In the exhibition we are showing two copies of the first edition – one loaned by Michael’s daughter, Karen Jankel, which is signed by Michael and was given to his parents. This is in the first section of the exhibition – Beginnings – and is shown closed, so you can see Peggy Fortnum’s distinctive pen and ink drawing of Paddington on the dust jacket.

The book 'A Bear Called Paddington' is open at the first page in an exhibition case showing a pen and ink drawing of Paddington Bear

Opening showing first page of text from Michael Bond, A Bear called Paddington. With drawings by Peggy Fortnum. London: Collins, 1958.

The other copy is the legal deposit copy from our own collections in the Home section of the exhibition. This is open at the very first page of the very first story “Please look after this bear” and shows Paddington, again illustrated by Peggy Fortnum, with his hat, label and suitcase, as he appeared when the Browns first met him.

After those early stories about Paddington there were many more – including the final picture book story Michael wrote, Paddington at St Paul’s, illustrated by R.W. Alley and published in 2018 – 60 years after A Bear called Paddington. We display a copy in the exhibition, together with a selection of about 20 illustrated books from the many titles in our own collections, including pop-ups and translations. They sit among examples of original artwork by Peggy Fortnum, R.W. Alley and David McKee, as well as memorabilia on loan from Michael Bond’s family, plush toys, sound and film clips and material created by two local schools. All in all, 11 illustrators are represented.

This has been a cheering project to have worked on with the Exhibitions and Learning Teams over the last 18 months – a bright spot amid the gloom – and I hope you too will enjoy reading or re-reading Paddington to celebrate this anniversary.

Works cited:

  • Michael Bond, A Bear called Paddington. With drawings by Peggy Fortnum. London: Collins, 1958. (British Library shelfmark: 12840.l.4.)
  • Michael Bond, Paddington at St. Paul’s. Illustrated by R.W. Alley. London: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2018.

Further reading:

  • Michael Bond, Bears & forebears: a life so far. London: HarperCollins, 1996. (B.L. shelfmarks: YC.1996.b.5818. and 96/28405)


With thanks to our travel partner Great Western Railway.

GWR logo

21 September 2021

Registration opens for Artist, Mentor, Friend, Activist: Andrew Salkey a Man of Many Hats

by Helen Melody, Lead Curator for Contemporary Literary and Creative Archives. Mentor, Friend, Activist: Andrew Salkey a Man of Many Hats is a British Library conference held in collaboration with Goldsmiths Centre for Caribbean and Diaspora Studies, MA Black British Literature (Goldsmiths) and The Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library.

The conference is free to book and everyone is welcome. Book your place now.

I am delighted to announce that registration has opened for a virtual conference on the Jamaican writer and broadcaster, Andrew Salkey (1928-1995). The conference will be held on the afternoons of Friday 5th (13.30-17.00) and Saturday 6th November (13.30-16.40).

The conference will celebrate the legacy of Andrew Salkey (1928-1995) by exploring his various writing projects and his contributions to the Caribbean literary community through his involvement with the Caribbean Artists Movement, and black publishing in Britain. Andrew Salkey was a co-founder of the Caribbean Artists Movement and lynchpin of the BBC’s Caribbean Service. He embodied the Black Radical Tradition in his writing, his politics, and in his support for other creative individuals. Twenty-six years after his death, this conference seeks to reclaim his legacy and amplify his voice.


Black and white photograph of Andrew Salkey

The programme will include a keynote by Professor Robert A. Hill, a leading scholar on Marcus Garvey and Research Professor at the Department of History at the University of California, Los Angeles who was a friend of and collaborator with Salkey. There will also be ‘in conversation’ and panel sessions, guided readings of Salkey’s work, and a chance to see items from the Salkey archive, which is held at the British Library.

For a taste of sense of the archive, you can read previous English and Drama Blogs such as:

Andrew Salkey: A Man of Many Hats by Eleanor Casson, Cataloguer of the Collection

Andrew Salkey: I into History Now by Eleanor Casson, Cataloguer of the Collection

13 September 2021

Two new Daphne Du Maurier acquisitions at the British Library

by Zoe Louca-Richards, Curator of Modern Archives and Manuscrips (1600-1950). For more on Daphne Du Maurier’s work and life, see our article Daphne du Maurier - The British Library (bl.uk). For more on Rebecca see our article Nightmares, mirrors and possession in Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. For more about our WW2 collections see Second World War - Modern Archives - The British Library (bl.uk). Both of these letters are now available to view in the Manuscripts Reading Room. For any enquiries, please contact MSS@bl.uk.

Two recent acquisitions made by the British Library shed further light on the life and work of English author Daphne Du Maurier. As well as commenting on her literary works, the letters discuss her views on filmic adaptations of her novels, and remark on her family and home life.

Black and white profile photograph of Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier © The Chichester Partnership.


Prisoner of War Letter (Add MS 89461)

The first of the two acquisitions (Add MS 89461), is a letter written in 1942 to “Sargent Arnold”, a Prisoner of War being detained in Stalag Luft III, the German camp perhaps best known as the scene of the 1945 Great Escape.


Photograph of manuscript letter sent from Daphne du Maurier to 'Sargent Arnold'

Add MS 89461: Du Maurier letter to a Prisoner of War, 1942 (f.1r &5r). Used with permission of the Du Maurier estate.


The five-page letter, reads as a light-hearted discussion between two acquaintances, perhaps offering Sgt. Arnold a welcome escape from his unfortunate situation. Du Maurier touches on matters including her home life, reading practices, and her most recent literary work, Hungry Hill (1943). She notes:

    ‘My husband is in the army, and I am living with my three small children (9-5-2) in a small     house in the West Country […] I have a hut where I keep picnic things, in a most     glorious position, you have to wade through bracken to get to it, and then the only things you see     are birds and butterflies […] I wish I could describe the country to you, but I     don’t know how much I am allowed to put in a letter’.

She continues to discuss books, noting that like Arnold she does not ‘want to read about the time in which we are living, but prefer to go back to the past’, explaining her recent return to Dickens and Shakespeare.  The letter also touches upon the Hollywood adaptations of both Rebecca and Frenchman’s Creek. Du Maurier was one of the first generations of authors to witness their novels adapted for screen. She clearly has a positive attitude towards the process in general, but less so of Hollywood itself, remarking of Frenchman’s Creek ‘it will be done in Hollywood I suppose, so I shall have no say in the matter. I’ve never been out there, and haven’t the slightest desire to go! The sort of life I should loathe.’

Black and white photograph of British Prisoners of War gardening at Stalag Luft

British prisoners of war tend their garden at Stalag Luft III. © IWM HU 20930 (https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205196602)

According to Adrian Gilbert’s POW: Allied Prisoners in Europe, 1939-1945 [1], life in Stalag Luft III, and German prisoner of war camps in general, was relatively “good”: good in comparison to other prisoner of war camps throughout history that is. Overcrowding, hunger, and depression were still key issues in Stalag Luft III. The bleak and unattractive landscape in which the camp was situated likely only exacerbating its oppressiveness. Many inmates took some solace and pleasure in gardening, as can be seen in the image above, which undoubtedly also helped alleviate some of the hunger. Prisoners also fashioned makeshift golf courses, and as evidenced by our letter, were able to access at least some books. 

Du Maurier shows clear interest in the welfare and daily life of Sgt. Arnold throughout the letter. She closes her letter with interest and warmth:

    ‘If you should get this letter, will you let me know, and then I can send you things from     time to time. Books, if you are allowed them. Tell me what part of this country you come     from, and if you have any family […] I hope you are reasonably comfortable and get plenty     of exercise. It must make such a difference if you can be out in the air; things can’t seem     quite so bad under the sky’.

Photograph of an envelope showing passage through censors

Add MS 89461. Envelope showing British and German Check marks.


The Rebecca Letter (Add MS 89460)

The second recent Du Maurier acquisition for the British Library is particularly interesting for its contribution towards the discussion of her remarkable 1938 novel Rebecca. Written in 1977 it addresses one of the most pervasive points of discussion regarding Du Maurier’s popular gothic thriller: why does the second Mrs de Winter not have a first name?


Photograph of typescript letter from Daphne du Maurier to a fan explaining the lack of name attribution for a character in her novel, Rebecca.

Add Ms 89460, Letter from Daphne Du Maurier to “Jocelyn”. Used with kind permission from the Du Maurier estate.

Many theories have arisen over the years as to why the protagonist of Rebecca remains nameless, whilst the eponymous Rebecca’s name echoes throughout the narrative. In this letter, addressed to “Jocelyn”, likely another fan of her work, Du Maurier notes clearly that the reason for the lack of name was that she simply wished to see if she could write a novel without naming its protagonist – a self-imposed literary challenge. In the process, Du Maurier notes ‘It can’t be done unless written in the 1st person Singular, at least I don’t think it can!’

Photograph of cover for first edition of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

First time readers of Rebecca can be forgiven for not spotting that we never learn the narrators maiden name. Such is the subtlety and skill of Du Maurier’s handling of this interesting literary technique; a testament to her incredible aptitude for character development.

It took less than a year for Du Maurier to write Rebecca. Starting in mid-1937, the novel was conceived of and sketched out during Du Maurier’s time in Alexandria Egypt as an army wife, and completed in 1938 at Greyfriars in Fleet, Hampshire, after her husband was posted back to the barracks in Aldershot. Like many of her novels, Cornwall served as inspiration for the setting of Rebecca, in particular Menabilly, the Cornish house which Du Maurier fell in love with as a young adult, and would eventually come to live in.

Some of the key themes of Rebecca - belonging, jealousy, love, marriage, death, justice - have been linked to Du Maurier’s choice not to name the novels protagonist. Scholars and fans alike have also long speculated as to how much the second Mrs de Winter was a reflection of the author. In fact, Du Maurier’s son has noted that during the filming of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 adaptation of the book, whilst remaining true to the narrative the second Mrs de Winter remains anonymous in the script, she was nicknamed ‘Daphne’ on set. Du Maurier herself has too admitted that many elements of the narrative are based on facts.

Perhaps the most compelling, and arguable exciting, comparisons drawn between Du Maurier and the second Mrs de Winter, relates to Du Maurier’s jealousy towards her husband’s ex-lover Jan Ricardo. Du Maurier wasn’t directly acquainted with Ricardo, but knew of her through comments of others, and letters from Ricardo that her husband had kept. The letters were signed, with the ‘R’ of Ricardo being particularly distinctive. Jan, who moved among the glamorous elite, was described as popular, dark-haired, and attractive. The unfortunate similarities between Ricardo and Rebecca didn’t stop at the publication of Rebecca. In 1944, 6 years following, Jan Ricardo committed suicide.

As Lucie Armitt aptly puts it 'Rebecca is a story of ‘the woman with no name and the woman who has nothing and is nothing but her name.’[2] Regardless of Du Maurier’s intentions or the parallels one might draw with the authors own life, forfeiting a name for the second Mrs De Winter has several effects that cleverly enhance the reader experience. Perhaps most poignantly, its coupling with the first person tense enables the reader to substitute herself with the narrator, the second Mrs de Winter, more seamlessly.  The technique also textually mimics the overwhelming, oppressive, posthumous presence that Rebecca has over the narrative, and over the second Mrs de Winter. Despite being our main character, for the majority of the novel, the narrator’s entire existence, and certainly the only name we come to know her by, is anchored to her new husband, and his deceased first wife. Du Maurier is not the only writer to execute this technique to illustrate the subsidiary nature of a woman’s existence, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is another example.

The explanation given by Du Maurier in our letter is perhaps not as scandalous or personal as some scholars might hope for, but it in no way lessens the resulting effect of the second Mrs. de Winter’s anonymity.


[1] Gilbert, A. POW: Allied Prisoners in Europe, 1939-1945. Glasgow: Thistle Publishing (2014).

[2] Armitt, L. Contemporary Women’s Fiction and the Fantastic. London: Palgrave, (2000). p104.