Alan Bennett donates archive to Oxford library

LONDON (Reuters) - British author and playwright Alan Bennett will donate his literary archive to the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the library said on Friday.

The archive comprises letters, manuscripts and other material from a career which began with the revue “Beyond the Fringe” nearly 50 years ago.

It includes notes and drafts for Bennett’s stage and television plays and autobiographical works, as well as novellas and short stories. There are also diaries dating back to 1974, only a small selection of which has so far been published.

“The fact that a good deal of this is handwritten seems to delight the archivists at Bodley but it’s always dismayed me and there’s so much I’m quite glad to see the back of it,” Bennett said in a statement.

“I just pity the poor research student who may have to make sense of it all.”

Bennett said he made a gift of his writings as a way of paying society back for his free education. He was an undergraduate at Exeter College, Oxford University.

“I was fortunate in my time because my education was entirely free,” he added.

“None of it cost me or my parents a penny. It’s a situation which young people in education today can only dream of and this is wrong. I believe that free education is a right.”

He said that by donating his archive to the Bodleian, he would be “rubbing shoulders” with the likes of Thomas Hardy and Philip Larkin. “They might not be all that pleased but I am.”

The archive is to be catalogued and will be open to researchers in part by January 2010.

Bennett was born in Leeds, northern England, in May, 1934.

His first big break was as the quiet member of the “Beyond the Fringe” satirical revue, but Bennett was overshadowed by fellow performers Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Jonathan Miller.

After his first stage play “Forty Years On” he went on to write more than 30 television and stage plays, adaptations and film screenplays as well as recording popular readings of children’s stories.

He reached a wider audience with movie adaptations of his plays, most notably “The Madness of King George” in 1994 and “The History Boys” in 2006.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Charles Dick)

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