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Boston College collection of Seamus Heaney

Collection MS-1986-003: Boston College collection of Seamus Heaney


  • Creation: 1966 - 2006
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1967 - 1986

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the work of Irish poet Seamus Heaney a selection of his original correspondence and manuscripts. His correspondence contains both personal and professional letters, the bulk to Irish author Benedict Kiely. The manuscripts are drafts of poems, often several versions of a given work.

Materials include an audio cassette, correspondence, drawings, manuscripts, newspaper clippings, photographs, programs, and sculptures.


Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research. One audiocassette is not available for playback due to format impermanence and have not been reformatted. Please let Burns Library Public Services know of your specific interest, if possible, reformatting will be scheduled.

Conditions Governing Use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note

Seamus Justin Heaney was born on April 13, 1939, in County Derry to Margaret and Patrick Heaney. He received his undergraduate degree in English from Queen's College, Belfast in 1961. He pursued a teacher's certificate in English from St. Joseph's College in Belfast, taught at a secondary school for one year, and returned to St. Joseph's as a lecturer for three years. In 1965 he married Marie Devlin, and they had three children: Michael, Christopher, and Catherine Ann.

Heaney published his first collection of poems, Eleven Poems in 1965 in connection with the Belfast Festival, Queens University. In 1966 he became a lecturer at Queens and published Death of a Naturalist, for which he received the Eric Gregory Award (1966), the Cholmondeley Award (1967), the Somerset Maugham Award (1968) and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial prize (1968).

Heaney taught at the University of California at Berkeley (1970–1971), Carysfort Teacher Training College in Dublin (1975-1981), Harvard University (1981-1984 as a visiting professor; 1985-1997 as the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory; and 1998-2006 as Ralph Waldo Emerson poet in residence) and Oxford University (1989-1994). He published a selection of his Oxford lectures as The Redress of Poetry (1995).

Heaney authored more than 30 books of poetry over the course of his life, covering themes spanning nature, politics, and family. He memorialized his mother after her death in the “Clearances” sonnet cycle in The Haw Lantern (1987). Heaney also translated poetry and drama, including Sweeney Astray: A Version from the Irish (1983). In 1995 he received the Nobel Prize for literature.

Seamus Heaney died on August 30, 2013 in Dublin.


O'Donoghue, Bernard. "Heaney, Seamus Justin." Dictionary of Irish Biography. Cambridge University Press/Irish Royal Academy.

"Seamus Heaney." Newsmakers, Gale, 1996. Gale In Context: Biography, Accessed 14 June 2022.

"Seamus (Justin) Heaney." In Contemporary Poets. Gale, 2001. Gale In Context: Biography (accessed June 14, 2022).

"Seamus (Justin) Heaney", July 26, 2001.


8.5 Linear Feet (6 containers)

Language of Materials



This collection documents the work of Irish poet Seamus Heaney through a selection of his original correspondence and manuscripts. It also includes a limited number of photographs, a recorded interview, newspaper clippings, and ephemera from events in which Heaney participated. A bust of Heaney and two artistic representations of the character Sweeney inspired by his translation of Sweeney Astray complete the collection.


Organized into three series. I. Correspondence; II. Manuscripts; III. About Heaney.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Collection was acquired over time from multiple sources.

Related Materials

Boston College Humanities Series director's records, MS.20020.37, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Gerald Dawe papers, MS.2000.016, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Derek Mahon papers, MS.1990.013, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill papers, MS.1997.012, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Yeats family papers, MS.1986.054, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Separated Materials

Published works associated with this collection have been transferred within the Burns Library and can be found in the Boston College Library catalog.



Boston College Collection of Seamus Heaney
1966-2006 (Bulk 1967-1986)
Corban Rhodes, 2001; updated by Lynn Moulton
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States