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Alfred Noyes papers

Collection MS-2006-054: Alfred Noyes papers


  • Creation: 1843 - 1980
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1902 - 1957

Scope and Contents

The Alfred Noyes Papers are composed mainly of the personal and professional correspondence of Alfred Noyes and his extended family as well as manuscripts and typescripts of Noyes's poetry and prose.

Among the correspondents represented are many notable social, political, and literary figures, including various signatories arranged by Noyes in an autograph collection. Within the professional correspondence are letters detailing Noyes's American lecture tours, reviews of his work, as well as "letters to the editor" drafted by Noyes.

The collection contains published and unpublished poetry, plays, short stories, novels and works of nonfiction. The majority of manuscript material in this collection is undated, but can be assumed to span the length of Alfred Noyes's career. Of note are an early manuscript version of "The Highwayman," the first edition manuscripts of The Secret of Pooduck Island and The Devil Takes a Holiday, and early drafts of Orchard's Bay and The Unknown God. The papers also include correspondence, research, and manuscript items pertaining to Roger Casement and Noyes's involvement in his case (1916-1958) as well as Noyes's controversial biography of Voltaire (1936-1942).

The collection also contains notebooks and diaries by Noyes (which feature both poetry and prose) as well as the diaries of members of the Noyes family (1874-1932). Also present are manuscripts of poetry (including tribute poems to Noyes), plays and fiction by authors other than Noyes (1898-1957), as well as manuscripts, typescripts, and several printed editions of nonfiction works either about Noyes or collected by him (1913-1958). The remainder of the collection is composed of musical scores inspired by Noyes's poetry; financial, genealogical, and other papers of Noyes and his family (1906-1961); photographs and other visual materials; audio recordings (including recordings of poems recited by Noyes); artifacts; printed materials; and press clippings.


Language of Materials

Mostly in English, with some French and German.

Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research. Audio recordings have been digitally copied; all original media were retained, but may not be played due to format. Digital use copies can only be accessed in the Burns Library Reading Room. The reel-to-reel tapes are not available for playback due to format impermanence and can not be reformatted by Burns Library at this time. Please let Burns Library Public Services know of your specific interest; when it becomes possible we will schedule reformatting.

Restrictions on 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

Alfred Noyes was born September 16, 1880 at Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England to Alfred Noyes and Amelia Adams, née Rowley. He entered Exeter College in 1898 with the intention of taking a degree in English. Rather than complete his final examinations, Noyes opted to keep an appointment with London publisher Grant Richards. The meeting resulted in the publication of his first book of poems, The Loom of Years (1902). Several more volumes of poetry soon followed. Noyes composed his verse in a style consciously descended from Tennyson and the romantic poets and was a staunch opponent of what he deemed "modernism" in literature.

In 1907, Noyes married Garnett Upham, née Daniels, the daughter of American consul Colonel Byron Gordon Daniels. Strengthening his ties to America, in 1911 Noyes began a lecture tour of the U.S. that included delivery of the Lowell Lecture at Harvard University (1913) and resulted in his being appointed Murray professor of English literature at Princeton University (1914-1923). This tenure was interrupted by the First World War. Rejected from military service because of poor eyesight, Noyes began work in the newsroom of the British Foreign Office in 1916. Shortly thereafter, he was shown the incriminating diaries of former British diplomat Roger Casement, who was convicted of treason for his involvement in the 1916 Easter Rising. Although Noyes believed the diaries to be authentic at the time, he later changed his opinion and worked for Casement's vindication as late as 1957 when he published The Accusing Ghost of Roger Casement.

In 1926, Noyes's wife died. The following year, he joined the Roman Catholic Church. Noyes maintained that his conversion was motivated not by apologists but primarily by nineteenth century agnostics, as reflected in The Unknown God (1934) and his controversial biography Voltaire (1936). In September of 1927, Noyes married Mary Angela Mayne, widow of Richard Weld-Blundell and member of an old Catholic family. In 1929, they settled on the Isle of Wight. Their home there would be the inspiration for the popular Orchard's Bay (1939).

In 1940-1941, Noyes and his family moved to America and Canada, where he lectured and promoted cooperation between the U.S. and Great Britain. His eyesight had continued to deteriorate, and a devastating surgery for glaucoma in the mid-1940's left him unable to read. Noyes remained in California for some time before returning to the Isle of Wight in 1949.

Throughout his career, Noyes garnered popular acclaim for his lectures and public readings, received honorary doctorates from Yale, Glasgow, Berkeley and Syracuse, was involved in two public controversies and was named a Commander of the British Empire (1918). Best known for his poem "The Highwayman," Alfred Noyes was a leading man of letters who produced works of poetry and criticism, fiction (including short stories and novels), non-fiction, essays, plays and lectures. His works were adapted for the screen, the stage, and set to music. He died on June 28, 1958.


Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, "Alfred Noyes" Accessed 18 August 2008.

Noyes, Alfred. Two Worlds for Memory. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1953.


65 Linear Feet (130 containers)

0.96 Gigabytes (2 files with approximately 0.5 hours of audio)


These papers comprise personal and professional correspondence and documents of Alfred Noyes and his extended family; manuscripts, typescripts, notebooks and diaries containing the published and unpublished poetry and prose of Alfred Noyes; music based on Noyes' poetry; photographs, audio recordings, printed materials, artifacts and press clippings.


Arranged in sixteen series. I. Correspondence; II. Poetry; III. Fiction; IV. Plays; V: Non-fiction; VI. Roger Casement controversy; VII. Voltaire controversy; VIII. Notebooks and diaries; IX. Music inspired by Noyes's poetry; X. Financial documents; XI. Noyes family genealogy and other papers; XII. Photographs and visual materials; XIII. Audio recordings; XIV. Artifacts; XV. Printed materials; and XVI. Press clippings.


Acquired through multiple purchases, 1984-2006.

Related Materials

Alice Meynell collection, MS.1986.061, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Coventry Patmore collection, MS.1986.062, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Edith Sitwell collection, MS.1986.079, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Elizabeth Jennings papers, MS.1990.008, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Francis Thompson collection, MS.2006.027, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

George Barker collection, MS.1986.010, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Hopkins family papers, MS.1991.023, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Maurice Baring papers, MS.1996.041, 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.

Alfred Noyes Papers
1843-1982 (bulk 1902-1957)
AnneMarie Anderson, Ann Collins, Matthew Heitzman, Brendan Hogan, Meghan Ryan, and David Tennant
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