The Edwin Morgan Papers: launch of the Selected Letters

James McGonigal and John Coyle, with Sam Maddra (Project Archivist) and Sarah Hepworth (Deputy, Special Collections).

James McGonigal and John Coyle, the book’s editors, with Sam Maddra (Project Archivist) and Sarah Hepworth (Deputy, Special Collections).

Special Collections recently celebrated the publication of Edwin Morgan, The Midnight Letterbox: Selected Correspondence 1950-2010 (Carcanet Press). The fascinating collection of letters in the book, written by Scotland’s former National Poet to other writers, editors, publishers, artists, University colleagues and friends, are from the extensive Edwin Morgan Papers held here in the Library. The letters have been edited and introduced by James McGonigal (author of a biography of Morgan, Beyond the Last Dragon) and Dr John Coyle, Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Glasgow.

We were delighted to be joined by the editors and invited guests, to hear some readings from the book and to showcase the variety of material in EM’s papers. The readings included a letter written by EM in July 1969, from a hotel in Oban, describing how he had stayed up all night watching the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon – space exploration and scientific discoveries were among his lifelong interests and inspirations – to a ‘soundtrack’ of the local seagulls. The source for the ‘midnight letterbox’ title was also revealed in a letter written in November 1965. EM was a diligent correspondent, often writing letters late at night, then leaving his Glasgow flat to walk ‘…along the frosty pavement to the midnight letterbox with the best northern greetings…’

John Coyle reading from the 'Midnight Letterbox'.

John Coyle reading from the ‘Midnight Letterbox’.

Liz Lochhead, Scotland's National Poet, has her copy of the 'Midnight Letterbox' signed by the editors.

Liz Lochhead, Scotland’s National Poet, has her copy of the ‘Midnight Letterbox’ signed by the editors.

On display were a selection of EM’s scrapbooks, handwritten drafts of poems and correspondence, documenting his life as poet, translator, educator, critic and friend. Featured correspondents included W S Graham (1918-1986), Joan Ure (1918-1978), Joan Eardley (1921-1963), Dom Silvester Houédard (1924-1992) and Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006).

Edwin Morgan often signed his letters wit three short horizontal strokes followed by three vertical ones, to represent his initials.

Edwin Morgan often signed his letters with three short horizontal strokes followed by three vertical ones, to represent his initials.

Guests in conversation and viewing material from the Edwin Morgan Papers.

Guests in conversation and viewing material from the Edwin Morgan Papers.

Artist and writer Alasdair Gray viewing one of Edwin Morgan's scrapbooks.

Artist and writer Alasdair Gray viewing one of Edwin Morgan’s scrapbooks.

If you would like to consult the Edwin Morgan papers, including the original correspondence, please get in touch with Special Collections.

Further events to celebrate the launch of Edwin Morgan’s Selected Correspondence are on 17 April at the Mitchell Library (as part of the Aye Write festival) and on 23 April, organised by the Scottish Poetry Library.



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