Following a research visit to the Harry Ransom Center, CWEW editor of Waugh’s Helena, Sara Haslam, reflects on her illuminating experience.
I spent two very happy weeks in the HRC archives in April 2018, working on my edition of Helena. I was unprepared for two things: firstly how much difference it would make to those illegibles to get to work on them with a good magnifying glass and the ability to rotate the AMS; and secondly the invitation on my first day to go and hear ‘Bob from the 3rd floor’s band’ playing on South Congress that night. A combination of friendliness and professionalism marked out my experience of the staff, and I recommend it as a sure-fire way of encouraging the best work ethic amongst editors!
My main task was to work through the whole AMS. I took a hard copy of my MDATV with me, preferring to annotate that rather than edit onscreen – and was allowed it in the reading room in stamped chunks of 10 pages. Overall, I clarified about two thirds of the illegibles I took to Texas – a very satisfying result.
A meeting with Rick on day 4, once I’d got well underway with the MDATV checking, was an extremely helpful intervention. He couldn’t help me with the random double-sided photocopied text in French from (I think) Bernard de Montfaucon’s L’antiquité expliqueée et representeée en figures (Paris, 1719-24), or what that might have been doing loosely inserted in the AMS (any ideas anyone?), but he made two invaluable suggestions. As a result, I worked through the (uncatalogued) A. P. Peters papers from the years 1945-1951 (Helena was published in 1950), and also the library’s uncatalogued material on Waugh.
Searches of the Peters papers turned up many useful documents and letters; for example, Waugh’s ‘Notes on Translating Helena’ that was thought lost. Waugh’s instructions for translators were on two sides of the same notepaper used and bound to make the Helena MS. One reason they may have been thought lost is that they seem to have been mis-filed. The copy I consulted is dated 18 March 1955 (by the library?), although they must have been written earlier than that. See Davies E691, E693 and E687, dating EW’s work on this to November 1950. Montgomery wrote to Waugh from Peter’s firm on 2nd December, 1950 to thank him for sending the Notes.
Finally, on those kinds of discoveries that justify archive-fever, the collection holds an advance proof copy of Helena, which I hadn’t been able to tell from the catalogue. It’s this proof (and probably this copy of this proof) that Waugh (or someone) copied and then stuck into the back of the AMS for him to annotate, creating UK1’s version of the final lines of the novel.
I returned to the UK with a clearer and near-final version of the MDATV, as well as many pointers for the Introduction. Taking images of covers was the one thing I struggled with. The lights in the HRC have, apparently, foxed many folk trying to do the same thing.