Scope and Contents
The collection consists of manuscript and typescript drafts of Harold Acton's translations of Chinese literary works and his writings; correspondence from Chinese, English, and American scholars and friends; material relating to Acton's lecture tour of Italy; and other papers. Highlights include the unpublished manuscript for Popular Chinese Plays, as well as correspondence concerning its projected publication by Henry Vetch. Also included is an annotated typescript and related correspondence for Acton's novel, Peonies and Ponies (1941). Material sheds light on the development of literary translation between Chinese and English, and the influence of China on British intellectual history and literary life during the period preceding the Second World War.
The bulk of the material--translations, writings, correspondence--was created and accumulated by Acton during his residence in China and in the course of his literary work there as a translator and writer. Upon Acton's departure from China, the material was packed into a trunk and shipped to London. Other material--such as that stemming from Acton's lecture tour of Italy--was presumably added to the trunk later, before being given to Acton's godson, Martin Parsons.
- 1932 - 1941
Conditions Governing Access
The materials are open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
The Harold Acton Papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Purchased from Simon Finch on the Edwin J. Beinecke Book Fund, 2009.
The collection is organized into four series: I. Translations and Writings, 1933-1941. II. Correspondence, 1935-1941. III. Other Papers, 1932-1941. IV. Lecture Tour in Italy, 1940.
3.83 Linear Feet (5 boxes)
Language of Materials
The collection consists of manuscript and typescript drafts of Harold Acton's translations of Chinese literary works and his writings; correspondence from Chinese, English, and American scholars and friends; material relating to a lecture tour of Italy; and other papers. Highlights include the unpublished manuscript for Popular Chinese Plays, which was once thought lost, as well as correspondence concerning its projected publication by Henry Vetch. Also included is an annotated typescript and related correspondence for Acton's novel, Peonies and Ponies (1941). Material sheds light on the development of literary translation between Chinese and English and the influence of China on British intellectual history and literary life during the period preceding the Second World War.
Harold Acton (1904-1994)
Harold Acton was a British writer and scholar. His works include The Last Medici (1932), The Bourbons of Naples, 1734-1825 (1956), and two memoirs, Memoirs of an Aesthete (1948) and More Memoirs of an Aesthete (1970).
Acton lived in China from 1933 to 1939, during which time he supported himself by teaching English Literature and collaborated with others to translate various Chinese literary works. His translations include Glue and Lacquer: Four Cautionary Tales (1941) and the unpublished Popular Chinese Plays. He wrote a novel, Peonies and Ponies (1941), about British expatriate life in Beijing before the Second World War. Acton returned to England in 1939 and shortly thereafter embarked upon a lecture tour of Italy under the auspices of the British Council to promote continuing ties between England and Italy at a time when the two countries were on the verge of war.
This archive was given by Harold Acton to his only godson, the Hon. Martin Parsons (1938 - ), younger son of Michael Parsons, sixth Earl of Rosse (1906-1979). The gift was made in memory of the Hon. Desmond Parsons, younger brother of Michael, who died prematurely in 1937 at the early age of 26.
The material was contained in the original leather trunk in which it was packed for dispatch from Beijing, China, after the invasion of the Japanese in 1937. According to the dealer, the integrity of the archive was strictly maintained and nothing was removed. Individual items were placed in transparent sleeves and numbered according to the dealer description.
Upon receipt by the library, material was removed from the trunk and rehoused in acid-free folders and boxes; individual items were removed from sleeves. The material has largely been maintained in the order in which it was described in the description provided by the dealer. Information in the biographical and Description of the Papers notes and in the Collection Contents section is drawn almost entirely from the dealer description. This information has not been verified, and is included in the finding aid in order to provide more detail about the context and content of the collection.
- Acton, Harold, 1904-1994
- Authors, English -- 20th Century -- Archives
- Betjeman, John, 1906-1984
- British literature -- 20th Century
- Chen, Shixiang, 1912-1971
- Chinese drama
- Chinese literature
- Chinese literature -- Translations into English
- Chinese poetry
- Colquhoun, Archibald, 1912-1964
- De Zoete, Beryl, 1884-1962
- Dover, Cedric
- England -- Foreign relations -- Italy
- Harrod, Roy, 1900-1978
- Hartnoll, Phyllis, 1906-1997
- Italy -- Foreign relations -- England
- Moore, T. Sturge (Thomas Sturge), 1870-1944
- Sitwell, Osbert, 1892-1969
- Translating and interpreting
- Waley, Arthur, 1889-1966
- Xiao, Qian, 1910-1999
- Yuan, Jiahua, 1904-
- Guide to the Harold Acton Papers
- Under Revision
- by Jennifer Meehan
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
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New Haven, CT 06511
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