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Michael Hastings Collection

Collection Number
SC 311

OCLC Number

Michael Gerald Hastings, 1938-2011

Under review

Extent, Scope, and Content Note
The collection includes 0.4 cubic ft. of papers created by author and playwright Michael Gerald Hastings between 1951 and 1962 including manuscripts and typescripts of plays, poems, and fragmented writings.

Arrangement and Processing Note
Finding aid updated and revised by Kristen J. Nyitray in July 2019.


Restrictions on Access
The collection is open to researchers without restriction.

Rights and Permissions 
Stony Brook University Libraries' consent to access as the physical owner of the collection does not address copyright issues that may affect publication rights. It is the sole responsibility of the user of Special Collections and University Archives materials to investigate the copyright status of any given work and to seek and obtain permission where needed prior to publication.  

[Item], [Box], Michael Hastings Collection, Special Collections and University Archives, Stony Brook University Libraries.

Historical Note

Playwright, novelist, and poet Michael Hastings was born in London in 1937. He is best known for his 1984 stage play and 1994 screenplay  Tom & Viv , about the relationship between poet   T.S. Eliot  and his wife   Vivienne Haigh-Wood He first achieved fame when his play Don't Destroy Me (written at the age of sixteen) was performed at the New Lindsey Theatre Club, Notting Hill Gate, to rapturous praise from the critics. The text appeared in Nimbus magazine.

His second play, Yes, and After (1957) was given a Sunday performance at the Royal Court Theatre in 1957, again receiving high praise but not achieving a commercial run. This was published in book form in 1962. A third play in the series, The World's Baby, was performed in 1965 and the three plays were published together in 1966. Hastings has suffered from ill-luck with theatre managements and none of his plays has reached a wide public, performances being confined to rehearsed "readings" or club productions.

His last play was Lee Harvey Oswald (1966), performed at the Hampstead Theatre Club, and published by Penguin Books. He has written for television with some success.

His first novel, The Game (1957), was subsequently made into a short film, and his second, The Frauds (1960), established his reputation as being beyond that of the literary child prodigy.

A project for a television documentary on Rupert Brooke, begun in 1966 but later abandoned due to pressures from various parties, provided some of the background for his first major non-fiction work, a study of Brooke, The Handsomest Young Man in England (1967).

His two books of poems are Love Me, Lambeth (1961) and a privately printed pamphlet, undated, bearing only the author's name. He died in 2011 at the age of 73.

American literature -- 20th century.
American literature.


Item 1: Untitled verse play; lacking title-page. Carbon typescript. [1951]. 28 p. 4to., numbered 2-29. Signed by the author at end of text. Preserved in a folder bearing the author's autograph note: "This is a complete 'verse' play, written in 1951 in Brixton. I haven't even seen it since 1961. Michael Hastings." A play of over 1,000 lines, written at the age of fourteen. The prologue sets the scene: ...We are the listeners you and I, my stranger friends. Hearing the thoughts and inner-most secrets of happy, winsome dreams. The fears, delights...
...Of Paul the thinker,
- of Sarah and Tom
- of Longlegged Jane and her loves.
The Welsh farmhand Ely John
who never did anything wrong:
and all their open honest minds which reflect
not on one, but many hundreds of people.

...It is a Night Pastoral of love.
A farm, a very small world,
and a Fingal's Cave of dreams.

This remarkably sustained work from the author's juvenilia is eminently suitable for radio performance, and appears to have been modelled on other radio dramas of the day. The play is unpublished.

Item 2: A group of eight poems in the author's autograph manuscript, with draft versions of four of the poems and typescript versions, signed, of two of them. Together 20 p. 4to. and 8vo.These poems are believed to be unpublished. The majority of the manuscripts are signed or initialled by the author. The poems range from a satirical attack on John Lehmann beginning, "I am one of the best editors," to a 120-line syllabic poem in which Hastings surveys his earlier years.

Item 3: Manuscript drafts of poems, together with a few prose jottings, including a plan for a television "book programme," etc. Together 29 p. foolscap, 4to. and 8vo.

Item 4: A group of typescript poems. Thirteen poems and a prose-poem, Letters to my Wife. Two of the poems are present in two versions, and one in three versions. The typescripts of the majority of the poems bear the author's autograph revisions, and are signed or initialled. 26 p. foolscap, 4to., 8vo.These poems are believed to be unpublished. They include short lyrics and Leopards, a 54-line poem for children.

Item 5: Yes, and after...; a play in two acts. c.1957. Duplicated Agency Typescript. 101 p. 4to., wrappers, wire-stitched with cloth backstrip. Signed by the author on page [i]. Loosely inserted are 13 p. 4to. of typescript, heavily revised in the author's hand, being odd pages from the author's first draft. This play was first published in book form by Penguin Books, along with two plays by other authors, in January, 1962.

Item 6: Sucker; a play for television in three acts. Duplicated Rehearsal Script for internal use at Granada TV Network Ltd. April, 1961. [63] p. foolscap. Incomplete, the last pages of Act III being absent.This play was performed on Granada TV as part of the series The Younger Generation. The closing pages were probably removed for re-writing during the course of production. The play is believed to be unpublished in book form.

Item 7: It Takes Three to Marry Two; a short three-act play. Typescript. [1961]. 46 p. 4to., comprising title-page, dramatis personae (five characters), description of stage setting, [p.i-iii]; text, p. 1-45 and end of play on page 50. Revised, with some autograph deletions. Inscribed by the author on the title-page: "Anne [Hastings] - this is the only extant copy of this play, this and no other. Michael Hastings." With a Typed Note, signed, dated "May, 1961," in which the author invites "Robert" to attend a reading of the play on Sunday 28th May, 1961. 1 p. 8vo. Together with the duplicated Programme, 1 p. foolscap, of a "rehearsed reading" at the Ben Uri Art Gallery, 28th May, 1961. According to the autograph cast list and programme notes on the verso of this sheet, the cast was expanded to eight characters (an extra female and two extra male parts). These characters may well have been introduced in the denouement of the final Act. This re-writing would account for the absence of pages 46-49 from the existing typescript. The play concerns the marriage of a lower class white Lambeth girl to a Jamaican salesman unable to find steady employment. The action takes place on the wedding day and the following day.

Item 8: I Am God. Act I only. Typescript. 20 p. 4to. Page 1 bears the author's note: "From an early play, I Am God, 1958, unpublished, unperformed." Signed. Of this play the author has written: "Early in 1957, I had written a play titled I Am God under a further commission from George Devine [of the English Stage Company], this play he informed me was not quite suitable for production, and this play, Tony Richardson informed me, was too much like Look Back in Anger." The play concerns the return of Mick, a young British soldier, from Korea, and his dissatisfaction with his home environment and with his parents.

Item 9: Together with carbon typescript, 9 p. 4to., numbered 198-206, being the closing pages of Act Four of what would appear to be another version of I Am God.

Item 10: On Primrose Hill; a two-act play for television. Undated. [56] p. 4to. Typescript, revised with a few minor alterations of typing errors in the author's autograph. Agency name-stamp on pages [i] and 26. Preserved in foolscap folder bearing a typed label giving author and title, with the words: "First Draft Script."

Item 11: Synopses for a Television Play: Two Typescripts, one headed "Breakdown for a fifty minute tv adaptation from the novel North West Five, by John Sommerfeld (4 p. 4to.), the other entitled N.W.5. (8 p. foolscap). The former presents a general outline of the plot, sets required, and other preliminaries. The latter gives a detailed scene-by-scene synopsis, with brief accounts of each character's motivation. Both typescripts bear minor manuscript corrections. The synopsis N.W.5. is dated March 30th, 1961.

Item 12: Evening Standard and other newspaper articles. Typescripts of 18 newspaper articles, c.1960-62. Sixteen of the articles concern court cases of petty crimes such as shoplifting and drunkenness, treated as character sketches. The majority of these typescripts are signed; six of them are accompanied by carbon typescript versions, heavily revised in Hastings' autograph. The two articles not in this series are: Out Doubt, on the obtuseness of the majority of critics and the popular newspapers, and Addlestrop Revisited, an account of a pilgrimage to the railway station celebrated in Edward Thomas's poem. Both these articles bear the author's autograph revisions. With 2 p. 8vo of manuscript notes for an article on racing at Epsom, and with a Typed Letter, dated 29th March, 1962, from the Secretary to the Editor of the Evening Standard.
Approximately. 85 p. 4to. and 8vo.

Item 13: Dreams. Typescript notes, signed, concerning dreams experienced by the author c. March-April, 1956. 6 p. 4to.
Ideas for Plays. Typescript notes for four plays. 3 p. 4to., one page bearing autograph revisions, each page signed. Of one "idea" Hastings has written: "This was the outline for The Frauds." [The Frauds, the author's second novel, was published in 1960].

Item 14: Easter in Paris. Carbon Ttypescript, with minor autograph revisions. Signed by the author, and dated "1951," with the note: "Only contribution to Alleyn's School Magazine. A group visit to Paris by the school." 1½ p. 4to. Written when Hastings was fourteen years old.

Item 15: Untitled article on Phyllis Bentley. Carbon typescript. Signed. Undated. 3 p. 4to. A tribute, occasioned by the publication of Miss Bentley's autobiography.

Item 16: Fragments from an unfinished novel. [1962-64]. 7 p. 4to. (1 ½ p. in autograph manuscript, the remainder in typescript). Two passages, being p. 76-77 and 212-216, respectively initialled and signed by the author. With Carbon Typescript of five pages. Together 12 p. 4to.

Item 17: Pirie, Gordon, Bless Them All. Twenty pages of typescript, including a draft table of contents prepared by Hastings, and two pages of manuscript notes (one page in Hastings' hand) and four autograph chapter headings, presumably in Pirie's hand.The famous athlete's account of his career appears to have been edited or part-ghosted by Hastings. The typescript pages consist of fifteen foolscap pages and four shorter passages of Pirie's narrative, with manuscript deletions. This narrative may represent Hastings' composition from tapes etc., or may be Pirie's text submitted for editing. The text concerns Pirie's experiences at various European athletics contests and at the Olympic Games at Rome. No book of this title can be traced, but Pirie's Running Wild was published by W.H. Allen (who also published Hastings' two novels and Love Me, Lambeth) in 1961.

Item 18: Typescript notes and fragments. 14 p. 4to. Includes a 2-page excerpt (presumably from a letter to the English Stage Company) in which Hastings gives a full account of his unhappy experience over several years of plays being commissioned by George Devine and then not reaching the public. According to this account, Yes, and After, highly praised by the Press, would undoubtedly have run for a long period had it received a full production. For the following three years the English Stage Company held the option on the play without giving the public performance of it; they turn down I Am God and Love a Dear Stranger (the latter described as "the best play I have ever written") and Hastings describes himself as being c.1960 "bitterly disillusioned."

Item 19: Other fragments are four pages from a television project, seven odd pages from plays, a draft agreement with a theatre management. With 4 p. 4to. bearing autograph jottings by the author; a Typed Note, signed, from his publishers, W.H. Allen concerning Love Me, Lambeth, 1961, and an Autograph Letter, signed, from "Joy" (Mrs. Colin Wilson?) congratulating Hastings and his wife on the birth of their daughter Henrietta. Together 21 p. 4to. and 8vo.