Charles Madge Archive

Reference and contact details: GB 0181 SxMs 71
Title: Charles Madge Archive
Dates of creation: 1912-1996
Held at: University of Sussex Library
Extent: 22 boxes; 5.8 cubic feet
Name of Creator: Madge, Charles (1912-1996)
Level of Description: fonds
Language of Material: eng


Administrative/Biographical History

Charles Madge (1912-1996) was the son of Lieut Col. C. A. Madge and Barbara, née Hylton Foster, and was educated at Winchester College and Magdalene College, Cambridge, though he left without graduating. Although Madge worked successfully as both a poet and a sociologist, there was little congruence between the two in his life and his early promise in the former was soon eclipsed by the demands of the latter. Precociously talented as a poet, his work received greatest recognition in the 1930s when T. S. Eliot was his editor and Faber his publisher. As a sociologist, he co-founded Mass-Observation with Tom Harrisson in 1937, an endeavour which would occupy far more of his time and mind than any literary inclinations. The Charles Madge Archive illuminates Madge's aptitude as a poet more fully than they reveal his distinction as a sociologist, but both talents are well represented, not least in the 276-page typescript draft autobiography which traces the progress of his sociological career and covers Mass-Observation in detail. This work draws heavily on extracts from letters and diaries found elsewhere in the Archive and is an ideal starting point for anyone investigating either of Madge's mutually exclusive yet equally fascinating vocations.

Poet

Madge's development as a poet is amply revealed in his notebooks and in numerous files of verse dating from as early as 1920, when he had yet to reach double-figures. His Cambridge student days afforded the opportunity to establish connections with leading left-wing poets of the 1930s, although he left Magdalene College without a degree. Students of twentieth-century literature will find among his papers lively anecdotal information about key figures of the day, including W. H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood and T. S. Eliot. Eliot was Madge's editor at Faber and published some of his work in The Criterion ; he even pulled strings to help Madge secure a 'real' job as a Daily Mirror reporter in 1935 (dispiriting work as it turned out, but good grounding for his burgeoning interest in sociology and the experience of 'the masses'). Nine of his poems appeared in The Faber Book of Modern Verse (1936) and W B Yeats made further selections for The Oxford Book of Modern English Verse (1938) in which Madge appeared alongside Auden, Stephen Spender, Louis MacNeice and C. Day Lewis. Faber published two volumes of his poetry: The Disappearing Castle (1937) and The Father Found (1940). By the early 1940s, sociological work had become all-consuming, and it was not until retirement that Madge found renewed opportunity to write. His collected verse was eventually published as Of Love, Time and Places (Anvil, 1994).

Critical reaction to Madge's poetry is well documented throughout the Archive and ranges from informal correspondence (early praise from Rudyard Kipling and John Masefield) to transcriptions of ambivalent, yet often prescient, reviews in the press. The autobiography contains his own analysis of his poems and comments on their inspiration. Many autograph notebooks record the creative process. Among his non-sociological prose works are early short stories, an essay 'Notes on the Technique of Poetry' (from 1930s), and schoolboy essays on Blake and Milton. Published works present include Myth, Metaphor and the World Picture , a study of metaphor in literature, contrasted with its use in religious symbolism.

Sociologist

The poet Madge's early, vigorous output diminished after 1940 as the sociologist in him won out. A chance encounter with Tom Harrisson through the pages of the New Statesman in 1937 led to the pair's establishment of Mass-Observation, a unique social experiment to record the thoughts of 'ordinary' people on contemporary subjects. The wide-ranging and demanding work of this radical survey organisation triggered further studies conducted for other bodies, including the National Council for Social and Economic Research (1940-42) and Political & Economic Planning (1943). Madge became a director of Pilot Press in 1944 and published a quarterly magazine, Pilot Papers, with sociological essays by non-academics, copies of which are included in the Archive.

From 1947 Madge was Social Development Officer for Stevenage New Town, until in 1950 he took the first chair of sociology at the University of Birmingham. This he held until retirement in 1970, despite his lack of academic training and personal doubts about the validity of the discipline as it then stood. In the first decade of his tenure he worked for the United Nations' agencies in Asia and Africa. His documents of the time, and later recollections of the academic life contained within his papers, illuminate the volatility of the 1960s, including the student unrest of 1968.

Correspondent

'If this were a name-dropping autobiography, 1946 would be a year in which a great many names could be dropped.'

Charles Madge, autobiography, p. 164

As a well-connected polymath, it is unsurprising that Madge's extensive correspondence contains exchanges with a wide variety of eminent figures. Letters in the Archive range in scope from a brief note from W. H. Auden to long-running ruminations from J. M. Keynes. Exchanges with Geoffrey Grigson, Q. D. Leavis and Naomi Mitchison are also included. Madge's most voluble correspondence, however, was with his mother. A devoted amanuensis to her son, Barbara Madge transcribed even his earliest work and vigorously promoted it. The Archive houses 2,000 letters from son to mother, primarily written throughout Charles's school years, but the flow was maintained throughout his mother's life. Correspondence with Madge's first two wives, fellow poet Kathleen Raine (the two married in 1938), and Inez Spender (married in 1942), is smaller in size but particularly revealing. Often tortuous relationships within a close-knit circle of peers are recorded with candour (Inez was married to Stephen Spender when the relationship with Madge began). Madge's letters to Inez also record his work with Mass-Observation and the Communist Party in some detail. Inez died in 1976 and he married thirdly, in 1979, Evelyn Brown (d. 1984). The correspondents from his sociology universe are just as distinguished.

Scope and Content

Summary of contents

Autobiographical Papers

Family history

Personal history

Autobiography

Correspondence

(these groupings include some letters from other correspondents)

Charles Madge to Barbara Madge (his mother); 1922-1963

Barbara Madge (his mother) to Charles Madge; 1933-1934; 1965-1967

Kathleen Raine (his first wife) to Charles Madge; 1933-1960s

Charles Madge to Inez Madge (his second wife); 1938-1964

Inez Madge to Charles Madge; 1953-1967

Notebooks, c. 1920-1951

Pilot Press, 1946-1947

Poems, 1920-1977

Prose, 1920-1936 and undated

Published reviews, articles, 1952-1964

Miscellaneous papers, 1963-1996

Additions to the collection, Ad. 1: correspondence, offprints, newspaper cuttings, etc., relating chiefly to Charles Madge's professional life, 1932-1980, arranged by decade.

Administrative Information

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Presented by Charles Madge's younger daughter, Dr Victoria Randall, in 1999 and (Ad. 1) May 2000.

Access Conditions

Items in the collection may be consulted for the purpose of private study and personal research, within the controlled environment and restrictions of the Library's Special Collections Reading Rooms.

Copyright/Reproduction

COPIES FOR PRIVATE STUDY: Subject to copyright, conditions imposed by owners and protecting the documents, the Library can supply, at a charge, photocopies, photographs or digital copies.

PUBLICATION: A reader wishing to publish material in the collection should contact the Head of Special Collections, in writing. The reader is responsible for obtaining permission to publish from the copyright owner.

Further Information

Finding Aids

A handlist is available in the Library and also on its website www.sussex.ac.uk/library/manuscript.

Related Units of Description

The Mass-Observation Archive, deposited by its other co-founder, Tom Harrisson, in 1970.

SxMs 12, War-time Social Survey Papers, 1940-41, when functioning under the auspices of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research where Madge was engaged on similar work.

Archivist's Note

Prepared by John Farrant, August 2002, with acknowledgement to Neil Parkinson.