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Elizabeth Smart fonds. - 1925-1986. - 17 m of textual record and other material.

Biographical Sketch

Born in Ottawa, Ontario in 1913, Smart began writing as a young child, publishing her first poem at the age of ten. She attended Hatfield Hall, a private school, spent summers at Kingsmere and went to England at 18 to study piano. In 1937, Smart traveled around the world as the private secretary to Mrs. Alfred Watt, head of the Associated Country Women of the World. On her return to Ottawa, Smart wrote for the woman's page of the Ottawa Journal for approximately six months before leaving Ottawa altogether. She went first to New York, then to California and Mexico. The story of her meeting with British poet George Barker, with whom she had a passionate love affair and bore four children, is told in By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept (1945). By Grand Central Station was reprinted in 1966, 1975, 1977, 1978 and 1982 and was performed as a stage play, revised for broadcast on radio and translated into French. Smart followed Barker to England in 1943 and remained there for most of her life. She supported herself and her children by working as an advertising copywriter for 13 years, then joined the staff of Queen in 1963. By 1966, she gave up commercial writing and settled into life at The Dell, a cottage in the north of Suffolk where she gardened and resumed a literary life. Her second book, A Bonus (1977), was followed by Ten Poems (1981), Eleven Poems (1982), then The Assumption of the Rogues and Rascals (1982).

Pages from the journal of Elizabeth Smart listing Books Finished

Pages from the journal of Elizabeth Smart listing "Books Finished".

Elizabeth Smart returned briefly to Canada where she held the position of writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta during the 1982-83 academic year. With the encouragement of poet, Alice VanWart, she published an interim collection of her journal writings, In the Meantime, which contains her story entitled, "Dig a Grave and Let Us Bury Our Mother". The first volume of her journals, covering the period from 1940 to 1982, was published in 1985, the year before she died, as Necessary Secrets (edited by VanWart). Several collections of her writings were published following her death: Autobiographies (1987) includes miscellaneous documents, letters, and journals dating from 1940 to 1982; Juvenilia (1987) is a collection of early stories written between the ages of 11 and 19 and includes family letters; and Elizabeth's Garden: Elizabeth Smart on the Art of Gardening (1980) is a collection of her published columns with excerpts from her own garden journals. The play Memories of You (1989) by Wendy Lill is based on Smart's life. Her biography, entitled By Heart: Elizabeth Smart/a Life, was written by Rosemary Sullivan in 1991.

Photo of Elizabeth Smart

Photo of Elizabeth Smart. Photographer Eleanor Wachtel.

Scope and Content

The Elizabeth Smart fonds includes journals and notebooks; family correspondence and documents; personal and professional correspondence; typescripts and galleys of her published works; articles and copy writing; gardening journals and correspondence; clippings and reviews; material relating to George Barker and to other writers including W.S. Graham and Marie Stopes; and memorabilia.

The National Library of Canada acquired a holograph copy of By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept in 1982 with the following inscriptions by Elizabeth Smart: "Special De Luxe Advance Edition limited to one copy and made expressly for [illegible] by E.S. Oct. 1941. Also copyright in all countries." "To Maxi with love Elizabeth." "Printed at Pender Harbour, B.C." It was accompanied by a copy of the published book inscribed, "To Maxi and John with love from Elizabeth, Georgina, Christopher, Sebastian." and a photograph of Smart with Georgina and Christopher.

A further accession acquired in 1990 provides a glimpse into Elizabeth Smart's early adult life. It includes journals, diaries, notebooks, correspondence (including with her parents), writings, memorabilia and miscellaneous materials dating from 1928 to 1985.

Immediate Source of Acquisition: Acquired from Maximiliane von Upani Southwell [1982-08], Elizabeth Smart [1983-05], the Estate of Elizabeth Smart [1987-09], and Alice Van Wart [1990-03].

Language: material in the fonds is in English.

Restrictions: none.

Finding Aid: finding aids available.

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