MC:P429 Papers of George Henry Bonner (C. 1914 & 1919-20)
George Bonner was born on 26 May 1895, son of Henry Bonner. He was educated at King Edward’s School, Birmingham and was a Commoner at Magdalen in Michaelmas Term 1914 before leaving to serve in the First World War. Following his war service, he returned to Magdalen in Trinity Term 1919 to study for a pass degree in Classics and received his BA on 17 December 1920.
Bonner joined the South Staffordshire Regiment in 1914. In June 1915 he was transferred to the Royal Field Artillery, where he served as a 2nd Lieutenant in 2 Auto-Anti-Aircraft Battery. In November 1916 he was invalided home. The reason for this is unknown, but it was probably due to ‘shell-shock’, as on 30 November 1917 he was admitted to Craiglockhart Hospital in Scotland, a military hospital specialising in the treatment of psychological casualties. On 5 March 1918 Bonner was discharged from the forces as ‘DMU’ (discharged, medically unfit).
Bonner was not at Craiglockhart at the same time as its two most famous inmates, Siegfried Sassoon (discharged 26 November 1917) and Wilfred Owen (30 October 1917), but he did edit several issues of The Hydra, Craiglockhart’s in-house magazine, to which both Sassoon and Owen had contributed. This collection includes copies of four editions of The Hydra, two of which (Nos. 4 & 5) are unique in England.
Following the war Bonner pursued a career as an author and poet, writing under his own name or the pseudonyms George Austin, G.A, or H. There is also a small quantity of writing in the collection by Iris Barry, a writer and film critic best known for founding the film department of the Museum of Modern Art in New York in the 1930s.
Bonner was a contemporary of J.R.R. Tolkien at school and at Oxford, and his fiction and verse display some similar interests in the supernatural, Celtic history and myth, and the countryside of the British Isles.
He was most successful as an essayist: several of his articles were published in the journal The Nineteenth Century and After. Bonner wrote articles on such subjects as the poetry of Robert Browning, the benefits of a classical education and the theory of evolution (Bonner might today be termed a creationist – he believed that Darwin’s theory was untrue and could not be reconciled with Christian doctrine). Most of his verse and fiction appears to have remained unpublished.
Bonner committed suicide on 2 March 1929, aged only 33. What information we have on his life was kindly provided by John Garth, who was able to interview Bonner’s son, Austin, shortly before the latter’s death in February 2015.
These papers consist almost entirely of Bonner’s post-war writing in various genres. There are plays, film scripts, short stories, articles, two incomplete novels, and a large amount of verse – including war poetry and work drawing on his experiences in hospital. These have been mostly kept in the order in which Bonner arranged them, with the exception of two particularly large bundles. These have been broken up into smaller series as follows:
From a large cardboard folder marked ‘MSS 1920,1921, Fragments up to 1922’:
– MC:P429/MS5 [whole series]
– MC:P429/MS11 [whole series]
– MC:P429/MS18 [whole series]
– MC:P429/MS19 [whole series]
– MC:P429/N5 [whole series]
– MC:P429/X1/1 & 8
From large bundle addressed to A.R. Bonner, c/o Mrs Warburton, 51 Highlands Heath, London S.W.15:
– MC:P429/MS7 [whole series]
– MC:P429/MS8 [whole series]
– MC:P429/MS9 [whole series]
– MC:P429/MS14 [whole series]
– MC:P429/MS15 [whole series]
– MC:P429/MS16 [whole series]
– MC:P429/C1/1 & 2
George Bonner’s papers were donated by his son, Austin Bonner, and accessioned in August 2013 as Acc. No. 13/110. They have been divided into the following series:
MC:P429/MS1 Manuscripts 1920
MC:P429/MS2 Manuscripts 1922 (1)
MC:P429/MS3 Manuscripts 1922 (2)
MC:P429/MS4 Manuscripts 1922 (3)
MC:P429/MS5 Typed Articles 1920-2
MC:P429/MS6 Prose 1923
MC:P429/MS7 Verse 1923
MC:P429/MS8 Short Stories 1923
MC:P429/MS9 Manuscript Articles 1923
MC:P429/MS10 Manuscripts 1924
MC:P429/MS11 Manuscripts 1925
MC:P429/MS12 Miscellaneous Manuscripts
MC:P429/MS13 Undated Typescripts: Drama
MC:P429/MS14 Miscellaneous Verse
MC:P429/MS15 Manuscript Verse 1917
MC:P429/MS16 Manuscript Verse 1918
MC:P429/MS17 Undated Typescripts
MC:P429/MS18 Typescripts 1920-2
MC:P429/N1 Old Edwardians Gazette
MC:P429/N2 The Oxford Magazine
MC:P429/N3 The Isis
MC:P429/N4 The Hydra
MC:P429/N5 Proofs from The Nineteenth Century And After
MC:P429/N6 The Nineteenth Century And After
MC:P429/N7 Press Cuttings
MC:P429/C1 Assessments Of Bonner’s Work
MC:P429/C2 Miscellaneous Correspondence
MC:P429/X1 ‘The Case Against ‘Evolution”
MC:P429/X2 ‘Films’ Folder
Catalogued March 2014 by Ben Taylor.