Along with the announcement of their 2016 exhibitions and displays programme, the British Library also announced that it had managed to acquire the personal archive of Kenneth Williams.
The collection contains 43 43 personal diaries and approximately 2,000 letters that span the Carry On star’s entire life and career from the age of 18, until his death in 1988.
Although he is best remembered for his roles in the Carry on Films, Williams also appeared to great acclaim in a number of onstage productions from frothy revue to the black comedy of Joe Orton.
Williams used the diaries that he kept from more than 40 years as a threat to his friends, apparently saying “you’ll be in my diary!” on a regular basis whenever someone annoyed him. But he kept the contents of the diaries almost completely to himself during his lifetime.
The archive was acquired by the library from Paul Richardson, Kenneth’s friend and neighbour, to whom he left his entire estate.
Paul Richardson said: “I am delighted that Kenneth Williams’ diaries and letters are now at the British Library. Knowing Kenneth for so many years I know he would have been pleased and honoured. He was a great admirer of the British Library and a regular visitor.”
Kathryn Johnson, Curator of Theatrical Archives and Manuscripts at the British Library said: ” In the pages of the diaries Williams is instantly recognisable as the acerbic and fastidious character well known to several generations but also, more surprisingly, is shown to be a reflective and poignant observer.”
The material will be available to researchers in the Library’s reading rooms from March 2016. The 1950 edition of the diary, as well as a letter from the archive, will be on display in the library’s permanent exhibition space from next week.