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Nevil Shute Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Shute, Nevil, 1899-1960
Title: Nevil Shute Papers
Inclusive Dates: ca. 1922-1960
Quantity: 3.5 linear ft.
Abstract: Photocopies of literary manuscripts held by the National Library of Australia; assorted other items (articles, speeches, published material). Entirely photocopies, no original material.
Language: Majority in English, one item in French
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Nevil Shute (1899-1960) was a British engineer, aviator, sailor, journalist, and novelist. He is perhaps best known for his novels On the Beach and A Town Like Alice.

Born Nevil Shute Norway in Ealing, Middlesex, England, on January 17, 1899,he attended Shrewsbury School as a youth, and in 1912 his father, a career civil servant, was made head of the postal service in Ireland and posted to Dublin. Young Nevil witnessed the 1916 Easter Rising, although his father happened to be away from the GPO that day.

Shute read engineering at Balliol College, Oxford and after graduation worked as an aeronautical designer and engineer with De Havilland Aircraft Co., 1922-24; chief calculator and later deputy chief engineer with Airship Guarantee Co., 1924-30; and founder and managing director of Airspeed Ltd., 1931-38. During World War II (1940-45) he worked on weapons design and held the rank of lieutenant-commander in the Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve. After the war Shute worked briefly for the Ministry of Information, visiting and writing on Burma; in 1950 he and his family relocated to Australia, where he remained until his death in 1960.

Although Shute was a talented engineer whose contributions to aviation include such useful innovations as retractable landing gear, he is more widely known for his literary achievements. Shute's father, mother, and grandmother were all published authors, so it is perhaps not surprising that Shute would try his hand at writing. Although his first novel, Marazan, was published in 1926 he did not turn to writing full-time until the 1940s, and always thought of himself not as an author but as "an engineer who writes books." Many of his novels drew heavily on Shute's own real-life experiences and engineering knowledge: several of his main characters are aviators or engineers, and he predicted the problems of metal fatigue in No Highway (1948), several years before the fledgling commercial airline industry began to encounter it, and the global horrors of nuclear war in On the Beach (1957).

No less than ten movies have been made from eight of Shute's novels (On the Beach and Pied Piper were each made twice). Undoubtedly the most famous is the 1959 version of On the Beach starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astair, and Anthony Perkins, although Shute himself did not care for the film version. The movie is sometimes credited with playing a major part in the international protest against nuclear weapons.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Nevil Shute Papers consists of literary manuscripts and other writings by and about Shute. The collection consists entirely of photocopies; there are no original documents.

Series 1 and 2 consist of photocopies made from microfilmed Literary manuscripts held by the National Library of Australia (NLA) in Canberra as of February 1971. Corrections noted by an asterisk in the list below were obtained from the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation. The manuscripts include those of both published and unpublished short stories, articles, books, filmscripts and diaries.

Series 3 contains Other manuscripts, also photocopies from the NLA's microfilm, include dialogue and film treatments for Farewell, Miss Julie Logan, Shute's memorandum for Prime Minister Menzies on artists, composers and authors in Australia, and Shute's flight log for his flight from England to Australia.

Later Additions of items by and about Shute, also consisting entirely of photocopies, include letters, the texts of several speeches, Shute's will, and copies of published chapters, forewords and introductions from various books. There is also a copy of a short book by Shute's mother, Mary Louisa Norway, recounting her experience during the Sinn Fein Rebellion of 1916. These copies did not come from the NLA's microfilm and the provenance is unknown.

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Arrangement of the Collection

Series 1, 2 and 3 follow the same arrangements as that of the originals in the National Library of Australia. The later additions are in alphabetical order by title or description.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Subject Headings


Shute, Nevil.


Authors, Australian.
Authors, English -- 20th century.
Engineers -- Australia.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Manuscripts for publication.
Short stories.
Speeches (documents)



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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

For items in the first three series, scholars should cite the National Library of Australia as the repository owning the original manuscripts (MS 2199), and all references should be to the numbering identification system prepared by the National Library (that is, using the series and item numbers assigned by NLA). Scholars should also note Special Collections Research Center as the North and South American repository for the microfilm.

Acquisition Information

Microfilm (of which Series 1, 2 and 3 are printouts) was obtained by agreement from the National Library of Australia, 1971.

Provenance of the later additions is unknown.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: -
Date: Feb 1997
Revision history: 14 Oct 2006 - converted to EAD (AMCon); 9 Dec 2010 - added series/item numbers (MRC)

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Series 1. Literary manuscripts, unpublished
Box 1 Incident at Eucla - 33 pages, plus 8 pg. of notes (ID#: 1)
Box 1 Short stories (ID#: 2)
Tudor windows, 11 pg.
Down the Humber in a motor cruiser, 8 pg.
Knightly vigil, 12 pg.
No. 1, The Square, Petersfield, 4 pg.
Piuro, 15 pg.
In the uttermost parts of the sea, 15 pg.
Before the mail, 28 pg.
Air over Eden, 1 pg.
Outline, related to "Lame ducks fly"
Box 1 Ministry of Information (ID#: 3)
Diary pages, 11 pg
Second front, I, 10 pg.
Second front, II, 13 pg.
Second front, III, 13 pg.
Second front, IV, 11 pg.
Second front, V, 10 pg.
Second front, VI, 9 pg.
Beach assault, 17 pg.
Tank landing craft, 11 pg.
Journey into Normandy, account of Shute's experiences accompanying the Normandy invasion force, 40 pg.
Box 1 Ministry of information articles - six articles written for the Ministry of Information concerning the war against Japan in the Burma area (ID#: 4)
In Calcutta, 13 pg.
At Akyab, on D-day for Rangoon, 13 pg.
Civil affairs - Burma?, 15 pg.
In Rangoon, 14 pg.
In the Irrawaddy delta, 13 pg.
Difficulties of operating aircraft, 14 pg.
Box 1 The Lame Ducks Fly - first and only chapter of abandoned novel, 21 pg. (ID#: 5)
Box 1 The Seafarers - 2 versions, 59 pg., 119 pg. (ID#: 6)
Box 1 Blind understanding - 143 pg. (ID#: 7)
Box 1 Pastoral - technically not an unpublished manuscript, this is a film script treatment by Shute of the novel by the same name* (ID#: 8)
See also Published: Pastoral
Series 2. Literary manuscripts, published
Box 2 Ruined City (ID#: 1)
Box 2 An Old Captivity - 1st draft (ID#: 2)
Box 2 Landfall: A Channel Story (ID#: 3)
Box 2 Pied Piper (ID#: 4)
Box 2 Pastoral (ID#: 5)
See also Unpublished: Pastoral
Box 3 Airship Vulture - magazine article, actual title is "The Airship Venture," the story of Shute's involvement in the development of the R-100 airship* (ID#: 6)
Box 3 The Other Side - eventually published as Most Secret (ID#: 7)
Box 3 Vinland the Good (ID#: 8)
Box 3 The Chequer Board (ID#: 9)
Box 3 No Highway (ID#: 10)
Box 4 A Town Like Alice (ID#: 11)
Box 4 Round the Bend (ID#: 12)
Box 4 The Far Country (ID#: 13)
Box 4 In the Wet (ID#: 14)
Box 5 Requiem for a Wren (ID#: 15)
Box 5 Slide Rule - Shute's autobiography (ID#: 16)
Box 5 Beyond the Black Stump (ID#: 17)
Box 5 On the Beach (ID#: 18)
Box 5 The Rainbow and the Rose (ID#: 19)
Box 6 Trustee From the Toolroom, and, The Concrete Keel (ID#: 20)
Box 6 Air Circus (ID#: 21)
Box 6 Pilotage (ID#: 22)
Box 6 Stephen Morris (ID#: 23)
Box 6 Overture - working title, published as What Happened to the Corbetts* (ID#: 24)
Series 3. Other manuscripts
Box 7 Farewell Miss Julie Logan – A Wintry Tale by J.M. Barrie, dialogue treatment by Nevil Shute (ID#: 1)
Box 7 Farewell Miss Julie Logan, adapted for filmscript by Nevil Shute (ID#: 2)
Box 7 Memorandum about creative writers, artists, and composers in Australia with legislative and financial recommendations 1959 - written by Shute for Prime Minister Menzies (ID#: 3)
Box 7 Copy of Nevil Shute’s flight log from England to Australia (ID#: 4)
Box 7 Original inventory - handwritten list of contents, all but two of which were matched to items
Box 7 Air Circus (Shute), in Blackwood's Magazine Oct 1937
Box 7 The Airship Venture (Shute), in What Is War? May 1933
Box 7 Foreword to Once Is Enough (Shute)
Box 7 Future Population of Australia (Shute) - appears to be text of a speech
Box 7 Hassall Exhibition speech (Shute) Apr 1951 - prepared for exhibition of works of Ian Hassall
Box 7 The Airship Venture (Shute), in What Is War? May 1933
Box 7 Heavier-Than-Air Craft, in The World, the Air and the Future (Burney) 1929
Box 7 Interview with Shute Sep 1958
Box 7 Introduction to A Town Like Alice (Buchan)
Box 7 Letter to David Martin (Shute) 11 Jan 1960
Box 7 Letter to R.P. Watt (Shute) 25 Mar 1957
Box 7 The Mind That Conceived On the Beach (Martin), in Meanjin Jun 1960
Box 7 My Week (Shute) - appears to be text of a speech; talks about his writing and about his flight to Australia with Jimmie Riddell in the fall of 1948
Box 7 On Autobiographies (Shute) - appears to be text of a speech; talks about Slide Rule
Box 7 On Stirring Up Hornets' Nests (Shute) - appears to be text of a speech
Box 7 Rotary Club speech (Shute) 10 Oct 1951 - on writing
Box 7 Royal Empire Society speech (Shute) 9 Oct 1952 - on migrating to Australia
Box 7 The Sinn Fein Rebellion as I saw it (Mary Louisa Norway) 1916
Box 7 Splendide Isolement (Maurois), in Les Annales Politiques et Litteraires - quotes a letter from Shute; includes handwritten translation by unknown person
Box 7 Will of Nevil Shute 2 Apr 1958
Box 7 Writer's convention speech (Shute) Nov 1957
Box 7 Unidentified fragments

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