Douglas Cleverdon


Thomas Douglas James Cleverdon (17 January 1903 – 1 October 1987) was an
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication use ...

radio producer and bookseller. In both fields he was associated with numerous leading cultural figures.

Personal life

He was educated at
Bristol Grammar School Bristol Grammar School (BGS) is a 4–18 Mixed-sex education, mixed, Independent school (United Kingdom), independent day school in Bristol, England. It was founded in 1532 by Royal Charter for the teaching of 'good manners and literature', endow ...

Bristol Grammar School
Jesus College, Oxford Jesus College (in full: Jesus College in the University of Oxford of Queen Elizabeth's Foundation) is one of the Colleges of the University of Oxford, constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. It is in the centre of the Oxford, ...

Jesus College, Oxford
. At Oxford he became friends with
John Betjeman Sir John Betjeman (; 28 August 190619 May 1984) was an English poet, writer, and broadcaster. He was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, Poet Laureate from 1972 until his death. He was a founding member of The Victorian Society and a passionat ...

John Betjeman
, and was taken up by
Roger Fry Roger Eliot Fry (14 December 1866 – 9 September 1934) was an English painter and critic A critic is a person who communicates an assessment and an opinion of various forms of creative works such as Art criticism, art, Literary cri ...

Roger Fry
. He then set up a
bookshop Bookselling is the commercial trading of book A book is a medium for recording information Information is processed, organised and structured data Data (; ) are individual facts, statistics, or items of information, often num ...

Bristol Bristol () is a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London: Routle ...

, modelled on Birrell and Garnett in London, with signboards designed by
Eric Gill Arthur Eric Rowton Gill (; 22 February 1882 – 17 November 1940) was an English sculptor, typeface designer A typeface is the design of lettering that can include variations, such as extra bold, bold, regular, light, italic, condensed, ex ...

Eric Gill
and Roger Fry. The shop specialized in Fine Printing and First Editions from the Sixteenth Century onwards. From there he also published. He married Elinor Nest Lewis in 1944; she was a secretary at the BBC, and they provided a social focus for producers and performers. The eldest of their three children is Dame Julia Cleverdon. He was the President of the
Double Crown Club The Double Crown Club is a dining club and society of printers, publishers, book designers and illustrators in London that was founded in 1924. Among its early members was the typographer Stanley Morison. According to Sir Sydney Roberts, writing in ...
in the 1950s. He died on the 1st October 1987 and is buried with Nest on the eastern side of
Highgate Cemetery Highgate Cemetery is a place of burial in north London North London is the northern part of London London is the capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom. The c ...

Highgate Cemetery

Publishing and Radio work

His first book published was a collection of engravings by
Eric Gill Arthur Eric Rowton Gill (; 22 February 1882 – 17 November 1940) was an English sculptor, typeface designer A typeface is the design of lettering that can include variations, such as extra bold, bold, regular, light, italic, condensed, ex ...

Eric Gill
, who later drew the first version of what would become Gill Sans for him for use on signs and notices for the shop. This was later published by Skelton's Press as a ''Book of Alphabets for Douglas Cleverdon''. In 1927 he commissioned David Jones to make a set of copper engravings for ''
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ''The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'' (originally ''The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere'') is the longest major poem by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge Samuel Taylor Coleridge (; 21 October 177225 July 1834) was an , , and who, ...
''. Other books published include ''Vigils'' by
Siegfried Sassoon Siegfried Loraine Sassoon (8 September 1886 – 1 September 1967) was an English war poet, writer, and soldier. Decorated for bravery on the Western Front (World War I), Western Front, he became one of the leading poets of the First World ...

Siegfried Sassoon
, ''Uncle Doherty'' by T. F. Powys and ''Art and Love'' with engravings by Gill. He published a succession of very finely printed catalogues of books for sale from the bookshop, ranging from early Caxton Press first editions of
Jane Austen Jane Austen (; 16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels, which interpret, critique and comment upon the British landed gentry The landed gentry, or the ''gentry'', is a l ...

Jane Austen
to modern first editions by E. M. Forster,
Virginia Woolf Adeline Virginia Woolf (; ; 25 January 1882 28 March 1941) was an English writer, considered one of the most important modernist Modernism is both a philosophical movement A philosophical movement refers to the phenomenon defined by a ...

Virginia Woolf
T. S. Eliot Thomas Stearns Eliot (26 September 18884 January 1965) was a poet A poet is a person who creates poetry. Poets may describe themselves as such or be described as such by others. A poet may simply be a writer of poetry, or may perform the ...
. In 1939 he joined the BBC, where he co-created ''
The Brains Trust ''The Brains Trust'' was an informational BBC radio and later television programme popular in the United Kingdom during the 1940s and 1950s, on which a panel of experts tried to answer questions sent in by the audience. History The series was ...
'' with fellow producer Howard Thomas. From 1945 he was in the department headed by Laurence Gilliam. Later, in 1948, Cleverdon would adapt and produce David Jones's major poem ''In Parenthesis'' for radio, with Richard Burton and Dylan Thomas, with music by Elizabeth Poston, for BBC Radio's Third Programme. In 1954 Cleverdon produced ''Under Milk Wood'', the premier of the Dylan Thomas dramatic poem; according to Jenny Abramsky it had taken seven years to persuade Thomas to write it. At around this time he also worked with Henry Reed (poet), Henry Reed on the Hilda Tablet cycle of plays. Cleverdon collected folk songs in the south of England for the BBC in the 1940s. He produced programmes for them featuring Max Beerbohm, Ted Hughes, Stevie Smith and many other poets. Sylvia Plath wrote ''Three Women: A Poem for Three Voices'' for Cleverdon, in March 1962. Cleverdon was a friend and near neighbour of the writer Jillian Becker, who was a friend also of Plath and it was at Becker's House in Barnsbury Square that Plath spent the last few days of her life. After Plath's suicide, Becker looked after Plath's children until relatives arrived and Nest Cleverdon supplied extra clothes for them. There are at least 232 scripts produced by Cleverdon archived.
/ref> After leaving the BBC, he was involved with a fine publishing imprint, Clover Hill Editions, which he had established with Will Carter.


*"Fifty Years"; in: ''The Private Library'', 1978. Pinner, Middlesex: Private Libraries Association; pp. 51–83.


{{DEFAULTSORT:Cleverdon, Douglas 1903 births 1987 deaths Burials at Highgate Cemetery Alumni of Jesus College, Oxford BBC people BBC radio producers English booksellers English radio producers People educated at Bristol Grammar School 20th-century English businesspeople