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At a Glance
Arranged in three series: Series I: Correspondence and Personal Materials, Series II: Manuscripts and Publications, and Series III: Essays. Series I: Correspondence and Personal Materials, 1939-1995; Series II: Manuscripts and Publications, 1954-1973; Series III: Essays, 1948, undated
Scope and Content
The collection contains the correspondence of Ben Duncan and Dick Chapman, as well as Duncan's manuscripts and published materials. Series I: Correspondence and Personal Materials consists chiefly of letters exchanged daily between Duncan and Chapman during 1956 and 1957. At the time Duncan, an American, was working in advertising in England, and Chapman, an Englishman, was working in advertising in New York. These letters illuminate the experiences of a gay couple living on both sides of the Atlantic during the mid-1950s. They also provide a broader perspective on daily life, including such topics as books, plays, current events, and customs of that period. Letters between Duncan and his literary agent, Tony Mendez, and his publishers are included in the series as well.
Series II: Manuscripts and Publications includes manuscripts for the novels Little Friends and and Angels' Faces, as well as the manuscript for Late Starter, an unpublished sequel to Duncan's memoir The Same Language. Radio-scripts for essays read by Duncan on the BBC in the 1950s-1970s are also present in the series. Finally, the series includes printed articles by Duncan; reviews of his work; and copies of three of his books, The Same Language, Little Friends, and Short Cuts.
Series III: Essays contains manuscripts of short essays written by Ben Duncan.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Ben Duncan and Dick Chapman papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Dallas Pratt Documents Collection - Chapman wrote and privately printed a biography of Pratt.
John Howard Papers, Duke University - John Howard edited Ben Duncan's 2005 revision of his memoir, The Same Language.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Papers Entered in AMC 02/1991 HR
135 items Processed 06/13/1997 HR
Addition processed by PTL 9/2013
Finding aid revised by KWS and CLB, 3/2018
The collection was closed to researchers until the deaths of both Chapman and Duncan, according to the conditions of the donors' agreement with the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. In March 2018, the finding aid was revised to remove restrictions, include information about Ben Duncan and Dick Chapman's partnership and marriage, and to comply with the DACS 2.0 standard. The title of the collection was also changed from the Ben Duncan Papers to the Ben Duncan and Dick Chapman Papers, to reflect the fact that it had two creators.
2009-06-26 File created.
2018-03-09 Restriction lifted. Revised for DACS 2.0 compliance.
2018-03-13 Collection title and description revised to reflect multiple creators.
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Ben Duncan (1927-2016) was an American-born English writer and advertising executive. He lived for most of his life in England with his partner and eventual husband, the English advertising executive Dick Chapman (1930-2012).
Duncan met Chapman at Oxford and proposed to him in 1952. More than fifty years later, on December 21, 2005, the couple became the first people in Cambridgeshire to form a legal civil partnership. They remained married until Chapman's death in 2012. Duncan died in 2016.
Duncan is perhaps best known for his memoir The Same Language. The book was originally published in 1962, a time when homosexuality was illegal and aggressively prosecuted in Britain. As a result, the original edition omitted any mention of his sexuality or life with Chapman. In 2005, Duncan published a substantial revision, in which he reflected on the impact of concealing those aspects of his identity, and recounted life in the underground British gay community in the 1950s and 1960s.