Page last updated at 23:40 GMT, Thursday, 23 October 2008 00:40 UK

Library gaining Bennett archives

Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett, Dudley Moore and Peter Cook in 1964
Material by Bennett (centre) for Beyond the Fringe is among the donated work

Alan Bennett is to give a wealth of written work from nearly 50 years as an author and playwright to the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.

Notes, drafts and scripts for all of his stage and TV plays were among the collection, the library said.

There are also manuscripts for his autobiographies and short stories, plus letters and a number of unpublished diaries dating back to 1974.

Bennett has kept virtually everything he has written during his career.

"Since I don't have a computer, this does make for a fair amount of paperwork," he said.

Alan Bennett

And while the prospect of sorting through everything "seems to delight the archivists", he said, the sheer volume of material "dismayed" him.

"There's so much [that] I'm quite glad to see the back of it. I just pity the poor research student who may have to make sense of it all."

The 74-year-old is donating his work without charge because he sees it as a way of repaying the free education he received at Exeter College in Oxford.

The librarian at the Bodleian, Dr Sarah Thomas, hailed Bennett's "extraordinary generosity" as the source of "one of the most important acquisitions for the library in recent times".

A formal reception will take place to mark the handover on Monday.

The library, which holds more than eight million written works, is more than 400 years old.

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