Typescript draft of E R Braithwaite's To Sir, With Love, revised by hand

Description

This is an original typescript draft of E R Braithwaite’s autobiographical novel, To Sir, with Love, containing the author’s handwritten revisions and annotations. It is a copy that Braithwaite delivered to the publishers, The Bodley Head, owned by Max Reinhardt.

Braithwaite was born in 1912 in Guyana (then known as British Guiana). After serving with the RAF in World War Two, Braithwaite moved to England where he gained a bachelor’s degree and masters in physics at the University of Cambridge. Expecting to enter straight into the higher levels of his chosen profession of engineering, Braithwaite was unprepared for the racism he would experience. After spending 18 months being rejected for jobs in engineering, he reluctantly took up a job as a teacher in an unconventional East London school made up of predominantly white working-class students and led by the innovative educationalist Alex Bloom.

After teaching for nine years Braithwaite recorded his experiences in the novel To Sir, with Love. The book became a bestseller when it was published in 1959. Set in the early 1950s, it is narrated by the character of Ricky Braithwaite who begins by sharing his first impressions of England and the struggles he has faced as a Black man to find work, accommodation and acceptance within society. As Ricky wryly comments of his colonial nationality, 'Yes, it is wonderful to be British – until one comes to Britain'. When Ricky finds work as a teacher, both his own life and that of the initially unmotivated and unruly pupils is transformed. Also central to the novel is Ricky’s romance with Gillian, a white teacher at the school whose parents disapprove of their interracial relationship.

A popular film adaptation was released in 1967, written and directed by James Clavell and starring the Bahamian-American actor, Sidney Poitier, in the lead role. 

In 2015 the BBC announced that it had a commissioned Hanif Kureishi to write a new adaptation of the novel. In the essay ‘The Word and the Bomb’, Kureishi describes how To Sir, with Love was important to his sense of identity as a young Anglo-Indian man: ‘I wanted to read works set in England, works that might help make sense of my own situation. Racism was real to me; the Empire was not’.[1] Kureishi writes of his adaptation:

As a young man in the 1960s, TSWL was the only novel I was aware of which dealt with the subject of race in Britain, and I hope this dramatization provides a vivid portrayal, particularly for the young, of how Britain has changed since then, and how it has remained the same.[2]

[1] Hanif Kureishi, ‘The Word and the Bomb’ from Collected Essays (London: Faber and Faber, 2011), p. 96.

[2]  Hanif Kureishi, quoted in Charlotte Morgan, 'Charlotte Moore unveils BBC One’s distinctive autumn/winter schedule', BBC Media Centre <http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2015/bbc-one-autumn-winter> [accessed May 2016].

Full title:
Typewritten draft, with copious manuscript amendments, of Eustace Edward Ricardo Braithwaite’s To Sir, With Love, published by The Bodley Head, 1959
Created:
1959
Format:
Manuscript / Typescript / Draft
Language:
English
Creator:
E R Braithwaite
Usage terms

© The author, E. R. Braithwaite. Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.

Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
Add MS 88987/2/10

Full catalogue details

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