Douglas Cleverdon

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Thomas Douglas James Cleverdon (17 January 1903 – 1 October 1987)[1] was an English radio producer and bookseller. In both fields he was associated with numerous leading cultural figures.

Early life[edit]

He was educated at Bristol Grammar School and Jesus College, Oxford. He then set up a bookshop in Bristol.[2] From there he also published.

His first book published was a collection of engravings by Eric Gill, who later made 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..[3] Other books published include Vigils by 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 to modern first editions by E.M. Forster, Virginia Woolf and T.S. Eliot.

Radio work[edit]

In 1939 he joined the BBC, where he co-created The Brains Trust with fellow producer Howard Thomas.[4] From 1945 he was in the department headed by Laurence Gilliam.[5] Later, in 1948, Cleverdon would adapt and produce David Jones's major poem In Parenthesis for radio, with Richard Burton and Dylan Thomas,[6] 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.[7] At around this time he also worked with Henry Reed on the Hilda Tablet cycle of plays.

He produced programmes for them featuring Max Beerbohm, Ted Hughes, Stevie Smith and many other poets.[8]Sylvia Plath wrote Three Women: A Poem for Three Voices for Cleverdon, in March 1962.[9] 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.[10][11]

After leaving the BBC, he was involved with a fine publishing imprint, Clover Hill Editions, which he had established with Will Carter.

He married Elinor Nest Lewis in 1944; she was a secretary at the BBC, and they provided a social focus for producers and performers.[12] The eldest of their three children is Dame Julia Cleverdon.[13]


  • "Fifty Years"; in: The Private Library, 1978. Pinner, Middlesex: Private Libraries Association; pp. 51-83.


  1. ^ Wells, John (2004). "Cleverdon, (Thomas) Douglas James (1903–1987)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online edition, subscription access). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2008-04-30.
  2. ^ Cleverdon Mss. Ii
  3. ^ Keith Aldritt, David Jones: Writer and Artist, p. 65.
  4. ^ Thomas, Howard With An Independent Air London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1977 ISBN 0-297-77278-3
  5. ^ Asa Briggs, The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom (1995), p. 348.
  6. ^ The Official Richard Burton Website Archived November 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ BBC - Press Office - Jenny Abramsky Oxford lecture one
  8. ^ John Betjeman: Letter Volume One: 1926 to 1951, p. 556.
  9. ^ Nephie Christodoulides, Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking: Motherhood in Sylvia Plath's Work (2005), p. 137.
  10. ^ University of Delaware: BBC THIRD PROGRAMME RADIO SCRIPTS
  11. ^ Further list[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Obituary of Nest Cleverdon
  13. ^ Davidson, Andrew (2007) "The MT interview: Julia Cleverdon", Management Today, 28 September 2007, retrieved 17 February 2013