Malcolm Elwin was born in 1903, the son of a Nottingham businessman. He was privately educated (possibly on health grounds) and became a student at University College, Oxford, but seems to have left without a degree in order to embark on a literary career. As that career progressed during the 1930s he corresponded with many of the figures of the literary establishment, some of whom are represented in the archive.
Elwin was a prolific biographer, critic and editor and his oeuvre included biographies of Charles Reade (1931), Thackeray (1932), de Quincey (1935), Llewelyn Powys (1946), and Robert Louis Stevenson (1950). He also edited letters from John Cowper Powys to his brother Llewelyn Powys (original letters now in Austen, Texas) and from Llewelyn to Gamel Woolsey, and books on literary criticism, including popular Victorian literature (Victorian Wallflowers, 1934), and the Romantics (The First Romantics, 1947). Later in his career, he published perhaps his best-known work, on Lord Byron’s wife, Annabella Milbanke, which caused enormous controversy in The Times Literary Supplement when first published in 1963 and for which he had exclusive access to the Lovelace papers. Professor Peter Thomson, editor of Elwin’s work, writes, 'As a biographer, he was never afraid of making judgments on his subjects. Lord Byron’s Wife (1962) is a wonderfully controversial example.’