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Lady Ottoline Morrell papers

 Collection 0044-LIT

Lady Ottoline Morrell (1873-1938) was a British-born literary hostess of the World War I era. Her group of friends, including D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forester, T. S. Eliot, Bertrand Russell, Aldous Huxley, H. G. Wells, Siegfried Sassoon, and Virginia Woolf, was known as the Bloomsbury Group. They often met at one of the Morrell homes at Bedford Square, Gower Street, or the country home at Garsington. The collection includes Lady Morrell's correspondence to Siegfried Sassoon, publications documenting her literary interests and photographs.


  • 1916-1934

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


0.25 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The papers of Lady Ottoline Morrell consist primarily of correspondence, letters and post cards written in her hand to Siegfried Sassoon. The papers also contain unpublished manuscripts of some of Morrell's essays and five photographs depicting Morrell and several literary friends. The main topics include mutual friends, social events, country life, literature, Sassoon's writing, and her illnesses.


Lady Ottoline Morrell's (1873-1938) desire to support and encourage creativity led her to become a literary hostess and friend to many of the literary and artistic giants of post-World-War-I Britain. By opening her homes at Bedford Square and Garsington as gathering places for conversation she became acquainted with T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, John Gielgud, D. H. Lawrence, Siegfried Sassoon, John Singer Sargent, and Virginia Woolf. Morrell did not limit her invitations to the Bloomsbury Group, as many of the prominent figures came to be known; she welcomed any creative person she thought she could help, often introducing young talent to wealthy patrons and mentors.

Ottoline Violet Anne Cavendish-Bentinck was born in England on June 16, 1873, the youngest child of Lt. General Arthur Bentinck and Augusta Browne Bentinck. Both parents already ailing at her birth, her father died in 1877; her mother lived the next nineteen years as a semi-invalid. In 1879, her half-brother Arthur became the Sixth Duke of Portland, suddenly elevating the family's status and conferring upon Ottoline the title of "Lady." The poor quality of her early education, under the guidance of a governess selected more for her religious strength than her erudition, led to a lifelong ambition to remedy this fault. Brief attempts included several trips to the continent, two terms as an "extracurricular" student of philosophy at St. Andrews University in Scotland, and two terms as an "out-student" of Roman history and political economy at Somerset College at Oxford. It was at Somerset College that she first met Philip Morrell. They were married in London in 1902. She gave birth to twins Hugh and Julian on May 18, 1906; Hugh died five days later. Daughter Julian married Andrew Goodman in 1928, three children followed before a divorce and second marriage to Ivan Vinosovich.

Morrell began her famous "Thursdays" in 1907 at the suggestion of her husband's friend, writer Logan Pearsall Smith. By the time she wrote several enthusiastic letters to the young soldier-poet Siegfried Sassoon in 1916, she was already "frightfully well known in the literary and artistic world" (Seymour, Ottoline Morrell, 217). Brought to Garsington to meet his admirer, Sassoon described his first meeting with her in his autobiography Siegfried's Journey 1916-1920:

Always original in her style of dress--which was often extremely beautiful--she happened on this occasion to be wearing voluminous pale-pink Turkish trousers… I had seldom seen anyone quite so extraordinary. In fact I must admit that it wasn't until about a year later that I began to feel at all comfortable with her. The reason for this was that in spite of her being so consistently nice to me I was embarrassed by her appearance, which seemed to have been artificially imposed on the rest of her personality. She had immense dignity and distinction, and could also be charmingly gay and unaffected; she drew me out sympathetically and made me feel that my ideas and emotions were intensely interesting and important to her. (p. 9)

Morrell became infatuated with Sassoon and wrote to him frequently, often enclosing small gifts, including the essay in which she had described her dreams for "Garsington."

Morrell suffered from an unknown but extremely painful illness most of her adult life. She was treated at various times for nervous exhaustion, prolonged headaches, and, in 1928, bone cancer. In 1938, Morrell entered the Turnbridge Wells clinic of Dr. Cameron. He misused the experimental drug Prontosil, however, prescribing twice the recommended dosage and prolonging treatment four times longer than allowed. Morrell died April 21, 1938, at the age of sixty-four, while being injected with Prontosil.


The collection is organized in three series.

Series 1
Correspondence to Siegfried Sassoon
Series 2
Works by Lady Ottoline Morrell
Series 3

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The papers of Lady Ottoline Morrell were purchased by the University of Maryland at College Park Libraries in 1978.

Related Material

The papers of Hope Mirrlees in Special Collections, contain a series of letters by Lady Ottoline Morrell to Mirrlees and her mother. The three autograph letters date from 1936 to 1938 and discuss mutual friends, Philip Morrell's illness, and Ireland.

The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin house letters to Lady Ottoline from Bertrand Russell, the Asquith family, Augustine Birrell, Dorothy Brett, Dora Carrington, John Cramb, Hilda Douglas-Pennant, T. S. and Vivian Eliot, Mark Gertler, Frances and Signe Hackett, L. P. Hartley, John Hayward, Philip Heseltine, Aldous and Maria Huxley, Dorelia and Augustus John, Samuel Koteliansky, Henry Lamb, D. H. Lawrence, Desmond and Molly McCarthy, William Maclagan, Katherine Mansfield, John Middleton Murray, Frank Prewett, Hester and Siegfried Sassoon, Gilbert and Sir Stanley Spencer, Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf, and W. B. Yeats. The letters of Morrell to the Hacketts are also included in this collection.

Columbia University Libraries house a collection of papers of the author D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930). Lady Ottoline Morrell was one of the correspondents with whom he discussed his literary work. The papers consist of forty items and form part of the Alfred M. and Clarisse B. Hellman Collection.

Lady Ottoline Morrell is the chief correspondent in the papers of D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930) owned by Stanford University Libraries. The 184 items in the collection also include two letters from Frieda Lawrence to Lady Ottoline, as well as several proofs and editions of Lady Chatterley's Lover.

Collections housed in Britain include the Portland Family Papers in the Nottingham County Archives and the Portland Archives at Nottingham University Library. The University of Sussex owns letters from Ottoline and Philip Morrell to Virginia Woolf in the Monks House Papers. Letters between Lytton Strachey and Morrell, as well as her letters to Samuel Koteliansky can be found in the British Library.

Processing Information

The collection was originally organized into five series. The letters and postcards have been rearranged into one series of correspondence and organized chronologically. The two essays were also combined to create the second series. One group of newspaper and magazine clippings, auction lists, and publishers' advertising about Virginia Woolf was probably compiled by the same collector who previously owned the Morrell items. Because these materials have no connection to Morrell, they have been removed to the Morrell control file. Conjectured dates have been supplied in pencil where appropriate. Multiple pages comprising one document are held together with plastic paper clips. The photographs, originally placed in a separate collection of miscellaneous pictures, have been reunited with the collection as the third series. They had previously been dry-mounted onto archival matte board when they were originally processed in 1978. Dates, locations and subjects have been identified on the back of the boards; in some instances only estimates were possible. The materials have been placed in acid-free folders.

Guide to the Lady Ottoline Morrell papers
Processed by Mary A. Boccaccio
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742