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.
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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 The papers also contain unpublished manuscripts of some of Morrell's essays and five photographs depicting Morrell and several literary friends.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."
The collection is organized in three series.
The papers of Lady Ottoline Morrell were purchased by the University of Maryland at College Park Libraries in 1978.
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.