Hope Mirrlees (1887-1978) was an author of novels, poems, and translations. However, she is most remembered for her circle of literary friends, which included T. S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and Lady Ottoline Morrell. She published two novels, Lud-in-the-Mist and Counterplot, and a book of poetry, Moods and Tensions: Poems. She began, but never completed, a biography of seventeenth-century British antiquarian Sir Robert Bruce Cotton; part of this was published as A Fly in Amber in 1962. With Jane Harrison, she produced two translations of Russian literature, The Life of the Archpriest Avvakum by Himself and The Book of the Bear. Her papers consist solely of correspondence; significant correspondents include T. S. Eliot, Ottoline Morrell, Virginia Woolf, and Leonard Woolf.
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The papers of Hope Mirrlees, which cover the period 1919 to 1974, consist primarily of correspondence, both letters and postcards, to Hope Mirrlees and her mother, Emily Moncrieff Mirrlees. T. S. Eliot is the primary correspondent, but the collection also contains letters from Leonard and Virginia Woolf and Lady Ottoline Morrell. The major topics include writing, mutual acquaintances, social events, family and personal affairs.
Hope Mirrlees (1887-1978), author of novels, poems and translations, is also remembered for her distinguished literary friends, including T. S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf and Lady Ottoline Morrell. Her 1926 novel, Lud-in-the-Mist, has been recognized by science fiction critics as an outstanding example of English fantasy writing. Her work, however, has been overshadowed by the great literary men and women of post-World-War-I Britain with whom she associated.
Helen Hope Mirrlees was born in England in 1887, the daughter of William J. Mirrlees, a wealthy sugar merchant, and Emily Lena Moncrieff. Her elder sister, Margot, married into the landed gentry of Oxfordshire, and her younger brother, William, was a professional soldier who later became a major general. Mirrlees spent part of her childhood in South Africa and received her early education from a French governess. She returned to England to finish her education at St. Leonard's School in St. Andrews, Scotland. Mirrlees abandoned her early theatrical ambitions to study classics at Newnham College of Cambridge University. Jane Harrison, a Greek scholar and lecturer in classical archaeology at the college, became Mirrlees's friend and mentor, and together they travelled to Paris in 1915 to study Russian. Also at Newnham College, Mirrlees met Karin Costelloe, later studying French with her in Paris. Costelloe married Virginia Woolf's brother, Adrian Stephen, in October 1914. Through this association, Mirrlees became acquainted with Woolf.
Woolf and Mirrlees met in 1917 and remained acquaintances through the 1930s. Woolf described Mirrlees in a March 22, 1919, diary entry:
[Mirrlees is] a very self conscious, wilful, prickly & perverse young woman, rather conspicuously well dressed & pretty, with a view of her own about books & style, an aristocratic & conservative tendency in opinion, & a corresponding taste for the beautiful & elaborate in literature. . . . She uses a great number of French words, which she pronounces exquisitely; she seems capricious in her friendships, & no more to be marshalled with the long goose wand which I can sometimes apply to people than a flock of bright green parrokeets.Woolf asked Mirrlees to correspond with her; Mirrlees responded, "O no. I can't write to people" ( Diary, March 22, 1919). In a January 1919 diary entry, Woolf included Mirrlees on a list of those she considered friends, and Mirrlees spent a weekend with the Woolfs at their country home, Asheham, in September 1919.
The collection is organized as four series:
The papers of Hope Mirrlees were purchased by the University of Maryland at College Park Libraries in June 1974.
The correspondence in this collection was originally arranged by recipient and secondarily by sender. The papers have been rearranged and divided into series structured alphabetically by sender. Items within the series are in chronological order. Letters have been removed from envelopes and flattened. Envelopes have been retained and attached to their original contents. Metal paper clips have been replaced with plastic clips. Newspaper clippings have been enveloped in acid-free paper. The materials have been placed in acid-free folders.