Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Ottoline Morrell:

An Inventory of Her Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Creator Morrell, Ottoline Violet Anne Cavendish-Bentinck, Lady, 1873-1938
Title Ottoline Morrell Collection
Dates: 1882-1946
Extent 36 boxes (15 linear feet)
Abstract: Correspondence makes up the bulk of this collection, supplemented by a few holograph and typescript manuscripts by Morrell and other authors. Among the letters in this collection are many photographs and sketches provided by the authors to Morrell.
RLIN Record # TXRC98-A17
Language English.

Open for research


Purchases and gifts, 1969-1990 (R4649, R12107)

Processed by

Chelsea Jones, 1998

Repository :

Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center University of Texas at Austin

Ottoline Violet Anne Cavendish-Bentinck Morrell (1873-1938) was the daughter of Lieutenant-General Arthur Bentinck and his second wife, Augusta Mary Elizabeth. Ottoline had three older brothers and a half-brother from Bentinck's first marriage. She spent the early years of her childhood in the sheltered manner of upper class children of the time, raised largely by a nurse and servants, spending time at both the country house and the summer house in London. Ottoline's father had expectations of succeeding his cousin, the fifth Duke of Portland, which were disappointed when Bentinck died first in 1877. This left the family in rather straitened circumstances until the Duke of Portland settled the succession of the title and an allowance on Ottoline's half-brother in 1878, and then died a year later. The sixth Duke of Portland and his family moved into the family seat at Welbeck a few weeks later.

Ottoline had no playmates of her own age at Welbeck and her education was left in the hands of a governess who taught her to read, write, and memorize Bible verse, but very little else. Ottoline grew introspective and introverted as time passed. When she was sixteen, the Duke married and Ottoline's mother removed herself and Ottoline from Welbeck to a small house in Chertsy. For the next three years Ottoline lived in a sort of exile with her mother. During this time she developed an almost fanatical interest in religion, wearing drab clothing, fasting, and following the precepts of Thomas àKempis's book The Imitation of Christ.

When Ottoline was nineteen, it was decided by her mother and the Duke that she should "come out." She was squired through the London "season" with all due pomp and circumstance. However, she lacked the confidence to enjoy the attention this brought her and she retired back to the country afterwards to continue caring for her now seriously ill mother. In 1893 Ottoline and her mother traveled to Italy, returning via Paris to England, where Lady Bolsover fell almost immediately into a coma and died.

Returning to live at Welbeck, Ottoline occupied herself by teaching Bible classes to the servants and farmhands and performing good works. She convinced her brother to send her on several trips to the continent and to support two attempts at university education, both of which failed.

In 1900 Ottoline met attorney Philip Morrell, and married him two years later. In 1906 Philip gained a liberal seat in the House of Commons and the Morrells moved to a house in Bloomsbury at 44 Bedford Square. It was here that Ottoline delivered twins, but only the daughter Julian survived. It was also at 44 Bedford Square that Ottoline began to establish herself as a preeminent literary and political hostess in London society. Her political guests came largely from the Liberal party and included Winston Churchill and Herbert Asquith. On the literary and artistic side her acquaintances were numerous and included Lytton Strachey, Henry James, Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Vanessa and Clive Bell, Dora Carrington, Dorothy Brett, D.H. and Frieda Lawrence, and T.S. Eliot. She also had affairs with Augustus John, Henry Lamb, and a protracted relationship with Bertrand Russell.

The Morrells moved out of London in 1915 to a manor east of Oxford at Garsington. Philip's public anti-war stance had gotten him into trouble with the Liberal party and eventually he lost his seat in the House over the issue, but continued to assist conscientious objectors with legal advice and even found agricultural jobs for a few at Garsington Manor. In the country Ottoline continued her social efforts, inviting numerous guests to visit and providing a short-term home for more than one starving artist. The Morrells maintained Garsington for eleven years before the expense and the relative isolation of country living caused them to look again towards a house in town. In 1927 they moved back to Bloomsbury, this time to 10 Gower Street, and there they stayed for the last eleven years of Ottoline's life.

Throughout her life Ottoline suffered from severe headaches and other illnesses. She traveled to many spas and resorts around Europe seeking treatment. She maintained the strong religiosity of her youth, doing good works and caring for a great number of people. In May 1937 she suffered a stroke and spent three months in a clinic at Tunbridge Wells recovering. In April of 1938 she died in the same clinic of heart failure.

Ottoline: The Life of Lady Ottoline Morrell. Sandra Jobson Darroch. (New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, Inc., 1975).

Who's Who in Bloomsbury. Alan and Veronica Palmer. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987).

Correspondence makes up the bulk of the Ottoline Morrell Collection (1882-1946), supplemented by a few holograph and typescript manuscripts by Morrell and other authors. Among the letters in this collection are many photographs and sketches provided by the authors to Morrell. The collection is organized into three series, with materials arranged alphabetically by title or author and chronologically where possible: I. Works, 1915-1919 (.5 box); II. Correspondence, 1894-1938 (34 boxes); and III. Miscellaneous, 1882-1946 (1.5 boxes). This collection was previously accessible through a card catalog, but has been re-cataloged as part of a retrospective conversion project.

The small Works Series contains holograph drafts of two articles by Morrell, the first a description of some of her memories of D.H. Lawrence and the other a review of an early critical work on Lawrence's writing. Also included are notes she took on a trip to Ireland in 1919.

The Correspondence Series is composed of two subseries: A. Outgoing, 1911-1938 (.5 box) and B. Incoming, 1894-1938 (33.5 boxes). The outgoing correspondence is made up of holograph letters which Morrell wrote to her friends and acquaintances. There are a few letters written for fund-raising and other business purposes, but the majority are personal letters. Incoming correspondence comprises the main body of this collection with well over 2,500 mostly personal holograph and typed letters written to Morrell on various topics of art, politics, World War I, literature, and the gossip for which Bloomsbury was famous. Within this series 1,782 letters from Bertrand Russell thoroughly cover their lengthy relationship. Other accumulations of personal letters are present from Clive and Vanessa Bell, Augustine Birrell, Elizabeth Bowen, Dorothy Brett, Dora Carrington, John Cramb, T.S. Eliot, Mark Gertler, Frances Hackett, Augustus John, Henry Lamb, Frank Prewett, Siegfried Sassoon, and Lytton Strachey. Additional correspondents can be identified using the Index of Correspondents in this guide.

The Miscellaneous Series is divided into three sections, works, correspondence, and Bertrand Russell. The works include poems and short essays by other authors, including Edmund Blunden, Elizabeth Bowen, T.S. Eliot, Aldous Huxley, Katherine Mansfield, John Middleton Murry, Frank Prewett, Siegfried Sassoon, and W.B. Yeats. The correspondence portion contains letters between Morrell's friends and quite a few letters to Philip Morrell. Of particular note is the correspondence between Philip Morrell and Frieda Lawrence regarding the legal issues of D.H. Lawrence's estate. There is one letter from Julian Morrell Vinogrodoff to Francis Hackett, dated Oct. 27, 1946, but the rest of the materials fall within Morrell's lifespan. The final section contains works by Bertrand Russell and a number of letters from him to other people, including a group of letters to his brother written from prison. Correspondence in this series is included in the Index of Correspondents and works are listed in the Index of Works by Other Authors at the end of this guide.

Elsewhere in the Ransom Center are 34 photos of Morrell, her family, and friends, located in the Literary Files of the Photography Collection. Also present are eleven Vertical Files containing reviews of works Morrell was interested in, a cloth patch found with a letter from Frank Prewett, and a personal statement written by Morrell to be distributed to her friends after her death.

Other materials associated with Morrell may be found in the following collections at the Ransom Center:


Beerbohm, Max, Sir, 1872-1956

Bell, Clive, 1881-1964

Bell, Vanessa, 1879-1961

Birrell, Augustine, 1850-1933

Blunden, Edmund, 1896-1974

Bowen, Elizabeth, 1899-1973

Brett, Dorothy, 1883-1977

Carrington, Dora de Houghton, 1893-1932

Cecil, David, Lord, 1902-

Colomb, Marion Reymond

Cost, March, d.1973

Cramb, J.A. (John Adam), 1862-1913

De la Mare, Walter, 1873-1956

Dickinson, G. Lowes (Goldsworthy Lowes), 1862-1932

Eliot, T.S. (Thomas Sterns), 1888-1965

Eliot, Vivienne, 1888-1947

Forster, E.M. (Edward Morgan), 1879-1970

Fry, Roger Eliot, 1866-1934

Garnett, David, 1892-

Gathorne-Hardy, Robert, 1902-

Gertler, Mark, 1891-1939

Grant, Duncan, 1885-1978

Hackett, Frances, 1883-1978

Hayward, John

Holland, Bernard Henry, 1856-1926

Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963

Huxley, Maria Nys

John, Augustus, 1879-1961

Keynes, John Maynard, 1883-1946

Koteliansky, S.S. (Samuel Slomonovitch), 1880-1955

Lamb, Henry, 1883-1960

Lawrence, D.H. (David Herbert), 1885-1930

Lawrence, Frieda von Richthofen, 1879-1956

Lewis, Wyndham, 1882-1957

MacCarthy, Desmond, 1877-1952

MacCarthy, Mary, 1882-1953

Maclagan, William Dalrymple, Abp of York, 1862-1910

Mansfield, Katherine, 1888-1923

Menasce, Jean de

Mirrlees, Hope

Moore, T. Sturge (Thomas Sturge), 1870-1944

Morgan, Charles, 1894-1956

Morrell, Philip, 1870-

Murry, John Middleton, 1889-1957

Nichols, Phyllis Spender-Clay, Lady

Oxford and Asquith, H.H. (Herbert Henry), 1852-1928

Powys, Theodore Francis, 1875-1953

Prewett, Frank, 1893-1962

Russell, Bertrand, 1872-1970

Sassoon, Siegfried, 1886-1967

Smyth, Ethel, 1858-1944

Spencer, Gilbert, 1891-

Spender, Stephen, 1909-

Stephens, James, 1882-1950

Strachey, Lytton, 1880-1932

Tennant, Stephen

Toksvig, Signe, 1891-1983

Wolff, Charlotte, 1897-

Woolf, Virginia, 1882-1941

Yeats, W. B. (William Butler), 1865-1939


Bloomsbury group

England, Intellectual life, 20th century

England, Social life and customs, 20th century

Women intellectuals, Great Britain

Document Types

Black-and-white photographs

Christmas cards

Love letters