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University of Texas at Austin

Gerald Brenan:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Brenan, Gerald, 1894-1987
Title: Gerald Brenan Collection
Dates: 1911-1978
Extent: 21 boxes (8.75 linear feet) and 2 oversize folders
Abstract: British author Edward Fitzgerald Brenan briefly entered the Bloomsbury circle in 1919, introduced by his friend Ralph Partridge, before moving semi-permanently to Spain later that year. Brenan's works dealt with the Spanish culture and literature, and his feelings of exile during the years of the Spanish Civil War, which forced him and his wife to leave the country between 1934 and 1953. The collection contains holograph and typescript drafts for eight of Brenan's books including A Holiday by the Sea (1961) and South from Granada (1957). Also present is a large accumulation of correspondence with various Bloomsbury artists, most notably Dora Carrington and Ralph Partridge.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-00504
Language: English
Access Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition Gifts and purchases, 1963-1996 (R1248, R1611, R2847, R3520, R4347, R5170, R7969, R8284, R11698, R13799)
Processed by Chelsea Jones, 1998

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Edward Fitzgerald Brenan (1894-1987), was born in Malta, the son of an English army officer. He spent his earliest years in India and South Africa before being sent to England for his formal education. He studied first at Radley College and then at the Military Academy at Sandhurst, but studied art, poetry, and philosophy on his own with the help of John Hope-Johnstone. With Hope-Johnstone, Brenan traveled through France, Italy, and Dalmatia when he was eighteen, before joining the 5th Gloucesters in 1914. With his regiment he saw action in the Ypres salient, on the Somme, and in the second battle of the Marne. In 1918 he was awarded the Military Cross and the Croix de Guerre.
In 1919 Brenan was introduced into the Bloomsbury group by Hope-Johnstone and his fellow officer and friend, Ralph Partridge. It was through Partridge that Brenan met Lytton Strachey and Dora Carrington. In the fall of 1919, Brenan set out for Spain, settling in the primitive village of Yegen, living there more-or-less continuously until 1934. Partridge and Carrington, recently married, and Strachey visited him in 1920, and Carrington's fondness for Brenan is thought to have started on this trip. She carried on a voluminous correspondence with Brenan for the next several years and in 1922 they had a brief affair, which was soon discovered by Partridge. There was a year of silence between the three, before reconciliation took place and an often stormy friendship continued for the remainder of their lives.
Brenan remained in Spain, marrying the American poetess Gamel Woolsey in 1930, and working on poetry and beginning several novels. In 1934 the Brenans left Yegen for Churriana and then for Gibraltar, seven weeks after the civil war started. They were unable to return to Spain until 1953. They spent this time in Aldbourne and Brenan expressed his feelings of exile from Spain by completing three major works on Spanish life and literature. On his return to Spain he began a series of autobiographical works, including South from Granada, A Life of One's Own, and A Personal Record.
In 1969 Brenan moved to the mountain village of Alhaurin el Grande. He was awarded the Order of Commander of the British Empire in 1982 and in 1984, after a brief stint in a nursing home, he was declared a living monument of Spain and was supported by the municipality of Alhaurin until his death in January 1987.


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

Scope and Contents

Holograph and typescript manuscripts, and correspondence represent the majority of the Gerald Brenan Collection, 1911-1978. The collection is organized into three series, with materials arranged alphabetically by title or author: I. Works, 1912-1969 (9 boxes), II. Correspondence, 1911-1978 (10.25 boxes), and III. Miscellaneous, 1912-1964 (1.75 boxes). Many items in this collection include notes on date and context, added by Brenan while gathering his papers together. This collection was previously accessible through a card catalog, but has been re-cataloged as part of a retrospective conversion project.
The Works Series contains holographs and typescripts for eight of Brenan's books, including A Holiday by the Sea (1961), A Life of One's Own (1979), A Personal Record (1977), and South from Granada (1957). Also included are individual articles, poems, and reviews written by Brenan and a notebook of his early verses. Several of the diaries, upon which he based his autobiographical works, are present, including ones that cover his service in World War I, his relationship with Dora Carrington, and his later friendship with Joanna Carrington, Dora's niece. The titles in this series are indexed in the Index of Works at the end of this guide.
The Correspondence Series is composed of large accumulations of letters between Brenan and many members of Bloomsbury, as well as other artists, in addition to individual letters written to and from friends and acquaintances. Incoming and outgoing letters are interfiled, arranged alphabetically and then chronologically where possible. Where dates are unknown, letters from Brenan precede within the folders the ones he received. Particularly well represented in this collection by almost 900 letters is correspondence between Brenan and Dora Carrington. Other correspondents include Roger Fry, David Garnett, John Hope-Johnstone, Ralph and Frances Partridge, V.S. Pritchett, and Gamel Woolsey Brenan. Additional correspondents can be identified using the Index of Correspondents in this guide.
The Miscellaneous Series is composed primarily of letters between Brenan's friends. This includes 21 letters from Ottoline Morrell to Dora Carrington, 75 letters from Frances Partridge to Gamel Woolsey Brenan, and 107 letters from Gamel Brenan to Llewelyn Powys. Also included are a diary and page proofs for a book by Gamel Brenan, and the statement of release for Charles Claridge and Hope-Johnstone from Monfalcone prison. Letters in this series are also listed in the Index of Correspondents.

Separated Material

Elsewhere in the Ransom Center are 78 photographs of Brenan, his friends and family, and landscapes, located in the Literary Files of the Photography Collection, one Vertical File of newspaper clippings about Brenan and his works, and several books from his personal library.

Index Terms


Bell, Clive, 1881-1964
Bell, Vanessa, 1879-1961
Carrington, Dora de Houghton, 1893-1932
Fry, Roger Eliot, 1866-1934
Garnett, David, 1892-1981
Hope-Johnstone, John
Morrell, Ottoline Violet Anne Cavendish-Bentinck, Lady, 1873-1932
Partridge, Frances, 1900-
Partridge, Ralph
Powys, John Cowper, 1872-1963
Powys, Llewelyn, 1884-1939
Powys, Theodore Francis, 1875-1953
Pritchett, V. S. (Victor Sawdon) 1900-
Purdy, James
Taylor, Ernest
Woolsey, Gamel


Authors, English--20th century
Bloombury group
Spain--Civil war
Spain--Politics and government
Spain--Social life and customs

Document Types

Christmas cards
Love letters

Gerald Brenan Collection--Folder List