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J. L. (James Louis) Garvin:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Garvin, J. L. (James Louis), 1868-1947
Title: J. L. (James Louis) Garvin Papers
Dates: 1877-1947, undated
Extent: 104 boxes (43.68 linear feet), 1 galley folder (gf), 3 oversize folders (osf)
Abstract: The papers of the influential British journalist and newspaper editor J. L. Garvin contain manuscripts of his writings plus many notebooks and notes, but chiefly consist of his voluminous correspondence with the major political, social, and literary figures of his day. Also present are legal and financial documents for Garvin, The Observer, and a few other newspapers. Some Garvin family letters, documents, and papers are also included.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-1553
Language: English, French,German, Italian, and Russian
Access: Open for research

Administrative Information

Processed by: Joan Sibley and Voskamp, 2016 Note: This finding aid replicates and replaces information previously available only in a card catalog. Please see the explanatory note at the end of this finding aid for information regarding the arrangement of the manuscripts as well as the abbreviations commonly used in descriptions.

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Scope and Contents

James Louis Garvin (1868-1947), the British journalist, was editor of the Outlook (1904-1906), the Pall Mall Gazette (1912-1915), and the Observer (1908-1942). He was editor-in-chief of the fourteenth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1929) and also the author of a multivolume biography of Joseph Chamberlain (1932-1934). Garvin was the primary spokesman for the Conservative Party and the leading British political journalist of the first half of the twentieth century.
The bulk of Garvin's papers were purchased in 1968 (R3500) and were described in a card catalog and arranged into four categories: Works (1895-1947), Letters (1903-1943), Recipient (1895-1947), and Miscellaneous (1877-1942). An Additional Acquisitions series (1910-1931) incorporates an additional correspondence acquired between 1989 and 1991 in three accessions (R11860, R12311, and G9672).
Materials in the Works series (boxes 1-26) include Garvin's manuscripts for his Life of Joseph Chamberlain along with various articles and speeches. His copious notes and 159 notebooks cover a wide array of topics: British foreign policy, the League of Nations, the prospect of war with Germany, atomic power, British commercial and industrial policies, World War II strategy, Irish Home Rule, the Genoa Economic Conference, the Boer War, and similar subjects. Ten journals record Garvin's thoughts and activities during a trip to the Western front in June and July 1917. An index of all works in this series is included in this finding aid.
Garvin's outgoing correspondence is contained in the Letters series (boxes 26-29) and his large incoming correspondence makes up the Recipient series (boxes 29-91). Garvin's correspondence demonstrates his constant communication with the major figures of his day in Great Britain, Europe, and beyond. Among his correspondents are statesmen, members of Parliament, cabinet officers, diplomats, military leaders and soldiers, government officials, newspaper owners and employees, journalists, foreign correspondents, and publishers, as well as members of literary and performing arts circles. Major topics include World Wars I and II, post-war reconstruction, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Fascist and Nazi movements, peace treaties, and the League of Nations.
All of England's prime ministers from Herbert H. Asquith (1908) to Winston Churchill (1940) are represented in the archive, with the most extensive files for Andrew Bonar Law, James Ramsay MacDonald, and Winston Churchill. Other prominent figures who are well represented include John Arbuthnot Fisher, first sea lord of the Admiralty; Austen Chamberlain, English statesman and Nobel laureate; and Leopold C. M. S. Amery, English publicist and statesman.
The correspondence of Garvin, Observer owner Waldorf Astor, many Observer staff members, and other journalists, newspapers, and press organizations is also extensive and helps document British journalism in the first half of the twentieth century.
Garvin's correspondence also encompasses a varied group of literary figures, among them J. M. Barrie, Hilaire Belloc, Bryher, Padraic Colum, Joseph Conrad, Marie Corelli, Arthur Conan Doyle, St. John Greer Ervine, John Galsworthy, Edmund Gosse, Alfred Perceval Graves, Radclyffe Hall, Thomas Hardy, Katharine Tynan Hinkson, A. E. Housman, Rudyard Kipling, T. E. Lawrence, Marie Adelaide Belloc Lowndes, Rose Macaulay, Arthur Machen, John Masefield, Alice Meynell, George Moore, Eden Phillpotts, Ezra Pound, Naomi-Royde-Smith, Vita Sackville-West, Siegfried Sassoon, George Bernard Shaw, Osbert Sitwell, Angela Thirkell, H. M. Tomlinson, Mary Augusta Ward, H. G. Wells, William Butler Yeats, and Israel Zangwill.
Many performing art figures are also represented in the Garvin correpondence: John Barrymore, Edward Gordon Craig, Sir George Dance, Harley Granville-Barker, Gertrude Kingston, Théodore Komisarjevsky, Charles Ricketts, Elizabeth Robins, Lennox Robinson, Sybil Thorndike, and Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree.
A number of women who were activists, feminists, reformers, and/or suffragettes, such as Beatrice Harraden, Eglantyne Jebb, Violet Rosa Markham, Alice Meynell, Christabel Pankhurst, Emmeline Pankhurst, Elizabeth Robins, Evelyn Sharp, Ray Strachey, Helena Swanwick, and Rose Lamartine Yates, also corresponded with Garvin.
In addition to the many "letters to the editor" Garvin received, a number of incoming letters are marked "private," "confidential," or "not for publication," and may offer glimpses of information or opinions shared, but not considered publishable at the time. Other letters are more routine, such as invitations for social events and speaking engagements, congratulatory messages, expressions of condolences, correspondence concerning Garvin's memberships in various organizations and clubs, or personal letters on matters such as the education of his children, buying books for his library, or maintaining his home.
A single alphabetical index of Garvin's correspondents has been compiled and is provided in this finding aid. The index includes nearly 5,300 correspondent names followed by citations to the box and folder locations, bringing together letters located in three different series: Garvin's outgoing (in the Letters series), Garvin's incoming (in the Recipient series), and a sizeable group of Garvin correspondence located in the Additional Acquisitions series.
The Miscellaneous series (boxes 79-91) contains chiefly works and correspondence, created by persons other than J. L. Garvin. The series does, however, include some of Garvin's legal, financial, and personal papers, including a marriage certificate, birth certificates, passport application, etc. There are also writings and letters by Waldorf Astor as well as some financial and other papers for the Observer. In connection with Garvin's interest in Joseph Chamberlain, there is a manuscript by Chamberlain, his West Indies notebook, and some letters to W. T. Stead, 1877-1885.
Much of the correspondence in this series was written to various staff members of the Observer or to members of Garvin's family, particularly his first wife Christina Ellen Wilson Garvin (1876-1918) and his daughter Viola Gerard Garvin (1898-1969), who was literary editor at the Observer from 1926 to 1942. Other family members represented are his other children -- Roland Gerard Garvin (1895-1916), Una Christina Garvin Ledingham (1900-1965), Katharine Garvin (1904-1970), and Ursula Garvin Slaghek-Fabbri (1907-2007) – and Garvin's second wife, Viola Taylor Woods Garvin (1882-1959).
Materials compiled or gathered by Alfred M. Gollin and P. M. Handover are the result of their work on Garvin's papers. There are also research copies of Garvin holdings from Birmingham University, probably used by either Viola Garvin or Gollin in their own researches. A detailed index of the contents of the Miscellaneous series is included in this finding aid.
Except for two folders, the Additional Acquisitions series (boxes 92-104) is made up of a 1989 acquisition of Garvin's correspondence files that date mainly from 1915 to 1925. Both outgoing and incoming correspondence is present. Although Garvin's original order is not known, the correspondence arrived in folders arranged by year, although not strictly chronological or alphabetical within the year. The folders have now been arranged alphabetically for each year–with outgoing and incoming filed together– in order to facilitate access to individual correspondents, yet still allow users the opportunity to focus on Garvin's correspondence within a particular year or years. When an incoming letter and Garvin's response overlapped different years, the incoming letter (for example, one written in December 1924) has been filed with Garvin's response in the subsequent year (such as January 1925). The other two folders of additional acquisitions include correspondence with Gerald Barry and Frank Hugh O'Donnell.
Many of the correspondents represented in these later acquisitions are also present in the earlier Letters and Recipient series. All correspondent names in these additional acquisitions of the Garvin papers are also represented in the index of correspondents in this finding aid.

Related Material

Additional letters to or from Garvin can also be found several other Ransom Center manuscript collections: Edward Gordon Craig; Carlton Lake Collection (Sisley Huddleton); John Lane Company; Marie Adelaide Belloc Lowndes; PEN Records; Grant Richards; R. A. Scott-James; and the Theater Arts Manuscript Collection (George E. Morrison).

Separated Material

Other Garvin materials have been separated to the Ransom Center Library (4 books that were owned by Garvin), the Photography Collection Literary File (36 photographs), and the Vertical File Collection (10 boxes of printed materials and 52 scrapbooks).

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