University of Texas at Austin

Ottoline Morrell:

An Inventory of Her Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator Morrell, Ottoline Violet Anne Cavendish-Bentinck, Lady, 1873-1938
Title: Ottoline Morrell Collection
Dates: 1882-1946 (bulk 1882-1938)
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.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-02926
Language: English.
Access Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition Purchases and gifts, 1969-1990 (R4649, R12107)
Processed by Chelsea Jones, 1998

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

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).

Scope and Contents

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. Included with the Siegfried Sassoon correspondence in box 28 folder 3 is a copy of the September 1, 1917 edition of The Hydra: Journal of the Craiglockhart War Hospital, No. 10, edited by Wilfred Owen. It includes Sassoon’s poem “Dreamers” as well as handwritten notes and edits.
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.

Related Material

Other materials associated with Morrell may be found in the following collections at the Ransom Center:
  • Aldington, Richard
  • Barker, George
  • Blunden, Edmund Charles
  • Bowen, Elizabeth
  • Brenan, Gerald
  • Brett, Dorothy
  • Garnett, David
  • Granville-Barker, Harley Granville
  • Hutchinson, Mary
  • Lawrence, David Herbert
  • Lehmann, John
  • Mansfield, Katherine
  • Murry, John Middleton
  • Nehls, Edward
  • Santayana, George
  • Strong, Leonard Alfred George

Index Terms


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

Ottoline Morrell Collection--Folder List