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University of Texas at Austin

Hector Bolitho:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Bolitho, Hector, 1897-1974
Title: Hector Bolitho Collection
Dates: 1851-1969 (bulk 1926-1969)
Extent: 3 boxes (1.26 linear feet)
Abstract: The Hector Bolitho Collection consists primarily of typescript and handwritten manuscripts of unpublished works with the author's revisions as well as correspondence, all ranging in date from 1851 to 1969, with the bulk covering the period from 1926 to 1969.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-00439
Language: English
Access: Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Purchases, 1961-1975 (R1251, R3995, R4921, R6747), Gift, 2018-12-007-G
Processed by: Jamie Hawkins-Kirkham, 2010

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Hector Bolitho was born in Auckland, New Zealand, on May 28, 1897, to Henry and Ethelred Frances Bolitho. Bolitho's mother hoped that he would study medicine, but while attending Seddon Memorial College, a love of English literature was instilled in him. At the age of fifteen, Bolitho left school without permission from his parents to pursue a career in writing. He attained a job at the New Zealand Herald and in 1915 moved on to the Auckland Star.
During World War I, Bolitho became a corporal in the New Zealand army. After the war Bolitho went to live on a small island near Auckland which became the subject of his first book, The Island of Kawau (1919).
In 1923, Bolitho moved to London where he worked as a freelance journalist, writing for the Spectator, the Daily Mail, and the Financial Times. While in England he wrote two novels, Solemn Boy (1927) and Judith Silver (1929), but in the following years began to focus on writing biographies.
In 1926, Bolitho was invited by the Dean of Windsor, Albert Victor Baillie, to live in Windsor Castle, where he would remain for eight years. While at Windsor Castle, Bolitho had access to the royal archives which provided material for many important works, including Albert the Good (1932) and Albert, Prince Consort (1964).
During World War II, Bolitho served as an intelligence officer in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve where he edited the Royal Air Force Weekly and later the Royal Air Force Journal. In 1942, he was appointed editor of the Coastal Command Intelligence Review. After the war, Bolitho met his long-time partner Derek Wilmot Douglas Peel, an army officer with whom he would live for the rest of his life. Bolitho and Peel collaborated on a book, Without the City Wall (1952), and after Bolitho's death, Peel continued negotiations with publisher A. H. Reed on behalf of Bolitho.
Hector Bolitho died on September 12, 1974, in Brighton, England.


Thornton, "Michael. Bolitho, (Henry) Hector." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, (accessed 24 September 2010).

Scope and Contents

The Hector Bolitho Collection consists primarily of typescript and handwritten manuscripts of unpublished works with the author's revisions as well as correspondence, all ranging in date from 1851 to 1969, with the bulk covering the period from 1926 to1969. The material is arranged in three series: I. Works, 1926-1969, II. Correspondence, 1930-1967, and III. Other Papers, 1851-1964. Part of this collection was previously accessible through a card catalog but has been recataloged as part of a retrospective conversion project.
The Works Series consists of manuscripts of two published biographies, four unpublished or largely unpublished works, as well as research, notes, and correspondence regarding published biographies, all arranged alphabetically by title. Also included is a review of Aspects of E. M. Forster and autobiographical material in the form of a personal diary and Bolitho's manuscript, My Restless Years (1962). Most manuscripts contain handwritten revisions as well as paste-in clippings and letters. Subjects include Kaiser Wilhelm II, King Edward VIII, Peter Townsend, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria of Great Britain, Rudyard Kipling, and Somerset Maugham.
The Correspondence series is divided into outgoing and incoming letters and arranged alphabetically by recipient or sender. The bulk of the outgoing correspondence is made up of letters from Bolitho to his parents, Henry and Ethelred Frances Bolitho (73 letters), and to his long-time partner, Derek Peel (43 letters). Incoming correspondence consists of five letters: three from Walker Churton regarding the marriage of King George V and two from Carlos M. Mishler. All correspondent names, including those of people whose letters are present in the Works Series, are listed in the Index of Correspondents in this finding aid.
The Other Papers Series consists of a scrapbook compiled by Bolitho on Oliver Cromwell and King Charles I, as well as third-party correspondence from Victoria, Duchess of Kent to Lady Frances Baillie (17 letters).

Related Material

Additional manuscript material by Bolitho is located in the following collections at the Ransom Center: Terrence Ian Fytton Armstrong, Rupert Croft-Cooke, J. Frank Dobie, Golden Cockerel Press, Gerald Hamilton, Kenneth Hopkins, Francis Henry King, Philip Lindsay, PEN, Peter Owen Ltd., Dame Marie Tempest, Alec Waugh, Denton Welch, Geoffrey Harry Wells, and William A. Bradley Literary Agency. A scrapbook on King Edward VIII by Bolitho is located in the Vertical File Collection for Compton Mackenzie.

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