Special Collections Department
letters to Ronald Armstrong
1930 - 1958
(bulk dates date - date)
Manuscript Collection Number: 397
Accessioned: Purchase, August 1998.
Extent: .6 linear ft.
Content: Letters, postcards, photographs, publications, and ephemera.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: June 2001 by Gerald Cloud
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
Table of Contents
The British writer Charles Langbridge Morgan was born on January 22, 1894, in Bromley, Kent; he died in London, on February 6, 1958. Morgan was the author of several plays, eleven novels, and dozens of essays. He married the writer Hilda Vaughan (1892 – 1985) in 1923 and they raised two children.
At the age of thirteen Morgan was enrolled as a cadet in the Royal Navy and later attended Naval colleges at Osborne and Dartmouth. From 1911 – 1913 he served in the Atlantic and China before resigning to pursue a literary career. However, at the outbreak of World War I Morgan volunteered for reenlistment in the Royal Navy, joining the Naval Brigade forces at Antwerp. In the fall of 1914 Morgan was taken prisoner in Holland, where he remained until 1917. During his internment Morgan began writing his first novel, The Gunroom (1919). An early version of the work was lost when Morgan’s transport ship was sunk on its return to England, but by February 1919 he had rewritten it. Morgan’s criticism of the British Navy presented in The Gunroom was officially frowned upon, and although it was never officially suppressed, the novel became especially rare. Morgan’s position did not prevent him from volunteering for service during World War II, and he served in the British Admiralty from 1939 – 1944.
After the war Morgan enrolled at Brasenose College, Oxford, where he served as president of the Oxford University Dramatic Society. After leaving Oxford in 1921, Morgan went to work as a drama critic for the Times of London. In 1926 he became the paper’s principal drama critic, a post he held until 1939.
During his lifetime Morgan was greatly respected as a man of letters. In the 1930s and 1940s, when Morgan’s success as a writer was at its peak, he won three important literary prizes for his novels: the Prix Fémina-Vie Heureuse for Portrait in a Mirror (1929); the Hawthornden Prize for The Fountain (1932); and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for The Voyage (1940). As an essayist Morgan published the well-received monograph Epitaph on George Moore (1936) and two collections of essays on art, literature, culture, and politics, Reflections in a Mirror, First and Second Series (1944, 1946). Morgan held several important literary positions, including membership in the Royal Society of Literature; international president of P.E.N. (1954 – 1956); and he was one of the few foreigners to become an Académicien in the Institut de France. Morgan also received honorary doctorates from St. Andrews University (LL.D., 1947), Université de Caen (1948), and Université de Toulouse (1948).
Morgan, Charles. Selected Letters. Ed. Eiluned Lewis. London: Macmillan, 1967.
Contemporary Authors Online. The Gale Group, 2000. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group. 2001. http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC
The collection of Charles Morgan’s letters to his friend Ronald Armstrong spans the dates 1930 – 1958. Nearly all 240 letters were written by Morgan and addressed to his friend Ronald Armstrong, a British Consulate official based in Geneva, Switzerland. A third of the letters are addressed to Armstrong’s wife, Petronella (Nellie), while Morgan’s wife Hilda Morgan (a.k.a. Hilda Vaughan) has written others. The collection also includes three photographs, several of Morgan’s publications, including a proof copy of his novel, The Judge’s Story (1947), and other ephemera.
The collection is organized in three series: the correspondence—which makes up the largest group of materials—followed by Morgan’s writings, and then the photographs and ephemera. All of the correspondence is organized in one chronological sequence, including the letters written by Hilda Morgan and those addressed to Nellie Armstrong. The majority of Morgan’s letters are clearly written in his neat hand on personal stationery, and all but a few are dated. Many of the letters are accompanied by their original envelopes. A few of the letters have autograph notes in what appears to be Ronald Armstrong’s hand.
The letters discuss Morgan’s work as a writer and theater critic, the demands of the publishing world, book sales, and the literary scene in England, France, and the United States. The letters written by Morgan during the 1930s reveal that Nellie Armstrong assisted Morgan with many of the Dutch references in his early novel The Fountain, and also helped him to find Dutch translators and publishers for his work. In other letters vacations and travel plans are discussed, and there are several one-page letters confirming lunch and dinner engagements. Many of the letters written during the 1940s discuss the difficulties of war rationing and the lack of basic necessities in post-war London. In one letter, written in December 1944, Morgan briefly describes liberated Paris and his impressions of the advancing Allied armies. One particularly interesting letter contains a short autobiographical note that Morgan prepared for an article Nellie Armstrong planned to write. Morgan’s self-assessment is objectively written, yet shows how keenly aware he was of his position among other British writers.
The letters reveal the Morgans’ developing friendship with the Armstrongs, while also providing a look at the lifestyles particular to a successful man of letters and a consulate official.
The second series of items contains some of Morgan’s writing in both manuscript and published versions. Included are two different editions of Morgan’s poem “Ode to France”—which he read from the stage of the Comédie Française to the French president and other dignitaries—a set of first page proofs of the novel The Judge’s Story, and a manuscript of a lecture he delivered in Switzerland.
The third series includes three photographs, one of which portrays Morgan, Ronald Armstrong, and Osbert Sitwell together at Armstrong’s home in Geneva. Among the other items in the series are the program from Morgan’s memorial service, annotated by his wife; a typescript copy of Dame Edith Sitwell’s funeral oration for Morgan; and several news clippings. There are also several typescript letters written by Armstrong to journalists and publishers concerning Morgan’s work.
II. Writings by Charles Morgan
III. Photographs and Ephemera
Box -- Folder -- Contents
I. Correspondence 1 F1 1930 – 1934 (60 items) Includes 31 letters addressed to Nellie and 4 letters written by Hilda Morgan. Letters from late 1931 and early 1932 include Morgan’s “Dutch Questions” for Nellie; letters from early 1933 discuss the death of George Moore. F2 1935 – 1939 (30 items) Includes 16 letters addressed to Nellie. F3 1940 – 1945 (9 items) Includes 4 letters addressed to Nellie. Several letters on London during the war and on letter from December 1944 mentioning newly liberated Paris and the Allied armies. F4 1946 – 1947 (31 items) Includes 12 letters addressed to Nellie and 2 letters written by Hilda Morgan. Morgan provides details on the fate of his novel The Gunroom (Januaryr 1946), his Swiss lectures, and three pages of autobiographical notes in an April 1946 letter to Nellie. F5 1948 – 1949 (23 items) Includes 8 letters addressed to Nellie and 4 letters written by Hilda Morgan. Hilda mentions post-war rationing in a September 1949 letter; Nellie’s death: condolence letters from both Morgan and his wife late 1949. F6 1950 – 1953 (30 items) Includes 3 letters written by Hilda Morgan. F7 1954 – 1958 (21 items) Includes 3 letters written by Hilda Morgan after Charles Morgan’s death. F8 Undated correspondence (38 items) Includes 10 letters addressed to Nellie and 4 letters written by Hilda Morgan. Also, short résumé of Morgan’s career and achievements, addressed to “R.A.” II. Writings by Charles Morgan 2 F9 “A Defence of Story-Telling,” (2 items) Essay. Tear-sheets from “Royal Institute of Great Britain, Weekly Evening Meeting, Friday, February 23, 1934,” with autograph corrections in Morgan’s hand. Inscribed “for / Ronald / Armstrong / from / Charles / Morgan / March 28 / 1934.” 22 pp. Essay. Tear-sheets from unidentified publication, pages 389-402, dated “Life and Letters / July 1934.” 14 pp. F10 “England in Danger,” 1947 Pamphlet. Reprinted article from The Sunday Times, March 2nd, 1947. F11 “L’Imagination Créatrice,” 1946 Essay. Autograph manuscript in Morgan’s hand, subtitled, “[We print below a translated extract from one of the lectures to be delivered by Mr. Charles Morgan in English in Switzerland].” Dated “1946” in Armstrong’s hand. 4 pp. F12 The Judge’s Story, 1947 London: Macmillan, 1947 Novel. Unbound page proofs stamped, “R. & R. Clark, Ltd. / 13 Mar 1947 / Edinburgh.” Autograph corrections in Morgan’s hand with the note “Not to be / reviewed before publication / date, provisionally 29th August.” 218 pp. F13 “The Liberty of Thought and the Separation of Powers,” 1948 Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1948. 20 pp. Lecture. Removed for cataloging to print collection for Special Collections. F14 “Ode to France,” (3 items) London: Macmillan, 1942. Poem. Number 193 of 500 signed and numbered copies, housed in an envelope labeled, “Containing a signed copy of / Ode to France / by Charles Morgan / Seven Shillings and Sixpence net.” 7 pp. Removed for cataloging to print collection for Special Collections. London: Macmillan, 1942. Poem. Housed in envelope with autograph note in Armstrong’s hand. 8pp. Removed for cataloging to print collection for Special Collections. Autograph letter from Charles Morgan describing the manuscript of his poem “Ode to France,” which he donated to the Bibliothéque Nationale. Includes folder and receipt from a Boston Autograph dealer. 2 F15 Sparkenbroke, n.d. Typescript author’s publicity blurb with autograph notes in Morgan’s hand on his novel Sparkenbroke, 2 pp. A promotional flyer from Macmillan is also laid in. III. Photographs and Ephemera F16 Photographs 1) Charles Morgan, Ronald Armstrong, and Osbert Sitwell Inscribed in Armstrong’s hand, “Ronald Armstrong / Osbert Sitwell / Charles Morgan / at my house in Geneva / 16 rue des Granges.” 2) Charles Morgan Inscribed in Armstrong’s hand, “Charles Morgan / in Ronald Armstrong’s garden / at 16 rue des Granges / Geneva / 1946.” 3) Charles Morgan Photograph of a drawing of Charles Morgan from the National Portrait Gallery in London. Inscribed in Armstrong’s hand, “by Augustus John / hung always over the chimney-piece in Ch. Morgan’s drawing-room.” F17 Ephemera Mimeograph, “Oration for Charles Morgan,” by Edith Sitwell. 4 pp. Pamphlet, “In Memoriam: Charles Morgan,” dated “20th February 1958” with autograph notes in Hilda Morgan’s hand and an autograph note in Armstrong’s hand. News clippings, postcard announcing a reading by Morgan, and a greeting card. F18 Ronald Armstrong Letters. Typescript letters (4 pp.) written to publishers and editors, and manuscript notes (1 p.) concerning Morgan’s writing. Also an autograph letter from an unknown correspondent discussing Charles Morgan and Petronella Armstrong, dated “Genève, le 20 Janvier 1954.”