University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Oliver Onions

1927 - 1938


Manuscript Collection Number: 492
Accessioned: Purchased January 2003
Extent: .3 linear ft.
Content: Correspondence manuscripts, photographs, travel journals, and related ephemera
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: Gerald Cloud

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Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
(302) 831-2229

Table of Contents

Biographical Note

The British writer George Oliver Onions was born November 13, 1872, in Bradford, England; he died April 9, 1961. After studying art at the National Arts Training Schools (now the Royal Academy) in London, and then in Paris, Onions began his career as a commercial artist. Onions legally changed his name to George Oliver in 1918, but continued to publish ghost stories, mysteries, and historical fiction, as Oliver Onions. During his early writing career Onions frequently published his short stories in magazines. His trilogy of novels--In Accordance with the Evidence (1910), The Debit Account (1913), and The Story of Louie (1913)--established Onions's reputation as a writer of psychological thrillers.

In 1909, Onions married the writer Berta Ruck (1878-1978). They had two sons, Arthur (b. 1912) and William (b. 1913). With Onions’s assistance, Ruck revised her story “His Official Fiancée,” which had been serialized in Home Chat in 1912, for publication in book form. The novel, which appeared two years later, was a success in both Great Britain and the United States, and it began Ruck’s prolific career as a popular writer. Ruck was also a frequent traveler, but the couple appear to have traveled separately (see Ms 362 Berta Ruck Travel Journals ).

Onions enjoyed a long career as a popular author, publishing over forty novels and short stories collections, receiving, in 1946, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, for his novel Poor Man's Tapestry.


Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2004. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group. 2004.

"Oliver Onions." Britannica Student Encyclopedia. 2004. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Retrieved 2 July 2004 .

“Oliver Onions, 87, British Novelist.” New York Times. 10 Apr 1961: 31.

Scope and Content Note

The Oliver Onions Papers comprises .3 linear feet of correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, travel journals and ephemera related to the British novelist and short story writer Oliver Onions (1872-1961). The collection is divided into two series: Manuscripts and Travel Journals.

Series I. Manuscripts contains typescripts and typescript carbons of Onions’s writings. The manuscripts are undated, but most seem to date from the early 1930s--“House Full” and “The Cigarette-Case,” the latter first published in 1911, are likely earlier. Included in the series are typescripts for seven poems and eight short stories, some of which bear Onions’s autograph corrections.

Series II. Travel Journals includes two hand-written journals with notes on Onions’s travels to Milan (1927) and Vienna (1931), as well as a group of travel ephemera documenting his accommodations and activities while traveling in Vienna, Egypt, and Greece (1931-1934). Also included is a 66 pp. typescript of Onions’s travel notes from a trip to Greece in 1931, describing in detail his itinerary, his fellow travelers, his impressions of Greece and the Greek islands, and the various archeological ruins he visited along his trip. The notes are accompanied by 68 photographs of the ship, the S.S. Iphigenia, the port at Piraeus, Athens, the Acropolis, Crete, Knossos, and Corfu, and provide an excellent complement to Onions’s lively account of his voyage.

Related Collections:

Mss 362 Berta Ruck Travel Journals

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

           I.  Manuscripts
1    F1   “A Church Made to Measure,” n.d., short story
          Typescript with Onions’s minor autograph corrections,
          63 pp.
     F2   “The Cigarette-Case, A Complete Story,” n.d., short
          Typescript with Onions’s autograph corrections, 7 pp.
          The Floodlit Angel,” n.d., short story
          Typescript (carbon) with Onions’s autograph
          corrections, 19 pp.
          “Gaolbird,” n.d., short story
          Typescript (carbon) with Onions’s minor autograph
          corrections, 6 pp.
          “House Full, A Complete Story,” n.d., short story
          Typescript (carbon), 10 pp.
          “IOU in Red,” n.d., short story
          Typescript (carbon) with Onions’s autograph
          corrections, 24 pp.
          “The Italian Chest,” 1938, published short story
          Chambers’s Journal, August 1938, pp.  578-592
     F3   “The Open Urn,” parts I-IV, “Henley,” and five untitled
          poems, all of which are sonnets.  Each of the five
          untitled poems includes a carbon.  15 pp.
          Letter of introduction, ALS from [W.A.  H-----],
          British School of Archaeology, dated ‘6/5/41.’
     F4   “Tragic Casements,” n.d., short story
          Typescript (carbon), 16 pp.
          Written Off
     F5   “Written Off, an Outline,” n.d. [scene outline for a
          film, with dialog]
          Typescript with Onions’s autograph corrections and
          notes, 21 pp.
          “Prologue,” n.d. [scene by scene synopsis]
          Typescript with Onions’s autograph corrections and
          notes, 17 pp.
          “Written Off,” n.d. [story]
          Typescript with Onions’s autograph corrections and
          notes, 35 pp.
          II.  Travel Journals and related materials
          Travel Journals
     F6   Milan, 1927
          Notebook with red paper covers full of Onions’s
          autograph travel notes, approx 110 pp.  Includes a
          travel itinerary for 1 May-28 August 1928 in Onions’s
          hand and a time table for Egyptian Air Lines, Summer 1934.
     F7   Wien, 1931
          Notebook with black and white checked paper covers
          (front cover missing) with Onions’s autograph travel
          notes, inscribed “George Oliver | Hotel Bristol | Wien”
          on the front end paper.  35 pp.
     F8   Travel ephemera, 1931-1934
          Includes incoming correspondence, receipts, flyers,
          ticket stubs, and other ephemera from Onions’s travels
          to Vienna, Egypt, and Greece.
     F9   “Greece Etc.  (Transcribed Notes),” 1931
          Typescript with Onions’s autograph corrections, 66 pp.
          Includes a photocopy.
     F10  Photographs of Greece
          68 black and white photographs mounted on 10.5 x 8 inch
          sheets, (photo sizes vary, but most are approx.  4.25 x
          2.5 inches).  The photographs appear to correspond to
          “Greece Etc.  (Transcribed Notes).”

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