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Edward Sackville-West letters to Clive Bell

Collection MS-1986-155: Edward Sackville-West letters to Clive Bell


  • Creation: 1928 - 1962

Scope and Contents

Contains handwritten and typed correspondence documenting the decades-long friendship between Sackville-West and Bell. These letters were written from Sackville-West's homes -- Bourne Park, Knole, Long Crichel, and Cooleville House -- as well as Berlin, Venice, a nursing home, and the headquarters of the New Statesman in London. The letters include luncheon plans, condolences, family news, and gossip involving their immediate social circle.


Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical Note: Edward Sackville-West

Edward Charles Sackville-West was born in London on November 13, 1901 to Major-General Charles John Sackville-West KBE CMG (1870–1962) and Maud Cecilia Bell (1873–1920). Sackville-West grew up in the various estates of his aristocratic relatives: Encombe; Bourne Park, the historic family home of his maternal line; and Knole, the Sackville family estate in Kent inhabited by his uncle, where he developed a friendship with his older cousin Vita Sackville-West. In 1928, upon his uncle’s death, his father became fourth Baron Sackville of Knole.

Edward Sackville-West was educated at Eton, where he considered becoming a composer. By the time of his college studies at Christ Church, Oxford he had settled on modern history and languages. He wrote his first novel while at Christ Church, but withdrew to travel in France and Germany.

His earliest published writing included five novels: Piano Quintet (1925), The Ruin (1926), Mandrake over the Water-Carrier (1928), Simpson (1931), and The Sun in Capricorn (1934). His one biography, A Flame in Sunlight: The Life and Work of Thomas De Quincey (1936) won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

In 1935, Sackville-West began contributing music criticism to a running column, "Gramophone Notes," in The New Statesman. In addition to publishing short criticism for over twenty years, Sackville-West co-authored the Record Guide in 1951 with Desmond Shawe-Taylor, and was a director of Covent Garden from 1950-1955.

In 1945, Edward Sackville-West bought a house in Long Crichel, Dorset, where he established a literary salon with three housemates. He became associated with Bloomsbury Group through his cousin Vita Sackville-West Nicholson. Although a generation younger and never a central member, he established several lifelong friendships, including founding member Clive Bell.

As a young man Sackville-West renounced his childhood Catholic faith, but in 1949 he rejoined the Roman Catholic Church. In part due to this return to faith, in 1956, he bought Cooleville House in Ireland at Clogheen in southern Tipperary, where he spent most of the year for the rest of his life.

In 1962, Sackville-West inherited his father’s title to become the fifth Baron of Sackville. He never married or produced an heir. He died at Clogheen on July 4, 1965.


De-la-Noy, Michael. Eddy: The Life of Edward Sackville-West. London: Arcadia Books, 1999.

Speaight, Robert. "Sackville-West, Edward Charles." The Dictionary of National Biography 1961-1970, 1981.

Biographical note: Clive Bell

Arthur Clive Heward Bell was born on September 16, 1881 at East Shefford, Berkshire to William Heward Bell (1849–1927), civil engineer, and Hannah Taylor Cory (1850–1942). He was educated at Marlborough and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he made the friends who would become the Bloomsbury Group. These men included Thoby Stephen, Lytton Strachey, Desmond MacCarthy, E.M. Forster, John Maynard Keynes, and Leonard Woolf. The group formed in the London home of Thoby Stephen and his siblings Adrian, Vanessa, and Virginia in the Bloomsbury neighborhood. In 1907, Bell married Vanessa Stephen and they had two children, Julian Heward and Quentin.

Bell published Art in February 1914, and this book promoted his aesthetic theory of significant form, elevating form over content. A fan of abstract art, Bell helped popularize Post-Impressionism in Britain. As a conscientious objector, Bell published the pamphlet Peace at Once (1915). His other criticism and political publications include Civilization, an Essay (1928), Pot-Boilers (1918), Landmarks in Nineteenth Century Painting (1918), Proust (1928) and Enjoying Pictures (1934).

Bell died in London on September 17, 1964.


Nicolson, Benedict. "Bell, (Arthur) Clive (Heward)." The Dictionary of National Biography 1961-1970, 1981.


.25 Linear Feet (1 container)

Language of Materials



Consists of 16 personal letters written by nineteenth-century novelist and music critic Edward Sackville-West to his friend, art critic Clive Bell beginning when both were young writers and spanning nearly forty years.


Collection is arranged in chronological order, with undated materials first.


Because the current accessioning system was not used until January 1986, it is not possible to know exactly the dates of acquisition of materials received before that time.

Edward Sackville-West Letters to Clive Bell
Nancy W. Mazur, Spring 2004; Laura E. Slezak, Spring 2005; Rachael Young
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States