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Ethel Mannin papers

Collection MS-1986-175: Ethel Mannin papers


  • Creation: 1922 - 1989
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1942 - 1981

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of materials, predominantly correspondence, relating to the life and work of Ethel Mannin.

The majority of the letters are written from Mannin to British librarian Gilbert Turner, chronicling almost forty years of friendship. Mannin's letters are often requests for information to be used for her research; however, they also reveal Mannin's personal life and her opinions on literary and political subjects, including the Middle East, Zionism, Ireland, England, and the Catholic Church. The letters contain valuable information regarding her second husband, the Quaker peace activist Reginald Reynolds. A few letters by Mannin have short additional notes written by Reynolds, in his own hand, to Turner. Mannin's letters to Turner are occasionally written on the reverse side of letters sent to her by other recipients.

The correspondence includes a large number of letters written to Mannin and Reynolds' biographer, Robert Huxter, as well as letters to Mannin's daughter, Jean Faulk, and others. There are a small number of letters to Huxter from a variety of others, some of which are about Mannin, and others of which are about Huxter's writings.

Visual materials include a single portrait of Ethel Mannin drawn by Louis Ollier, as well as photographs of Mannin, Reginald Reynolds, Gilbert Turner, and three unidentified women.

The Writings consist of Mannin's journal from her travels in Japan, which was the source of her novel Sabishisa, and an annotated draft of the blurb for Kildoon.


Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing 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: Ethel Mannin

Ethel Edith Mannin was born on October 11, 1900 in Clapham to Robert Mannin and Edith Gray Mannin. She was author of almost one hundred books (her goal was to publish one novel and one work of nonfiction each year). She published novels, travelogues, autobiographies, children's books, collections of short stories, books on child-rearing, and articles on pacifism and the Arab-Israeli conflict. In 1919, Mannin married John Alexander Porteous. Together, they had one child, Jean. Mannin spent very little time with her husband, preferring the company and lifestyle of her literary and left-leaning political friends, and they later divorced. In 1938, Mannin married Reginald Reynolds, a Quaker peace activist and friend of Mahatma Gandhi.

Mannin's first novel, Martha, was a runner-up in a competition for first novels, and was published by the contest's sponsors in 1923. Her first commercially and critically successful novel was Sounding Brass (1925). One of her most popular novels was Late Have I Loved Thee (1948) which depicted a man's conversion to Catholicism and vocation to the priesthood. Mannin was often praised for her superior character development. She wanted to portray characters whom she described as "real people" who "eluded class distinctions." Critics often faulted her writing for being too concerned with her own personal political and social views, making her novels propagandistic. Her novels often dealt with contemporary events, and she was fervently anti-Zionist and very concerned over the plight of Palestinian refugees. Her first autobiographical work, Confessions and Impressions, was considered shocking at the time of its publication in 1930. The work, which included detailed accounts of extramarital affairs, caused an immediate scandal and earned her a reputation as an "angry woman." The book was written in part to scandalize the older generation and upset their conservative social values. Her profession of modernist sexual mores and advocacy of leftist causes gave Mannin a reputation as being both bohemian and risqué.

Mannin died in 1984 after a decline subsequent to fracturing her pelvis.


Aspinall, Dana. "Ethel (Edith) Mannin," in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 195: British Travel Writers, 1910-1939. Edited by Barbara Brothers and Julia M. Gergits. (Detroit, MI: The Gale Group, 1998): pp. 216-234.

Crosland, Margaret. "Ethel Mannin," in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 191: British Novelists Between the Wars. Edited by George M. Johnson. (Detroit, MI: The Gale Group, 1998): pp. 217-221.

Callaghan, Mary Rose. "Ethel Mannin," in Dictionary of Irish Literature, edited by Robert Hogan, (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1979): pp. 434-436.

"Ethel (Edith) Mannin." in Gale Literature: Contemporary Authors, (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2003). Gale In Context: Biography (accessed January 10, 2023).

Huxter, Robert. Reg and Ethel: Reginald Reynolds, his life and work and his marriage to Ethel Mannin, (York: Sessions Book Trust, 1992).

Mannin, Ethel. Privileged Spectator: A sequel to 'Confessions and Impressions', (London: Jarrolds, 1939).

Mannin, Ethel. Connemara Journal, (London: Westhouse, 1947).

Oxbury, H.F. "Ethel Edith Mannin," in The Dictionary of National Biography: 1981-1985, edited by Lord Blake and C.S. Nichols, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990): pp. 263-264.

Biographical note: Gilbert Turner

Gilbert Turner was born in Bournemouth, England in 1911. He was educated at the University of London General School and also received the Fellowship of the Library Association.

Turner started working in libraries in 1927, and spent his first eighteen years working in Bournemouth, Twickenham and Chelsea. In 1946, he became the Borough Librarian of the London Borough of Richmond on the Thames. He had a love of classical music and was an instrumental force in bringing record collections to the public libraries under his administration. Remarking on Turner's retirement in 1973, a newspaper noted that he was "one of the last of an older school of public librarians" as a librarian of his day "had to be a scholar, a historian, a literary enthusiast, an art expert and an administrator."

Upon retirement, he moved from Windsor, England and settled in Y Rhiw, Gwynedd, Wales. Turner spoke Welsh, and spent these years gardening both fruits and flowers. He was also a staunch Roman Catholic and lifelong bachelor. Turner died on February 9, 1983.

Biographical note: Robert Huxter

Robert Huxter was the biographer of Reginald Reynolds and Ethel Mannin. Huxter graduated from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in 1962, and worked as an actor, playwright, and journalist. Like Reynolds, Huxter was a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers). At the time of the publication of Reg and Ethel, Huxter and his wife were co-wardens of the Friends Meeting House, Jordans, Buckinghamshire, and Huxter also wrote two books about that Meeting House. He worked for the Society of Friends for many years, including as a publicity and publications officer for Friends Service Council and Quaker Peace and Service.


Huxter, Robert. Reg and Ethel: Reginald Reynolds, his life and work and his marriage to Ethel Mannin. York: Sessions Book Trust, 1992.


4.25 Linear Feet (7 containers )

Language of Materials



Collection of materials, predominantly correspondence, relating to the life and work of twentieth-century English author Ethel Mannin.


Organized into three series: I. Correspondence; II. Visual materials; and III. Writings.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

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. The writings and correspondence to those other than Gilbert Turner were purchased from Bertram Rota Booksellers, 1995.

Separated Materials

Published works associated with this collection have been transferred within the Burns Library and can be found in the Boston College Library catalog.

Processing Information

This collection was initially processed as two separate collections: Ethel Mannin - Gilbert Turner papers and Ethel Mannin - Robert Huxter papers. Upon further review, it was determined that the papers were almost entirely created by Ethel Mannin, and so should be combined into a single collection.



Ethel Mannin papers
1922-1989, (bulk 1942-1981)
Finding aid prepared by Edward Copenhagen, 2001. Revised by Elizabeth Peters, 2023.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023 January: Added Huxter accrual, revised 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