James Bone correspondence

  • Reference
      GB 133 GDN/222
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      187 items, 241 sheets
  • Location
      Collection available at the John Rylands Library, Deansgate.

Scope and Content

The series spans James Bone’s journalistic career in the Manchester Guardian’s London office (1902-1945) and continues in the years immediately following his retirement. The letters relate mainly to business connected with the paper, interwoven with some personal issues and references. There are not infrequent references to contributors, staff and staffing issues, letters about book and other artistic reviews and some discussion of the (1948) Scott Trust.

The correspondence features letters from and to Bone, with a further section featuring letters written to the writer, Arnold Bennett (1867-1931), who wrote reviews for the paper. The letters written by James Bone between 21 November 1932 and 10 November 1949, addressed mainly to Manchester Guardian staff, relate to diverse topics, including books, politics, staffing issues and the Scott Trust.

The largest section of correspondence comprises approximately 80 letters addressed to Bone, dating from 10 September 1905 to 5 September 1955, the majority of which are from Guardian staff and contributors. Writers include C.P. Scott (1846-1932), J.R. Scott (1879-1949) and Laurence Scott (1909-1983), former London editor John Black Atkins (1871-1954), editors W.P. Crozier (1879-1944) and A.P. Wadsworth (1891-1956), plus fellow newspaper men of other papers. Amongst the exchanges feature the names of leading literary figures, such as Arnold Bennett (1867-1931), writer and artist, Laurence Housman (1865-1959) and novelist and playwright John Galsworthy (1867-1933), plus artists, such as Francis Dodd (1874-1949), and his own brother, Muirhead Bone (1876-1953). There is a run of letters from fellow journalist and intended successor to the London editorship, Evelyn Montague (1900-1948), written in the two years before the latter’s early death from tuberculosis in 1948, plus correspondence from Madeline Montague (widow of C.E. Montague) regarding publication of her late husband’s work. The small selection of letters to Arnold Bennett (1867-1931), dating from 25 December 1898 to 21 February 1922, originates from various writers and journalists of the Manchester Guardian.

The news cuttings, ranging from 11 December 1907 to 3 July 1958, feature events relating to the paper and Guardian staff, predominantly retirements and obituaries, the paper’s centenary and the jubilee of the editorship of C.P. Scott (1846-1932) in 1921, plus other Guardian related items, such as the torpedoing of the Western Prince, on which James Bone was travelling on his return from an American trip in December 1940. A selection of miscellaneous manuscript, typed and printed items, photographs and visual matter from 1905 to 1952 includes items relating to Bone’s and other staff retirements, menus, speeches, reports and notes; there is also a notice listing directors and staff in 1956/1957.

Although somewhat inconsistent, the letters give a glimpse of the extent and breadth of Bone’s life as the paper’s London editor over a lengthy period, particularly in his literary and artistic connections.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Bone was London editor of the Manchester Guardian for 33 years, from 1912 to 1945; his lengthy period of editorship spanned two world wars, and his association with the paper continued for some years after his retirement.

James Bone was born in Glasgow on 16 May 1872, the second born son of journalist, David Drummond Bone and Elizabeth Millar Crawford. After a short spell as a clerk in the office of the Laird Line, he followed his father into journalism, working for the North British Daily Mail. When the paper ceased publication in 1901, Bone began to work as a freelance, during which time he wrote pieces as diverse as shipping reports and art criticism, for papers such as the Glasgow Herald, Daily Record and the Evening Times, as well as penning the text of a book, Glasgow in 1901, with Archibald Hamilton Charteris under the pseudonym James Hamilton Muir. A chance encounter with the Manchester Guardian’s A.N. Monkhouse, who happened to be visiting Glasgow, brought him to the attention of C.E. Montague and C.P. Scott; after a trial at the paper’s London office in 1902, he was appointed on a salary of £280 the following year, thereby beginning what was to be almost half a century of association with the paper.

By the time he joined the Manchester Guardian, Bone was already an experienced journalist and writer, although, as he admitted, he had no experience of sub-editing. After ten years serving under the editorship of John Black Atkins and R.H. Gretton, he was chosen to replace the latter as London editor in 1912 by Scott, although he was not put in charge of the parliamentary lobby work (which was assigned to George Herbert Mair), as Scott considered that he had ‘no great political knowledge or interest’. Bone shone, however, in other areas, in his keen sense of news, his artistry with words, skilful, creative sub-editing and also as an art critic. He became renowned for the London Letter, an existing feature containing domestic and foreign affairs as seen from London, and including all manner of cultural, topical and items of interest; collectively written, and adroitly edited by Bone, the London Letter became recognised as the best of its kind among the provincial newspapers.

Outside of the Manchester Guardian, Bone authored a number of books, collaborating most effectively with his printmaker and draughtsman brother, Muirhead, not only in the aforementioned volume, Glasgow in 1901, but also in the highly acclaimed The London Perambulator (1925), a descriptive account of London in the first quarter of the 20th century, which was accompanied by Muirhead’s illustrations, and in the subsequent London Echoing (1948). His descriptive skills also enliven the pages of The Perambulator in Edinburgh (1926).

In 1919 he was made a director of the paper, and became one of the trustees of the newly founded Scott Trust in 1936. Bone associated with the writers and painters of his day. Through the Guardian’s connection with the Baltimore Sun, whose London correspondent worked from the London office, he became friends with many American journalists. Returning from a visit to America in December 1940, the ship on which he was travelling, the Western Prince, was torpedoed in the Atlantic, 200 miles from Ireland; despite still recovering from an operation in Baltimore, Bone survived hours in an open boat; safely back in Glasgow he filed a detailed report of the incident for the main news page. On his return to London, further trauma awaited; he found that his rooms in King’s Bench Walk had been destroyed in the bombing.

Bone retired in December 1945, but retained his links with the paper, remaining a director for some years. He was created a Companion of Honour in 1947. His wife, Anne (née McGavigan), whom he had married in 1903, died in 1950. On his 90th birthday he received messages from the Queen, President Kennedy, Harold MacMillan and Hugh Gaitskell. He died a few months later on 23rd November at his home in Farnham, Surrey.


The series was acquired along with the rest of the Guardian archive in 1971, but was originally stored in a box with the foreign correspondence. The series retains the order in which it was acquired. With the exception of the miscellaneous material, each subseries or sub-subseries is arranged alphabetically by correspondent or subject, then ordered chronologically.

The series is divided into four subseries, namely, letters, news cuttings, miscellaneous items and photographs. The first series is further subdivided into sub-subseries, viz., letters from James Bone, letters to James Bone and letters to Arnold Bennett.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the UML to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

The catalogue descriptions may contain personal data about living individuals.

Acquisition Information

This series is part of a larger archive donated to the Library by the Guardian in 1971.

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue for the Guardian archive as a whole, including this series, is available on the University of Manchester Special Collections website here. There is also a collection-level description of the Guardian archive available via ELGAR.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The James Bone archive forms part of the larger Guardian archive, which was donated to the Library in 1971. This series was mainly generated by the daily operation of the Manchester Guardian from its London office, but some correspondence originated after the retirement of James Bone from the London editorship of the paper in 1945.

Related Material

The wider Guardian archive, within the Library’s collections, may contain correspondence and other items relating to James Bone, in particular the A and B series of editorial correspondence with C.P. Scott, W.P. Crozier and A.P. Wadsworth. As the London office was the first recipient of many of the telegrams and messages from the paper’s foreign correspondents during the inter-war period, James Bone is often referenced in the pages of the foreign correspondence (GDN/204-221).


Ayerst, David, Guardian. Biography of a newspaper, (London: Collins, 1971)


Corporate Names