Correspondence and Papers relating to Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986)

Scope and Content

The material in the collection includes: typescript by Isherwood on K. Mansfield, from circa 1937; typescript letters, 1969, 1971 and including those from Isherwood to H. Heckford, 1966-1970, 1967, and to Osborne, circa 1938; manuscript letters, 1954, 1973, 1978, 1983; manuscript letter to Mr. Piggot, 1974; manuscript letter to Dick Walker, 1980, and postcard photograph of himself, 1983; manuscript letter to M. Bean, 1967; manuscript letter to Deutsch, circa 1953; manuscript letter to S. Smith, 1940s; manuscript letter to A. Loos, 1966; Isherwood typescript Some thoughts in Quito, circa 1947; and, essay A single man.

Administrative / Biographical History

Novelist and playwright Christopher Isherwood (Christopher William Bradshaw-Isherwood) was born in Disley, Cheshire, on 26 August 1904. He was educated at St Edmunds School, Hindhead, Surrey, which was a preparatory school, and at Repton School. He studied first at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, from 1924, though he did not take his degree. He then studied medicine at King's College London, 1928-29. He gave this up however, and after the publication of his first novel All the conspirators (1928), he went to Germany and taught English in Berlin, 1930-1933. For a time he was a journalist in London, 1934-1936 and he also did film-script work for Gaumont-British. In 1938 Isherwood travelled to China with W. H. Auden, a long-time friend from prep' school days. Indeed when Erika Mann (daughter of Thomas Mann) approached him with the suggestion that she marry him to obtain a British passport, the unwilling Isherwood approached Auden who did agree to marry her in 1935. In 1939, he emigrated to California to be a scriptwriter for Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer, and in 1946 he took US citizenship. Auden too had emigrated to the USA and took American citizenship. In 1947, Isherwood stayed in Quito, Ecuador, during a tour of several months in South America. Other works by Isherwood include The memorial (1932), Mr. Norris changes trains (1935), Goodbye to Berlin (1939) upon which the musical Cabaret was based, Prater Violet (1945), The world in the evening (1954), and Down there on a visit (1962). With Auden he wrote The dog beneath the skin (1935), Ascent of F6 (1937), On the frontier (1938), and Journey to a war (1939). Isherwood became interested in the teaching of Swami Prabhavananda and he also co-translated with him, The Bhagavad-Gita (1944), Shankara's crest-jewel of discrimination (1947), and How to know God. The yogi aphorisms of Patanjali (1953). Many of his famous literary friends appeared in his books under different names, including Auden, Stephen Spender, and Virginia Woolf. Isherwood became a leading spokesman for gay rights and he was one of the first internationally known figures to admit that he was homosexual. His relationship with Don Bachardy - who became a portraitist and later Los Angeles bon vivant, and who together with Isherwood in 1968, was painted by David Hockney - continued for over thirty years until Isherwood's death. Christopher Isherwood died in Santa Monica on 4 January 1986.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Isherwood on Mansfield, purchased Gekoski, May 1988, Accession no. E88.41. Isherwood typescript, purchased Bristow, January 1989, Accession no. E89.7. Isherwood to Heckford, purchased Bristow, October 1989, Accession no. E89.62. Isherwood to Heckford, purchased Silverman, October 1989, Accession nos. E89.65-66. Isherwood to Heckford, purchased Wilson, October 1989, Accession no. E89.69. Isherwood to Heckford, purchased Bristow, January 1990, Accession no. E90.1. Isherwood letters, purchased Silverman, March 1990, Accession no. E90.32. Isherwood to Piggott, purchased Silverman, October 1990, Accession no. E90.100. Isherwood letters, purchased Dupre, January 1991, Accession nos. E91.5-6. Isherwood letter, purchased Wilson, February 1991, Accession no. E91.11. Isherwood to Walker, purchased Dupre, May 1991, Accession no. E91.45. Isherwood Some thoughts in Quito, purchased Wilson, July 1991, Accession no. E91.63. Isherwood to Bean, purchased Sotheran, September 1991, Accession no. E91.74. Isherwood letter, purchased Dupre, September 1991, Accession no. E91.79. Isherwood to Osborne, and to Deutsch, purchased Edrich, January 1992, Accession nos. E92.3-4. Isherwood to Smith, purchased Wilson, October 1992, Accession no. E92.62. Isherwood letter, purchased Silverman, November 1992, Accession no. E92.85. Isherwood essay, purchased Dupre, March 1993, Accession no. E93.15. Isherwood to Loos, purchased Dupre, December 1993, E93.119.


At the time of creation of this description, the following items were not found: E90.1; E91.6; and E93.119.

The biographical/administrative history was compiled principally using the following material: (1) Who's who 1976. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1976.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.