The Charleston Papers

Scope and Content

The collection of Charleston papers contains mainly the correspondence of Clive Bell, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant which had accumulated at their home, Charleston Farm House.

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1905 Vanessa and several friends and relatives began meeting to discuss literary and artistic issues. The friends, who eventually became known as the Bloomsbury Group, included Vanessa's sister, Virginia Woolf, Clive Bell, John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster, Leonard Woolf, Lytton Strachey, David Garnett, Roger Fry and Duncan Grant.

Vanessa married Clive Bell in 1907 but later left him to live with Duncan Grant.

Source: Spartacus Educational website, accessed February 18, 2004.

Access Information

These papers are available for consultation at King's College, Cambridge, four days a week most of the year, by appointment only. For further details or to make an appointment please email

Other Finding Aids

A full catalogue is available on the University of Cambridge's Janus web site

The Appendices referred to throughout are not currently available over the internet but may be consulted in the Archive Centre reading room.

Appendix 1 contains a list of recipients.

Appendix 2 contains a list of the correspondence contained in two files of original letters from various authors to Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, given by Anne Olivier Bell in 2002.

Appendix 3 contains a list of letters of condolence to Vanessa, Clive and Quentin Bell on the death of Julian.

Appendix 4 contains a concordance of the reference numbers for the former CHAX photocopies as they were arranged and numbered by Professor Bell, and their new references.

Archivist's Note

Letters are catalogued by author. Photocopies are always noted in the catalogue as such. Where there is no indication, the documents described are the originals.

The photocopies were stored at KingCHapos;s College in the order they were presented and listed by Professor Bell. A copy of Professor Bell's list of the contents of each file of photocopies has been included with the copied letters. Where letters clearly belonged within a file of correspondence, the letters have been left in their original order and a cross-reference made under the names of the author and recipient. Where the letters in a file of photocopies appeared to be unrelated and gathered by recipient rather than author, they have been separated out and arranged by author in the main sequence of correspondence. This rearrangement has occurred mainly for letters written to Clive Bell by various authors where the authors had no relation to each other. Where the original and the photocopy of the same letter were held, the photocopy has been destroyed, except in the group of letters relating to Virginia Woolf's death (&A/1/697).

The current catalogue has brought the originals and the photocopies together, and includes letters given since 1980 by Anne Olivier Bell.

This catalogue was completed by Elizabeth Pridmore in March 2003 and updated in November 2003. It was edited for publication on the internet by Dorthea Sartain and Elizabeth Pridmore.

Conditions Governing Use

Readers may not order copies of the photocopied letters in this collection.

Custodial History

In 1965 the papers were sorted by Professor Quentin Bell and were deposited in King's College Library by Professor Bell and Mrs Angelica Garnett. Two sets of photocopies of some of the papers were made by the College at the time of deposit, one set to be kept by the College and the other set by Professor Bell. The set of photocopies owned by the College formed the series previously called &AX.

Some of the original letters were sold between 1965 and 1979; most of the remaining originals were removed in 1979 and were auctioned in 1980 at SothebyCHapos;s to raise funds for The Charleston Trust for the restoration of Charleston Farm House. Some boxes of original material remained at King's College; these were catalogued by the Archivist, Michael Halls, and formed the &AO series of originals. Other related papers are held in the Bloomsbury Archives at the University of Sussex.