Christopher Vernon Hassall (1912-1963) was born on 24 March 1912, and educated at St Michael's, Tenbury; Brighton College; and Wadham College, Oxford. After a few years as an actor, he made a career as a librettist (notably for Ivor Novello), dramatist and poet. He wrote the librettos for William Walton's Troilus and Cressida and Arthur Bliss's Tobias and the angel, and made new English translations of Lehar's Merry widow and other operas. His book of poems, Penthesperon (1938), won the Hawthornden Prize. Hassall gave poetry readings, was Director of Voice for the Old Vic Theatre Company, 1947-1949, and wrote biographies of Edward Marsh (1959) and Rupert Brooke (published posthumously, 1964). In 1938 he married Evelyn Chapman, and had a son and a daughter. He died on 25 April 1963.
The collection includes material relating to Sir Edward Marsh (1872-1953) and the poet Rubert Brooke (1887-1915). Marsh helped Hassall in his early career, and the two remained friends for the rest of Marsh's life. Hassall was Marsh's literary executor, and wrote his biography, Edward Marsh, patron of the arts, which was published in 1959. He also prepared a selection of Marsh's letters, which was published posthumously as Ambrosia and small beer (1964). Hassall was one of the literary trustees of Rupert Brooke, and was contracted in 1959 to write a 'Life and letters' of Brooke. He was able to use the collection of letters which had been compiled by Sir Geoffrey Keynes but not published due to opposition from the trustees. The biography was finished at the time of Hassall's death, and was seen through the press by Keynes. It appeared in 1964 as Rupert Brooke; a biography. Keynes' edition of the letters followed in 1968.