Ogden Papers

Scope and Content

Papers of Charles Kay Ogden, c1940-c1950, some undated, largely comprising correspondence (c40 items) on literary and other matters with William Francis Jackson Knight, mainly addressed to Ogden and dating from 1940-1943, the subjects including classical metre, Horace and Catullus. Other papers include notes by Ogden on Horace, Catullus, scansion, and other poetic subjects; three pamphlets on classical subjects, including Horace and Virgil, by Knight.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles Kay Ogden: born at Rossall School, Fleetwood, 1889; elder son of a housemaster, Charles Burdett Ogden, and his wife, Fanny Hart; educated at a preparatory school in Buxton by his uncle, Thomas Jones Ogden, and later at Rossall; won a scholarship to Magdalene College Cambridge; obtained a first class in part I of the classical tripos, 1910; with others, founded the Heretics Society (of which he became President), 1911; published papers read before the Society by prominent writers, 1911-1914; founded the weekly 'Cambridge Magazine' which, selling at a penny, proved successful, 1912; edited the 'Cambridge Magazine', 1912-1922; visited schools and universities in France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and India, investigating methods of language teaching, 1912-1913; MA, 1915; converted the 'Cambridge Magazine' into an organ of international comment on politics and the war, 1916; a survey of the foreign press filled more than half of each issue, and circulation rose to over 20,000, 1917-1918; also included poems by Siegfried Sassoon and John Masefield and contributions from Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, Arnold Bennett and other well-known authors; outlined a work on the part played by language in contemporary thought, 1918; converted the 'Cambridge Magazine' into a quarterly in which he and I A Richards published a series of articles as a first draft of the book; with I A Richards and the artist James Wood published a study of the linguistics factor in aesthetics, 1922; the 'Cambridge Magazine' ended, 1922; Ogden took over editorship of the international psychological journal 'Psyche' as a vehicle for publishing research in international language problems and continuing the work of the post-war 'Cambridge Magazine'; accepted the planning and editing of two major series, 'The History of Civilisation' and 'The International Library of Psychology, Philosophy and Scientific Method' (the latter to produce a hundred volumes in its first decade), 1922; published 'The Meaning of Meaning', setting forth principles for understanding the function of language, 1923; developed Basic English, an auxiliary international language of 850 words comprising a system covering everything necessary for everyday purposes, 1925-1927; visited the USA as Science Adviser, The Forum, New York, 1925-1927; established the Orthological Institute, 1927; completed the Basic vocabulary, 1928; revised and published the Basic vocabulary for copyright purposes, 1929; Basic English developed rapidly, setting up agencies in thirty countries; Ogden delivered the Bentham Centenary Lecture, University College London, 1932; produced in 'Psyche', 'Psyche Monographs', 'Psyche Miniatures', and other series c200 works in or about Basic English by 1939; (Sir) Winston Churchill set up a cabinet committee on Basic English under the chairmanship of L S Amery, before which Ogden gave evidence, 1943; Churchill made a statement to the House of Commons on the committee's report, outlining the steps which the Government would take to develop Basic English as an auxiliary international and administrative language through the British Council, the BBC, and other bodies, 1944; a Basic English version of this statement and of the Atlantic Charter, side by side with the original texts, was published as a White Paper (Cmd 6511), 1944; Ogden assigned his copyright to the Crown, for which he was compensated with £23,000, 1946; the Basic English Foundation was established with a grant from the Ministry of Education, 1947; Ogden was a voracious collector of books, and his incunabula, early printed books, manuscripts, papers of the Brougham family, and collection on Jeremy Bentham were bought by University College London with a grant from the Nuffield Foundation to encourage research work in the field of communications, 1953; died in London, 1957; 100,000 books remaining at his death were bought by the University of California at Los Angeles. Publications include: with R H Best, 'The Problem of the Continuation School' (P S King & Son, London, 1914); translated Dr Georg Kerschensteiner's 'Grundfragen der Schulorganisation' s 'The Schools and the Nation' (Macmillan & Co, London, 1914); with I A Richards and James Wood, 'The Foundations of Aesthetics' (Allen & Unwin, London, 1922); 'The Meaning of Meaning' (London, 1923); 'Basic English' (Kegan Paul & Co, London, 1930); 'The Basic Vocabulary' (Kegan Paul & Co, London, 1930); 'Debabelization. With a survey of contemporary opinion on the problem of a universal language' (Kegan Paul & Co, London, 1931); 'The Basic Words' (Kegan Paul & Co, London, 1932); edited 'The Theory of Legislation' (Kegan Paul & Co, London, 1931); 'Jeremy Bentham, 1832-2032. Being the Bentham Centenary Lecture, delivered in University College, London' (Kegan Paul & Co, London, 1932); edited Bentham's 'Theory of Fictions' (Kegan Paul & Co, London, 1932); various articles in 'Psyche'.

William Francis Jackson Knight: born, 1895; Reader in Classical Literature, University of Exeter, 1942-1961; died, 1964. See his brother G Wilson Knight's biography 'Jackson Knight' (Oxford, Alden and Mowbray, 1975). Publications include: 'St Augustine's De Musica: a synopsis' (Orthological Institute, London [1949]); 'Vergil: Selections from the Eclogues, Georgics and Aeneid' (George Allen & Unwin, London, 1949); 'The Aeneid' (Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1956); 'Elysion: on Ancient Greek and Roman beliefs, concerning a life after death', ed G Wilson Knight (London, Rider, 1970).

Access Information


The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Acquisition Information

Purchased in 1990.

Other Finding Aids

Collection level description.

Conditions Governing Use

Normal copyright restrictions apply.

Related Material

University College London Special Collections also holds papers, 1910-1992, of Mark Haymon, Ogden's solicitor, friend and collaborator, including material on the Orthological Institute and the Basic English Foundation, correspondence with and concerning Ogden, and press-cuttings about Ogden's death (Ref: HAYMON); a correspondence file of Ogden (Ref: MS ADD 413); books and manuscripts from Ogden's library dating from the 14th to the 20th century and reflecting his interests in language systems (Ref: MS OGDEN); papers relating to the transfer of Ogden's library to University College London, 1953 (Ref: MS ADD 357).

Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, holds correspondence and papers of Ogden (Ref: Add MSS 8309-8314). Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, holds Ogden's letters to O G S Crawford, 1949-1954 (Ref: MSS Crawford). Sussex University Library, Special Collections, holds 28 letters from Ogden to J G Crowther, 1929-1945 (Ref: SxMS29). Derbyshire Record Office holds c100 letters from Ernest Axon and his widow to Ogden, 1943-1951 (Ref: D2313). McMaster University Library, Hamilton, Ontario, holds correspondence and papers of Ogden, c1932-1963, and 17 items of correspondence with Bertrand Russell, 1916-1928 (Ref: Russell Archives).

Exeter University Library holds manuscripts of Jackson Knight's works. Leeds University, Brotherton Library, holds his correspondence with Francis Berry. Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, holds his letters to J L Myres, 1923-1954 (Ref: MSS Myers).