Quentin Bell Papers

Scope and Content

The Quentin Bell Papers, extending to over five thousand letters and related documents, are concerned chiefly with evaluating and commenting on research, advising on editorial matters, and the business of administering copyright consents. The collection therefore contains a large body of correspondence between Professor Bell and the many scholars, critics and enthusiasts world-wide who contributed to Woolf studies in the second half of the twentieth century. That sequence of letters constitutes the first part of this archive - the General Correspondence.

The second part of the collection, listed under Topic Files, comprises subject and thematic files which relate to both Virginia Woolf and other members or activities of the Bloomsbury group, with a few exceptions (the Bells' visit to China in 1982-83; correspondence with Ernst Gombrich). The file titles are those assigned by Professor Bell. The largest group includes over seven hundred letters between Bell and the staff of the Hogarth Press.

Administrative / Biographical History

Quentin Claudian Stephen Bell (1910-1996) was an artist, potter, author and founding Professor of the History and Theory of Art at the University of Sussex from 1967 to 1975. He was the son of Clive Bell (1881-1964) and Vanessa Stephen (1879-1961) - and the nephew of the writer Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), with whom he enjoyed a trusted and affectionate relationship throughout their lives and whose first elected biographer he was to become. Bell's papers bear witness to that familial affection and to the responsibility and care which he bestowed on his distinguished aunt's literary memory. Bell's highly praised Virginia Woolf: a biography , 2 vols (London: Hogarth Press, 1972), won not only the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, but also the Duff Cooper Prize and the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Award. After the death of Virginia's widower, Leonard Woolf (1880-1969), Quentin Bell and his sister Angelica Garnett inherited Virginia Woolf's literary estate, the administration of which was undertaken by Quentin (see SxMs 13 and 18). In this and in all aspects of Woolf matters he was able to call on the knowledge and judgement of his wife Anne Olivier Bell, later editor with Andrew McNeillie of The diary of Virginia Woolf , 5 vols (London: Hogarth Press, 1977-84) (see SxMs 70). In the years that followed there has continued to be vigorous interest in all aspects of Virginia Woolf's life and work.

Access Information

Items in the collection may be consulted for the purpose of private study and personal research, within the controlled environment and restrictions of The Keep's Reading Rooms.

Acquisition Information

Given by Mrs Anne Olivier Bell in July 2002.


Prepared by John Farrant, September 2002, with acknowledgement to Bet Inglis.

Other Finding Aids

An online catalogue is available on The Keep's website .

Conditions Governing Use

COPIES FOR PRIVATE STUDY: Subject to copyright, conditions imposed by owners and protecting the documents, digital copies can be made.

PUBLICATION: A reader wishing to publish material in the collection should contact the Head of Special Collections, in writing. The reader is responsible for obtaining permission to publish from the copyright owner.

Related Material

This collection is closely paralleled by SxMs 70, A. O. Bell Papers, being correspondence relating to Anne Olivier Bell's research for the biography, and editing of the diary, of Virginia Woolf; and by SxMs 61, Nicolson Papers, being correspondence relating to the editing by Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann of The letters of Virginia Woolf , 6 vols (London: Hogarth Press, 1975-80).

The other collections at the University of Sussex relating to the Woolfs and to the 'Bloomsbury group' are:

SxMs 13, Leonard Woolf Papers

SxMs 18, Monks House Papers (papers of Virginia Woolf and related papers of Leonard Woolf)

SxMs 56, Charleston Papers (Clive Bell, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant)

SxMs 58, Birrell Papers (Francis Birrell)