The Birrell Papers

Scope and Content

Letters from France (mostly to Birrell s father, Augustine); photographs and postcards of France; and a file of letters and other documents relating to the work in France of the War Victims Relief Committee of the Society of Friends; 1915-1919.

Administrative / Biographical History

Francis Frederick Locker Birrell (1889-1935), journalist, drama critic and bookseller, was the son of Augustine Birrell (1850-1933), literary critic, essayist, barrister and Liberal politician. He was educated at Eton College, and at King s College, Cambridge, where he met Lytton Strachey in October 1909. By Christmas he was integrated in the Bloomsbury circle and visiting the Stephens in Fitzroy Square. He was also a friend of David Garnett with whom in 1914 he started a play-reading group, the Caroline Club.

In June 1915 Birrell and Garnett joined the Society of Friends War Victims Relief Mission. They crossed to France and were stationed at Sommeilles, a war-ravaged village on the southern fringe of the Argonne Forest. Although Garnett returned to England in the following winter, Birrell remained with the Mission until 1919, editing a magazine which kept American Quakers who were serving with relief teams in Europe in touch with each other. This collection comprises papers from Birrell s time in France.

From 1919 to 1924 Birrell and Garnett jointly ran a bookshop at 19 Taviton Street, London. Garnett sold his share in 1924 but Birrell retained his interest until 1927. He edited a series of books on Representative Women for the publishers, Gerald Howe, and from 1931 was a regular critic in the New Statesman . His health gave way in 1932 and he died in 1935.

Source: Alan&Veronica Palmer, Who s who in Bloomsbury (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1987), 19-20.

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

Acquired in 1991


Prepared by John Farrant, July 2002.

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

Other collections at the University of Sussex relating to the Bloomsbury group are:

SxMs 13 Leonard Woolf Papers

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

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

SxMs 61 Nicolson Papers (Nigel Nicholson)

SxMs 70 A. O. Bell Papers (Anne Olivier Bell)

Geographical Names