William Gerhardie: Letters to Margaret Penn

Scope and Content

39 personal letters from Gerhardie to Margaret Penn, 1941-1977, including a few typed copies; newscuttings (2); photographs of Gerhardie at Bixlet Haven (3); letters to Margaret Penn from 'Selma', 7 May 1963, and from Harold [Sergings], 13 December 1966; and a letter from Margaret Penn to Gerhardie, 13 July 1977.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Alexander Gerhardie (1895-1977), novelist and critic, was born in St Petersburg, Russia, on 21 November 1895, where he attended the St Annen Schule and Reformierte Schule. He moved to London, planning to train for a commercial career, but at the outbreak of World War I joined the Royal Scots Greys. He was posted to the British embassy in Petrograd, 1916-1918, and in 1918 was attached to the Scots Guards.

After the war Gerhardie travelled the world, before attending Worcester College, Oxford, where he obtained a B.A. in Russian in 1922. His first two novels, Futility (1922) and The polyglots (1925), were well received, and he became a prolific writer of novels and short stories. Gerhardie travelled widely, before settling in London in 1931, where he remained for the rest of his life. During World War II he worked for the B.B.C. He published his last novel in 1940, and thereafter lived in increasing obscurity, involving himself in a little broadcasting and essay-writing. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1975. Gerhardie died in London on 15 July 1977.

Access Information

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Purchased 1982.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. The biographical history was compiled with reference to the entry on Gerhardie in Lord Blake and C.S. Nicholls, eds, Dictionary of national biography, 1971-1980 (Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 335-336.

Other Finding Aids

Additional Manuscripts Summary Catalogue.

Related Material

Most of Gerhardie's letters to Margaret Penn, 1939-1960, including the originals of the copies found in this collection, were returned to him, and now form part of the Gerhardie Papers, MS.Add.8292, Files 19 and 21.