John Robert Monsell: Correspondence and papers

Scope and Content

The papers form two distinct sections. The first contains Monsell's correspondence, papers, illustrations and published works; the second comprises letters and papers of other family members. The first section include letters that Monsell wrote to his mother during the First World War, complete with sketches, drawings and annotated watercolours produced during and after the war. There are also significant quantities of Monsell's artwork and other illustrative material derived from his work as a children's book writer and illustrator, as well as musical scores, stage sets and costume designs for his musicals.

The second section includes nineteenth-century letters of Aubrey de Vere, with a file of his letters to an unidentified lady known only as 'Mrs Jackson'. Other items include an unpublished manuscript verse by the Anglo-Irish poet Percival Graves, together with other nineteenth-century family correspondence, family trees and two family histories, one by Monsell himself, the other by his grandmother, Eleanor Vere O'Brien, which includes her recollections of the Irish Famine. There is also a collection of printed works, not otherwise held by Cambridge University Library, by Sir Stephen and Aubrey de Vere. The former includes a private printing of Grave and gay: verses of many years, complete with eight pages of manuscript poems in the author's hand.

Part I: Monsell's correspondence.

Part II: Monsell's drawings, paintings, illustrations and artwork for books and other works.

Part III: Monsell's plays, operas and musical works together with stage and costume designs.

Part IV: Family correspondence and papers.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Robert (Jack) Monsell (1877-1952) was born into a wealthy Anglo-Irish family. He spent much of his childhood at Curragh Chase, Co. Kildare, the home of his great uncles, the poet Sir Aubrey de Vere and his brother, the legislator and scholar Sir Stephen de Vere. On the death of his uncle Aubrey in 1902, the family moved to Foulis Terrace, Onslow Gardens, Chelsea. After completing his education in Dublin, Monsell pursued acting, a career he returned to periodically throughout his life, before turning to writing and illustrating children's books and other, mainly satirical works. He was also a regular contributor to Arthur Mee's Children's newspaper. Monsell was shaken by his experience of the First World War, during which he was gassed, blown up and suffered shell shock, but received encouragement in his career from his wife, the novelist Margaret Irwin, whom he married in 1927. Monsell wrote and illustrated further children's books and created a number of light musical plays, for which he also wrote librettos and designed stage sets and costumes. Of the latter, only his adaptation of Sheridan's The rivals reached the London stage.

Access Information

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

Acquisition Information

Presented by the family of J.R. Monsell, 1997.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives.

Other Finding Aids

There is a detailed description of the collection in the Additional Manuscripts Catalogue, available in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Family Names

Geographical Names