Papers of Diana Gould

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Most of the material in the collection dates from the early period of Diana's career and includes two albums containing over 80 programmes from productions in which she appeared, together with reviews and press cuttings. There are files of correspondence, photographs, and a small amount of other memorabilia.

Administrative / Biographical History

Diana Rosamund Constance Grace Irene Gould (12 November 1912 - 25 January 2003), later Lady Diana Menuhin, was a British ballerina. Born in Belgravia, Diana was the youngest of three children. Her mother was Evelyn Stuart, an amateur pianist. Her father Gerald Gould, a civil servant at the Foreign Office, died when she was three. In 1920, when she was seven, her mother married Cecil Harcourt, a naval officer who became Second Sea Lord and commanded the British battleship The Duke of York during the war. He was knighted as Admiral Sir Cecil Harcourt in 1945.

Diana's mother spotted her talent, took her to study with Egorova in Paris and enrolled her in Madame Marie Rambert's dance classes at Notting Hill at the age of nine. When Diana was 14 she partnered Frederick Ashton, dancing in the premiere of his first ballet 'Leda and the Swan'. Sergei Diaghilev spotted her and invited her to join his Ballets Russes but he died before this could be arranged, events said to have been fictionalized in the film 'The Red Shoes'. The same thing happened again when Anna Pavlova, who described Diana as the only English dancer who "had a soul", invited the 16 year old Diana to become a soloist in her company, but died before Diana could take up the offer.

Diana continued to dance at Rambert's Ballet Club. By the early 1930s she had taken lead roles in a number of productions. Despite her height (at 173cm she was taller than most ballerinas) her performances were well received and she was described by Arnold Haskell as "the most musical dancer the English have yet produced". She danced with Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes and, in 1933, she danced leading roles in Balanchine ballets in Paris and London. From 1935 to 1937 she was a soloist with the Markova-Dolin Ballet. During the early years of the Second World War she joined the Arts Theatre Ballet, giving matinee performances during the Blitz and touring with the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), entertaining British armed forces personnel in Cairo and Italy. She became prima ballerina of Jay Pomeroy's Russian Opera and Ballet Company at the Cambridge Theatre, remaining there until 1944. From 1944 to 1946 she acted, danced and sang the role of Frou Frou in The Merry Widow in London and on tour.

Diana married Sir Yehudi Menuhin in 1947, becoming his second wife. She retired from the stage and spent the next 50 years supporting and organising her husband, enabling him to dedicate his life to music and humanitarian causes, accompanying him on all his travels. The Menuhins lived in Chester Square, Belgravia. Yehudi Menuhin was made an honorary knight in 1965, known as Sir Yehudi after he became a British citizen in 1985. In 1993 he was made a life peer, as Baron Menuhin of Stoke d'Abernon, and Diana became Baroness Menuhin (although she was generally referred to as Lady Menuhin). She remained his constant support until his death in 1999.

Diana wrote two autobiographies: Fiddler's Moll (1984) and A Glimpse of Olympus (1996).

Arrangement

The papers were not in original order, and researching the accession history provided no further clues, so the collection was arranged into five series as follows:

Correspondence, further divided into two series to separate the personal from that related to Diana's professional work; photographs; memorabilia and other documents related to her professional career.

Diana had some notable correspondents, including:

• Marie Rambert

• Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich, a Russian grand duke who married the ballet dancer Mathilde Kchessinska

• Anton Dolin, the British dancer, choreographer and director who studied with Nijinkska and Cecchetti and worked with Diaghilev and de Bail in the Ballets Russes

• Fernau Hall, dance critic of Ballet Today and the Daily Telegraph and author of books on ballet

• Lady Diana Cooper, English socialite and actress

• Lesley Blanch, Vogue Features Editor

• Bronislava Nijinska

• Leontine Sagan (born Leontine Schlesinger, February 13, 1889 – May 20, 1974) was an Austrian actress and theatre director

The record series are:

DPDG/1: Personal Correspondence

DPDG/2: Professional Work

DPDG/3: Professional Correspondence

DPDG/4: Memorabilia

DPDG/5: Photographs

Conditions Governing Access

Open

This collection can be viewed by appointment with the Rambert Archivist. More information on making an appointment can be found on the Rambert website: http://www.rambert.org.uk/ramberts_history/access

Note

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Conditions Governing Use

Copyright owned by creators including choreographer(s), designer(s) and composer(s). Performers rights apply. Can not be copied without rights owners' permission(s).

Custodial History

Papers deposited by Diana Gould's estate.