Papers of Catherine Carswell (1879-1946), novelist, journalist and biographer

Scope and Content

The collection consists of books and papers belonging to Catherine Carswell and associated with D.H. Lawrence. It includes correspondence from D.H. and Frieda Lawrence to Catherine and Donald Carswell, and to Gordon MacFarlane, Catherine Carswell's brother, including typewritten copies of Lawrence letters which Carswell subsequently sold. A copy of her controversial biography The Savage Pilgrimage is present, together with related correspondence from John Middleton Murry. There are several typescript essays about Lawrence by Carswell, and newscuttings and articles of literary criticism. Personal memorabilia includes property given by D.H. Lawrence to Catherine Carswell, consisting of his recorder, and a number of works from his library.

Administrative / Biographical History

Catherine Carswell (1879-1946), was born Catherine Roxburgh MacFarlane, in Glasgow on 27 March 1879. She attended Glasgow University, reading English and spent two years, 1896-1898, studying music in Frankfurt. On her return to Glasgow she became an art lecturer and in 1903 married Herbert P.M. Jackson, a marriage which was later annulled when Jackson was declared insane. In 1907 she became a reviewer for the Glasgow Herald, being subsequently sacked for reviewing The Rainbow, D.H. Lawrence's banned novel. She then moved to London where she became a drama critic for The Observer and in 1915 married fellow journlist Donald Carswell.

After her move to London Catherine Carswell met and became friends with D.H. Lawrence. They remained in regular correspondence from 1914 until the year before Lawrence's death. It was Lawrence who encouraged the writing of her first novel Open the Door! (1920). After completing her second novel, The Camomile (1922), she wrote no more fiction, concentrating on journalism and, later, biographies. In 1930, she produced the groundbreaking biography Life of Robert Burns, following this with The Savage Pilgrimage (1932), her memoir on D.H. Lawrence, and The Tranquil Heart (1937), a biography of the 14th-century Italian writer Boccaccio.

Catherine Carswell died on 19 March 1946 and her papers and autobiographical writings were edited by her son, John Carswell, and published posthumously as Lying Awake (1950).


The papers are arranged into the groups by type of material; Correspondence, Literary Works and Miscellaneous. They are further sub-divided within these groups and listed chronologically.

Access Information

ACCESS: Accessible to all registered readers. Readers are asked to use surrogate copies of some materials.

REPROGRAPHIC: Photocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study only, depending on access status and the condition of the documents.

Other Finding Aids

NOTE: Copyright on all Finding Aids belongs to the University of Nottingham.

  • In the University of Nottingham Library: Draft database catalogue; access via staff member.

Separated Material

Conditions Governing Use

COPYRIGHT: Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the Keeper of the Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections (email ). The Department will try to assist in identifying copyright owners but the responsibility for copyright clearance before publication ultimately rests with the reader.

Custodial History

Catherine Carwell's Lawrence papers and books were given to Nottingham University Library after the death of her son, John Carswell.

Related Material

  • The main Lawrence holdings at Nottingham are found in the sub-groups of the Lawrence Collection; GB 159 La.