Autograph Letter Collection: Strachey Letters

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection contains letters between members of the Strachey family and other correspondents. Writers include Philippa Strachey, Ralph Strachey, Richard Strachey, Oliver Strachey, Sir Richard Strachey, Pernel Strachey, James Strachey, Lady Jane Strachey, Dorothy Strachey, Marjorie Strachey, Elinor Rendel, Dorothy Bussy, Roger Fry, Virginia Woolf and Mlle Souvestre.

9/27/A- Letters between Roger Fry and Philippa Strachey 1915-1933.

9/27/B- Letters from Ralph Strachey to Philippa Strachey 1869-1893.

9/27/C- Letters to Philippa Strachey from Richard Strachey 1886-1917 and to Philippa Strachery from Oliver Strachey 1906-1912 (Begin at AL/4767).

9/27/D- Ralph at School 1878-1889; James at School 1899; Elinor Rendel 1889-1896; Sir Richard Strachey 1889-1899; Pernel Strachey 1891 & 1894-1895.

9/27/E- Letters from: Pippa to her mother 1902/1905; Passport 1915; Dorothy Strachey to Pippa Strachey 1895-1903; Dorothy Bussy to Pippa Strachey 1903-1929; Marjorie Strachey to Pippa Strachey 1898-1956; Ray Strachey to Pippa Strachey 1911-1929.

9/27/F- Letters from friends and acquaintances to various members of the Strachey family 1865 to 1958; Letters from Marietta Pallis to Philippa Strachey Nov 1955-Jan 1957 - begin AL/5073; Letters of Condolence on the death of Pernel Strachey. Arranged alphabetically 1951-1952 - begin AL/5097.

9/27/G- Letters from Mlle Souvestre to Mrs Strachey written in French from 'Les Ruches'; The Strachey letters Volume 27 Part G II, Letters from Mlle Souvestre to Mrs Strachey, Written in French 1874-1879 - Begin AL/5156.

Administrative / Biographical History

Dorothea Strachey (1866-1960), later Bussy, the writer who published her most famous work 'Olivia' anonymously in 1948, was born in 1866 and was educated at Les Ruches in Fontainbleau where Marie Souvestre, the daughter of Emile Souvestre, was the head of the school. During the 1880s, Souvestre moved to England to establish a London school at Allenswood in Wimbledon Park where most of the other Strachey daughters were educated. Dorothea was the sister of Philippa Strachey, and married a French artist.

Giles Lytton Strachey (1880-1932) was born in 1880 to Lady Jane Maria Strachey and Major Richard Strachey. He became a member of the Bloomsbury set after graduating from Cambridge. He was both a successful critic and author of works such as 'Eminent Victorians' which is recognised as having restructured the biography into the form that would dominate throughout the twentieth century. He died in 1932.

Joan Pernel Strachey (1876-1951) was born in 1876 to Lady Jane Maria Strachey and Major Richard Strachey. She was educated at Allenswood School and Newnham College, Cambridge. After graduating, she lectured on French at Royal Holloway College between 1900-1905, moving to Newnham in 1905. In 1910 she was appointed as a tutor. In 1917 she became Director of Studies in Modern Languages, then in 1923, she was appointed principal of Newnham College. Pernel Strachey remained at Newnham College until her retirement in 1941. After this, she worked as a volunteer in the offices of the London and National Society for Women’s Service, of which her sister Philippa was president. Through her family connections, most specifically through her brother Lytton Strachey, she was considered part of the Bloomsbury set. She died in 1951.

James (Jembeau) Beaumont Strachey (1887-1967) was the youngest of the Strachey children, known in the family as 'Jembeau'. He attended Cambridge and was a member of the group called 'The Apostles' with Rupert Brooks, with whom he enjoyed a close relationship until the poet's death. From 1909 to 1915 he acted as the secretary of St Loe Strachey, his cousin and editor of 'The Spectator', as well as contributing articles to that publication. He became a Quaker and did work for the Society of Friends during the First World War. However, he and his wife Alix Sargant Florence both later became psychoanalysts, spending time in Vienna with Freud and translating a number of his works into English for the first time. He died in 1967.

Lady Jane Maria Strachey (1840-1928) was born on a ship off the Cape of Good Hope in 1840. Her father was the Anglo-Indian administrator Sir John Grant of Rothiemurchus in Speyside, who would later be Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. Her mother was Henrietta Chichele Plowden. In 1859 she married Richard Strachey, her father's secretary and the person who introduced her to the writings of John Stuart Mill. The couple had 13 children with ten surviving into adulthood: Lytton, Richard, Ralph, Oliver, Giles Lytton, Elinor, Dorothea, Philippa, Joan Pernel and Marjorie. The couple were in Edinburgh in 1866-7 and it was there that Lady Strachey helped gather signatures for a petition to parliament requesting the vote for women. She herself published her first article on suffrage in 'The Attempt' printed by the Edinburgh Ladies' Debating Society, which helped to raise interest in the issue in Scotland. By 1868 she was a member of the Edinburgh National Society for Women's Suffrage before returning to India to be with her husband who had been posted there once more to serve in the administration. The couple went back to London in 1879, where she once again became involved in the movement for women's suffrage. From 1880 she supported the New Hospital for Women of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and continued to financially support Girton College. When the Women's Local Government Society was formed in 1886 in order to promote the claims of women to both elect and be elected to local office, Lady Strachey was one of the organisers and in 1909 she became the Chair of the London branch, liaising between the organisation, candidates and women's suffrage groups. The culmination of this work occurred when a WLGS-sponsored bill was included in the King's speech of 1907 that allowed the election of women to borough and county positions. The same year, she was elected to the executive committee of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies and, with her daughters, helped organise what became known as the 'Mud March' from Hyde Park to the Exeter Hall to demand the vote. At the same time as undertaking significant organising duties, she was a keen writer of pamphlets and songs for the group, which were later published as 'Women's Suffrage Songs'. In 1909 she became a member of the editorial board of the 'Englishwoman's Journal' and was elected president of the South Paddington Committee of the London Society for Women's Suffrage. However, in the following years, particularly after the death of her husband in 1909, her activities decreased. None the less, she actively supported the work of her daughter Philippa in the London Society for Women's Suffrage and that of her daughter-in-law Rachel, or Ray, Strachey. In 1920 the Society of Women Journalists still felt able to offer her the position of vice president, but she declined the offer. She died in 1928.

Marjorie Colvile Strachey (1882-1962) was born in 1882 to Lady Jane Maria Strachey and Major Richard Strachey. She was educated at Allenswood alongside her sisters before attending Somerville College, Oxford. Like her brother she too became a writer of novels such as 'The Counterfeits' (1927) and 'The Nightingale' (1925) and biographies like 'Mazzini, Garibaldi & Cavour'. She died in 1962.

Oliver Strachey (1874-1960) was born in 1874 to Lady Jane Maria Strachey and Major Richard Strachey. He went on to be educated at Eton and then Oxford. He too served with the East Indian Railway but during the First and Second World Wars he was notable for his work with the Foreign and War Offices. He was married twice, first to Ruby Mayer with whom he had one daughter, Julia Frances, and then to Rachel Conn, sister-in-law of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell. She became known as Ray Strachey and was active in the women's movement alongside Philippa Strachey.

Philippa Strachey (1872-1968), known as Pippa, was born in 1872 to Lady Jane Maria Strachey and Major Richard Strachey. She was brought up first in India, where her father was a leading figure in the administration, and then in London, where the family moved in 1879. Her mother was active in the movement for women's suffrage and both Philippa and her siblings were encouraged to contribute to this work. In 1906 she became a member of the executive committee of the Central Society for Women's Suffrage and the following year she was elected the secretary of its successor the London Society for Women's Suffrage. In 1906 she joined the London Society for Women's Suffrage, succeeding Edith Palliser as secretary the following year. It was also in 1907 that she joined her mother Lady Jane Maria Strachey in organising what became known as the 'Mud March' at the instigation of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies and which went from Hyde Park to the Exeter Hall to demand the vote. During the First World War she was deeply involved in various war works, from being the secretary of the Women's Service Bureau for War Workers to participating as a member of the Committee for the London units of the Scottish Women's Hospital from 1914-1919. This war work began her lasting involvement with the issue of women's employment and she remained the secretary of the Women's Service Bureau after 1918 when it became concerned with helping women thrown out of jobs on the return of men from the Front. She remained there until its dissolution, which came in 1922, caused by a financial crisis in the parent organisation. However, subsequently Strachey helped to found a new group to fill the gap, becoming the secretary and then honorary secretary of the Women's Employment Federation. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, family problems took up much of her time as she nursed both her mother and her brother Lytton until their deaths. However, all through this time she remained active in the London Society for Women's Service and when it was renamed the Fawcett Society in 1951, she was asked to be its honorary secretary. It was that year that she was awarded the CBE for her work for women. She subsequently was made a governor of Bedford College. Increasing ill-health slowed the pace of her work and blindness finally forced her to enter a nursing home at the end of her life. She died in 1968.

Ralph Strachey (1868-1923) was born in 1868 and was soon singled out as a fine mathematician. With this talent, he later became the Chief Engineer of the East Indian Railway. He died in 1923.

Richard Strachey (1861-1935) born in 1861, became a soldier at a young age. He went on to serve as a colonel in the Rifle Brigade in Burma at the end of the nineteenth century. During the First World War he was first in the War Office and then in the Northern Command. He died in 1935.

General Sir Richard Strachey (1817-1908) went out to India in 1836 and had a period of service over 33 years. In 1862 he became head of the Public Works Department. In 1859 married Jane Maria daughter of Sir John Grant under whom he had served in India.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit. Available on microfiche only

Other Finding Aids

Abstracts of individual letters in the autograph letters collection were written and held alongside the letters. This work was done from the 1960s by volunteers including Nan Taylor. In 2004 Jean Holder completed a 3 year project to list the letters, copy-type the abstracts, and repackage the letters to meet preservation needs. In 2005 Vicky Wylde and Teresa Doherty proof read and imported the entries to the Special Collections Catalogue.

The original card index of all correspondents, including date of letter & volume reference, is available on the microfiche.

Alternative Form Available

A copy of this archive is available on microfilm held at The Women's Library.

Related Material

Also held at The Women's Library are personal papers of Jane Strachey (7JMS), Philippa Strachey (7PHS), Pernel Strachey (7JPS) and Strachey Family Papers (7BSH).

Further papers of the Strachey family are available in a number of repositories. Further letters of Dorothy Bussey are available in the Oriental and India Office Collections at the British Library while her letters to Philippa Strachey are in the Tate Gallery Archive (Reference : TGA 7028.1.1-22). The papers of James Strachey are held by the British Psycho-Analytical Society while his letters to Dora Carrington (1916-1932) are in the British Library Manuscripts Department (Reference : Add MS 65158) and those to Leonard Woolf are in Sussex University Library Special Collections (Reference : SxMs 13/Pt III). The majority of the papers of Jane Maria Strachey are also in the British Library Manuscripts Department (Reference : Add MSS 60631-54) along with extensive family and personal correspondence deposited in the British Library, Oriental and India Office Collections (Reference : MSS Eur F 127). Papers of Joan Pernel comprising her correspondence with Dame Katharine Furse (1934-51) are in the PowerGen Library (Reference : URWICK ARCHIVE). Oliver Strachey's letters to G E Moore are in the Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives (Reference : add MSS 8330/8S/47). Sir Richard Strachey's notes and notebooks are held in both the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Library and Archives and in the Natural History Museum, while large sections of his other papers are held in the British Library, Manuscript Collections (Reference : Add MSS 60631-54).