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Enid Bagnold papers

Call Number: GEN MSS 78

Scope and Contents

The Enid Bagnold Papers contain personal and professional correspondence and other papers which document the life and career of the author of National Velvet and "The Chalk Garden." The papers span the years 1912-71.

The Bagnold Papers are divided into two series: Personal Papers and Correspondence. The bulk of the collection consists of letters written to Bagnold, although there are also letters by Bagnold and a small quantity of third party correspondence.

Series I, Personal Papers , is divided into three sections: copies of letters from Bagnold where no other correspondence exists, correspondence with booksellers regarding The Door of Life, and a scrapbook. Bagnold's letters are arranged chronologically, with the notes, drafts, and miscellaneous material following. The Door of Life correspondence consists of chronologically arranged postcards distributed by the William Morrow & Company, publisher, for comments from book vendors, replies to those postcards, and unsolicited reviews. The scrapbook has been photocopied and the original letters placed in the correspondence series. Original material that did not fit in correspondence has been placed in a separate folder.

Series II, General Correspondence , is arranged alphabetically by correspondent, and unidentified correspondence has been placed at the end of the series. Most third person correspondence has been placed in Series I.

Series II does not contain a significant quantity of correspondence from any single individual. There are several groups of ten of more letters, but most individuals wrote just a few letters. The letters are predominantly personal in content, but they also include some discussion of Bagnold's work. The collection contains a handful of business letters.

Almost all the correspondence dating from 1918-19 comments on her first novel Diary without Dates. The production of "Lottie Dundass" is discussed in the Charles Cochran correspondence, while Thornton Wilder's letters critique the play. Probably the best documented work is her play "The Chalk Garden." Letters from Christopher Busney give some hint as to the genesis of the play, while Bagnold's correspondence with Sir James Cassels demonstrates how she acquired legal facts for her plot. Finally some information on the New York and London productions of "The Chalk Garden" can be found in the Irene Selznick and the Brandt & Brandt Dramatic Department correspondence.

Bagnold's correspondence with Arthur Calder-Marshall and William Heineman Limited demonstrates her business manner. There is a rich correspondence with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, a friendship that arose when Bagnold offered them the leading roles in "The Chinese Prime Minister." Another interesting correspondent is Hugo Rumbold, who wrote to Bagnold using the name "Marie." Known in the theater world as "Binkie," Hugh Beaumont, corresponded with Bagnold and is often mentioned in other correspondence.

The collection also contains letters from such prominent political and literary figures as Irene Selznick, Stanley Baldwin, William Somerset Maugham, J. B. Priestley, Thornton Wilder, and Katherine Mansfield.

The fragile papers in Box 4 consist of originals for which preservation photocopies have been made.


  • 1912 - 1971


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 4: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Enid Bagnold Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were purchased by The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in April 1982 from the George S. MacManus Company with income from the Herman W. Liebert Book Fund.


1 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers contain personal and professional correspondence and other papers, including a scrapbook, which document Bagnold's personal life and writing career.


Enid Bagnold, a twentieth-century British author, is best known for her novel National Velvet (1935) and her play "The Chalk Garden" (1955). Born in Rochester, England she spent much of her early life abroad. As a child Bagnold lived in Jamaica where her father was stationed with the Royal Engineers. She was educated in Germany and France.

During World War I, Bagnold served in an English hospital and drove an ambulance for the French army. Drawing on these experiences, she wrote her first novels, Diary without Dates (1918) and The Happy Foreigner (1920). Bagnold married Sir Roderick Jones in 1920, settled in London, traveled in high society and literary circles, and for the next three decades continued writing fiction. In 1924, she published Serena Blandish and in 1938 The Squire (published under the title The Door of Life in the United States). After losing her first chance to be on stage, Bagnold turned to playwriting. A friend suggested she use her experience as the plot of a play: "Lottie Dundass" (1941) was the result. She became devoted to the theater and wrote "Poor Judas" (1951), "Gertie" (1952), "The Last Joke" (1960), and "The Chinese Prime Minister" (1964). Her plays were produced in both England and America.

After her husband died in 1962, Bagnold remained active, built new friendships, and continued to write. In 1967 she began her autobiography, which was published in 1969. Although many of her plays were unsuccessful, her enthusiasm for the theater never waned. She flew to Philadelphia in 1977 to attend her play "A Matter of Gravity" starring Katherine Hepburn. Bagnold died in 1981.

Guide to the Enid Bagnold Papers
Under Revision
by Susie R. Bock
February 1987
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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