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Paul Nash Letters to Mercia Oakley

Call Number: MSS 24
Scope and Contents

The collection comprises 51 letters from Paul Nash to Mercia Oakley. The letters date from 1909 to early 1918, with many undated and the vast majority dating from 1909 to 1912. The letters from Oakley to Nash do not appear to have survived. In a primarily playful and intimate tone, the correspondence addresses a range of themes related mostly to Oakley and Nash’s personal lives. The letters verge on stream-of-consciousness, skipping rapidly between subjects. Many focus on the often confusing dynamics within their friendship and Nash’s philosophies toward life and art. Others speak to more quotidian things, such as social events, family news, and travel plans. The letters taper off extensively when Nash meets his eventual wife, Margaret Odeh, in 1913. The collection’s latest letters address both Nash and Oakley’s weddings and speak briefly of Nash’s work as an Official War Artist during the First World War. The collection provides some intimate insight into Nash’s feelings toward the development of his career. He expresses excitement over his studies and successes, as well as disappointment over failed commissions. In 1912, Nash writes extensively of his preparations for his first exhibition at the Carfax & Co., London. He addresses both the exhibition logistics and his expectations surrounding the event. Nash also writes of exhibitions he has seen, as well as books and poetry he has read. Many of the letters are illustrated with playful, often comical sketches, frequently picturing imagined encounters between Nash and Oakley or illustrating humorous anecdotes. Some letters are accompanied by their original envelope.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The collection is the physical property of the Yale Center for British Art. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund


The collection is arranged into two series: I. Letters from Paul Nash to Mercia Oakley; II. Miscellaneous. The letters are arranged chronologically, with some letters dated according to their postmark when the letter is undated.

The numbering of letters (1-51) is aligned with the numbering in Dear Mercia.

Majority of material found within 1909 - 1912
.5 Linear Feet (1 box)
Related Names
Nash, Paul, 1889-1946
Language of Materials