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Royal College of Music

POWELL, Dora Mary (1874-1964)


Reference code(s): GB 1249 MS 5571

Held at: Royal College of Music

Title: POWELL, Dora Mary (1874-1964)

Date(s): 1892-1960 (predominantly 1934-1960)

Level of description: Collection (fonds)

Extent: 4 boxes

Name of creator(s): Powell | Dora Mary | 1874-1964 | née Penny | musicologist


Administrative/Biographical history:

Dora Mary Powell, née Penny, born 8 Feb 1874, daughter of Rev Alfred Penny and Dora Mary Heale. Following the death of her mother, she lived at Highfield with her grandmother while her father served in missionary work in the Melanesian and Solomon Islands. She rejoined her father at Wolverhampton, where he had been appointed Rector in 1895. Soon after he married Mary Frances Baker, who was a childhood friend of Caroline Alice Roberts, whom Edward Elgar married in 1889. As well as being stepmother of Dora, she was the sister of William Meath Baker, sister-in-law to Richard Baxter Townshend, and a close friend of Isabell Fitton, all of whom feature in Elgar's 'Enigma Variations'. In this way Dora Penny became acquainted with the Elgars and was to be characterised as 'Dorabella' (Variation X) of the Variations. She also became a close friend of A J Jaeger ('Nimrod' of the Variations). She took singing lessons, sang in the Wolverhampton Choral Society, and kept diaries during her years at Wolverhampton which record in passing this circle of friends. She lost regular contact with the Elgars after their move to Hampstead in 1912, paying a penultimate visit in 1913. She made her final visit to the Elgars shortly after her marriage to Richard Crofts Powell in Jan 1914. The couple moved to East Grinstead, Sussex. Richard Powell died in 1962 and Dora Powell died in 1964.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Dora M Powell mainly relating to the music of Sir Edward Elgar, particularly his Variations on an original theme ('Enigma Variations'), Opus 36 and Dora Powell's book Edward Elgar: memories of a variation (Oxford University Press, London, 1937 and subsequent editions, revised 1994), comprising correspondence, 1934-1960, including correspondence of her husband Richard Crofts Powell relating to the Enigma theme, and particularly his article 'Elgar's "Enigma"', Music and Letters 15 (1934), the correspondence also includes letters from those connected personally or musically with Elgar such as Sir Percy Clarke Hull and Arthur Troyte Griffith; printed music (some signed by Elgar), 1892-1907; draft articles, talks and notes by Dora Powell relating to Elgar; programmes for concerts of Elgar's music, 1908-1959; autograph manuscripts of Elgar's 'The Shepherd song' and 'Rondel' (Opus 16); cuttings relating to Elgar, including reviews of Powell's book, 1910-1944; programme of the Elgar memorial concert, 3 Jun 1934; My friends pictured within: subjects of the Enigma Variations as portrayed in contemporary photographs and Elgars MS (Novello and Co, London).


Language/scripts of material: English.

System of arrangement:

As follows: 1) Misc material concerning Enigma theme; 2) correspondence 1937-1942, 1943-1946, 1947-1949, 1950-1960; 3) printed music; 4) articles and notes by Powell; 5) papers relating to Powell's Edward Elgar; 6) programmes; 7) notes and articles by others including My friends; 8) photographs; 9) autograph MSS; 10) cuttings book; 11) address book; 12) memorial concert; 13). My friends pictured within

Conditions governing access:

Usual conditions of the Library of the Royal College of Music apply. See the RCM website or contact the RCM Library for details.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopying is permitted at the discretion of the Archivist for research purposes only.

Physical characteristics:

Finding aids:

A detailed entry is available in volume 3 of the Manuscripts catalogue in the library of the Royal College of Music.


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information:


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Presented by Mr and Mrs Claud Powell, 1986.


Existence and location of originals:

Existence and location of copies:

Related material:

Royal College of Music Portraits Department holds the watercolour and photographs of Sir Edward Elgar from this collection. RCM Library also holds photocopies of typescript accounts by Mrs Vera Hockman of her reminiscences of Sir Edward Elgar (MS 6910).

Publication note:



Archivist's note: Compiled by Robert Baxter as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project. Sources: Introduction by Claud Powell to the fourth edition of Mrs Richard Powell's Edward Elgar: memories of a variation (Scolar Press, Aldershot, 1994), Grove Dictionary of Music.

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: Jul 2001

Classical music | Musical styles
Composers | Musicians | Performers | Artists
Musical forms | Musicology | Music | Performing arts
Musical performances | Music | Performing arts

Personal names
Elgar | Sir | Edward William | 1857-1934 | 1st Baronet | composer
Powell | Dora Mary | 1874-1964 | née Penny | musicologist x Penny | Dora Mary

Corporate names