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Orwell Papers: Sonia Orwell (Blair) papers

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0103 ORWELL (S)
Held at: University College London - click here to see details of the physical location of collection
Full title: Orwell Papers: Sonia Orwell (Blair) papers
Date(s): 1937-1977
Level of description: Sub-fonds of Orwell Papers
View parent record
Extent: 8 boxes
Name of creator(s): Blair | Sonia Mary | 1918-1980 | née Brownell | second wife of George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair)


Administrative/Biographical history:

Sonia Mary Brownell, born in 1918, was Cyril Connolly's editorial assistant at the magazine Horizon, where she met George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) in 1945. They married in 1949, a few weeks before Orwell's death in January 1950. With David Astor and Richard Rees, she established the George Orwell Archive at University College London, opened in 1960. With Ian Angus, she edited The collected essays, journalism and letters of George Orwell (4 volumes, Secker & Warburg, London, 1968). She died in London in 1980.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers, 1937-1977, of Sonia Orwell. Her papers include letters received, 1937-1977 and undated, from over 160 correspondents, including Francis Bacon, William Coldstream, Cyril Connolly, Malcolm Muggeridge, Anthony Powell, Stephen Spender, Julia Strachey, and other prominent literary figures; some personal items, 1940-1975. Her correspondence relating to George Orwell, his estate, and his son Richard, 1950-1970, includes letters from Orwell's executor Sir Richard Rees, 1950-1955, letters from Orwell's sister Avril Dunn, 1950-1962, copies of letters from Dwight Macdonald re biography, 1956-1964, and correspondence with A M Heath & Co (Orwell's agents) and with publishers including Secker & Warburg (Orwell's UK publishers) and Harcourt Brace (Orwell's US publishers) about Orwell's publications, royalties, permissions and film rights, 1950-1963.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The papers comprise two sections: papers of Sonia Orwell, with the letters arranged alphabetically by correspondent (7 boxes); correspondence relating to Orwell and his estate (1 box).

Conditions governing access:

Access to Sonia Orwell's papers is allowed only with the permission of the copyright holder/executor. Access to her papers relating to Orwell's estate is allowed only with the permission of A M Heath & Co.

Conditions governing reproduction:

No quotation without reference to copyright holders.

Finding aids:

Draft handlist.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Received from A M Heath & Co in c1970 (estate papers) and 1990 (letters and personal papers of Sonia Orwell).

Allied Materials

Related material:

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Source: Michael Shelden, Orwell: the authorised biography (William Heinemann Ltd, London, 1991), pp 442-8, 486-8. Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

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:
Nov 2001

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