Biography and History

(Charles) Raymond Mortimer (Bell), 1895-1980, writer, literary art critic, and editor, was born at 62 Albert Gate Mansions, Knightsbridge, London on April 25, 1895. His mother dying young, Mortimer was raised by his aunt and uncle in Redhill, Surrey. At age nine he was sent to Eastbourne Preparatory School, but quickly moved on, in 1909, to Malvern College. He studied history at Balliol College at Oxford in 1913. In 1915, medically rejected from active service, he worked at a hospital for French soldiers in the South of France. In 1918, again medically rejected, he returned to England as a cipher clerk in the Foreign Office. After the war, he did not return to his education at Oxford, but rather chose to engage in a brief and fruitless exploration of religion, briefly joining the Catholic Church. Mortimer soon decided the religious life was not for him and became a self-proclaimed hedonist. With the help of a private income, he enjoyed a life of leisure. He indulged in travel, and in Paris he almost established a second home, quickly becoming friendly with such art and literary figures as Jean Cocteau, Tristan Tzara, and Louis Aragon.

In 1922, in collaboration with Hamish Miles (J. E. Miles, a Balliol friend), he published a novel, The Oxford Circus. His short story "The Lion's Den," which was originally published in the London Mercury, was later included in the 1924 edition of The Best British Short Stories. His works were also published in Vogue, the Nation, and New Statesman. However, Mortimer was primarily known for his work as a critic and reviewer of both literature and the visual arts, and for his close association with a circle of artists and literary figures known as the "Bloomsbury Group."

Mortimer became editor for the New Statesman in 1935, retaining the post until 1947, with an interlude in 1940-1941, during which period he was at the Ministry of Information, playing a large part in the liason with the BBC and the establishment of the Free French Service. In 1948 he went to the Sunday Times, and in 1952 obtained the title of Chief Reviewer, a title he would hold until his death. Unmarried, he shared a Bloomsbury flat, and after 1952 a house in Canonbury, Islington, with the architect Geddes Hyslop. In Dorset he shared a country house with his fellow critics Edward Sackville-West and Desmond Shawe-Taylor. Mortimer died at his home in Canonbury, Islington, on January 9, 1980.

Source: From the finding aid for C0271

Biography and History

Raymond Mortimer, English author and literary critic, was literary editor (1935-1947) of the New Statesman. Edward Sackville-West, a novelist and musician, was a music critic for the New Statesman.

Source: From the finding aid for C0800

  • Raymond Mortimer Collection. 1905-1979 (inclusive), 1925-1970 (bulk).

    Call Number: C0271

    Consists of autograph letters, documents, ephemera, photographs, printed matter, and other miscellaneous material of the English literary critic and editor Raymond Mortimer (1895-1980).

  • Raymond Mortimer Letters to Edward Sackville-West. 1925-1963 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C0800

    Consists of 73 letters (1925-1961) by English author and literary critic Raymond Mortimer to his life-long friend Edward Sackville-West, both members of the "Bloomsbury Group."

  • Harold Nicolson Papers. 1884-1962 (inclusive), 1925-1961 (bulk).

    Call Number: C0913

    The Harold Nicolson Papers consists of papers of the English diplomat, journalist, and biographer Harold Nicolson (1886-1968). These papers primarily contain correspondence received by Nicolson, but there is also a large series of letters written by Nicolson to Richard Rumbold, as well as a few to others. Also included in the collection are manuscripts and/or working notes for four of Nicolson's published works. Furthermore, there is a small amount of papers of others, chiefly correspondence by and to Nicolson's wife, "Vita" (Victoria) Sackville-West.