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Collection Overview

Bell, Clive, 1881-1964
Clive Bell Correspondence
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1 box and 0.21 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1


The Clive Bell Correspondence collection consists of letters received by the English writer and art critic Clive Bell (1881-1964) from Raymond Mortimer, Harold Nicolson, and V. (Victoria) Sackville-West ["Vita"]. Their content reflects both personal and professional matters.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of letters received by Clive Bell from the following correspondents: the editor and literary and art critic Raymond Mortimer (1926-1962), the journalist and biographer Harold Nicolson (1924-1961), and the novelist and literary critic V. (Victoria) Sackville-West ["Vita"] (1922-1961). Their letters are both personal and professional in nature.


The collection is organized alphabetically by correspondent and then chronologically by date.

Collection Creator Biography:

Bell, Clive, 1881-1964

Clive Bell was born on September 16, 1881, in East Shefford, Bedfordshire, England. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he befriended the writers and artists that later became the Bloomsbury group. Throughout his career as a writer and art critic, Bell would be identified as part of this group both by close association and aesthetic sense.

In 1907 he married Vanessa Stephen, the painter and elder sister of Virginia Woolf. They had two sons, Julian and Quentin.

Bell was an early champion of modern art and an important art critic as a result of his objective style. Bell's friendship with Roger Fry contributed to the development of Bell's artistic theory of "significant form" which he explained in his book Art (1914). Bell's other volumes of art criticism include Since Cezanne (1922), Account of French Painting (1932) and Enjoying Pictures: Meditations in the National Gallery and Elsewhere (1934).

Bell wrote about more than just art; he explored politics, society, and history in On British Freedom (1923) and Civilization: An Essay (1928), as well as literary criticism in Proust (1928). In Old Friends: Personal Recollections (1956), Bell's only autobiographical work, he recounts in part the emotional bonds and intellectual attitudes of the talented Bloomsbury group.

Bell died in London in 1964.


(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 literary 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 liaison 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.

Collection History


Purchased at auction in 1981, the collection was a gift to the Library in January 2002 by Viscountess Eccles in honor of Richard M. Ludwig, former professor and head of the Special Collections.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Karla J. Vecchia in 2002 . Finding aid written by Karla J. Vecchia in 2002 .

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Clive Bell Correspondence; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1