Francis Hopwood, first Baron Southborough, MS. Photogr. c. 185, fol. 56
The archive of the civil servant Francis Hopwood, first Baron Southborough (1860–1947), has now been catalogued and is available in reading rooms in the Weston Library.
Trained as a solicitor, Southborough had a fascinating career in the public service. The consummate civil servant, he worked at the Board of Trade, the Admiralty, and the Colonial Office when the British Empire was at its territorial peak. A skilled negotiator who was involved in public affairs at the highest level, he (among many other duties) served as secretary of the Select Committee investigating the botched Jameson Raid (1895-96), was entrusted with a secret peace mission to Scandinavia during World War I, and was elected as secretary of the Irish Convention which attempted to resolve the “Irish Question” following the Easter Uprising of 1916.
Southborough also worked closely with members of the British royal family and royal household, and was involved with the acquisition and cutting of the famous Cullinan Diamond, resulting in nine principal gems, two of which (known as the Great Star of Africa and the Second Star of Africa) today form part of the Imperial State Crown and the Sovereign’s Sceptre With Cross. The archive also includes a box of letters from Princess Louise and a typescript account (attributed to Princess Louise) of life in the royal household under Queen Victoria.
The general correspondence is also fascinating, and the archive includes letters from characters as diverse as the fervent naval reformer Admiral Lord Fisher and the author Edith Wharton. There are also significant tranches of letters from Southborough’s close colleague Winston Churchill (they worked together in the Admiralty); the South African prime ministers Louis Botha and Jan Smuts; Bernard Forbes, Lord Granard, corresponding about Irish affairs and the conduct of the Dardanelles Campaign in World War I; and Wiliam Humble Ward, Lord Dudley, while he was governer of Australia.
The archive is astonishingly rich and has a very wide range of research potential, not least for students of British political history.
“Publishing is my business, writing my amusement and politics my duty.”
It was the 75th anniversary of John Buchan’s death on 11 February and the Bodleian has recently purchased 21 letters (MS. Eng. c. 8330) from Buchan to his Brasenose College friend Benjamin Consitt Boulter, known affectionately as Taff or Taffy. Buchan is probably best-remembered today for his spy adventure novel The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915), which has been filmed on multiple occasions with diminishing success after Alfred Hitchcock’s definitive 1935 version. But Buchan’s prolific novel writing formed only a part of a varied career as a politician and colonial diplomat, which culminated in his appointment as Governor General of Canada in 1935, a post which he held until his death in 1940.
Twenty of the holograph letters date from Buchan’s formative Oxford undergraduate days, while the last is a typescript sent from Government House, Ottawa, a few weeks after the outbreak of war in 1939 and three months before Buchan’s death in 1940. By this time Buchan was first Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield in the County of Oxford and his friend Boulter had retired to Burford, where he continued to write and illustrate Christian-themed books. There is a forty-year gap between the last handwritten ‘Oxford’ letter and the final typed one – an archival absence which is perhaps more poignant and voluble in its way than full documentation, passing as it does straight from the youthful hopes of the correspondents to their old age, although Boulter outlived Buchan by 20 years and died in 1960.
Also included among Buchan’s own letters is one to his younger sister, Anna Masterton Buchan (1877-1948), who was herself a novelist writing under the pseudonym O. Douglas. The sender is unidentified, but the subject is the tragic death of the Buchans’ brother, William, in 1912. William worked in the Indian Civil Service and the letter (sent from India) laments the loss of his ‘sweetness & unselfish devotion’.
-Judith Priestman, Curator of Modern Literary Manuscripts