Lady Ottoline Morrell
|Lady Ottoline Morrell|
|Born||Ottoline Violet Anne Cavendish-Bentinck
16 June 1873
|Died||21 April 1938(aged 64)|
|Occupation||Aristocrat, society hostess and patron|
Lady Ottoline Violet Anne Morrell (16 June 1873 – 21 April 1938) was an English aristocrat and society hostess. Her patronage was influential in artistic and intellectual circles, where she befriended writers including Aldous Huxley, Siegfried Sassoon, T. S. Eliot and D. H. Lawrence, and artists including Mark Gertler, Dora Carrington and Gilbert Spencer.
Born Ottoline Violet Anne Cavendish-Bentinck, she was the daughter of Lieutenant-General Arthur Cavendish-Bentinck and his wife, the former Augusta Browne, later created Baroness Bolsover. Lady Ottoline's great-great-uncle (through her paternal grandmother, Lady Anne Wellesley) was Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Ottoline was granted the rank of a daughter of a duke with the courtesy title of "Lady" when her half-brother William succeeded to the Dukedom of Portland in 1879, at which time the family moved into Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire. The dukedom was a title which belonged to the Cavendish-Bentinck family and which passed to Lady Ottoline's branch upon their cousin William Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck's death.
Notable love affairs
Morrell was known to have many lovers. Her first love affair was with an older man, the doctor and writer Axel Munthe, but she rejected his impulsive proposal of marriage because her spiritual beliefs were incompatible with his atheism. In 1902, she married the MP Philip Morrell, with whom she shared a passion for art and a strong interest in Liberal politics. They shared what would now be known as an open marriage for the rest of their lives. Philip's extramarital affairs produced several children who were cared for by his wife, who also struggled to conceal evidence of his mental instability. The Morrells themselves had two children (twins): a son, Hugh, who died in infancy, and a daughter, Julian.
Morrell's lovers may have included the philosopher Bertrand Russell, the painters Augustus John, and Henry Lamb, the artist Dora Carrington, the art historian Roger Fry, and in her later years, there was even a brief affair with a gardener, Lionel Gomme, who was employed at Garsington. Her circle of friends included many authors, artists, sculptors and poets. Her work as a patron was enduring and influential, notably in her contribution to the Contemporary Art Society during its early years.
The Morrells maintained a townhouse in Bedford Square, in the Central London neighbourhood known as Bloomsbury, and restored Garsington Manor near Oxford. Ottoline delighted in opening both as havens for like-minded people. 44 Bedford Square served as her London salon, while Garsington provided a convenient retreat, near enough to London for many of their friends to join them for weekends. She took a keen interest in the work of young contemporary artists, such as Stanley Spencer, and she was particularly close to Mark Gertler and Dora Carrington, who were regular visitors to Garsington during the war, whilst Gilbert Spencer lived for a while in a house on the Garsington estate.
During World War I, the Morrells were notable pacifists, not a popular position then. They invited conscientious objectors such as Duncan Grant, Clive Bell, and Lytton Strachey to take refuge at Garsington. Siegfried Sassoon, recuperating there after an injury, was encouraged to go absent without leave as a protest against the war.
The hospitality offered by the Morrells was such that most of their guests had no suspicion that they were in financial difficulties. Many of them assumed that Ottoline was a wealthy woman. This was far from being the case and during 1927, the Morrells were compelled to sell the manorhouse and its estate, and move to more modest quarters in Gower Street. In 1928 she was diagnosed with cancer, which resulted in a long hospitalization and the removal of her lower teeth and part of her jaw.
Later, Lady Ottoline remained a regular host to the adherents of the Bloomsbury Group, in particular Virginia Woolf, and to many other artists and authors, who included WB Yeats, LP Hartley, T.S. Eliot, and an enduring friendship with Welsh painter Augustus John. She was an influential patron to many of them, and a valued friend, who nevertheless attracted understandable mockery, due to her combination of eccentric attire with an aristocratic manner, extreme shyness and a deep religious faith that set her apart from her times. Her pioneering work as a decorator, colourist, and garden designer remains, to this day, curiously undervalued, but it was for her great gift for friendship that she was mourned when she died 21 April 1938. She actually died from an experimental drug given by a doctor. Henry Green, the novelist, wrote to Philip Morrell of "her love for all things true and beautiful which she had more than anyone...no one can ever know the immeasurable good she did." (quoted by Miranda Seymour, in Ottoline Morrell: Life on the Grand Scale, p 416)
Her after-life in literature
Morrell wrote two volumes of memoirs, but these were edited and revised after her death, losing a little of their charm and much of their intimate detail in the process. She also maintained detailed journals, over a period of twenty years, which remain unpublished. But perhaps Lady Ottoline's most interesting literary legacy is the wealth of representations of her that appear in 20th century literature. She was the inspiration for Mrs Bidlake in Aldous Huxley's Point Counter Point, for Hermione Roddice in D. H. Lawrence's Women in Love, for Lady Caroline Bury in Graham Greene's It's a Battlefield, and for Lady Sybilline Quarrell in Alan Bennett's Forty Years On. The Coming Back (1933), another novel which portrays her, was written by Constance Malleson, one of Ottoline's many rivals for the affection of Bertrand Russell. Some critics consider her the inspiration for Lawrence's Lady Chatterley. Huxley's roman à clef, Crome Yellow depicts the life at a thinly-veiled Garsington.
Non-literary portraits are also part of this interesting legacy, for example, as seen in the artistic photographs of her by Cecil Beaton. There are portraits by Henry Lamb, Duncan Grant, Augustus John, and others. She is portrayed by Tilda Swinton in Derek Jarman's film Wittgenstein and by Penelope Wilton in Christopher Hampton's film Carrington.
- Headington Hill Hall, Oxford
- Burke's Peerage (1959). 102nd Edn., p. 1820
- Rolphe, Katie. Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Marriages Random House Digital, Inc.: New York, 2008 p.190
- Rolphe, Katie. Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Marriages Random House Digital, Inc.: New York, 2008
- "Julian Ottoline Vinogradoff (née Morrell) (1906-1989), Daughter of Lady Ottoline Morrell; married firstly Victor Goodman (by whom she had three children),and secondly Igor Vinogradoff". Npg.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-01-20.
- Moran, Margaret (1991). "Bertrand Russell Meets His Muse: The Impact of Lady Ottoline Morrell (1911-12)". McMaster University Library Press. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
- Caws, Mary Ann and Wright, Sarah Bird. Bloomsbury and France: Art and Friends New York: Oxford University Press, 1999
- Felix, David. Keynes: A Critical Life, Greenwood Press: Westport, CT, 1999. p.129
- Plaque #1089 on Open Plaques.
- "The Life of D.H. Lawrence". Perso.wanadoo.fr. Retrieved 2013-01-20.
- Haycock, David Boyd (2009). A Crisis of Brilliance: Five Young British Artists and the Great War. London: Old Street Publishing.
- Curtis, Vanessa (2002). Virginia Woolf's Women. Univ of Wisconsin Press. p. 108. ISBN 0-299-18340-8
- Kennedy, Maev (10 October 2006). "The real Lady Chatterley: society hostess loved and parodied by Bloomsbury group", The Guardian.
- Seymour, Miranda, Ottoline Morrell: Life on a Grand Scale, New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1993, ISBN 0-374-22818-3 and London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1992, republished, with amendments in 1998, ISBN 0-340-51820-0: and reprinted by Faber, 2009.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lady Ottoline Morrell.|
- Photographs of Ottoline Morrell at the National Portrait Gallery
- Archival material relating to Lady Ottoline Morrell listed at the UK National Archives
- Ottoline Morrell's Collection at the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin
- Pictures by Lady Ottoline Morrell