Stephen Gaselee (diplomat)

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Stephen Gaselee was a British diplomat, writer and librarian. Born in 1882,[1] he died in 1943.

Gaselee's recreations, according to the anonymous obituary in The Times, were "travel, shooting and bridge", but he was a man of wide interests for whom work and recreation blended imperceptibly. He wrote on "classical literature, medieval and modern Latin ... Coptic, hagiography and liturgiology, palaeography and bibliography, Spain, Portugal, Madeira, wine and food". His friend Ronald Storrs characterised him during their undergraduate days as follows:

Stephen Gaselee was already at the age of twenty what he never ceased to be, a Cambridge Personality; Gaselee, with almost as many friends as interests, a first-class classical scholar, a bibliophile, a bibliographer, a liturgiologist; Gaselee, who when playing tennis wore his hair in a net; who kept Siamese cats, fed with a revolting portion of cow’s lung preserved on a plate above his bookshelf; who had a fire every day in the year because England has a cold climate; who founded the Deipnosophists’ dining club, where the members, robed in purple dinner-jackets lined with lilac silk and preluding dashingly on Vodka, would launch forth into an uncharted ocean of good food and even better talk; Gaselee, who read, wrote and spoke Ancient Coptic (which the Copts themselves had not done for 300 years); Gaselee, nightly puffing his long churchwarden whilst he expatiated on Petronius, vestments, Shark’s Fin and cooking problems; a lay Prince of the Church, Ecclesiastic Militant and Gastronomer Royal.[2]

He was a friend of the classicist A. F. Scholfield, who was Librarian of Cambridge University Library from 1923 to 1949. Gaselee, meanwhile, was Pepys Librarian at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and afterwards Librarian and Keeper of the Papers at the Foreign Office. He was President of the Bibliographical Society of London from 1932 to 1934.[3]

He was a frequent and generous donor of books to Cambridge University Library. One unusual item was acquired at Sinaia in 1926: a copy, signed to Gaselee, of Queen Marie of Romania's novel Why? A story of great longing. His major donations were a collection of 311 incunabula, given in 1934; 279 early 16th century books, given in 1940; and fifty books to be chosen by the Librarian at his death. His personal collection of works relating to Petronius and the Satyricon was bought from his heirs and given to Cambridge University Library by a group of benefactors.

Of Gaselee's three daughters (Ursula, Julitta and Stephana), two are still alive, whilst Julitta died in December 2012.

Works by Stephen Gaselee[edit]


  • Andrew Dalby, "Gaseleiana" in Libraries Information Bulletin (Cambridge) no. 81 (1979) pp. 2–4.
  • Robert Scoble, The Corvo Cult: The History of an Obsession, Strange Attractor Press, 2014, pages 205-207.
  • Ronald Storrs; David McKitterick, ed., "Gaselee, Sir Stephen (1882-1943)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004)


  1. ^ "Gaselee, Sir Stephen (1882-1943)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. ^ Ronad Storrs, Orientations (London: Nicholson & Watson, 1943 edn), p. 14.
  3. ^