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MS 429

Reference code

MS 429


Maurice Baring collection



Administrative / Biographical history

Baring, Maurice (1874-1945); Hillgarth, Jocelyn and Jeffs, Julian

Maurice Baring was a dramatist, poet, author, translator and essayist, as well as a travel writer and war correspondent.

He was born on 27 April 1874, the fifth son of Edward Charles Baring (1828–1897), who became first Baron Revelstoke, banker, and his wife, Louisa Emily Charlotte (d. 1892), daughter of John Crocker Bulteel, of Flete and Lyneham, Devon.

Baring was educated at Eton College and at Trinity College, Cambridge, but left the university without taking a degree. Instead he used his talent for languages as part of the diplomatic service where he served as attaché in Paris, Copenhagen, and Rome, as well as working for a year at the Foreign Office in London.

In 1904 he resigned from the service, becoming a war correspondent for the Morning Post in Manchuria. After the end of the Russo-Japanese War, he became a special correspondent for the same newspaper in St Petersburg. During these years he learnt Russian and developed an abiding sympathy for the Russian people which he would maintain throughout his life, becoming instrumental in introducing Russian literature into England. It was about this time that Baring's lifelong friendship with G. K. Chesterton began, and it has been suggested that Baring was the model for Horne Fisher, the connecting character of the stories that compose 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' (1922). In 1909 Baring went as correspondent to Constantinople and the same year he converted to Roman Catholicism, which would become central to his life and his work. He would describe this as the most important event of his life and ‘the only action in my life which I am quite certain I have never regretted’. All this early period of Baring's life is described in his autobiography 'The Puppet Show of Memory' (1922).

Baring had already published a number of books when war broke out in 1914. Two plays, 'The Black Prince' (1902) and 'Gaston de Foix' (1903), showed his double interest in history and the theatre. 'Dead Letters' (1910) and 'Diminutive Dramas' (1911) revealed a lightly satiric humour playing on historic themes. Baring had also published his war memoirs, 'With the Russians in Manchuria' (1905), and a short account of Russian literature, 'Landmarks in Russian Literature' (1910). In later years he selected the poems included in 'The Oxford Book of Russian Verse' (1948). During the First World War he was attached to the Royal Flying Corps branch of the British expeditionary force, and for four years from August 1915 was ‘mentor and guide’ to Hugh (later Viscount) Trenchard. He became a staff officer of the Royal Air Force in 1918, and was also appointed OBE in that year. His experiences during the First World War were recorded in 'RFC HQ, 1914–1918' (1920). His letters to Lady Juliet Duff, 1915–18, were later published in 'Dear Animated Bust' (1981). In 1925 Baring was given an honorary commission as wing commander in the Reserve of Air Force Officers; and in 1935 he was appointed officer of the Légion d'honneur. He also became a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

His first novel, 'Passing By' was published in 1921, with 'C' (1924), 'Cat's Cradle' (1925), and 'Daphne Adeane' (1926) all following. Later, in such books as 'The Lonely Lady of Dulwich' (1934), Baring returned to the shorter form of the nouvelle; and in 'Robert Peckham' (1930) and 'In my End is my Beginning' (1931), he returned to history for his subject. He also published in 1933 a short biography of Sarah Bernhardt, whom he had known and admired. Baring’s work was well received and he became a major literary figure during his lifetime, and despite becoming less well known since, he has remained popular in Europe.

In 1936 Baring was already suffering from paralysis agitans; the last book he was able to write was perhaps his most popular - 'Have you Anything to Declare?' (1936), an anthology of favourite quotations in several languages, with translation and comments.

Baring died, unmarried, at Beaufort Castle, Beauly, Inverness-shire, on 14 December 1945.

[Adapted from Robert Speaight, rev. Annette Peach 'Maurice Baring' (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)]



Extent & medium

13 boxes containing a total of 186 files

Content description

The collection consists of the working papers for the publication of ‘Maurice Baring’s Letters’, selected and edited by Jocelyn Hillgarth and Julian Jeffs (published by Michael Russell in 2007). It contains research papers collected and created by them in the course of their work, including original letters written by Baring.


The papers were collected and added to by Jocelyn Hillgarth and Julian Jeffs during the course of their research on Baring

Associated material

Eton College Library holds a number of published works by, or about, Maurice Baring, including copies of his books given by him to Eton School Library, and some books from his personal library. These are catalogued separately and can be searched in the books module of the catalogue.

In addition see MS 676 04 for letters to Lady Diana Cooper from Maurice Baring

Further collections of Maurice Baring’s letters and literary papers have been dispersed among a number of different repositories. They include British Library [Add. MS 73484]; Harvard University, Houghton Library [MS Eng 1275] and the National Archives

Finding aids

An initial handlist of the collection was completed at the time of acquisition, a copy of which is held by Eton College Library

Publication note

Some of the letters in this collection were published in ‘Maurice Baring Letter’ ed. Jocelyn Hillgarth and Julian Jeffs (Norwich, Michael Russell, 2007). A copy is held by Eton College Library [Shelfmark: Lbb.6.17]
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