The Papers of St John and Mary Hutchinson from The Jeremy Hutchinson QC Archive

By Alexander Taylor

Two books in a box surrounded by tissue paper. One is labeled 'SxMs207/1/1/2/2 St John Hutchinson 1917-1923 Diary'
St John Hutchinson’s diary 1917-1923. Ref-no: SxMs207/1/1/2/2.

[Content Warning: This article discusses archival material that includes references to mental health issues and suicide. Reader discretion is advised.]

My name is Alexander Taylor, and I am the Project Archivist working on cataloguing, preserving, and making available the Jeremy Hutchinson QC archive. The collection comprises records from Jeremy and his family’s personal and professional lives. This article will comprise the first in a series of 3 blog posts examining the collection in its entirety, with the first focusing on the uncatalogued personal papers of Jeremy’s parents, St John Hutchinson, a prominent defence barrister, and Mary Hutchinson (née Barnes), a short-story writer and model. The papers are prodigious in social and cultural history, demonstrating the Hutchinson’s interests, friendship circles and professional lives, making them an invaluable resource to academics, students, and enthusiasts. The archive is entirely a family collection, having been created and contributed to over time by the Hutchinson family up until its subsequent deposit to the University of Sussex Special Collections through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme.

A handwritten letter with a draft bookplate, which spells 'St J H'. The S and J are held up by two naked figures on either side of the H and there are two rabbits sitting on the middle of the H.
New Year letter addressed to ‘Jack’ St John Hutchinson from Dora Carrington accompanied by a rough-proof book plate for his 1917-1923 diary. Ref-no: SxMs207/1/1/3/2/1.

Amongst the personal papers are two extant diaries from the early years of St John and Mary’s marriage. The first was co-written by them both between 1909-1911 and provides a personal insight into their wedding, honeymoon, and European travels. Interspersed with photographs of the couple at international landmarks is a plethora of ephemeral material including theatre tickets, menus, postcards, and stickers. Interestingly, Mary was initially opposed to St John’s courtship. A letter dated 28th February 1909 demonstrates her reticence, writing to him ‘I don’t want you ever to hope for anything more than friendship’. Just a year later her correspondence took an entirely different tone, writing to him on 26th January 1910 ‘help me to love everything that is lovely’. The second diary was written solely by St John between 1917-1923 and includes a bookplate designed by the artist Dora Carrington. Four letters addressed to St John from Carrington survive, principally concerning the creation and delivery of the bookplate engravings (including samples). In one letter, she amusingly derides his handwriting that she finds ‘rather bad’. The photographs included in the diary are particularly exciting, with several depicting T.S. Eliot alongside the couple and their friends. One distinctive photograph shows St John (alongside a woman) rubbing Eliot’s legs and feet while he writes in a notebook!

A diary entry with a picture described in the caption attached.
Photograph and text from St John Hutchinson’s 1917-1923 diary. Photograph depicts St John rubbing T.S. Eliot’s shoe alongside a woman (possibly his wife, Vivienne Eliot) rubbing his leg. Ref-no: SxMs207/1/1/2/2.

The correspondence material reads like a Who’s Who of early 20th century society, with prominent members of, and those adjacent to, the Bloomsbury Group making up a large chunk of the papers. Incoming letters from Clive and Vanessa Bell, Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Duncan Grant, D.H. Lawrence, Lady Diana Cooper and many more demonstrate the wider cultural and aristocratic company the Hutchinsons kept. In one legal case, St John defended his friend D.H. Lawrence on a case brought against the Dorothy Warren Gallery on obscenity charges arising from an exhibition of his paintings. The police seized 13 paintings; however, Hutchinson was able to lobby the police to have them returned to Lawrence, on the consideration that they were never shown again. In a letter addressed to St John dated 14th July 1929, Lawrence writes ‘you will soon be the real St George of the censorship battle’.

Three handwritten letters and an envelope
Letters addressed to ‘Jack’ St John Hutchinson from Mark Gertler, Jan-Feb 1919. Ref-No: SxMs207/1/1/3/2/4.

The Bloomsbury Group and their friends are frequently maligned for living bohemian lifestyles made possible by familial support and generous patrons. Despite this, their correspondence is at times deeply sentimental and personal, as is evident from the twenty-six incoming letters addressed to St John from the artist Mark Gertler. They are conversational, detailed and at times amusing. Gertler writes candidly about his mental and physical health, including his experiences of convalescing at sanatoriums for long periods of time owing to the increasing side effects of tuberculosis. After years of declining health, in a letter from September 1936 (addressed to a Marta or Mark), Gertler confesses to attempting suicide and writes that he does not mind if the Hutchinson’s be told of ‘what he did’.

Henry Tonk’s letters to Mary form the most substantial from a single sender in the Jeremy Hutchinson archive, with 156 letters covering nearly 30 years. Tonks was described as particularly stoic, with a dominating and austere presence. This arguably unfair perspective stymies Tonk’s emotional characteristics, with his affectionate correspondence to Mary, accompanied by often whimsical illustrations, demonstrating a genuine fondness for her. In one letter dated 4th June 1922, Tonks writes to Mary ‘your friendship, as you well know, has made a good deal of difference to me’. Mary modelled for several of Tonk’s works, with the archive including unfinished sketches from his painting ‘The Hutchinson Family, 1932’. It is possible that these were sent to Mary to determine her opinion of his preliminary drawings.

Three pencil sketches depicting a seated woman in a long dress with her right arm outstretched.  The sketches are at different stages of completion
Preliminary sketches of Mary Hutchinson for Henry Tonk’s 1932 painting ‘The Hutchinson Family’. Ref-No: SxMs207/3/4/2/6.

While a muse for fashionable artists and photographers, Mary was herself a successful short-story writer. Surrounded by literary prodigies, it is unsurprising that she also took to writing. She published a single volume of short stories and essays, Fugitive Pieces, in 1927 under the imprint of the Hogarth Press, founded by her friends Virginia and Leonard Woolf. During T.S. Eliot’s time as Assistant Editor of the literary periodical The Egoist, he published Mary’s story ‘War’; a typescript copy remains in the JH QC archive. Eliot evidently trusted Mary’s opinion, submitting his poem ‘Gerontion’ for her opinion before it’s publication in 1920. Twelve of Mary’s holographic manuscripts and typewritten works remain in the archive, including fiction and biographical stories of her close friends, with many annotated in her hand. In later life, Mary was a supporter of the quarterly arts and literary review magazine, ‘X’, which ran from 1959-1962. Her own work Kaleidoscope of Childhood was featured in Volume One, Number Two, March 1960.

I hope that you have enjoyed this brief overview of the St John & Mary Hutchinson papers. If you are interested in this material, please do not hesitate to contact the Project Archivist with any enquiries. Their contact details are as follows:

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