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Papers of Elspeth Josceline Huxley (2)


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MSS. Afr. s. 2154 boxes 1 to 6 contain letters written to Elspeth Huxley by Nellie Grant from 1933 until Nellie's death in 1977. These give a weekly account of Nellie's life, and especially of her numerous schemes for making a living from her farm.

MSS. Afr. s. 2154 boxes 8 and 9 contain letters written by Elspeth Huxley to her husband, Gervas Huxley, when one or the other was travelling. The bulk of these letters were written by Elspeth Huxley when in Africa, collecting material - especially in 1937 for Red Strangers, in 1956 for No Easy Way, in 1959 for A New Earth, in 1960 when she served on the Monckton Commission, and in 1963 for Forks and Hope. Box 11 contains the notes and diaries written by Elspeth Huxley on some of these visits. The miscellaneous correspondnce in box 10, from a file labelled 'Letters worth keeping', mostly relate to Elspeth Huxley's work and achievements, and are often of interest because of the writer.

General material on East Africa up to 1960 is in box 12, and, while this is not related to particular publications, there are many accounts in the papers in this box, and in the earlier family letters, which were used in Elspeth Huxley's two semi-fictional autobiographical accounts of her childhood: The Flame Trees of Thika (1959) and The Mottled Lizard (1962).

MSS. Afr. s. 2154 boxes 13 and 14 contain material for Nellie: letters from Africa. MSS. Afr. s. 2154 box 15 has material for Out in the Midday Sun: My Kenya, Elspeth Huxley's account of the men and women who were among the first Europeans to live in Kenya. There are numerous letters containing or enclosing reminiscences of early days, and Elspeth Huxley's notes on interviews and books.

MSS. Afr. s. 2154 box 16 contains one file with correspondence and reminiscences related to Pioneer's Scrapbook: Reminiscences of Kenya, 1890-1968, which Elspeth Huxley edited with Arnold Curtis; another of notes for Whipsnade: Captive Breeding for Survival (1981); and material 1977 to 1987, relating to early days in Kenya, and to Serengeti National Park. Longer typescripts and some printed material on East Africa are found in MSS. Afr. s. 2154 boxes 17 and 18.

MSS. Afr. s. 2154 boxes 19 to 24 contain typescripts of books by Elspeth Huxley. Boxes 19 to 21 have the corrected typescript of White Man's Country; boxes 22 and 23 have draft and corrected versions of Nellie, and box 24, the corrected typescript of Out in the Midday Sun. Many of the draft sheets were written on the back of letters received by Elspeth Huxley. Typescript versions of articles and talks by Elspeth Huxley are in MSS. Afr. s. 2154 box 25.

MSS. Afr. s. 2154 box 26 contains cuttings of newspaper and magazine articles by Elspeth Huxley, beginning with a cuttings book of her articles on polo for Kenya papers, 1922-1924, and then articles from 1931 to 1969. MSS. Afr. s. 2154 box 27 has pamphlets written by Elspeth Huxley, and copies of journals containing her articles. Published material about Elspeth Huxley (some reviews of her books, magazine articles, and articles about the television film of The Flame Trees of Thika) is in MSS. Afr. s. 2154 box 28.


  • Creation: 1900-1989


4.2 Linear metres (28 boxes)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

Some material is closed.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MSS. Afr. s. 2154 box 1, file 1].

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Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Afr. s. 2154 boxes 1 to 28.

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 2549


Papers of the writer Elspeth Joceline Huxley, 1900-1989.

Biographical / Historical

Elspeth Josceline Huxley (née Grant), author and journalist, was born 23 July 1907 in London, the only child of Major Josceline Charles Henry (Jos) Grant (1873-1947), soldier and farmer, and his wife, the Hon. Eleanor Lilian (Nellie) Grosvenor (1885-1977), daughter of Richard de Aquila Grosvenor, first Baron Stalbridge.

In 1912, the Grants invested in coffee farming in the then British East Africa Protectorate (later Kenya). Elspeth joined them on Kitimuru Farm in Thika (then Chania Bridge), near Nairobi, the following year. During the First World War, her father returned to Britain to re-join the 3rd Battalion Royal Scots. Elspeth and her mother followed him back to England in 1915 and Elspeth was sent to boarding school, which she hated. After the war was over, she was expelled and returned to live with her parents in Kenya. The coffee farm had proved unprofitable and the family moved to a farm called Gikammeh near Njoro in the Rift Valley.

In 1925, Elspeth returned to England to study for a diploma in agriculture at Reading University and then went on to study for a year at Cornell University in the United States. In 1929, Elspeth became Assistant Press Officer with the Empire Marketing Board where she met Gervas Huxley (1894-1971). They married in December 1931. From 1935 to 1967, Gervas worked as the Director of the International Tea Market Expansion Board, travelling across the world; Elspeth accompanied him whenever possible and, with the exception of the war years, made almost yearly visits back to East Africa.

In 1935, Elspeth published a two volume work, White Man's Country: Lord Delamere and the Making of Kenya, commissioned by Hugh Cholmondeley, third Baron Delamere. Keen to learn more from the other perspective, Elspeth then researched and wrote the novel Red Strangers published in 1937, describing the changes to the life of a fictional Kikuyu family as a result of the invasion by Europeans. Between 1937 and 1940, she also wrote three detective novels (two more followed in the 1960s).

During the Second World War, Elspeth worked at the BBC in the war propaganda department and also as a liaison officer with the Colonial Office. After the war, she was invited to East Africa to study the provision of reading matter and produced a report in 1946 that led to the establishment of the East Africa Literature Bureau. In 1948, Elspeth wrote a book about travelling through East Africa entitled The Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Elspeth contributed a great deal on African affairs to both press and radio, and was a member of the BBC General Advisory Council from 1952 until she was appointed as U.K. Independent Member of the Advisory Commission for the Review of the Constitution of the Federation of Rhodesia (Monckton Commission) in 1959.

Elspeth Huxley also wrote about environmental issues in Britain ( Brave New Victuals was published in 1965) and also many biographies for figures including David Livingstone, Florence Nightingale, Scott of the Antarctic, and his son, Peter Scott.

The Huxleys bought a farm in Oaksey, Wiltshire in 1938 and their only child, Charles Huxley, was born in February 1944. Elspeth continued to live in Oaksey for the rest of her life and was Justice of the Peace for Wiltshire from 1947 to 1977. She was awarded a CBE in 1962. In 1971, the year of Gervas's death, Elspeth moved to a cottage called Green End. She died on 10 January 1997, in a nursing home in Tetbury, Gloucestershire.


This collection of papers continues, and sometimes overlaps with, MSS. Afr. s. 782. All papers which were received in files have been kept together, though the files have been arranged into boxes, and the papers within some files have been rearranged into alphabetical or chronological order.

Other Finding Aids

Listed as no.919 in Manuscript Collections in Rhodes House Library Oxford (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1996).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were donated to the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford by Elspeth Huxley in July 1989.

Further papers were deposited by Elspeth Huxley in November 1989; four additional pamphlets were deposited by Robert Cross on 21 April 1998.

Related Materials

Bodleian Libraries:

  1. MSS. Afr. s. 782 - Papers of Elspeth Josceline Huxley (1), 1901-1960.
  2. MSS. Afr. s. 2332 - Papers of Elspeth Josceline Huxley (3), 1929-1996.
  3. MSS. Afr. s. 717 - Papers of Colonel Charles William G. Walker, letters, 1933-1934.
  4. MSS. Afr. s. 1257 - Papers of Henry Izard, letters relating to Kenya.
  5. MSS. Perham - Papers of Dame Margery Freda Perham, correspondence and related papers.

Bristol Archives

  1. British Empire & Commonwealth Collection, ref. 1995/076 - Huxley collection, 12 boxes of photographs and transcript for oral history interview, 1896-1981.
Catalogue of papers of Elspeth Joceline Huxley (2), 1900-1989
Original finding aid prepared by Mary Bull (1993). EAD version 2024 by Rachael Marsay.
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
First EAD edition.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom