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Literary Manuscripts of Sarah Cockburn [pseudonym Sarah Caudwell]


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Contains draft manuscript and typescript transcripts, proofs and working notebooks containing manuscript drafts and notes for: Thus Was Adonis Murdered; The Shortest Way to Hades; The Sirens Sang of Murder; and The Sibyl In Her Grave.


  • Creation: c.1950s-2000


3.93 Linear metres (27 boxes)

Language of Materials

  • English
  • French

Conditions Governing Access

Some material is closed.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 12506/1].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MS. 12506/1-27

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 12506


Literary manuscripts of Sarah Cockburn [pseudonym Sarah Caudwell], c.1950s-2000.

Biographical / Historical

Sarah Caudwell Cockburn (1939–2000) was the daughter of Jean Iris Ross (1911–1973), journalist and actress (the inspiration behind Christopher Isherwood’s fictional heroine, Sally Bowles) and the journalist (Francis) Claud Cockburn (1904–1981), who left Ross three months after Sarah’s birth.

Having lived in Hertfordshire and Cheltenham, Sarah and Jean moved up to Scotland in the 1950s. Sarah attended Aberdeen High School for Girls before reading Classics at Aberdeen University, where she won a scholarship to visit Greece. She obtained her MA in 1960.

Sarah went on to study law at St Anne’s College, Oxford and graduated BCL in 1962. Whilst at Oxford, she successfully campaigned to change the rules of the Oxford Union’s debating chamber and was one of the first women to take part in debates as a member rather than as a guest of the union.

In 1965, she was called to the Chancery Bar, starting work in the Middle Temple before going on to Lincoln’s Inn; she would later draw upon her experience as a barrister in her novels. In 1974, she left to work in Lloyds Bank’s trust division where she remained until she finally decided to concentrate fully on writing fiction.

Cockburn’s first novel was Thus was Adonis Murdered, written under the pseudonym Sarah Caudwell and published in America in 1981. This was the first in her series of crime novels narrated by Professor Hilary Tamar, a fictional Oxford don. The series continued with The Shortest Way to Hades in 1985 and The Sirens Sang of Murder in 1989. Caudwell died of cancer on 28 January 2000 and the final book in the series, The Sibyl in Her Grave, was published posthumously in America later that year.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated to the Bodleian Libraries by Clare Hughes, July 2000.

Catalogue of literary manuscripts of Sarah Cockburn [pseudonym Sarah Caudwell], c.1950s-2000
Finding aid prepared by Rachael Marsay
Language of description
Script of description
Catalogued with the generous support of the Roy Davids bequest

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom