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Christopher Isherwood Papers: Finding Aid
CI 1-4085; FAC 1346-1397  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Use Restrictions
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Select Bibliography
  • Scope and Content
  • Related materials in the Huntington Library
  • Arrangement
  • Added Entries and Subject Headings
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Christopher Isherwood Papers
    Dates (inclusive): 1864-1997
    Bulk dates: 1925-1985
    Collection Number: CI 1-4085; FAC 1346-1397
    Creator: Isherwood, Christopher, 1904-1986.
    Extent: approximately 3,000 items.
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2191
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: This collection contains the papers of British-American writer Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986), chiefly dating from the 1920s to the 1980s. Consisting of scripts, literary manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, ephemera, audio-visual material, and Isherwood’s library, the archive is an exceptionally rich resource for research on Isherwood, as well as W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender and others. Subjects documented in the collection include homosexuality and gay rights, pacifism, and Vedanta.
    Language: English.


    The collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department, with two exceptions:
    • The series of Isherwood’s daily diaries, which are closed until January 1, 2030. These sealed diaries are not listed in the finding aid. Expurgated texts of these diaries have been edited and published by Katherine Bucknell. (Please see Selected Bibliography in this finding aid for citations.) Other diaries are available for research and are itemized in the Container List, below.
    • Scholars’ essays and letters addressed to Christopher Isherwood or to Don Bachardy after 1975 are closed for 30 years after their dates. This material is listed, along with opening dates, at the end of this finding aid.

    Use Restrictions

    Letters and manuscripts by W. H. Auden may be seen but may not be photocopied without written permission from the Auden literary executor, Edward Mendelson. In no case will permission be granted to copy all of the letters or manuscripts. His permission must also be obtained in order to quote from or publish any of the Auden items.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The literary rights for Isherwood are owned by Don Bachardy, 145 Adelaide Drive, Santa Monica, California 90402.
    The literary rights for others in the collection are owned by the appropriate parties, e.g., the rights for Auden are owned by Edward Mendelson, those for Spender are owned by Lady Spender, etc. Please contact the Huntington’s Curator of Literary Manuscripts with any questions.
    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Christopher Isherwood Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    The majority of the collection was acquired as a combination gift and purchase from Don Bachardy in April, 1999. (Accession nos. 1965 and 1966)
    Additional material has been acquired from the following sources:
    • A Talk with Christopher Isherwood: transcription of an interview, 1977. Gift of Robin French, August 26, 1999. (Accession no. 1995)
    • Letters between Christopher Isherwood and Stanley P. Friedman, 1951. Purchased from Stanley P. Friedman, September 10, 1999. (Accession no. 1999)
    • File concerning Christopher Isherwood’s lectureship at California State University, Los Angeles, 1959-1962. Gift of Don Dewey, December 29, 1999. (Accession no. 2022)
    • Additional correspondence to Isherwood and drafts of Christopher and His Kind. Gift of Don Bachardy, July 21, 2000. (Accession no. 2641)
    • An extensive file of photographs. Gift of Don Bachardy, July 21, 2000.
    • Contact prints of photographs of Christopher Isherwood, taken during the last weeks of his life by Wayne Shimabukuro. Gift of Mr. Shimabukuro, 1999.
    • Photographs of Christopher Isherwood, by Florence Homolka. Purchased from Roland Jaeger, May, 2000 (Accession no. 2050) and June, 2002 (Accession no. 2160).
    • The World in the Evening: final draft, with corrections, plus drafts of Christopher and His Kind and portions of Down There on a Visit, all from the estate of Dodie Smith, purchased by the Library Collectors’ Council and the Parsons Foundation, March 2003. (Accession no. 2207)
    • Ten CDs of interviews broadcast over KPFA radio, 1962-1977. Gift of Pacifica Radio Archives, April 18, 2003. (Accession no. 2214)
    • Photograph of Don Bachardy, taken by Marilyn Sanders, 1991. Gift of Romaine Ahlstrom, April 24, 2003. (Accession no. 2218)
    • Photograph of W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood by Carl Van Vechten, February 6, 1939. Purchased from James Cummins Bookseller, Catalog 86, lot 3, December, 2003. (Accession no. 2640) CI 4079.
    • Five letters from Christopher Isherwood to Ingmar Bjorksten, 1957-1964. Purchased from Michael Silverman Autographs, London, December, 2003. (Accession no. 2639) CI 4080-4084.
    • Photograph of Isherwood, taken by Leigh A. Wiener, April, 1984. Gift of Murray J. Smith, May 4, 2004. (Accession no. 2271)
    • CD of interview with Brian Finney, September 5, 1976. Gift of Brian Finney, August 29, 2004. (Accession no. 2280)
    • Audiotape of lecture by Isherwood, April 12, 1973. Gift of Robert Potter, July 19, 2004. (Accession no. 2307)
    • The Memorial: autograph final draft, with corrections. From Philip Spender, purchased by the Library Collectors’ Council, January, 2006. (Accession no. 2358)
    The source and date of acquisition for all the above additions to the collection are noted on the individual folders.

    Biographical Note

    Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986) was born on August 26, 1904, in Cheshire, England, the son of Frank and Kathleen Bradshaw-Isherwood. He attended Repton School, 1919-1922, and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, 1924-1925. He went to Berlin in 1929 to visit W. H. Auden and remained, intermittently, for the next four years. In 1939 he immigrated to the United States, settling in Santa Monica, California. From 1954 until his death on January 4, 1986, Isherwood lived with his companion Don Bachardy.
    During his years in California, Isherwood wrote for MGM studios, he was a guest lecturer at California State University, Los Angeles, at University of California, Santa Barbara, and other colleges, and he was active in the Vedanta Society.
    The author of plays, screenplays, novels and nonfiction, Isherwood created works that transcend classification in their combination of autobiographical and imaginative elements. His novels include The Berlin Stories, based on the years he lived in Berlin and adapted as the play I Am a Camera and as the musical Cabaret, Prater Violet (1945), The World in the Evening (1954), Down There On a Visit (1962), A Single Man (1964), and A Meeting by the River (1967). Among his autobiographical and nonfiction works are Lions and Shadows: An Education in the Twenties (1938), Journey to War (with W. H. Auden, 1939), Kathleen and Frank (1971), and My Guru and His Disciple (1980).
    Isherwood’s autobiographical work, Christopher and His Kind (1976), provided new information about his life, particularly his sexual preference. He became known as an outspoken advocate of gay rights, speaking and writing widely on the subject.

    Select Bibliography

    • Berg, James J. and Chris Freeman, eds. Conversations with Christopher Isherwood (Jackson, Miss.: University Press of Mississippi, 2001).
    • Berg, James J. and Chris Freeman, eds. The Isherwood Century: Essays on the Life and Work of Christopher Isherwood (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2000).
    • Colletta, Lisa, ed. Kathleen and Christopher: Christopher Isherwood’s Letters to His Mother (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005).
    • Contemporary Authors (New Revision Series) vol. 35: 238-242.
    • Isherwood, Christopher. Diaries: Volume I, 1939-1960, edited by Katherine Bucknell (New York: HarperFlamingo, Michael DiCapua Books, 1997).
    • Isherwood, Christopher. Lost Years: A Memoir, 1945-1951, edited by Katherine Bucknell (New York: HarperCollins, 2000).
    • Kulkarni, H.B. Stephen Spender Works and Criticism: An Annotated Bibliography (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1976).
    • Lago, Mary. Calendar of the Letters of E.M. Forster (London and New York: Mansell Publishing Limited, 1985).
    • Lago, Mary and P.N. Furbank, eds. Selected Letters of E.M. Forster, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1983-1985).
    • Page, Norman. Auden and Isherwood: The Berlin Years (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998).
    • Spender, Stephen. Letters to Christopher: Stephen Spender’s Letters to Christopher Isherwood, 1929-1939, ed. Lee Bartlett (Santa Barbara, CA: Black Sparrow Press, 1980).
    • White, James and William H. White. Christopher Isherwood: A Bibliography of his Personal Papers (Montrose, AL: Texas Center for Writers Press, 1987).

    Scope and Content

    This collection contains the papers of British-American writer Christopher Isherwood, chiefly dating from the 1920s to the 1980s. Consisting of scripts, literary manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, ephemera, audio-visual material, and Isherwood’s library, the archive is an exceptionally rich resource for research on Isherwood, as well as W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender and others. Subjects documented in the collection include homosexuality and gay rights, pacifism, and Vedanta.
    The majority of scripts are by Isherwood, and there are quite a few collaborative efforts, e.g., Below the Equator and Jacob’s Hands with Aldous Huxley; and Frankenstein, A Meeting By the River and other titles with Don Bachardy.
    There are also drafts of the early Auden-Isherwood collaborations The Dog Beneath the Skin and The Enemies of a Bishop.
    Literary Manuscripts
    The archive includes manuscripts for most of Isherwood’s works. The largest exception is the manuscripts for The Berlin Stories, which are not present. High points include multiple drafts for A Single Man, The World in the Evening, Down There On a Visit, Christopher and His Kind, A Meeting By the River, The Memorial, and My Guru and His Disciple.
    Isherwood’s “Writing Notebook” (CI 1158) is very rich, containing long series of notes on the writing of The World in the Evening and Down There On a Visit. For example, he spent seven years working and re- working The World in the Evening, a process that included many conversations about the novel with his friends Dodie Smith and Alec Beesley. The “Writing Notebook” includes accounts of those conversations, in addition to notes reflecting his own thoughts about writing the novel.
    An extensive series of notes for lecture that Isherwood presented at universities in southern California contains highly important information on Isherwood’s views on literature, Vedanta, and his own place in 20th-century letters.
    Isherwood and W.H. Auden enjoyed a deep, life-long friendship and, beginning in their youth, they exchanged thoughts about literature and their reactions to one another’s writings. Isherwood exerted a profound effect on Auden’s poems, suggesting alterations on many occasions. Because of Isherwood and Auden’s close literary interaction, Auden gave many poems to Isherwood. These verses, some unpublished, are in the Isherwood Papers, along with an extraordinary notebook containing drafts of early Auden poetry (some unpublished).
    Of special note is the journal that Isherwood and Auden kept jointly on their trip to Asia in 1938, later published as Diary of a Trip to Asia.
    The collection is rich in letters to Isherwood, most notably from W.H. Auden and Stephen Spender. The Auden letters are superb and, together with poetry manuscripts, form a body of original material that is equaled only by the manuscripts held in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library.
    The letters from Stephen Spender are excellent and form a long body of communication about literary and editorial matters, both his own and Isherwood’s. Spender sold Isherwood’s letters to the Bancroft Library, so the two halves of the correspondence are housed in northern and southern California.
    A superb series of letters from E.M. Forster bespeaks the closeness of his friendship with Isherwood, as well as his position as mentor to the younger writer, who greatly admired the older writer. In addition to literary and social matters, Forster’s letters include descriptions of the effects of bombing on England during World War Two. Most notably, several letters address Forster’s request that Isherwood oversee publication of Maurice after Forster’s death.
    Correspondence from other major literary figures includes letters by Truman Capote, Somerset Maugham, J.D. Salinger, Gore Vidal, and Tennessee Williams.
    An extensive series of letters from dance impresario Lincoln Kirstein fully and wittily documents his time in the military, stationed in Germany during the Second World War.
    The longest set of letters by Isherwood is the series to his mother, which are long and filled with important information about his activities and his thoughts. These letters have been published: Colletta, Lisa, ed., Kathleen and Christopher: Christopher Isherwood’s Letters to His Mother (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005). Apart from this series, the collection contains relatively few letters by Isherwood.
    There are about 1,800 photographs in the collection, chiefly depicting Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy. The majority of the photographs are the work of professional photographers and therefore under copyright, so researchers wishing to publish or make use of them must seek the appropriate permission. A database of the photographs is available, and thumbnails of the pictures are being added whenever the opportunity arises.
    Among the ephemera are flyers and publicity for the Auden-Isherwood collaborations, for productions of Cabaret, and for stagings of adaptations of Isherwood’s novels. There are also Isherwood’s datebooks and address books, published interviews, clippings by and about Isherwood, about his writings, and about others, and miscellaneous printed material. There is also important material that documents homosexuality and the gay rights movement.
    Audio-visual Material [In process]
    Audio tapes include lectures by Isherwood. Videos include interviews with Isherwood by Dick Cavett and Arianna Stephanopoulos (now Huffington), plus a 1986 tribute prepared by the BBC. This material is currently being transferred to digital format.


    Cataloger's Note
    Many letters and manuscripts include annotations (usually in pencil) of dates or other information added by Isherwood late in his life.

    Related materials in the Huntington Library


    The collection consists of the following series:
    • 1. Scripts
    • 2. Literary manuscripts and correspondence
    • 3. Addenda (consisting of literary manuscripts and correspondence) [IN PROCESS]
    • 4. Photographs
    • 5. Ephemera
    • 6. Audio recordings and videotapes [IN PROCESS]
    • 7. Restricted materials
    The collection is processed to the item level, e.g., there is one item per folder, and each folder has a unique call number.

    Added Entries and Subject Headings

    Additional Guides

    An index of the important subjects and added entries, e.g., joint authors, important addressees, and the like, for this collection is available in PDF form:

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  


    Auden, W. H. (Wystan Hugh), 1907-1973 -- Correspondence.
    Bachardy, Don, 1934--- Correspondence.
    Britten, Benjamin, 1913-1976 -- Correspondence.
    Capote, Truman, 1924-1984 -- Correspondence.
    Forster, E. M. (Edward Morgan), 1879-1970 -- Correspondence.
    Gielgud, John, 1904-2000 -- Correspondence.
    Greene, Graham, 1904-1991 -- Correspondence.
    Isherwood, Christopher, 1904-1986 -- Archives.
    Harris, Julie -- Correspondence.
    Heard, Gerald, 1889-1971 -- Correspondence.
    Hockney, David -- Correspondence.
    Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963 -- Correspondence.
    Kirstein, Lincoln, 1907-1996 -- Correspondence.
    Lehmann, John, 1907-1987 -- Correspondence.
    Maugham, W. Somerset (William Somerset), 1874-1965 -- Correspondence.
    Plomer, William, 1903-1973 -- Correspondence.
    Prabhavananda, Swami, 1893-1976 -- Correspondence.
    Salinger, J. D. (Jerome David), 1919-2010 -- Correspondence.
    Smith, Dodie, 1896-1990 -- Correspondence.
    Spender, Stephen, 1909-1995 -- Correspondence.
    Stravinsky, Igor, 1882-1971 -- Correspondence.
    Upward, Edward -- Correspondence.
    Vidal, Gore, 1925-2012 -- Correspondence.
    Viertel, Berthold -- Correspondence.
    Wescott, Glenway, 1901-1987 -- Correspondence.
    Williams, Tennessee, 1911-1983.
    Vedanta Society.
    Authors, English -- 20th century -- Archives.
    Authors, American -- 20th century -- Archives.
    British Americans -- Archives.
    Gay authors -- Great Britain -- Archives.
    Gay authors -- United States -- Archives.
    Hinduism -- United States.
    Hinduism in literature.
    Male homosexuality.
    Male homosexuality in literature.
    World War, 1914-1918 -- Personal narratives, British.
    Germany -- History -- 1918-1933 -- Sources.
    Great Britain -- Intellectual life -- 20th century -- Sources.
    United States -- Intellectual life -- 20th century -- Sources.


    Diaries -- 20th century.
    Letters -- (correspondence) -- 20th century.
    Manuscripts for publication.
    Personal papers -- United States -- 20th century.


    Bachardy, Don, 1934- former owner.
    Britten, Benjamin, 1913-1976.
    Bradshaw-Isherwood, Frank.
    Bradshaw-Isherwood, Kathleen, 1868-1960.
    Capote, Truman, 1924-1984.
    Forster, E. M. (Edward Morgan), 1879-1970.
    Gielgud, John, 1904-2000.
    Greene, Graham, 1904-1991.
    Harris, Julie.
    Heard, Gerald, 1889-1971.
    Hockney, David.
    Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963.
    Huxley, Laura Archera.
    Huxley, Maria.
    Kirstein, Lincoln, 1907-1996.
    Lehmann, John, 1907-1987.
    Maugham, W. Somerset (William Somerset), 1874-1965.
    Plomer, William, 1903-1973.
    Prabhavananda, Swami, 1893-1976.
    Salinger, J. D. (Jerome David), 1919-2010.
    Smith, Dodie, 1896-1990.
    Spender, Stephen, 1909-1995.
    Stravinsky, Igor, 1882-1971.
    Stravinsky, Vera.
    Upward, Edward.
    Vidal, Gore, 1925-2012.
    Viertel, Berthold.
    Wescott, Glenway, 1901-1987.
    Williams, Tennessee, 1911-1983.