Malcolm Morley Collection
Subject: English literature
Nearly 4,000 items (1738-1997) devoted to all aspects of theatre, with a particular emphasis on English and American theatre and drama. An important feature of the collection is the many hundreds of play texts and sets of plays such as Lacy’s Acting Editions and French’s Acting Editions, most of which were published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and which represent a mixture of enduring and now forgotten works. Especially salient is a large set of Dick’s Standard Plays: paperback, twenty-page editions in small print in two columns of texts which were out of copyright, published weekly or even bi-weekly, sold for a penny apiece, and now scarce because they were so ephemeral. Also present are theatrical biographies and memoirs, theatre histories, works on stagecraft, and general works about theatre and drama. The bulk of the material is from the first half of the twentieth century, but there is also much from the second half of the nineteenth century, and some earlier material.
Around 85 periodical titles complement the books. Most of these are Victorian and Edwardian, with a few later. They include serials which provide ‘listings’ and photographs of contemporary productions: Comedy, Curtain, Dramatic Notes, Theatre, Theatrical World, Weekly Comedy, and others.
The collector was actor-manager, stage director and theatre historian Malcolm Morley (1890-1966). His widow, Mary Alice Eileen (née Scott) presented the collection to Senate House Library in 1966.
T.P. Taylor, The Bottle
The Green Room Book, and Who’s Who on the Stage
Charles Mathews, The Life and Correspondence of Charles Mathews, the Elder, comedian (1860)
For an overview of the library, do a mixed classmark search on [M.M.C.] (includes a few items added later to the collection) or an author search on “Morley, Malcolm” as former owner. The collection is held off-site and material requires 48 hours (excluding weekends) to be fetched.
Digital surrogates of 449 items, including many of Dick’s Standard Plays, are available via the database Victorian Popular Culture (link to it). Further material is being digitised (2021).
- Malcolm Morley papers, bequeathed by Morley’s widow in 1994.
- MS1007, Grieve family collection of theatre designs, 1813-1857
- Granville-Barker collection (theatrical)
- Plays in the English collection
Further reading about Malcolm Morley
- Morley, M. ‘Fragmented Autobiography’, Theatre Survey, 11 (1970), 86-98; 12 (1971), 67-78; 13 (1972), 70-80
- Nath, G.W. ‘Malcolm Morley’, Theatre Notebook, 20 (1966): 98-99)