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Papers of the Morier Family

  • Provenance
  • Arrangement
  • Dating
  • Languages


The Morier Family Papers came to Balliol College in two main sections. The first part was given in 1986 by the Hon Mrs F H Cunnack, who had previously presented the college with the papers of her grandfather, Sir Robert Burnet David Morier, in 1965 and 1973. The second part was bequeathed to the college by Mrs Cunnack, and came to Balliol in 1995. A collection of letters was given to Balliol in 1995 by Mrs Favell Keir, through the good offices of H B McKenzie Johnston.

As soon as the papers left to Balliol in 1995 were listed, they were amalgamated with the other Morier papers given to the college in 1986. This catalogue, therefore, is of both sets of papers; a list of the incorporations from the 1986 set can be found at the end of the index.

This archive contains papers from five generations of Moriers, and several other families connected with them, most notably that of Jonathan Peel, younger brother of Sir Robert Peel. It runs from the end of the eighteenth century, through to the early twentieth, from Turkey, Albania and Persia, through much of Europe, to Mexico and North America. The Peel correspondence in particular contains letters from many of the chief notables of France and England from the second half of the nineteenth century, while the papers of the Morier brothers, especially those of David Morier, hold a great deal of information on the diplomatic life of the day.


As the collection had already been partly sorted, it was decided to keep to the original classification scheme, as far as possible; however, certain changes have had to be made for ease of reference, such as the numbering of individual items per folder. Official and private correspondence has been separated, with official letters going to the front of each folder, or being put into separate folders if their number warrants this. In every case, the catalogue clearly states whether letters are private or official.

In a collection of this size, it was impracticable to give a description of every item; but where individual letters seemed of particular interest, a brief guide to their contents has been given.

Following the original ordering of the collection, the material has been divided, basically by writer, into 14 groups, from A to N. Within these groups, items are arranged chronologically and individually numbered:

eg A2.3.9 - Class A, Box 2; folder 3, letter 9.

As above, most of the letters in the archive are arranged by writer; some of the original bundles did however contain a few letters received by the writer from elsewhere. As in the original collection, there is a special section for letters from regular correspondents of David Richard Morier. Where only an occasional letter to David Morier, from people who are not his regular correspondents, is involved, these have been fitted into the folders of letters from David Morier, either where they form part of an exchange of letters, or at the end.

Unless stated otherwise, all letters are autograph and written in ink.


Most of the letters were already dated, either by the writer, or by postmark. Where this was not the case, it was usually possible to place the letter to within at least a few years, either through the dating of the Hon Mrs F H Cunnack and H B McKenzie Johnston, or by using historical tables, or from evidence within the letters themselves. In such cases, square brackets have been used to show that the dating is only attributive.


Due to the far-flung nature of the Morier correspondence, at least a third of the letters are in languages other than English. From John, James and David Morier's time in the Morea and Persia, there are several letters and papers in Greek, Turkish and Persian, and many of the official letters received by David Morier while he was posted in Paris and Switzerland are in French, or occasionally German. Almost all the letters written or received by Clara Morier are also in French, (as is the case with the correspondence of her family, the Van Lenneps), which means that a large proportion of her sons' letters are written in this language.

Similarly, nearly all of the letters received by Lady Alice Peel from France are written in French.

- Katrina Wilson, Modern MSS Asst, 1994

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Updated 11.viii.14
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