This collection essentially comprises the life and letters of Sir Shane Leslie whose boundless energy and wide-ranging interests took him all over Britain, the United States and Canada, bringing him in touch with a multitude of people in various fields including the arts, economics, education, literature, politics and religion. In sum, the correspondence series of the collection reads like a who's who particularly from 1900 through 1971. Famous names include Angela Antrim, Margot Asquith, Nancy Astor, William Maxwell Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook, Hilaire Belloc, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, J.E.C. Bodley, Brendan Bracken, G.K. Chesterton, Winston Churchill (cousin), Sydney Cockerell, Bourke Cockran, George Curzon, Charles Dilke, Alfred Douglas, Mrs. Fitzherbert, Francois Aidan Gasquet, Rupert Hart-Davis, Vyvyan Holland, John Maynard Keynes, William Somerset Maugham, Alice, Francis and Viola Meynell, Horace Plunkett, George Bernard Shaw, Clare Sheridan (wife of Wilfrid Sheridan, great-great grandson of Richard Brinsley Sheridan), Cecil Arthur Spring-Rice, Mark Sykes, Evelyn Waugh, William Butler Yeats. The collection also includes a signed black and white photograph inscribed by Leo Tolstoy to Shane Leslie during the latter's visit to the great Russian author in Moscow in 1907.
Sir Shane's manuscripts are also included in great abundance in the collection, including those for his autobiography, "Long Shadows." The typescripts and drafts of a biography planned by Iris Leslie are also included in this series.
Other notable series include Sir Shane's journals and appointment books; scrapbooks, particularly those concerning his visit to the U.S. 1957-58; and editions of Sir Shane's own works that include tipped-in items such as correspondence relating to the work, notes by Sir Shane and press cuttings.
Refer to the Table of Contents for a complete listing of collection series.
Besides the prolific correspondence with a wide-ranging acquaintanceship of individuals, the focus and strength of the collection also reflect Sir Shane's deep concern and interest in Irish culture and politics, particularly the question of Irish independence through Home Rule.
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Sir John Randolph (Shane) Leslie, third baronet of Glaslough, county Monaghan, was born on September 24, 1885, at Stratford House in London. He was the eldest of the four sons of Sir John Leslie, second baronet, and Leonie Blanche, youngest daughter of Leonard Jerome of New York.
Sir Shane's boyhood was spent in Ireland. He was educated at Eton College and at King's College, Cambridge. It was at Cambridge that he converted to Roman Catholicism and became an Irish nationalist. He then also began to use the Irish form of his name, Shane, and renounced the family estate entailed to him.
From his early days, Sir Shane was in touch with luminaries such as Leo Tolstoy whom he met during his first winter down from Cambridge, while on a visit to Russia in 1907. He was also a first cousin of Sir Winston Churchill, whose mother, Jennie Jerome Churchill was a sister of Leonie Leslie's, Sir Shane's mother. Churchill favored Home Rule for Ireland and showed interest in his cousin's political views by introducing him to John Redmond, leader of the Irish Nationalists in the House of Commons. Inspired by Redmond, Sir Shane agreed to stand for Londonderry as a Nationalist in the 1910 election. He did not win the seat, but not discouraged, departed for the U.S. where he worked with Bourke Cockran, the Irish orator and friend of Churchill's, who like Sir Shane, was concerned with and sought to dissipate the hostile American Irish attitude toward England.
During his visit to the U.S. Sir Shane met and married Marjorie Ide, youngest daughter of Henry Clay Ide, judge of the Vermont Supreme Court and later U.S. governor-general of the Philippines. Marjorie Ide was the sister of Anne (Mrs. Bourke) Cockran.
During the First World War, Sir Shane's brother Norman Leslie, a captain in the rifle Brigade, was killed in action. At the time Sir Shane was attached to the British Ambulance Corps. However, on his way to the Dardanelles, he became ill and was transferred to a military hospital in Malta. There he wrote his first major autobiographical work, "The End of the Chapter," published in 1916.
From 1916 to 1917, Sir Shane worked in Washington, D.C., with the British ambassador, Sir Cecil Arthur Spring-Rice, who was also endeavoring to soften Irish American hostility toward England, and to convince the U.S. of the urgency of declaring war against Germany. Sir Shane's work included the publication of a journal entitled "Ireland," as well as collaborating with Spring-Rice to establish a relationship between Washington and Westminster.
Sir Shane's deep concern with the maintenance of Irish and British relationships was most clearly realized when he petitioned Britain to spare the lives of sixteen Irish leaders involved in the 1916 Easter uprising in Dublin. Unfortunately, he did not succeed and the executions were carried out. To the end of his life, Sir Shane believed that some day a united Ireland would coexist amicably with its neighbor Britain.
Besides his political interests, Sir Shane was a passionate advocate of reforestation. He led a campaign for more general planting and was well known in the organization "Men of the Trees." Throughout his life Sir Shane was also a prolific writer of prose and verse, including a second autobiographical work, "Long Shadows" (1966). In addition, he was a well-loved lecturer on Irish politics, culture, trees, as well as ghost stories. His talks led him around the British Isles, particularly to schools, as well as across the Atlantic to the U.S. A list of Sir Shane's major published works was created in 1975 by David Hall (see Folder 78:2). This collection includes many of Sir Shane's works including fiction, verse, journal articles, both manuscript and printed.
After the death of his first wife, Sir Shane married Iris, daughter of Charles Miskin Laing. Sir Shane died at his home in Hove on August 14, 1971. He was survived by his wife and children, John Norman, Desmond, and Anita (Leslie) King. The last was to follow in her father's footsteps to become a well-known writer and biographer. Sir Shane's eldest son, John Norman succeeded to the baronetcy.
Source for this biographical sketch: Dictionary of National Biography 1971-1980. Entry for Sir Shane Leslie written by Anita Leslie.
ACCESSION DATA: Provenance: Acquired from Lady Leslie, 1980-88. Processed by Lisette C. Matano, December 1994.
BULK DATES: 1900 - 1971
SPAN DATES: 1800 - 1990
EXTENT: 80 boxes