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Arnold Lunn Papers

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS143

Collection-level Scope and Content Note

The Arnold Lunn Papers consist of correspondence, manuscripts, diaries, notebooks, scrapbooks and related printed ephemera regarding the life and works of Sir Arnold Lunn (1888 - 1974). The papers, dating from 1896 to 1978, comprise 21 linear feet of material, arranged in fourteen boxes, consisting of five hundred and thirty-two folders.

The papers are arranged in series according to subjects. There are five correspondence series, namely World War I Correspondence, Ski Correspondence, Individual Correspondence, Chronological Correspondence and Subject Correspondence. It is important to note that these correspondence series are not mutually exclusive, and therefore subject overlapping is possible.

In addition to these correspondence series, the collection includes a Manuscripts Series, a Journal Series, Notebooks and Scrapbook Series, a Personal Series, a Miscellaneous Series and Clippings.

The World War I Correspondence Series consists of letters between Arnold Lunn, family and friends, from February 1916 to December 1920. During this time, Lunn was in Switzerland, attending his father's hotel business, and arranging for the accommodations of interned British and French officers at the Lunn hotels. The allied officers, captured by the Germans, were exchanged for German officers on the condition that they were to remain in Switzerland until the end of the war. Under these circumstances, Arnold Lunn became friends with several officers, and he was especially fond of a group he called "The Alphabet," consisting of British author Joseph Ackerley, R.D. Evans, and E.T.R. Carlyon. Indeed, there are several letters by Joseph Ackerley and friends, vividly describing the lives of the interned officers in Switzerland. Other noted correspondents during this period, include mountaineers Marcel Kurtz, William August Breevort Coolidge and F.F. Roget. In addition, there are letters from Leonard Huxley, Geoffrey W. Young, S.P.B. Mais, Alec Waugh and Arnold Lunn's brother, Hugh Kingsmill, who was taken prisoner in 1917. There are also numerous letters between Arnold Lunn and Dora M. Jones, Henry Lunn's secretary, with long intellectual discussions. The correspondence is also rich in letters between Arnold Lunn and his parents, describing in detail aspects of the hotel business in Switzerland.

The Ski Correspondence Series includes letters between Arnold Lunn, family and friends, regarding skiing and mountaineering. It includes letters from famous mountain sportsmen of the times, such as Walter Amstutz, W.R. Rickmers, Francis Fox Tuckett, Geoffrey W. Young, and Frank Smythe. There are also numerous discussions regarding Lunn's attempts to influence the International Federation of Ski and the Olympic Committee on various occasions, including letters from Lord Exeter, Avery Brundage, and several presidents of the many national and international ski clubs involved. The Ski Correspondence Series is rich in details regarding the organization of the many events that promoted the new sport, describing the birth and the first steps of skiing as a competitive sport. There are numerous letters from sponsors and skiers, including correspondence from Prince and Princess Chichibu of Japan, Aga Khan IV, Ambassador Shelby C. Davis, and the Spanish Queen Maria Eugenia.

The Individual Correspondence Series closely follows the original arrangement of Arnold Lunn's personal archives. It consists of letters between Arnold Lunn and selected individuals whose letters he chose to keep together in alphabetical order. Includes correspondence from good friends Daphne Acton, Count Aldo and Countess Etta Bonacossa, William Buckley, Alfonso and Beatrice De Orleans-Borbon, Joseph and Gina of Liechtenstein, Douglas and Mia Woodruff and Countess Susie Lippens, among others.

The Individual Correspondence Series also includes letters from such notables as Hillaire Belloc, H.G. Wells, G.G. Coulton, Ronald Knox, as well as letters from members of the Lunn family.

The Chronological Correspondence Series consists of miscellaneous letters organized by year and dating from 1902 to 1978. It includes early correspondence from Arnold Lunn's years at Harrow and Oxford, with extensive correspondence regarding The Harrovians. There is, of course, much correspondence about other Lunn books, as well as letters from Evelyn Waugh, Anthonia White, C.E.M. Joad, Hugh Kingsmill, J.B.S. Haldane, George Cooper, Hugh Macmillan, Edward, Duke of Kent, Margaret Cole, Robert Speaight, Martin D'Arcy, Julian Huxley, Monk Gibbon, Auberon Waugh, and many others.

The Subject Correspondence Series is composed of two subseries. The first subseries includes letters regarding Arnold Lunn's preparations for an American lecture tour. The correspondence dates from 1960 to 1966, and includes letters by George Cooper and William Buckley. The second subseries consists of letters regarding Arnold Lunn's participation in the Latin Mass Society, a group promoting the preservation of the Catholic Latin mass. It includes letters from Tom Burns.

The Manuscripts Series is divided in manuscripts of books and manuscripts of articles or chapters written by Arnold Lunn. The book manuscripts are organized alphabetically by the tittle. The articles and chapters are divided by the subject into a section on mountains, a section on religion and a section on war, politics and miscellaneous. Each section is organized alphabetically. It is important to notice that there is a significant amount of unidentified manuscript material in these sections. Arnold Lunn's typed journal is organized chronologically by the year, dating from 1914 to 1920. This journal is an important complement to the World War I Correspondence Series, since it describes in detail Arnold Lunn's life in Switzerland during that period. The journals provide abundant details regarding his trips, the situation in Europe, the interned officers, new acquaintances, skiing and climbing. The diaries are organized chronologically, and include material from as early as 1896 to 1914. They consists of about nine diaries mostly regarding his childhood, his time at Harrow and his period at Oxford. There are many descriptions of his early climbs and ski runs. It is also very possible that some of these diaries were Arnold Lunn's primary sources when he wrote The Harrovians.

The Arnold Lunn Papers also hold a selection of Arnold Lunn's calendars and address books, showing his daily commitments and social habits. In addition, the collection also contains several of Sir Arnold's notebooks and scrapbooks. These notebooks are sometimes written in shorthand, and mostly contain notes and references regarding his own works. The scrapbooks include letters newspaper and magazine clippings on miscellaneous topics.

The Personal Series consists of miscellaneous material relating to Arnold Lunn's private life: includes some early poems by Arnold Lunn, material on his death, and photographs.

There is a Miscellaneous Series that comprises material such as magazines and pamphlets collected by Arnold Lunn, which includes numerous maps of skiing areas in Switzerland.

Finally, the collection holds numerous newspapers and magazine clippings, most of them regarding Arnold Lunn's accomplishments. In addition to documenting all aspects of Sir Arnold's remarkable life, The papers are rich in correspondence by some of the most noted personalities of the times. The correspondence is full of letters from distinguished sportsmen and women, noted authors, and members of many noble and royal families. Furthermore, the collection provides important factual information about the early development of skiing and mountaineering, and the incorporation of the Downhill and the Slalom races into the Olympics. Finally, the papers provide a unique insight into the evolution of British society throughout the twentieth century, and its special and lasting relationship with the Swiss Alps.


  • 1896 - 1978

Collection-level Access Restrictions

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Biographical note

Sir Arnold Lunn, a noted English writer, controversialist and Catholic apologist, is also recognized as the father of modern skiing. He was born in Madras, India, on April 18, 1888, where his father, Sir Henry Lunn was a medical missionary. Later, Sir Henry Lunn acquired several hotels in Switzerland, establishing himself in the travel business. Arnold Lunn's early contact with Switzerland developed into a life long love affair with the country that became his second home. Sir Arnold was on skis at the early age of ten, and climbed his first mountain with a nurse in 1895. In 1909, he experienced a climbing accident in Wales that resulted in a severe injury to his right leg. Despite the fact that the wound remained open for many years, and that his right leg was about three inches shorter than his left leg, Arnold Lunn continued climbing and skiing almost until the end of his life. Moreover, in 1922, he set the first modern slalom on the practice slopes at Murren. In addition, he was the founder of the Alpine Ski Club (1908) and the Kandahar Ski Club (1924), the editor of the British Ski Year Book, and the organizer of some of the most prestigious ski races in the world, such as the Anglo-Swiss University Race, the Alberg-Kandahar, the first World Championship in Downhill and Slalom Racing, the Duke of Kent's Cup, and the Lowlander Championship. He caused Murren to become a national and international center for ski racing, and he was knighted for "services to British Skiing and Anglo-Swiss relations" in 1952. Before then, he had also become a leading authority in international skiing through his participation in the International Federation of Ski (FIS). He represented Great Britain in the FIS from 1928 to 1949, and in 1930 he drafted Downhill and Slalom racing rules and help them to be accepted by the FIS. But perhaps his greatest accomplishment in the skiing field was the acceptance and introduction of the Downhill and Slalom races into the Olympic Games in 1936.

It is not unusual then, that Arnold Lunn's literary career, began with books related to the Swiss mountains that he so loved. Indeed, his first book A Guide to Montana (1907), was written at Harrow, where he attended from 1902 to 1907. Other mountaineering and skiing books were also written at Oxford, where Arnold Lunn attended Balliol College from October 1907 to 1911. Some of his accomplishments at Oxford included being secretary of the Union, Editor of The Isis, and founder of the Oxford Mountaineering Club. In 1912 he published two more books, Oxford Mountaineering Essays and The Englishman and the Alps. In 1913, Arnold Lunn published The Harrovians, based on his own experiences at Harrow. The book was both, successful and controversial, since it broke with the romanticism traditionally associated with British school novels.

Also in 1913, Arnold Lunn married Lady Mabel (d. 1959), daughter of Rev. John Stafford Northcote and sister of the third Earl of Iddesleigh. Soon after their marriage World War I began. Arnold Lunn was not allowed to serve in the military because of his leg. However, he found a way to be useful to his country while running his father's hotel business in Switzerland. Indeed, he supervised the arrangements to accommodate British and French officers interned in Lunn hotels in Switzerland. It was during this period that Peter Lunn, Arnold's first son was born. In addition to Peter, the couple also had John Lunn and Jaqueta Lunn.

In 1961, after the death of Lady Mabel Lunn, Sir Arnold married Phyllis Holt- Needham Arnold Lunn's literary career produced numerous works and touched on a variety of fields. There were, of course, several other books on skiing and mountaineering, such as Mountains of Youth (1925) and A Century of Mountaineering (1957). But he also engaged in writing books on controversial subjects, similar to the public debates that he so often chose to take part of, with such authorities as Rev. Ronald Knox in Difficulties (1932), C.E.M. Joad in Is Christianity True? (1933), J.B.S Haldane in Science and the Supernatural (1935) and G.G. Coulton in Is the Catholic Church Anti-Social? (1946). He became a renown Catholic convert as well as a noted Catholic author. On July 13, 1933 Arnold Lunn was received into the Catholic church by Ronald Knox. He had published books regarding religion before, including Roman Converts (1924), John Wesley (1928) and The Flight from Reason (1930). However, it was the biography of his conversion, Now I see, which introduced him as a Catholic author. Other books and articles on religion followed, including The Third Day (1945), Enigma (1957), And Yet So New (1958), and his trilogy with Garth Lean: The New Morality (1958), The Cult of Softness (1965) and Christian Counter-Attack (1969).

Lunn was also actively involved in politics, promoting his support for Nationalist Spain and his condemnation of Nazism and Communism. He wrote Spanish Rehearsal (1937) and several articles regarding the Spanish Civil War. During World War II he travelled and lectured extensively as a propagandist for his country. His autobiographies were also well received by the British public, especially Memory to Memory (1956) and Unkilled for so Long (1968).

On June 2, 1974, Sir Arnold Lunn died. As his life long friend and fellow mountaineer Walter Amstutz wrote: "All things and all lives come to an end, as did the life of Arnold Lunn. Taking leave of him implies taking leave of an epoch which went with him to his grave; it was an epoch that bore very much his personal stamp. It began with what he called the golden age of skiing, the gilding of which was done by his own hand. It ended in a triumphal finish on a course which he had set himself."


21 Linear Feet (14 boxes)

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Arnold Lunn Papers
Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections, Washington, D.C.
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Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057