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Antonia White - Carmen Callil Collection

Identifier: GTM-120607

Scope and contents note

The collection consists of the personal files relating to British author Antonia White (1899-1980) maintained by Carmen Callil, founder and editor of Virago Press. Callil was also White's co-literary executor together with White's daughters Lyndall Hopkinson Passerini and Susan Chitty. The collection includes correspondence Callil exchanged with Passerini and White. Important series include copies of White's dream diaries, as well as files relating to her literary estate and related court case.


  • 1926 - 1980

Conditions governing access note

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 / Historical

Antonia White was born Eirene Adeline Botting on 31 March 1899 in West Kensington, London, the only child of Cecil George Botting (1870–1929), classics master at St Paul's School, London, and his wife, Christine Julia Barbour White (1871–1939), daughter of Henry and Clementina White. She was known for most of her professional life as Antonia White.

White’s father dominated her childhood, and she later in life she him for her emotional problems. In 1906 the family was converted to Roman Catholicism, and Antonia boarded at the Sacred Heart Convent, Roehampton, London (1908–14), the experience on which she based her famous novel “Frost in May”. She was removed from school after the nuns found a ‘scandalous’ novel she had been writing, and this event came to symbolize the struggle between her wish to please her father and the church, and her yearning for a life of art and freedom.

On 28 April 1921 she married Reginald Henry (Reggie) Green-Wilkinson (b. 1899), a part-time actor and a secretary for Anglo Continental film studios, but the marriage was annulled owing to non-consummation. This led to a breakdown, and in November 1922 she was committed for nine months to Bethlem Hospital, London. Although she was not certified again, the possibility of mental illness haunted her for the rest of her life.

On 15 April 1925 Antonia married Eric Earnshaw Smith (1893–1972), a civil servant, with whom she had a deep platonic friendship. The marriage was permitted by the church, but within a year she had lapsed as a Catholic. Eventually she sought a second annulment with plans to marry Rudolph (Silas) Glossop (1902–1993), a mining engineer who was the father of her daughter, the writer Susan Chitty (b. 1929). In the end, on 28 November 1930, White married (Henry) Thomas (Tom) Hopkinson (1905–1990), the future editor of Picture Post. They had a daughter, Lyndall, born in 1931.

White remained in London throughout the Second World War, working for the BBC and later the Special Operations Executive. Her letters (1940–41) to the Catholic intellectual Peter Thorp were eventually published as “The Hound and the Falcon” (1965).

White’s autobiography “As Once in May”, edited by Susan Chitty, was published in 1983. In 1978, after years of neglect, “Frost in May” was reprinted as the first Virago Modern Classic. Following publication of three sequels -- “The Lost Traveller”(1950), “Sugar House” (1952), and “Beyond the Glass” (1954) -- White was praised as one of the very few writers able to translate personal experience into literature. She died of cancer on 10 April 1980 at St. Raphael's Nursing Home, Danehill, Sussex, and did not live to see her novels dramatized on BBC television in 1981. She was buried in the Catholic cemetery at West Grinstead, Sussex, close to where her father's family had lived for generations.

Source: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Carmen Callil (born July 15, 1938), is an Australian publisher, writer, and critic residing in London, England.. From 1967 to 1970 she was publicity manager of the paperback imprint Panther Books, and later all imprints of Granada Publishing, and then at Anthony Blond and André Deutsch. In 1971, she left to work for “Ink”, a countercultural newspaper founded by Richard Neville, Andrew Fisher, Felix Dennis and Ed Victor. At "Ink", Callil met Marsha Rowe and Rosie Boycott, who went on to found the feminist magazine “Spare Rib” in June 1972. At the same time Carmen Callil founded Virago Press, to "publish books which celebrate women and women's lives, and which would, by so doing, spread the message of women's liberation to the whole population". Rowe and Boycott became directors of Virago in its first years.

In 1972 Callil launched the book publicity company, Carmen Callil Limited. Harriet Spicer became Callil's assistant. The company helped to finance Virago in its early years. In 1976 Virago became an independent company, with Callil, Owen and Spicer as directors, shortly to be joined by Lennie Goodings and Alexandra Pringle.

In 1982 Callil was appointed managing director of Chatto & Windus and the Hogarth Press where she remained until 1994, continuing also as chairman of Virago until 1995. In 1994 she was editor-at-large for the worldwide group of Random House publishing companies. At Virago, among other business and editorial aspects of the company, she was responsible for the creation and development of the Virago Modern Classics list, which brought back into print many hundreds of the best women writers of the past. At Chatto & Windus, among the writers she published were Iris Murdoch, V. S. Pritchett, A. S. Byatt, Angela Carter, David Malouf, Amos Oz, Edward Said, Alice Munro, Marina Warner, Alan Hollinghurst, Anne Tyler, Toni Morrison, Francis Wheen and Michael Holroyd.

Callil left book publishing in 1994, and for some years divided her time between London and Caunes-Minervois in France. As a writer and critic, she has written reviews and features for many newspapers and journals, in addition to occasional radio and television work.

From 1985 to 1991 she was a member of the Board of Channel 4 Television. She was a member of the committee for The Booker Prize (1979–1984); a founder director of the Groucho Club, London (1984–1994); and in 1989 received the Distinguished Service Award from the International Women's Writing Guild. She is a Doctor of Letters from Sheffield University, the University of York, Oxford Brookes University and the Open University. She has also been a judge of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Orwell Prize. She was Chairman of Judges, Booker Prize for Fiction, in 1996.

Source: "The Stories of Our Lives" in "The Guardian" (April 25, 2008). URL:


7 Linear Feet (17 Hollinger boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase, Bernard Quaritch, Ltd., June 2007.

Related Materials

See also:

Antonia White papers GTM180515

Antonia White - Carmen Callil Collection
Lisette C. Matano, 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