Geoffrey Elliott, who has died aged 82 was, with his late wife Faye, one of Special Collections’ most significant benefactors.
Born in London in 1939, he first worked for Reuters before moving into merchant banking, eventually serving as Managing Director of Morgan Stanley in New York. Geoffrey retired to Bermuda in 1990 and during his retirement wrote several books on the Cold War and the Soviet Union including I Spy: The Secret Life of a British Agent (1998) and From Siberia with Love: A Story of Exile, Revolution and Cigarettes (2004).
Faye and Geoffrey Elliott donated an exceptional collection of manuscripts and rare books to Special Collections in 2002. Each item in the collection is outstanding in its way: the Elliotts were interested in acquiring items of unusual quality to build a collection that would be the equal of any library in the world. Their main collecting focus was English literature, with particular strengths in the work of Oscar Wilde and Evelyn Waugh. The collection includes original manuscripts of Wilde’s play ‘The Duchess of Padua’ and Waugh’s novel ‘Vile Bodies’. The Elliotts also collected more broadly, with material relating to Wilde and Waugh’s contemporaries, such as Aubrey Beardsley and Graham Greene. Other items include letters from writers as varied as Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, Christopher Isherwood and John le Carré, amongst many others. Alongside literary material, the collection also includes items relating to the former Soviet Union and the Cold War, the most striking of which is the double agent Kim Philby’s passport.
Geoffrey first visited Special Collections as a researcher, using material from the Leeds Russian Archive for his book Secret Classrooms: An Untold Story of the Cold War (2002), which was based around his experience learning Russian at the Joint Services School for Linguists during National Service in the 1950s. Following his visit, and after consulting a range of experts, the Elliotts decided to donate their collection to Leeds. At the time Geoffrey explained their choice:
‘…so many of our books and manuscripts are British and we felt they should have a permanent home in the UK, but we also wanted the collection to be part of a broad academic centre of excellence, ideally outside London, where it could be used in active support of teaching and research’.
In the years following their initial donation, the Elliotts continued to engage with Special Collections and to add to their collection. They were known for their support, generosity and expert knowledge.
The Elliotts’ donation continues to benefit research and teaching at the University and beyond. Professor Michael Brennan, who has worked closely with the collection describes its impact:
‘The Elliott’s extensive bequests to the Brotherton Library, especially relating to Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh, have proved central to my own research. Their great generosity and diverse literary interests will certainly continue to benefit future generations of students and scholars at the University of Leeds’.