Morley’s widow, the author, broadcaster and fellow critic Ruth Leon, made the donation to Kingston University, feeling that the collection should be kept together and available to everyone. “When I decided to donate the library to a university, I didn’t want it to be hidden away but to be used, just as it was in our house,” she explained. Though other universities, including US institutions Juilliard and Yale, were in discussions with Leon to house the exhibit, she chose Kingston, after being shown around by university Chancellor and theatre director Sir Peter Hall, because “Sheridan would have liked the liveliness, the fact it’s a new university and that people come here from all over the world, so the knowledge they gain is spread far and wide”.
The Sheridan Morley Theatre Collection features over 4,000 books on theatre, film and performance, hundreds of letters and various other personal effects of the late theatre aficionado. It will be housed in the university’s Learning Resources Centre at the Penrhyn Road campus.
Other items from more than 22,000 in Morley’s original collection were auctioned off to the public last year (See The Goss, 11 Jun 2008). In May 2008, Leon also set up the Sheridan Morley Prize, an annual book prize awarding extraordinary biographical works in honour of her late husband who wrote more than 30 books, including the major biographies of Noel Coward, John Gielgud and his father Robert Morley (See The Goss, 5 May 2009). Morley died in February 2007.
The Sheridan Morley Theatre Collection is launched this evening with a VIP reception attended by Ruth Leon and Peter Hall. Students, academics and members of the public can visit free of charge from tomorrow.