News

The Oppé Family Papers

  • 1 April 2021

An additional part of the Paul Oppé collection has now been catalogued, and it is available and fully searchable online. This new set of papers relating to Oppé’s family was allocated to the Centre in 2017, alongside his professional and research papers. The material includes correspondence, diaries and photographs created and compiled by Oppé’s wife, Valentine; his children, Armide and Denys; his mother, Pauline, and some of his siblings.

Not only do the papers reflect Oppé’s life and work – giving an insight into his early social and intellectual development – they also offer a glimpse into some broader themes aligned with the social history of the early twentieth century. Through letters and personal reflections – the majority written from a female perspective – there is extensive material for research into British upper-class and aristocratic society, social events, health and community work, maternity, and domestic staff.

The papers also include a particularly rich set of material concerning the performing arts. Valentine Oppé was an ardent supporter of classical music, hosting various concerts, including performances of works by her friend Ralph Vaughan Williams. She also sang in a choir and performed various concerts, including a production of a Gustav Holst ballet (see image 1). In addition, her daughter, Armide, was close friends with the celebrated Hungarian violinist Joseph Szigeti. The archive contains several files of correspondence between the two in which Szigeti reveals his emotional and intellectual engagement with his career as a musician.

Handwritten letter to Valentine Oppé from Gustav Holst.  

Beyond this, the Oppé family papers include a large amount of material that examines the experiences and impacts of the major conflicts of the twentieth century. Valentine and Paul both had brothers who were killed in action/died in the First World War. Their son, Denys, served in India and Pakistan in the Second World War, achieving the rank of Major. Containing both personal accounts from those in the armed forces as well as letters from family back home, the archive contains many opportunities for research.

If you would like to consult any of the material or if you have an enquiry concerning the collection, please contact us at: collections@paul-mellon-centre.ac.uk