The Catherine Carswell collection was donated to the Mitchell Library by members of her family and consists of over a 150 letters written by both Catherine and Donald Carswell to their friend and folklorist, Florence Marian McNeil and over 150 letters written to both Catherine and Donald Carswell from various authors, poets, playwrights and scholars such as Henry Osborne Manvor, H J C Grierson and Neil Millar Gunn. The collection also includes a number of newspaper articles relating to Catherine Carswell and reviews of her novels along with Donald Carswells two plays, The Young Chevalier and Count Albany.
Catherine Roxburgh Carswell was born and educated in Glasgow and become a journalist for the Glasgow Herald, a job that she lost in 1915 when she reviewed D.H Lawrence's book 'The Rainbow' favourably. Also in this year she married fellow journalist Donald Carswell. This was her second marriage: her first marriage ended disastrously after her husband tried to kill her and was declared insane. Catherine made legal history by having the marriage annulled in court on the basis of his insanity.
Her first novel 'Open the door' was published in 1920 with her second book 'The Camomile' being published in 1922. Catherine then turned her hand to writing biographies. Her most famous piece of work is her biography on Robert Burns, 'Life of Robert Burns', which she had published in 1930. This biography encountered a great deal of criticism from many of the traditional Burnians but also produced support from many authors who admired her biography and whose letters are included in the collection.
Catherine continued to write biographies when she had time away from her job as a journalist in London and produced biographies on DH Lawrence and the Italian writer, Giovanni Boccaccio. Catherine stayed in London for most of her adult life and, when Donald suddenly died in a street accident during the blackout in 1940, she chose to remain there until she died in 1946 aged 67. Her only son John has published her autobiography 'Lying awake: An Unfinished autobiography' which includes essays, letters and poems she had started to write before her death.