"Private v public: Revealing the BBC life of Hilda Matheson"

Authors: Murphy, K.

Conference: Centre for Media History Conference on Ethical Dimension of Media History: European Perspectives

Dates: 9-10 May 2013


In December 1928 Hilda Matheson, the BBC’s Director of Talks, embarked on a love affair with the novelist Vita Sackville-West. The two frequently wrote to each other, and hundreds of pages of letters survive, but only those of Matheson – Sackville-West’s were destroyed. For anyone studying the BBC of the late 1920s, the letters are a gold mine, rich with details of the workings of the BBC and the Talks Department: Reith, Carpendale, Eckersley, Fielden and Ackerley are just some of the characters who pepper the pages. The letters have been in the public domain before: Victoria Glendinning and Michael Carney both drew on them for their biographies of Vita Sackville-West and Hilda Matheson, respectively. I also was able to borrow the letters for my PhD. While overjoyed by the insights they gave into Hilda Matheson’s life at the BBC, I was unprepared for the depths of their passion, and their intimacy. This paper will consider the use of private material relating to Matheson as a source for her BBC life and will examine how this contrasts with what is known about her through public and institutional sources.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Kate Murphy