Jan Morris

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Jan Morris CBE, FRSL (born James Humphry Morris; 2 October 1926 – 20 November 2020) was a Welsh travel writer and historian. She published under her birth name, James, until 1972, when she had gender reassignment surgery after transitioning from male to female.


  • I resist the idea that travel writing has got to be factual. I believe in its imaginative qualities and its potential as art and literature. I must say that my campaign, which I've been waging for ages now, has borne some fruit because intelligent bookshops nowadays do have a stack called something like travel literature. But what word does one use?
  • To begin with, I did think so. I seemed to fear in myself more of a compassion towards detail rather than sweep, if you understand me. It seems to me I was exploring smaller things rather than larger things. But as the years have gone by, I seem perhaps simply to have widened to be moved equally by both, if you understand me, both by macrocosm and by microcosm. And that may be, again, another symptom of the fact that I've come to terms with what I am more completely than I had some years ago.
  • The truth is, you are talking to someone at the very end of things. I felt that first about two years ago. I felt it creeping up, and now I know I am approaching the end.

About Jan Morris

  • Dimly through the silken trammels of Jan Morris's verbiage moves the figure of Elizabeth, James Morris's wife, now Jan Morris's sister-in-law, unsatisfied as a lover, deeply versed in the anguish and ambiguities of real womankind.
    So often when husbands are trumpeting one wonders what the silent wife is really thinking. In the same way, as Jan Morris plucks at your sleeve for a girlish heart to heart, you wonder about Elizabeth. Her unbroken silence is the truest measure Of Jan Morris's enduring masculinity.
  • In her bigoted review [Thursday] of Jan Morris's Conundrum, which gets so many facts wrong Germaine Greer describes me as a silent and anguished figure. I am not very silent, and certainly not anguished The children and I not only love Jan dearly, but are also very proud of her
    — Elizabeth Morris, co Royal Commonwealth Society, Northumberland Avenue, WC2.
  • There was something far more confusing, though. Jan had a very specific view of what constituted a "woman". First, a woman should train to be a secretary, next get married, then have babies and finally look after the family. In other words, a completely sexist view. I was brought up knowing this was what was expected of me; I was given no alternatives. My mother was this character.
  • As I grew older, I couldn't come to terms with the fact that Jan wanted to be a "woman" when her view of "women" was totally the opposite of what she was. She wasn't at all maternal; she struggled to even give her own children a hug, stiffening to a board when we tried. She couldn't cook, I never saw her clean anything and she certainly didn't want to stay at home and be with her family. She disliked the very idea of "family". The honest fact is that she didn't want to be a woman, at least not the way she saw women. And still I couldn't talk to her about it all; I just got shut down.
    What did she want to be? I believe she wanted to be someone totally different from anyone else, a woman who was the centre of attention because of her difference. She was no ordinary woman, as she believed the rest of us were.