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Part 1: The Browning, Eliot, Thackeray & Trollope Manuscripts from the British Library, London


The aim of this series is to make available significant manuscript sources for the study of Nineteenth Century Literature from libraries across the world. It will include:

Autograph manuscripts of literary texts
Writers' "Quarries", Commonplace books, and notebooks
Manuscript autobiographies and biographical sources
Correspondence - including in-letters which have not been included in published editions
Records relating to the "business" of literature - printing and publishing

Part 1 features examples from the first four of these categories. It is based on the British Library's holdings of manuscripts relating to five of the leading figures of Nineteenth Century Literature:

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861);
Robert Browning
George Eliot
(Mary Ann, later Marian, Cross née Evans) (1819-1880);
William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863);
Anthony Trollope (1815-1882).

In addition, there are manuscripts by Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), Wilkie Collins (1824-1889), and George Henry Lewes (1817-1878). A total of sixty manuscripts are covered.

By far the largest section is that devoted to George Eliot. The inclusion of the complete manuscript texts of seven of her novels (Adam Bede; The Mill on the Floss; Silas Marner; Romola; Felix Holt; Middlemarch; and Daniel Deronda) make this one of the most important collections of Eliot material in the world. They are extensively annotated and corrected and are an essential source for Eliot scholars. For Romola there is also a notebook in which she collected ideas for the novel. In addition, there are autograph manuscripts of the satirical Impressions of Theophrastus Such, and of the poems The Spanish Gypsy (originally written in the winter of 1864-1865 but "rewritten and amplified after a visit to Spain in 1867"); The Legend of Jubal; Agatha (first draft); How Lisa loved the King; Arion; Brother and Sister; O may I join the choir invisible; Armgart; A Minor Prophet; Stradivarius; and Two Lovers. There are four volumes of correspondence, including a fascinating exchange with Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), philosopher and sociologist, expressing a declaration of her feelings for him, which he found impossible to reciprocate. Finally, we include the autograph manuscript of Aristotle by George Henry Lewes, dedicated to his "beloved Marian".

The second largest section comprises twenty two manuscripts by William Makepeace Thackeray. These include eleven volumes of diaries, 1832-1863; unpublished accompts and miscellanea; letters; three volumes of sketches; a host of material relating to Denis Duval; the autograph manuscript of a play, The Wolves and the Lamb (and an expanded acting version prepared by Thackeray for a house-warming party in February 1862); and fragments of The Newcomes.

The material relating to the unfinished Denis Duval is especially important, comprising: An early sketch of the story in a letter to George Smith; miscellaneous manuscript notes relating to the story; and proof-sheets and other printed material from The Cornhill Magazine, 1863-1864, with extensive autograph corrections by the author that did not appear in the published version.

There are also two brief biographical sketches of Thackeray by Trollope and Dickens, the latter with an autograph note by Lady Ritchie.

Trollope is represented by the unique manuscript of his Autobiography (published posthumously in 1883 and a vital text for Trollope scholars). Apart from providing pyschological insights, this details the earnings that Trollope received from his writings down to 1879.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning is represented by her passionate Sonnets from the Portuguese (one of only three versions surviving). These tell of the gradual flowering of the invalid Elizabeth Barrett's love for Robert Browning and are one of the most celebrated sonnet sequences in English.

For Robert Browning we include the two volume manuscript of his 21,000 line blank verse poem, The Ring and the Book. Based on a collection of documents relating to an Italian murder trial in the late 17th century, the story tells of the anguish of childlessness, the purchase of a child from a prostitute, a failed marriage, adultery, and murder. The story is told by a succession of speakers, each with a partial perception of causes and events, until the "ring" of truth is established. The text presented here is that given to the printer, but it features many heavily rewritten segments (as many as 100 lines in a single section) and letters relating to the publication. It is regarded by many critics as Browning's greatest work.

This first part is completed by the inclusion of two further autograph manuscripts. From the master storyteller, Wilkie Collins, there are two short stories - Basil, A Story of Modern Life and Mr Wray's Cash-box, or, The Mask and the Mystery - and from Benjamin Disraeli, politician, orator and novelist, his Speech on the death of Wellington.

The manuscripts covered are Additional Mss 34020-34044, 37502, 37952, 40768, 41060, 41667, 42856, 43484-43487, 46891-46910, 46913, 54338, 58436, 65530 and Egerton Ms 3689.

These manuscripts form an important resource for the study of Nineteenth Century Literature which should inspire much fresh interpretation and analysis.

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