Artist’s Book conference: discount booking ends Friday



Many thanks to those who have already registered for the conference Livres d’Artistes: the Artist’s Book in Theory and Practice. For those who have yet to do so, the last day for booking at the discounted rate is FRIDAY 13 NOVEMBER. Conference registration will cost £60 (£25 student/unwaged) until Friday, and £75 (£40 student/unwaged) after that date. A booking form can be downloaded from the website.

Full details of the conference programme and our plenary speakers can also be found on the conference website. Hurry – places are filling up fast!

Exhibition: Scandal and Sociability: New perspectives on the Burney family

Frances Burney (1752-1840) was one of the most successful and influential writers of the eighteenth century, publishing four novels (Evelina: or, the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World (1778); Cecilia: or, Memoirs of an Heiress (1782); Camilla: or, A Picture of Youth (1796); and The Wanderer: or, Female Difficulties (1814), which were immensely popular and influenced other writers including Jane Austen (1775-1817). In recent years, scholarly interest in Burney has widened to encompass the influence and activities of the rest of her remarkable family, which included musicians, sailors, classicists, artists and two other successful novelists. Between them, the Burneys knew most British luminaries of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries working in the fields of literature, art, music, politics, botany, exploration, and court and Church circles.

A symposium held at Cardiff University on 1 September 2015 considered the Burney family as a composite whole, asking how their sociable network and often tumultuous internal dynamics influenced the remarkable spate of cultural and sociable activity carried out by its polymathic members. This exhibition of rare print and visual material relating to the Burney family and circle was designed and curated by Dr. Sophie Coulombeau (School of English, Communication and Philosophy) and Alison Harvey (Special Collections and Archives) to complement the symposium.


Portraits, Lives and Letters

Many members of the Burney family and their social circle achieved fame or notoriety in their own day, as writers, artists, or musicians… or socialites with scandalous love lives.  This section explores visual and textual depictions of Frances Burney, her father Dr. Charles Burney (1726-1814), and the family friend – and later enemy – Hester Piozzi (1741-1821). Some were composed by the subjects themselves or with their permission; others devised by those closest to them after their deaths; and still others produced by perfect strangers exploiting their celebrity for commercial gain.


Portrait [of Frances Burney?]


Dr. John Butterworth, an independent scholar, has kindly lent us an anonymous, undated portrait of a young woman identified on the frame as Frances Burney. An art historian and conservator have suggested that the portrait dates from the last quarter of the eighteenth century, and the hairstyle of the sitter (the so-called ‘pouf’, which was fashionable only in the second half of the 1770s) suggests a date from 1775-1780. If the sitter was Burney, it would therefore have been painted just before, or just after, she wrote and published Evelina.

Some attendees at the symposium felt that Dr. Butterworth made a persuasive case for the identity of the sitter as Burney. Others were more sceptical, and pointed out that there is no reference to the portrait in her journals and letters: conversely, when she had her portrait taken later in life, she complained about the process bitterly. It was also pointed out that the inscription on the portrait almost certainly dates fro the twentieth century. However, it should be noted that Burney’s journals and letters were twice heavily censored; and also that a modern inscription may well have replaced an earlier one.


Frances Burney, Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arblay, as edited by her niece Charlotte Barrett, 7 vols. (London: Henry Colburn, first edition, 1842-47).


This was the first published edition of Frances Burney’s Diary and Letters, which today stretches to over twenty volumes. This edition (severely edited by both Frances Burney and by her niece Charlotte Barrett to exclude any verdict on acquaintances that might be seen as offensive, and to excise any mention of incidents that might reflect badly on the Burney family) was a more modest seven volumes. Even after this censorship, the diaries provide a fascinating insight into life in Georgian England and France. The edition was influential in setting the direction of Burney’s critical reputation: for most of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, she was seen as a talented diarist rather than an important novelist.

These volumes belonged to Arthur Henriques: an inscription suggests they were a gift from his mother in 1878. The edition is notable for an interesting selection of frontispiece portraits used to illustrate the seven volumes: sitters include Burney herself, Hester Thrale, Queen Charlotte, Mary Delaney, General D’Arblay, Dr. Charles Burney and Germaine de Stael. From this selection of Burney’s acquaintance, we can glean an idea of the figures that Barrett’s publisher thought most likely to interest the readership.


Hester Lynch Piozzi, Love Letters of Mrs. Piozzi, written when she was eighty, to William Augustus Conway (London: John Russell Smith, first edition, 1843.)

Love Letters

Hester Lynch Thrale was Frances Burney’s dearest friend in the early 1780s. The two fell out in 1785 over Burney’s disapproval of Thrale’s second marriage (soon after the death of her husband) to the Italian Catholic music master Gabriel Piozzi. The marriage scandalised polite society, and Hester Lynch Piozzi achieved a reputation as a woman unable to control her passions, or to put her duties as a widow and mother above her ‘unfeminine’ lust. She steadily built up an impressive career as a poet, biographer and travel writer. But the whiff of scandal never deserted her; during old age, she conducted a close and ambiguous friendship with the young actor William Augustus Conway, who was fifty years her junior. This edition of some of her letters to him – styled ‘Love Letters’ – was published after her death by an anonymous editor. Like Barrett’s Diary and Letters of Burney, this edition is illustrated with thirteen portraits, with the following subjects: ‘Mrs. Thrale’, ‘A. Murphy’, ‘Dr. Johnson’, ‘Madame d’Arblay’, ‘Urn to Dr. Johnson’, ‘Mrs. Thrale’, ‘Mrs. Kemble’, ‘Cowper’, ‘Bath (view of)’, ‘Rousseau’, ‘Duke of Kent’, ‘Duchess of Kent’, ‘Mrs. Piozzi’.


Frances Burney, Memoirs of Dr. Burney (London: Edward Moxon, first edition, 1832).


Frances Burney’s father, the historian of music Dr. Charles Burney, died in 1814. She would live on for another twenty-nine years, most of which time she spent writing her beloved father’s Memoirs. The result, published in 1832, was the most critically reviled of all Burney’s works. John Wilson Croker (1780-1857), writing in the Quarterly Review, accused her of distorting her father’s memory in order to draw attention to her own achievements. Some modern scholars feel that he had a point: Dr. Cassie Ulph (York), speaking about the Memoirs at our symposium, said: ‘The real narrative of Memoirs of Doctor Burney is that of [Frances] Burney’s own literary career, and genius.’ In writing her father’s life, Burney was really writing her own.


Streatham and Cantab Literature

The Burney family were extraordinarily talented networkers. Throughout their lives, their literary, musical and artistic gifts helped them to assimilate into the social circles of people more wealthy and powerful than themselves, and to meet fellow men and women of letters. The most important of these groups, in the 1770s and the 1780s, was the Streatham Circle of the rich brewer Henry Thrale and his wife Hester, where Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was the star attraction. A more minor connection – but an important one for Frances Burney – was the ‘Cantab’ circle of the Cambridge family at Twickenham. This section of the exhibition showcases some early editions of writings by members of these two groups, showing how deeply the Burney family embedded themselves, throughout the 1770s and 1780s, within the metropolitan literary elite.


Hester Lynch Piozzi, Anecdotes of the late Samuel Johnson LL.D during the last twenty years of his life (London: T. Cadell, second edition, 1786).


In the wake of her scandalous second marriage, Hester Piozzi embarked on a project: to publish a book of Anecdotes of the recently deceased literary lion Dr. Samuel Johnson, who had been her close friend before they fell out over her marriage to Piozzi. The Anecdotes were published by the reputable publisher Thomas Cadell, and sold like wildfire. They were strongly criticised by friends of Johnson (such as James Boswell (1740-1795)) who thought that Piozzi had painted Johnson in an unflattering light.

The inscription suggests that this copy was owned by William Ingham. A handwritten note at the back of the volume marks passages of particular interest to the owner.


Hester Lynch Piozzi, British Synonymy; or, an attempt at regulating the choice of words in familiar conversation, 2 vols (London: G.G. and J. Robinson, first edition, 1794). 

Synonymy def

In 1794, Hester Lynch Piozzi published a two-volume work of synonymy, a relatively new field; her innovative publication was preceded only by the Rev. John Trusler’s The Difference Between Words Esteemed Synonymous (1766). The book was popular and immediately ran into a further two editions. The editors of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Synonymys (1984) note that Piozzi ‘frequently takes issue with Dr. Johnson or, in a sprightly manner, casts doubt on his judgments’: perhaps we might see this work of lexicography as Piozzi’s attempt to throw off the shadow of Johnson’s influence. If so, then she was unsuccessful, at least for the owner of this copy: the title-page of vol. 1 is annotated in a pencil hand: ‘Hester Lynch Piozzi’ is changed to ‘Mrs. Thrale – vide Johnson’. (Mrs. Thrale – see Johnson’).


Richard Owen Cambridge, An Account of the War in India (London: T. Jefferys, second edition, 1762) 


During the 1780s, Frances Burney became friendly with the Cambridge family of Twickenham. Richard Cambridge (1717-1802), a man of letters who published this volume in 1762, was the first to welcome her into their home. Eventually, however, his son George (1756-1841) became far more important to Burney: her manuscript letters reveal that she had strong romantic feelings for him, and believed them to be returned. But George Cambridge never proposed marriage. One of our speakers at the symposium, Professor Stewart Cooke (Dawson College), gave a fascinating insight into Burney’s misery and suspense over the mid-1780s as she realised that George Cambridge was a lost cause and tried to extract herself from a hopeless situation.


Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, and on the proceedings in certain societies in London, (London: J. Dodsley, fourth edition, 1790).


The philosopher and politician Edmund Burke (1729-1797) was one of the most regular visitors at Streatham, and a close friend of Charles Burney. Moreover, he provided literary mentorship to Frances Burney after the publication of Cecilia in 1782, sending her a warm letter full of compliments and thanking her ‘for providing instruction’.

Perhaps Burke’s most important work was his Reflections on the Revolution in France, a pamphlet published in 1790 reviling the action of French revolutionaries and British sympathisers, and arguing for the preservation of ancient traditions. He sent Charles Burney a copy of the first edition: Burney wrote of his ‘infinit eagerness and delight’ upon reading it, and promised: ‘this copy I shall deposit among my most precious literary possessions’. This volume of the fourth edition appears to have belonged to Isabella Metford, and is inscribed ‘May 1866’.


Charles Burney, A General History of Music, from the earliest of ages to the present period, 4 vols. (Vol. 1 London: Printed for the author, second edition, 1789; vols 2-4 London: J. Robson and G.G. Robinson, first edition, 1782-1789).

Burney portrait

In the 1770s Charles Burney was a music teacher and talented musician, but he harboured ambitions of being recognised as a bona fide man of letters like his heroes Dr. Johnson and Edmund Burke. The symposium’s keynote speaker, Professor Peter Sabor (McGill University) remarked: ‘With the publication of his General History of Music, Burney could transition from Johnson’s fan to his peer.’ Peter also gave us an overview of the creative exchanges between the two men: While Johnson was reading proofs of Burney’s General History of Music, Burney was reading the manuscript and proofs of Johnson’s last work: Lives of the Poets. By the time of Johnson’s death, Charles Burney was high in his estimation, a testament to the inimitable Burney networking skills.

An anonymous reader has annotated the volumes with the dates of his/her reading, and with notes drawing attention to passages of particular interest.


Exploration and Botany

Frances Burney’s elder brother James (1750-1821) had a colourful naval career: he travelled with Captain James Cook (1728-1779) on his last two voyages, and acted as interpreter for the famous Tahitian Mai (c. 1751-1780) when he conducted a tour of England in the 1770s. Several of our papers drew attention to the Burney family’s links, through James and his shipmate Molesworth Phillips (1755-1832), with South Sea culture and with the taxonomic work of the botanical explorers Joseph Banks (1743-1820) and Daniel Solander (1733-1782) (who accompanied Cook on his earlier voyages).


Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, Illustrations of Australian Plants collected in 1770 during Captain Cook’s Voyage round the World in H.M.S Endeavour, by the Right Hon. Sir Joseph Banks, Bart. K.B., P.R.S, and Dr. Daniel Solander, F.R.S., 3 vols (London: Longman & Co. and the British Museum, 1900-1905).


Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander were botanists who sailed to Brazil, Tahiti and Australia with Captain Cook on the HMS Endeavour in 1768-1761. They brought back hundreds of specimens of plants then unknown in Britain, which they catalogued and had illustrated for publication. Probably due to Solander’s sudden death in 1782 and Banks’s subsequent loss of interest in the project, their findings were not published for over a hundred years. These folio volumes, published by the British Museum in 1900, contain Solander’s descriptions and beautiful illustrations of the plants, many carried out by artists on board the Endeavour.


James Lee, Introduction to Botany, (London: S. Crowder et al, fifth edition, 1794).


Botanical study was a fashionable hobby in Georgian London, where new discoveries such as those of Banks and Solander attracted intense public interest. The Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) had recently developed a new method for classifying and identifying species that was simple to use, and was explained in many popular adaptations such as James Lee’s Introduction to Botany. At the symposium, Sophie Coulombeau (Cardiff University) argued that that botanical handbooks like James Lee’s, and the personal tutelage of Daniel Solander before his death, heavily influence Frances Burney’s theory of ‘character’ in her second novel, Cecilia.


John Hawkesworth, Account of the Voyages (London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, first edition, 1773).


In 1773 the writer John Hawkesworth (1715-1773) was commissioned by the Admiralty to publish an authorised account of Captain James Cook’s voyages in the Southern Hemisphere. These beautifully illustrated volumes, which were hugely influential in crafting the public impression in Britain of little-known territories such as Tahiti, were the result. The inscription reads: ‘From the Library of T. Booker Esq, Velindra, near Cardiff, Purchased 1901’.


James Cook, A Voyage Towards the South Pole, and round the world 2 vols. (London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, third edition, 1779).


A sort of sequel to Hawkesworth’s work, though this time written by Cook himself, this publication gave an account of Cook’s second major voyage (1772-1775), the first known expedition to cross the Antarctic circle. By the time these volumes appeared, Cook had embarked on his second voyage in the HMS Resolution, which was eventually to end in his gruesome death in Hawaii in 1779.

Guest post: CUROP Research Project – Pattern and the Romantic Imagination, 1780-1840

This guest post comes from Felicity Holmes-Mackie. A graduate of Cardiff University, Felicity has been working as a research assistant for Dr Jane Moore School of English, Communication and Philosophy on a CUROP (Cardiff Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme) project using ladies’ periodicals held in Special Collections and Archives.

Posters from all the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences CUROP projects undertaken this year will be exhibited later this week on Friday 16th October in the Viriamu Jones Gallery in Main Building between 12.00-13.30.

‘The fashionable colours for this month are…’

dress 2During my undergraduate degree at Cardiff I have been fortunate enough to enrol on several modules taught in conjunction with Special Collections and Archives. Having been exposed to the wonderland of exciting resources nestled underneath the Arts and Social Studies Library, I naturally leapt at the chance to embark upon a research project based there during summer 2015. Now, thanks to a project led by Dr Jane Moore and supported by the Cardiff Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (CUROP), I have spent a summer picking my way through the moveable shelving and examining the treasures I discovered.

The project, entitled Pattern and the Romantic Imagination: the creative interchange between poetry and needlework 1780-1840, explores the links between material crafts and imaginative poetry and prose fiction of the Romantic period. I have been, slowly but surely, rifling through the hard copy collections and online digital databases of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century
spinesperiodicals. The main publications I have focussed on are The Ladys Magazine, La Belle Assemblée, and The Ladies’ Monthly Museum, which feature a wide range of articles. These include serialised prose fiction, illustrated biographies, recipes for medicines, word puzzles, and needlework patterns. They were generally aimed at upper class ladies and contain work written by both male and female contributors, who were often unpaid.

dressThe most interesting discoveries of the project were undoubtedly those found in the fashion descriptions which feature in all three publications. Each magazine had a slightly different approach to reporting on the latest fashions; while some articles aim to inspire with vivid descriptions, others dictate what the reader should or should not be wearing according to the tastes that month. La Belle Assemblée outlines upcoming fashions, whereas The Ladies’ Monthly Museum describes fashions of the past month in its regular feature ‘The Mirror for Fashion’. The Ladys Magazine includes similar monthly features, but twice a year it also provides vivid and detailed descriptions of the court dresses worn on royal birthdays. In these pieces, each lady’s outfit is described and judged in terms of taste; sometimes the line between gossip and fashion description becomes somewhat blurred!

detailThese fashion articles can seem repetitive and uninteresting, perhaps something to skim quickly before finding the next instalment of a gripping serialised novel or the next letter in a stream of huffy correspondence. However, delving into these articles reveals an arsenal of technical language and a veritable rainbow of descriptive vocabulary. One of the highlights of the project has undoubtedly been the rich, varied, and occasionally eccentric colour vocabulary which features in all the publications to some degree. From pigeon’s breast to faded dove, marshmallow-blossom to date-leaf, ponceau to ethereal blue, the ‘fashionable colours for the month’ are rich, varied, and occasionally eccentric.

dress3The coloured fashion plates too, are a real treat. The majority of plates show ladies sitting or standing in ways which will show off their outfits, but some also show ladies dancing, at the beach, playing musical instruments, or picking flowers. In some months hat fashions go into overdrive and resemble crowns, large turban-style wraps, or even Roman helmets.

These fashion articles and plates are certainly more stimulating and imaginative than they might first appear. Not only did the colour vocabularies surprise me but the technical descriptions of the dresses offered an insight into thinking about outfits and dress which was peculiar to the period and is far-removed from the way we think about style today. The periodicals generally offered a range of unexpected and fascinating articles and illustrations and I certainly feel lucky to have familiarised myself with them.

Rare Books Lecture Series: Prof. Edna Longley on Edward Thomas

ET_1916_2This autumn we welcome Professor Emerita Edna Longley from Queen’s University Belfast, to deliver the first of our Rare Books Lectures for 2015/16. Edna has made many visits to Special Collections and Archives over the years, in order to make use of the extensive family archive of war-poet Edward Thomas, and we look forward to hearing some of the results of this research. Her talk is titled: ‘Finding “something to read”: Edward Thomas’s reviews and early twentieth-century print culture’.

The event will be held in Lecture Theatre 0.31, John Percival Building (Humanities), at 5.30pm on Thursday 22 October, sponsored by the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and Special Collections and Archives, in association with the School of English, Communication and Philosophy. Please contact us at to book  a place for the talk.

Edna Longley’s monographs include Louis MacNeice: A Study (Faber, 1989), The Living Stream: Literature and Revisionism in Ireland (Bloodaxe, 1994) and Poetry & Posterity (Bloodaxe, 2000). She has edited Edward Thomas: The Annotated Collected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2008). Her most recent book is Yeats and Modern Poetry (Cambridge University Press, 2013). She is a Member of the Royal Irish Academy and a Fellow of the British Academy.

Edward Thomas (1878-1917), was killed at the front in the First World War. His extensive family archive is held in Special Collections and Archives, and a major series on his prose work will be appearing shortly from Oxford University Press.




Guest post: CUROP Research Project – Early Welsh language children’s literature

ChildLitThis guest post comes from Bethan Morgan, undergraduate in the School of Welsh, on her CUROP (Cardiff Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme) project. Bethan has been working with Dr Siwan Rosser to create a bibliographic database of Welsh-language children’s books published before 1900.

Building on last year’s successful CUROP project to create a database of 19th-century periodicals for children, this project seeks to create a new resource for enhanced research on the history of children’s publishing in Wales. At present, no bibliography exists for pre-1900 publications, and library catalogue descriptions are often incomplete and inconsistent, impeding investigations into this important aspect of cultural history.

The project involved searching the University Library’s extensive Special Collections, as well as information from the on-line catalogue of the National Library of Wales, and amassing (through EndNote) relevant bibliographic material. The books were sorted into different categories within EndNote according to their genres, e.g. poetry, music, stories, textbooks, prayer books, and sermons. The resulting database, incorporating the previous CUROP periodical database, will be published online after the project, to be used in research and teaching here and to advance the study of this topic in general.

Bethan notes: “It was fascinating reading the pre-1900 collection of children’s books, because they are so different in comparison with contemporary children’s books. It was hard to believe at times that I was reading children’s literature, because of the serious / dark themes found in many of them, such as sin, death and disasters. The project is very worthwhile, and of value in developing knowledge of Cardiff University’s collection of children’s literature.”

It will also be an invaluable resource for Siwan Rosser during her 2015-16 Research Leave to produce a monograph on Welsh children’s literature. Furthermore, this database will lead to a joint project with Special Collections and Archives to create an online collection of early children’s books, as part of our programme to digitise library and archives to support research and teaching.

View Bethan’s post in full on Siwan Rosser’s Llenyddiaeth Plant blog.

Call for Papers: The Art of the Book, Cardiff University, December 4-6 2015



In 2014 Cardiff University received a considerable donation of Artists’ Books from Ron King of the Circle Press, one of the most influential practitioners of the Book Arts. In December of this year, the University’s Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR) will be hosting a major international conference to celebrate this bequest. Speakers will include Ron King (Circle Press), Sarah Bodman (University of the West of England), and Chris McCabe (Poetry Library).

Proposals are now invited from practitioners and scholars for presentations of 20 minutes on any aspect of the Book Arts. A brief biographical note, along with an abstract of 200-300 words, should be sent NO LATER THAN October 1, 2015, to Practitioners in attendance are encouraged to bring examples of their work for display at the conference.

Exhibition: Wales in the Romantic Imagination

Our latest exhibition is held in collaboration with Romantic Imprints: the 14th International Conference of the British Association for Romantic Studies, Cardiff University, 16-19 July 2015. The exhibition will run until September.

Thomas Pennant (1726-1798)

“… he’s the best traveller I ever read; he observes more things than anyone else does.” – Samuel Johnson on Thomas Pennant

Thomas Pennant was a natural historian, antiquarian and prolific travel writer, principally known for his accounts of travelling on foot and horseback through Wales and Scotland in the late 18th century, exploring remote parts previously unknown to many. His naturally gregarious disposition encouraged local inhabitants to speak freely of their habits, customs and superstitions, all of which he documented in as much detail as the route and its scenery. A great believer in the ability of a picture to tell a thousand words, his works were heavily illustrated with engravings, initially sketched by his servant Moses Griffith, who travelled with him.

Tour in Wales, MDCCLXXIII
Thomas Pennant 1726-1798.

pennant_castle dynas bran


Journey to Snowdon
Thomas Pennant 1726-1798.

Journey from Chester to London
Thomas Pennant 1726-1798.

Tour in Wales. Vol. II
Thomas Pennant 1726-1798.

Tourism and the Wye Valley

The Wye Valley can be considered the birthplace of British tourism, and
British Romanticism, indeed, if one takes a cue from Wordsworth’s seminal poem ‘Tintern Abbey’. William Gilpin’s Observations on the River Wye (1782), the first British illustrated tour guide, is largely responsible for this. Gilpin popularised the concept of taking boat tours down the Wye Valley, to view its romantic sites and picturesque landscape. Viewing the valley from boats gave rise to ‘picturesque tourism’, which focused on an appreciation of scenery rather than just history or architecture.

Gilpin’s book was an instant commercial success, and brought many visitors, including artists, writers and poets to the Wye Valley. Both familiar and unknown, the Wye Valley formed a meeting place of two nations and four counties, an uncanny and unstable border territory shifting with the river’s movements, a place of exile for political radicals, and a subject for many of the period’s most celebrated writers.

Three essays: I. On picturesque: beauty; II. On picturesque; travel; III.
On the art of sketching landscape. Gilpin’s personal copy of the original holograph manuscript, together with nine original drawing in watercolour, tint, pen, ink and pencil by the author. From the archive of Cyril Brett, Professor of English (1921-36) at University College Cardiff.
William Gilpin 1724-1804.



Observations on the River Wye : and several parts of South Wales, &c. relative chiefly to picturesque beauty; made in the summer of the year 1770.
William Gilpin 1724-1804.



Excursion down the Wye from Ross to Monmouth : including historical and descriptive accounts of Wilton and Goodrich castles, also of Court Field, the nursery of King Henry the Fifth; New Wear, and every other object in the voyage.
Charles Heath 1761-1831.

Picturesque views on the river Wye : from its source at Plinlimmon Hill, to its junction with the Severn below Chepstow: with observations on the public buildings, and other works of art, in its vicinity.
Samuel Ireland -1800.

Tour of the River Wye and its vicinity : enriched with two engravings.
George Sael 1760 or 1761-1799



Banks of Wye : a poem. In four books
Robert Bloomfield 1766-1823.

Leigh’s guide to Wales & Monmouthshire : containing observations on the mode of travelling, plans of various tours, sketches of the manners and customs, notices of historical events, a description of every remarkable place, and a minute account of the Wye.
Samuel Leigh

Hints to pedestrians : or, how to enjoy a three weeks’ ramble through North and South Wales and along the banks of the Wye / by a Pedestrian.

Topographical Wales

Special Collections and Archives is home to the substantial personal library of the 19th century antiquarian Enoch Salisbury. A native of Flintshire, he was a businessman, politician and privately, a book-collector with a personal mission to collect every book on the subject of Wales, or in Welsh. His eventual bankruptcy led to the collection of some 13,000 volumes being purchased at auction in 1886 by the first incarnation of Cardiff University: the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire.

Salisbury had a particular interest in Welsh topography and antiquities, and tended to buy two copies of illustrated volumes with plates. One would be placed in the library, and the other would have the plates removed, and inserted into dedicated scrapbooks. He also purchased individual prints, sketches and paintings for inclusion. Salisbury kept a dedicated scrapbook for each Welsh county, featuring hundreds of illustrations of its landscape and architecture.

This image is thought to be the earliest known depiction of Hafod, Aberystwyth, painted by a visitor who captured the building process, recording the phasing of this important house. It is complemented by a copy of Cumberland’s guidebook and plan of the estate, together with an engraving of the completed Hafod.


Hafod, Aberyswyth, Ceredigion
Signed S. Walker
Circa 1784-5
Watercolour on card
142mm by 95mm
Salisbury Cardiganshire Volume

An attempt to describe Hafod: and the neighbouring scenes about the bridge over the Funack, commonly called the Devil’s Bridge, in the county of Cardigan: an ancient seat belonging to Thomas Johnes, Esq. Member for the County of Radnor
George Cumberland 1754-1848

These watercolours show places in the Vale of Clwyd associated with
Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784).



Monument erected by Colonel John Myddleton on the banks of the River Ystrad to commemorate the visit of Dr. Samuel Johnson in 1774 to Gwaenynog Hall, near Denbigh
Unknown artist
Circa 1810
Watercolour on paper
228mm by 140mm
Salisbury Denbighshire Volume

Distant view of a house titled as Bach-y-Graig, Tremeirchion, Denbighshire
Unknown artist
Circa 1830
Watercolour on paper
268mm by 203mm
Salisbury Denbighshire Volume

Called Bach-y-Graig, Tremeirchion, Denbighshire
Unknown artist
Circa 1830
Watercolour on paper
235mm by 143mm
Salisbury Denbighshire Volume

Both pencil sketches are by the artist Julia Mann, who visited South Wales during December 1831. On the left, Oxwich Castle, a Tudor courtyard house, was built by the Mansel family during the sixteenth-century. Their tenancy was short-lived, as the house became a romantic ruin during the 18th century, and a popular destination on the picturesque tourist trail. Manorbier Castle, on the right, was part of this circuit, claiming fame as being the birthplace of Gerald of Wales. The castle survived intact until the Civil War when it was slighted, afterwards becoming derelict.



Oxwich Castle, Oxwich Bay, Glamorganshire
Attributed to Julia Mann
Dated December 1831
Pencil on card
245mm by 176mm
Salisbury Glamorganshire Volume

Manorbier Castle, from North Pembrokeshire
Signed Julia Mann
Dated December 1831
Pencil on card
243mm by 176mm
Salisbury Pembrokeshire Volume

Welsh Romantic Medievalism and the Arthur myth

In 1816, the republication of two rival editions of Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, out of print since 1634, reawakened interest in Arthur and the medieval romances. Wales was inextricably linked with the Arthur myth; the earliest references to King Arthur come from Wales and its medieval literature, such as the Annales Cambriae, the Black Book of Carmarthen, the Book of Taliesin, and of course, the Mabinogion, in the Red Book of Hergest. The Arthur myth created a touchstone of Celtic nationalism in Cornwall and Wales which resonates to this day.

The London printer, Williams Stansby (1572-1638) produced this edition of Malory’s work based on the earlier editions by Wynken de Worde and William Caxton. Stansby’s text appeared in 1634, just before the outbreak of the English Civil War. It remained the only available edition for nearly two hundred years until the revival of interest in Arthurian literature in the 19th century.

Most ancient and famous history of the renowned prince Arthur King of Britaine : Wherein is declared his life and death, with all his glorious battailes against the Saxons, Saracens and pagans […] also, all the noble acts, and heroicke deeds of his valiant knights of the Round Table.
Sir Thomas Malory, active 15th century.



This three volume edition of Malory, edited by the antiquary, Joseph Haslewood, is one of two new editions that appeared in 1816, both based on Stansby’s edition of Caxton. The appearance of these editions heralded the revival of interest in the Arthurian story.

Mort d’Arthur : the most ancient and famous history of the renowned Prince Arthur and the knights of the Round Table / by Sir Thos. Malory.
Sir Thomas Malory, active 15th century.

In Thomas Heywood’s 1641 edition of Merlin’s Prophecies, the sage is depicted as a hermit sitting under a tree rather than the powerful sorcerer of modern iconography. However he is still surrounded by images from his mythic history such as the two dragons whose epic fight provided Wales with its flag and with an enduring symbol of national identity.

The life of Merlin, sirnamed Ambrosius: his prophesies, and predictions interpreted, and their truth made good by our English annalls: being a chronographicall history of all the kings, and memorable passages of this kingdome, from Brute to the reigne of our royall soveraigne King Charles.
Thomas Heywood approximately 1574-1641



This later edition of Merlin’s Prophecies from 1812 was printed at Carmarthen. By then the city was firmly associated with the figure of Merlin, and the place name was interpreted as ‘Caer Myrddin’ or Merlin’s town.

The life of Merlin, surnamed Ambrosius: his prophecies and predictions interpreted, and their truth made good by our English annals: being a chronographical history of all the kings and memorable passages of this kingdom, from Brute to the reign of King Charles.
Thomas Heywood approximately 1574-1641

Arthur’s Stone, Cefn Bryn, the Gower, is the site of a Neolithic burial tomb. According to legend, Arthur threw this large stone and it landed in this spot. The tradition reflects the reputation of Arthur as a giant and a folk hero, rather than a courtly medieval king.

Illustration of Arthur’s Stone (Maen Ceti).
Glamorgan scrapbook, Salisbury archive

This Welsh translation of Merlin’s prophecies derives ultimately from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Latin work, Historia regum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain). Merlin is taken before King Vortigirn (Brenin Gwrtheyrn) to explain the mystery of the falling tower.

Dwy gan o brophwydoliaethau Myrddin : a gymmerwyd allan o “Lyfr y daroganau”. Hefyd, hanes, o’r modd y daeth Myrddin i fod yn adnabyddus i’r brenin Gwrtheyrn, mab-y’nghyfraith Hengyst.

Special editions

Special Collections and Archives holds a number of notable editions related to Romantic Studies. These include:

• A green leather folio edition of Felicia Hemans’ Welsh Melodies:

Selection of Welsh melodies : with symphonies and accompaniments / by John Parry; and characteristic words by Mrs. Hemans.
John Parry Bardd Alaw, 1776-1851; Felicia Hemans 1793-1835



• A signed copy of Edmund Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry into the Sublime, inscribed to Arthur Onslow, Speaker of the House of Commons from 1728-1761:

Philosophical enquiry into the origin of our ideas of the sublime and beautiful.
Edmund Burke 1729-1797

• A first edition of Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa:

Clarissa; or, the history of a young lady. Comprehending the most important concerns of private life. And particularly shewing the distresses that may attend the misconduct both of parents and children, in relation to marriage.
Samuel Richardson



• Examples of gothic novels from the Minerva Press:

Ellen, countess ospecial_ellenf Castle Howel : a novel.
Bennett, Mrs. (Anna Maria), -1808

The Stranger : or, Llewellyn family ; a Cambrian tale.
A. Robert Evans

Secret avengers ; or the rock of Glotzden: romance in four volumes / by Anne of
Julia Ann Hatton 1764-1838

Gwelygordd; or, The child of sin. A tale of Welsh origin.
Charles Lucas 1769-1854

Iolo Morganwg (1747-1826)

Edward Williams (1747-1826) remains better known by his bardic name, Iolo Morganwg, whose romantic image of Wales and its past greatly influenced Wales’ national identity. A prolific poet, radical and polymath, his interests ranged from druidism, folklore, antiquities, architecture, agriculture, geology, language and dialect. Following his death it was discovered that many of his collected manuscripts, which featured evidence of druidic practices in Wales, and observations on mystical and metaphysical philosophy, were in fact his own forgeries. The Salisbury Library in Special Collections and Archives holds a number of books formerly owned by Iolo Morganwg, annotated in his own hand.

The Historie of Cambria, now called Wales
David Powell 1552?-1598
Inscribed by Iolo Morganwg to his daughter: “Ann Matthews Williams, Her Book’. The copy is heavily annotated throughout in various contemporary and later hands, including Iolo Morganwg’s.



Awdyl ar dymhorau y vlwyzyn.
Richard Powell 1769-1795

Cywydd y Drindod.
David Richards Dafydd Ionawr, 1751-1827



Halsing, neu gan newydd ar ddydd Natalic.
John Williams 1728-1806

Cyflafan y beirdd : awdl.
Robert Williams Robert ap Gwilym Ddu, 1766-1850

iolo_mss insert

Research resources for the First World War era

Special Collections and Archives has launched its new Resource Guide for the First World War era.


While the library’s circulating book collections relating to the First World War cover about 10 shelves, in Special Collections and Archives we have another 10 shelf metres of contemporaneous reference sources: printed, ephemeral, and archival material produced in the period 1914-1920.


So far this is an untapped resource by students, and most academic staff, and we’re keen to promote this material for both undergraduate and postgraduate work. We estimate we have over 3,000 items in the Library’s collections from the period 1914-1920; we have selected around 700 for the guide which are focused on the War itself.

The 1914-1920 material outlined by the Resource Guide includes –

  • Eye witness accounts from the front line,
  • War poets and literary writings, especially the huge Edward Thomas archive,
  • Wide ranging political debates raging during the war,
  • Much League of Nations material, from early in the war to well after 1920,
  • Pro-war and Conscientious objectors’ perspectives,
  • Extensive press cuttings collections throughout the war years, giving a week by week, blow by blow account from the war’s start to its end
  • Pictorial and illustration sources from a wide range of printed material,
  • Many sources showing what life was like on the ‘home front’ during the war period.


Hopefully, from these original and contemporaneous sources, students will get an enhanced perspective on the War, getting a flavour from contemporary sources of how people thought, felt, and reacted in that difficult time.

Special Collections and Archives staff received extensive help from a volunteer, an American librarian in Cardiff, to produce the eventual guide, and we are grateful to Katherine Wilkins for her assistance.

The Resource Guide features on the Imperial War Museum’s guide to events, exhibitions, projects and activities. Find out more at

Patagonia: Y Wladfa @ 150 (1865-2015) Arddangosfa / Exhibition

Yn 2015 bydd Patagonia a Chymru yn dathlu 150 o flynyddoedd ers sefydlu’r Wladfa.  Sefydlwyd y Wladfa yn 1865, pan hwyliodd dros 150  bobl o wahanol rannau o Gymru ar y llong  ‘Mimosa’, ac ymsefydlu yn Nyffryn Camwy, Patagonia, yn Ne’r Ariannin. Mae’r gymuned Gymraeg yn parhau yno heddiw, yn ogystal â’r cysylltiadau sy’n bodoli o hyd rhwng Cymru a Phatagonia.

In 2015 Wales and Patagonia will be celebrating 150 years since the foundation of the Wladfa (colony). The Wladfa was established in 1865, when over 150 people from different parts of Wales sailed on the ship ‘Mimosa’, and settled in the Camwy Valley, Patagonia, in southern Argentina. The Welsh speaking community continues there today, as well as the contacts which exist still between Wales and Patagonia.


1/ Cefndir i’r Mudo / Migration Background 

Ceisiodd y Cymry sefydlu cymunedau tramor sawl gwaith, am sawl rheswm – economaidd, crefyddol, ieithyddol –  ond roedd pob un yn fethiant dros amser.

The Welsh attempted to establish communities overseas on several occasions, for several reasons – economic, religious, or linguistic – but each failed over time.

William Vaughan Sir.   The golden fleece  ...  transported from Cambrioll Colchos, out of the southermost part of the iland, commonly called the Newfoundland. London : Printed for Francis Williams, 1626.

William Vaughan Sir. The golden fleece … transported from Cambrioll Colchos, out of the southermost part of the iland, commonly called the Newfoundland. London : Printed for Francis Williams, 1626.

Methodd cymuned William Vaughan, ‘Cambriol’, yn Newfoundland, rhywbryd ar ôl 1630.

William Vaughan and his colony ‘Cambriol’, in Newfoundland, failed sometime after 1630.


2/ Teithio ac Ymsefydlu, 19 ganrif / Travel and Settlement, 19th century

Mae hanes y fordaith ar y llong Mimosa wedi arwain at nifer o gyhoeddiadau ar y pwnc, a’r caledi a wynebodd y Cymry, a ffyniant y gymuned wedyn, eto wedi ysgogi nifer i ysgrifennu am y digwyddiadau yno. Cychwynodd popetMDJonesh gan erthygl Michael D. Jones yn 1848.

The history of the sea journey on the ship Mimosa led to many publications on the topic, and the hardships faced by the Welsh, and the success of the community afterwards, again inspired many to write about events there.  Everything started with an article by Michael D. Jones in 1848.






3/  Y Wladfa, 20 ganrif (cynnar) / 20th century (early)

O ddiwedd y 19 ganrif roedd llywodraeth yr Ariannin yn elyniaethus tuag at y gymuned Gymraeg, a dirywiodd gweithgareddau’n araf, ac nid oedd mudwyr newydd o Gymru ar ôl 1913.

From the end of the 19th century the Argentine government had an unfriendly attitude towards the Welsh community, and activities declined slowly, while the last migration from Wales came in 1913.



4/ Y Wladfa, 20 ganrif (adfywiad) / 20th century (revival)

Sbardunodd canmlwyddiant sefydlu’r Wladfa, yn 1965, nifer o unigolion i ail-afael yn y cysylltiad rhwng Cymru a Phatagonia, a thyfodd amrywiaeth o gysylltiadau newydd, yn cynnwys cefnogaeth i’r gymuned Gymraeg oddi wrth Gynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru yn 1999.

The centenary of the founding of the Wladfa, in 1965, spurred a number of individuals to re-start connections between Wales and Patagonia, and a variety of new connections developed, including support for the Welsh community there from the National Assembly for Wales in 1999.



5/ Patagonia, Llen Teithio / Travel Writing

Ers y 1960au mae ffrwd gyson o lyfrau teithio am Batagonia wedi llifo o’r gweisg, pob un yn nodi’r gymuned Cymraeg yno, efallai’r mwyaf enwog (ond nid y mwyaf cywir) oedd y llyfr gan Bruce Chatwin.

Since the 1960s a stream of travel books about Patagonia has flowed from publishers, each one covering the Welsh community there, possibly the most well known (but not the most accurate) was the book by Bruce Chatwin.




6/ Y Wladfa, 21 ganrif / 21st century

Prifysgol Caerdydd a’r Wladfa / Cardiff University and the Wladfa

Iaith, diwylliant, hanes, cyhoeddiadau, cysylltiadau â Chymru, etc.

Language, culture, history, publications, contacts with Wales, etc.



Full list of sources featured in the exhibition:

1/ Cefndir i’r Mudo / Migration Background 

Hanes mor-daith y Brig Albion, Aberteifi, (Llywelyn Davies, Llywydd) gydâ Mûdolion (Emigrants,) &c. o Gaernarfon i Ogledd America : ynghyd â rhai ymddiddanion ar y daith, ac ychydig gasgliad o hanes am y wlad. Caernarfon : argraphwyd gan Peter Evans, 1820.

R Gorst;  David Lloyd.   Desgrifiad o diriogaeth Wisconsin …  yn mharthau gorllewinol Unol Daleithiau America. British Temperance Emigration Society; Cymdeithas Ymfudol Gymedrol Frytanaidd.; Welsh Emigratory Society of Britain.  Bangor … Bethesda, 1845.

Samuel Roberts.  Pregethau a darlithiau. Utica, E.N. : argraffwyd gan T.J. Griffiths, 1865.

2/ Teithio ac Ymsefydlu, 19 ganrif / Travel and Settlement, 19th century

Abraham Matthews. Hanes y Wladfa Gymreig yn Patagonia. Aberdar : Mills ac Evans, pr.|1894

D. Davies. Attodiad i’r Cymro : sef Llawlyfr y Wladfa Gymreig, Patagonia. Caergybi. O.P. Griffith,1882.

Hugh Hughes (Cadvan Gwynedd). Llawlyfr y wladychfa Gymreig yn cynwys sylwadau ar yr angenrheidrwydd a’r posiblrwydd o’i sefydlu, hanes Patagonia, yn egluro ei haddasrwydd i’r sefydliad…yn ngayda darlunlen o Patagonia.  Llynlleifiad: L. Jones & Co., 1862.

Patagonia, yn egluro ei haddasrwydd i’r sefydliad…yn ngayda darlunlen o Patagonia. Llynlleifiad : L. Jones & Co., 1862.

Susan Wilkinson. Mimosa’s voyages : official logs, crew lists and masters. Talybont, Ceredigion : Y Lolfa,2007.

Lewis Jones.  Cymru newydd : hanes y Wladva Gymreig ; tiriogaeth Chubut, yn y weriniaeth Arianin, De Amerig. Caernarvon : Cwmni’r Wasg Genedlaethol Gymreig, 1898.

Joseph Seth Jones; Elvey MacDonald.  Dyddiadur Mimosa : El diario del Mimosa. Aberystwyth : Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru; Llanrwst: Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 2002.

D.S. Davies.  Adroddiad am sefyllfa y Wladfa Gymreig, allan o “Baner America”. Bala : H. Evans, pr.|1875?

Lewis Jones. Ymfudiaeth y Cymry.  Bangor : Hughes, pr.,1885.

Jonathan Ceredig Davies. Adventures in the land of giants. Lampeter, Welsh Press Company, 1892.

Y Cenhadwr Americanaidd : Remsen, N.Y. : argraffwyd gan J.R. Everett, 1840-1901. [1844 erthygl gan M.D. Jones, ‘Gwladychfa Gymreig’].


3/ Y Wladfa, 20 ganrif (cynnar) / 20th century (early)

R. Williams. Cymry Patagonia. Aberystwyth : Gwasg Aberystwyth,1942.

Jonathan Ceredig Davies. Adventures in the land of giants.Lampeter : Welsh Press Company, 1892.

Eluned Morgan. Dringo’r Andes. Y Fenni : Owen, 1904.

Eluned Morgan.  Ar dir a môr. Y Fenni : Gwasg Minerv, 1913.

Eluned Morgan.  Gwymon y Mor. Y Fenni, Owen, 1909.

R. Williams . Rhyddiaith y Wladfa. Dinbych : Gwasg Gee, 1949.

R.B. Williams.  Eluned Morgan. J.D.Lewis, 1948.

Evans, L.   Adlais y  Gamwy…detholiad … o’r Wladfa Gymreig.  Caernarfon, 1924.

Morgan, E.  Plant yr Haul.  Evans a Williams.  1915.


4/ Y Wladfa, 20 ganrif (adfywiad) / 20th century (revival)

R. Williams. Gwladfa Patagonia : the Welsh colony in Patagonia, 1865-1965. Caerdydd : Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru, 1965.

Gareth Alban Davies,  Kyffin Williams.  Tan tro nesaf : darlun o wladfa Gymreig Patagonia. 1918-2006. Llandysul : Gwasg Gome, 1976.

Geraint Dyfnallt Owen.  Crisis in Chubut : a chapter in the history of the Welsh colony in Patagonia.Swansea : C. Davies,1977.

Glyn Williams. The desert and the dream : a study of Welsh colonization in Chubut, 1865-1915. Cardiff : University of Wales Pres, 1975.

Ioan Roberts. Rhyfel ni : profiadau Cymreig o ddwy ochr Rhyfel y Falklands/Malvinas 1982.

Llanrwst : Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 2003.

Catrin Williams.  Er Serchog Gof … Gwasg Gee,  1997.


5/ Patagonia: Llen Teithio / Travel Writing

Ioan Roberts.  Rhyfel ni : profiadau Cymreig o ddwy ochr Rhyfel y Falklands/Malvinas 1982.  Llanrwst:  Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 2003.

Jon Gower.  Gwalia Patagonia.  Llandysul: Gomer, 2015.

Cathrin Williams.  Y Wladfa yn dy boced : [llyfr taith i’r Wladfa]. Caernarfon : Gwasg y Bwthyn, 2007, 3ydd arg.

Bruce Chatwin, Paul Theroux.  Patagonia revisited ( illustrated by Kyffin Williams).  London : Jonathan Cape,1992.

Bruce Chatwin.  In Patagonia.  London : Vintage, 1998 [2005 New edition]

R. Williams . Crwydro Patagonia. Llandybie : Llyfrau’r Dryw, 1960.


6/ Y Wladfa, 21 ganrif / 21st century

Prifysgol Caerdydd a’r Wladfa  /   Cardiff University and the Wladfa

Elvey MacDonald.  Cymdeithas Cymru-Ariannin : 1939-2014. Penrhyn-coch, Aberystwyth: Cymdeithas Cymru-Ariannin, 2014.

Edi Dorian Jones. Capillas galesas en Chubut. Chubut Argentina : Edición del Autor, 2000.

Galeses y Tehuelches : historia de un encuentro en Patagonia = The Welsh and Tehuelches : a meeting of peoples in Patagonia = Y Cymre a’r Tehuelches : cenhedloedd yn cwrdd ym Mhatagonia.  Chubut (Argentina). Secretaria de Cultura. Chubut : Provincia del Chubut;2007.

Una Frontera Lejana, la colonizacion galesa del Chubut…1865 – 1935. Fundacion Antorchas, 2003.

Other periodical sources

Y Ddraig goch : cylchgrawn misol at wasanaeth y Wladfa Gymreig. Bala : argraffedig gan H. Evans|1876-1877

Ein Breiniad. Patagonia : s.n.|1878-1883

Y Drafod : El mentor. Gaiman, Chubut : Diario El Cordillerano S.R.L.|1891-

Y Gwyliedydd : newyddiadur wythnosol annibynnol. Trelew : s.n.|1929-1938

Government reports on the Wladfa for 1867, 1871, 1872, 1876, 1897, 1900, 1902

Guest post: The ‘netzwerk’ of Benjamin Morse

This guest post comes from Fiona McLellan, who spent two months volunteering with us this Spring. Fluent in German, Fiona catalogued the German-language correspondence contained in the archive of Benjamin Morse. Over 120 letters are now accessible to researchers for the first time, with the online catalogue providing highly detailed summaries of both content and context.

Benjamin Morse

Benjamin Morse

“Held at SCOLAR is the archive of Benjamin Morse (1899-1977). Professor Morse was the lecturer in education, then Italian at University College, Cardiff, where he was employed from the 1930s through to his retirement in 1966. After his graduation from the University of Aberystwyth in 1923, he spent a number of years in Europe, living in both Osnabrück and Trieste. Some of the connections he made while on his travels lasted for decades, and this is attested by his great hoard of letters written in Welsh, English, German and Italian.

Having contacted Alison Harvey concerning volunteering opportunities, I was pleased to be offered the chance to catalogue the letters Morse received in German. This I have now done, with the result that their authors, dates and summaries can be accessed online via ArchiveSearch, alongside Alessandra Toschi’s earlier work on Morse’s Italian papers.

Although among some 126 catalogued items, only one was written by Morse himself, a partial view of his life and character can be made out from the remarks of his friends and professional contacts in their letters to him. ‘Very Honoured Morse’, or ‘Herr Prof. Dr. Morse’, or ‘Jeeb’ was an exemplary networker. In his lifetime, networking was a word for communications engineers; it had yet to have its social meaning consecrated by LinkedIn; but with his numerous dispatches from his summer holidays, on top of his seasonal messages during the  Christmas and Easter vacations, Morse may have single-handedly kept the Italian postcard industry in the black.

However, Morse did not confine himself to postcards. Several of the letters he received from Germany in the late 1940s are partly taken up with thanks for the care packages Morse had sent to the family of Rilke and to fellow academics. To my mind, it is a sure indication of the difficult conditions of life in post-war Germany that  Morse’s gift of three packs of Ovaltine to Professor Mertner of the University of Münster could be met with such apparently sincere gratitude.

It was Rainier Maria Rilke, the poet of mysticism and of feeling, of roses, Apollo and art who occupied the greater part of Morse’s literary attention. The subject of Rilke dominates the German correspondence: scholarly books begin to criss-cross the North Sea within a couple of years of the end of the war, translations are disputed, new publications recommended or traduced. Rilke knew Trieste, having spent a year not far from there in the castle of an aristocratic patroness of his.  I do not know if this was Morse’s reason for choosing Trieste as a destination when, some ten or more years later in the 1920s, he left Britain. Certainly, his interest in Rilke was enduring. In the 1950s, Morse seemed to have viewed the fin de siècle poet as a potential refuge and a comfort: the one letter in the German correspondence to come from Morse’s own hand is addressed to Ilse Blumenthal-Weiss, a concentration camp survivor. His letter quotes in full one of Rilke’s lesser-known poems ‘Heute will ich dir zu Liebe Rosen fühlen.‘ (‘Today, for your sake, I wish to feel roses.’)

But Morse’s papers touch on many subjects, and have allowed me a glimpse into the day-to-day preoccupations of Morse’s far-flung circle: a student from Osnabrück wonders if he has a future as a published German translator of T. S. Eliot; a plagiarism scandal is hushed up at Münster; a retired book seller complains that his children don’t love him any more since he doesn’t have any money. Not only the words, but also the material and physical details of the letters were informative. Those sent in the 1940s were written on sub-toilet-tissue quality paper almost as transparent as a window.

postmark (2)Of additional interest were the social histories contained in the Freistempel or postmarks: the example given here cautions pen-and-paper enthusiasts that ‘the telephone saves time and money’.

My time spent working with Morse’s papers was highly enjoyable and profitable to me. I’d like to thank the staff at SCOLAR for their friendliness, and Alison in particular for managing the project, and for tolerating with such good grace the regular presence of a squatter in her office.”