Last blog (but more to follow…)

It’s my last day with the John Murray Archive. I’m rushing around a bit and clearing desk and sorting out odds and ends. But I simply have to take time out to say what an absolute privilege it has been to work on this collection. It is simply awesome – so full of treasures, surprises, mysteries, clarifications, stories, hints, deep thoughts, trivial thoughts, humour, tragedy, I could go on and on: it is pure gold. I’ve already covered some of my favourites in other posts here:

James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, with his forthright, friendly and hugely entertaining letters;

Eleanor Farjeon, wisely and humbly accepting a rejection letter, but one containing encouragement that made her keep trying;

Florence Hardy making reference to somewhat obscure poet Charlotte Mew, described by Thomas Hardy as “the one woman of genius writing today”;

two letters from eager schoolboy James Francis Hewitt, pointing out a mistake in a Latin grammar – further research showing that his life was abruptly cut short in the First World War, and all that potential lost;

Earlier this week I looked out some of these favourites for visiting friends, and for the first time caught sight of the two letters of Jane Austen to John Murray II, writing about “Emma” and asking could Murray get the printers to hurry up. I was truly awestruck… I feel the same way about the Darwin letters, and love that crucial one which begins:

 Dear Sir, I have heard with pleasure from Sir C. Lyell that you are inclined to publish my work on Origin of Species…

(That is from memory, so please forgive any small mistakes – no time to check!)

There are letters from highly eminent and well known correspondents, and letters from people who are completely unknown, and hard to identify. But they all add up to this unique and vastly valuable collection and resource. You can find out more about the archive here: But why not come in and see some of these letters for yourself? I doubt very much that you would leave disappointed. Meanwhile thank you for keeping up with this blog. More to follow as the work continues…