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Manuscripts from the Additional, Ashley, Egerton and Zweig Collections at the British Library, London

The British Library house one of the worlds’ finest collections of literary manuscripts.  Collections concerning the Romantic poets were enhanced considerably by the addition of the Zweig collection and recent reorganization and cataloguing of the Ashley collection.

This project brings together 133 manuscripts (76 from The Ashley collection), describing the life and work of Keats, Leigh Hunt, Shelley and the radical and revolutionary turmoil of the period  from 1780 to 1848.  It features:

  • A wide range of autograph literary manuscripts by Keats, including Hyperion, Ode on the Mermaid Tavern, Galloway Song, To Ailsa Rock, St Agnes Eve, the Pot of Basil, the Eve of St Mark, ‘I stood tiptoe upon a little hill’, ‘This pleasant tale’ and other poems.
  • Letters from Keats (often including poetry), with 43 to his sister Fanny; a long journal letter to his brother Tom; to Leigh Hunt (on the calling of poetry); and to Benjamin Haydon on a painting from Endymion.
  • A letter from Fanny Keats to Maria Dilke.
  • Nickel List and his merry men, a short story by Fanny Brawne.
  • Letters from Byron to his publisher, John Murray, many giving his views on Keats’ poetry, and others on politics and the reception of Don Juan.
  • Letters from Joseph Severn to Fanny Brawne, Charles Armitage Brown, and others describing his relationship with Keats and Shelley, life in Rome, painting and Romanticism.
  • Autograph literary manuscripts by Shelley, including Laon and Cynthia; The Daemon of the World; ‘The Devil went out a-walking’; ‘Maiden, quench the glare of sorrow’; Brothers, between you and me; a sonnet on Byron: and his annotated copy of Seneca.
  • Correspondence of Shelley and Elizabeth Hitchener concerning his first marriage, his residence in York and Keswick, and tour of Ireland; and papers of Jane Williams (Shelley’s ‘Miranda’).
  • Five diaries of Claire Clairmont, 1814-1826 (with gaps), covering the period of Shelley’s elopement with Mary Godwin (accompanied by Claire), and their residence in London and Italy.  There are many references to Byron and some notes by Shelley on Dante.
  • A letter from Percy Shelley to Mary Godwin on the death of his first wife, Harriet; and a letter from Claire Clairmont to Leigh Hunt asking how to break the news of Shelley’s death to Mary Shelley and Jane Williams.
  • The journal of John and Maria Gisborne, 2 May – 26 Sept 1820.   The journal covers their journey from Leghorn back to London, a period of residence in London, and their journey back to Italy as far as Turin. It contains many references to William Godwin, John Keats, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, Claire Clairmont, Mary Shelley and S T Coleridge.
  • An account by Leigh Hunt of the death by drowning of Percy Shelley and Captain Williams, on Shelley’s yacht, the ‘Don Juan’; and writings by Captain Daniel Robert on the vessel and by Trelawney and Leigh Hunt on Shelley’s cremation.
  • The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley  by Thomas Jefferson Hogg (autograph manuscript) and a letter by Shelley to Thomas Love Peacock.
  • A pocket-book of Zambelli with notes regarding Byron, Shelley and Leigh Hunt.
  • 6 letters from Mary Shelley to Claire Clairmont concerning family matters.
  • Correspondence of Leigh Hunt with Byron, Shelley, R H Horne; Charles Lamb; William Howitt; Thomas Moore; Dickens; Thackeray; Macaulay; Lord Brougham; J S Mill; Thomas Carlyle; Robert and Elizabeth Browning; W H Ainsworth; Tennyson; his wife, Marianne; his sister, Elizabeth Kent; his daughter, Jacintha; and others, on topics such as book reviews, travel, his father, magazine publishing, Eel Pie House, Mary Shelley, beauty, poetry, the death of Shelley, blasphemy and the law.
  • Hundreds of letters written to Leigh Hunt when he was Editor of The Examiner.
  • Poetry and writings of Leigh Hunt, including The Story of Rimini; Venetian Song; Bacchus and Ariadne; ‘A Day with the Reader’; Robin Hood (3 poems); Lover’s Amazements and Look to Your Morals (both plays); The Shewe of Faire Seeming; and the introduction for Shelley’s A Proposal for putting Reform to the vote.
  • Correspondence of William Hone, bookseller, 1819-1835, including exchanges with printers and contributors to his publications. Correspondents include John Hunt (brother of Leigh Hunt), Robert Southey, Joanna Baillie, Maria Edgeworth, William Hazlitt, Hartley Coleridge, and Edward Moxon.
  • Autobiographical notes by William Hone and his collection for a History of Parody.
  • Letters to Thomas Hill, Editor of The Monthly Mirror and European Magazine, 1785-1828, from Joanna Baillie, William Hazlitt, James Hamilton, Leigh Hunt, J G Lockhart and others.
  • Letters and poetry by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, Oscar Wilde, Robert Browning, Thomas Hardy and others on the impact made by Keats.
  • Four notebooks of Dante Gabriel Rossetti containing notes for, and draft of lines, couplets and stanzas of poems.

Taken together, these manuscripts provide a magnificent resource for the study of many of the leading figures of Romanticism, detailing their literary world, and the broader social and political currents which surrounded it. 

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