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Archives & Manuscripts

William and Mary Howitt Papers

 Collection
Identifier: SFHL-RG5-181
The collection contains mainly personal correspondence. Some translations from Swedish are included. There are scattered references to their developing interest in spiritualism after the 1840s, and in some letters, William Howitt expresses his positions on topics such as the degradation of the working classes because of drink, the decadence of politicians, and the evils of vivisection. There are also some manuscript copies of poems and stories by both Howitts.

Ser. 1 Correspondence: Miscellaneous recipients, many unidentified. Letters are largely concerned with matters relating to writers' publications, contributions to Journals, instructions to illustrators. Also includes letters to friends and others arranging visits and other personal matters.
Ser. 2. Literary Works: Poems and short prose, fragments of articles, etc.
Ser. 3. Pictures

Dates

  • 1827-1886

Creator

Limitations on Accessing the Collection

Collection is open for research.

Copyright and Rights Information

Copyright has not been assigned to Friends Historical Library All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in to the Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf Friends Historical Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by reader.

Extent

0.5 Linear Feet (1 box)

Overview

William Howitt (1792-1879) and his wife, Mary Botham Howitt (1799-1888), were English Quaker writers of miscellaneous poetic and narrative materials for children and adults. The collection contains mainly personal correspondence. Some translations from Swedish are included. There are scattered references to their developing interest in spiritualism after the 1840s and manuscript copies of some of the poems and stories by both Howitts.

Biographical / Historical

William Howitt (1792-1879) and his wife, Mary Botham Howitt (1799-1888) were both born into Quaker families of the English Midlands, he in Derbyshire and she in Staffordshire. Both early determined to make their living by their pens. William rejected his early apprenticeship as a builder-carpenter and at first supported his family as a druggist until their joint success as writers enabled them to devote themselves entirely to writing.

They both were professional writers in every sense, writing books on a wide range of topics from their experiences and interests. Early books included volumes of ballads and other poems, works on natural history and the countryside, descriptions of ancient castles and historic mansions, "homes and haunts of the poets," etc. They were liberal, even radical, in their views of social and political matters and actively supported the causes of abolition, women's rights, temperance, and the improvement of the conditions of the lower classes. In the years between 1846 and 1848, they took over the publication People's Journal, designed to "teach and enlighten" the working classes. This soon failed, and they launched their own periodical, Howitt's Journal, which survived only one year. During its life, however, their journal published Elizabeth Gaskell's earliest stories, and they were helpful in launching her literary career.

During a period of about ten years in Heidelberg, William produced works on student and social life in Germany. Together with Mary, he wrote a book on the literature of Northern Europe. Mary wrote many books for juvenile readers and translated works from Scandinavian literature, including the first translations into English of Hans Christian Anderson. In August 1847, the Howitts resigned from the Society of Friends. They had become interested in mesmerism and spiritualism, and in 1863, William produced "The History of Spiritualism. Beginning in 1852, William Howitt had spent two years in the gold mines of Australia, a visit which resulted in several books about that country. In later years, the Howitts spent their time in the Austrian Tyrol and in Rome. William died in Rome in 1879. Mary Howitt became a Roman Catholic in 1882, and died in Rome in 1888.

Physical Location

For current information on the location of materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was largely purchased, 1966, 1968, 1969.

Other donations from Charles F. Jenkins, before 1951; Albert A. Merritt.

Processing Information

Formerly cited as Howitt Manuscripts, the collection was compiled from a few gifts and then a significant number of purchases 1966-1969. A complete, detailed inventory is included with the collection, and significant individual items are fully catalogued in the FHL Manuscript card catalogue.
Title
An Inventory of the William and Mary Howitt Papers, 1827-1886
Author
FHL staff
Date
2006
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
English

Revision Statements

  • 2016: This electronic finding aid was updated in Summer 2016 by Abdulrezak Kemal in preparation for importing into ArchivesSpace, to conform to current markup standards and the ArchivesSpace data model.

Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College Library

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