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Call for volunteers to help digitise selected Rupert Brooke papers

RCB-Ph-262

Rupert Brooke in uniform, at Blandford, Dorset. 1914. Print by W. Hazel of Bournemouth.
Archive Centre, King’s College, Cambridge. RCB/Ph/262

We are pleased to announce that the Archive Centre has been awarded a grant of £2,797 by the Friends of the National Libraries towards the cost of digitising significant parts of the Schroder collection. These papers are thought to have been the largest collection of Rupert Brooke archives to be held privately until we purchased them in 2015, with grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Friends of the National Libraries, as well as further donations by friends of the library through the Munby Centenary Fund. The Schroder papers now form a series within our main Rupert Brooke collection. The fact they were acquired so much later than the rest of the collection means they still hold considerable potential for original research, having only been seen by privileged biographers before they came to King’s.

Most of the items selected for digitisation are correspondence between Rupert Brooke (RCB), Edward Marsh (RCB’s friend, literary executor and biographer) and William Denis Browne (RCB’s friend and a young composer, who died at Gallipoli only days after burying RCB). A famous letter RCB wrote to Lascelles Abercrombie (possibly the last thing RCB ever wrote), RCB’s attaché case and Denis Browne’s personal effects will also be included.

The material will be digitised by the Cambridge University Library and shared online through their Digital Library, where it will sit alongside such interesting collections as the personal papers of Siegfried Sassoon.

The Archive Centre will create metadata (essentially, adding further details to our catalogue, including listing individual letters within guard books) to be added to the images, making them easier to search. We hope to do this with the help of volunteers, who will be properly trained and have a wonderful opportunity to gain some experience of working with archives.

The in-house aspects of the project will be led by Peter Monteith (Assistant Archivist), who developed the education resource ‘Introduction to Archives: Rupert Brooke’.

If you would like to offer some of your time to assist in the creation of metadata for this new digitisation project, please contact archivist@kings.cam.ac.uk.

“Only connect”: Laura Mary Forster and Charles Darwin

Amongst our fascinating collection of books from the personal library of E.M. Forster (1879-1970) are some which were passed down to him by relations. These include a number of volumes which once belonged to his aunt, Laura Mary Forster (1839-1924):

Laura Mary Forster's bookplate

The bookplate of Laura Mary Forster (1839-1924)

In his biography of Marianne Thornton, Laura’s aunt, E.M. Forster provides a brief outline of Laura’s character:

“Miss Forster never married … she followed the Thornton pattern of intellectual and philanthropic activity, but she could be censorious of her elders, and is constantly taking them up and dusting them before she replaces them, with a word of c0mmendation, on their shelf. In her later life she changed – became gentler, wiser, greater.”

Some of the volumes formerly owned by Laura are especially interesting, since they feature bindings with blind-tooled and stamped leatherwork of her own design. These include a volume by John Ruskin on the medieval Italian artist Giotto, which has a design based around circles, making reference to Giotto’s reputed ability to draw a perfect circle freehand without the aid of a compass.

Binding of Ruskin's work on Giotto

Front cover of: John Ruskin “Giotto and his works in Padua …” (London: Arundel Society, 1854. Forster.RUS.Gio.1854)

It is possible that Laura’s designs were influenced by her association with the arts and crafts designer William Morris (1834-1896), with whom she is known to have corresponded and sent samples of her work. The Arts and Crafts Exhibitions Society exhibit for 1889 featured several of Laura’s book-bindings and also embossed leather chair seats produced by Morris and Co. from her designs.

Another work, a three volume set of “The life and letters of Charles Darwin”, which was given to Laura by the editor, Darwin’s son Francis, features a floral design based on poppies.

Binding of volume 2 of "Life and letters of Charles Darwin"

Front cover of volume two of: Francis Darwin (ed.) “The life and letters of Charles Darwin…” (London: John Murray, 1887. Forster.DARW.Lif/2.1887)

This set is one of the jewels of the Forster collection, since attached inside the front cover of the first volume is an autograph letter from Charles Darwin himself, addressed to Laura and thanking her for allowing him to stay at her house in Surrey in 1879. A transcript of the letter appears in a footnote on page 224 of the third volume.

Darwin letter page 1

First page of a letter to Laura Mary Forster from Charles Darwin, written in 1879

Forster.DARW.Lif1.1887 letter page 02

Second page of Darwin’s letter to Laura

Transcript of Darwin letter

Transcript of Darwin’s letter, from volume three of “The life and letters of Charles Darwin”

Laura was a lifelong friend of Darwin’s eldest daughter Henrietta, with whom she conducted a lively correspondence. Many of these letters survive, including some which convey Laura’s leaning towards Darwinism. Whilst stating that: “it is against one’s taste to come from furry animals, tidal or otherwise”, and remaining steadfast in her Christian faith, she nevertheless believed that: “it is of practical use to get a just estimate of one’s place in creation”. Other relations regarded Darwinism with horror, and Laura relates wryly that one family acquaintance: “…expects every time he comes down to see me hung up on one of the large oaks opposite our house…”

Bibliography:

Forster, E.M. Marianne Thornton (André Deutsch, 2000)

Kelvin, N. (ed.) The collected letters of William Morris, Volume II, Part B: 1885-1888 (Princeton University Press, 1987)

AC