Correspondence and papers of Sydney Cockerell cheifly relating to Wilfrid Scawen Blunt

Item author: Sydney Cockerell
Item date: 1898-1948
Grant Value: £6,477 [Philip Larkin Fund]
Item cost: £6,477
Item date acquired: 2016
Item institution: Fitzwilliam Museum
Town/City: Cambridge
County: Cambridgeshire

A large archive of several hundred letters, notecards, etc., circa 1898-1948, largely comprising large bundles of autograph letters to Sydney Cockerell, or Wilfred Scawen Blunt.  Their appeal to the Fitzwilliam Museum was obvious. We house the largest single archive of works by and associated with Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840-1922) in the world (including Blunt's original diaries, autograph drafts of his major poems and other published works, and much other completely unpublished manuscript material), and it is one of our most frequently consulted collections. Moreover, Sydney Cockerell (1867-1962) was the longest-serving and arguably most influential Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum (1908-37), as well as secretary, adviser and executor to Wilfred Scawen Blunt. With the generous and remarkably speedy assistance of the Friends of the National Libraries, we were able to bid and acquire the archive.

Our initial survey of the material reveals that it is both larger and more varied than the sale catalogued description indicated, and makes a significant addition not only to our Blunt and Cockerell holdings, but to our William Morris manuscripts. In summary, the material consists of c. 1000 letters from the archive of the writer and art historian Wilfrid Jasper Blunt (1901-1987) (no relation) and his brother Christopher. Most are from Cockerell, who bequeathed his papers to Wilfred Jasper Blunt to write a memoir of his life; Blunt subsequently presented Cockerell’s papers to the British Library but evidently kept some back. This particular collection relates mainly to Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, but also includes other important Cockerell papers such as letters (c. 80) from his bookbinder Katharine Adams (1862-1952), who bound many of the Museum’s literary holdings, c. 150 letters from Lady Anne Blunt, ten letters from Sir Kenneth Clarke, and several letters from Charles Fairfax Murray, a major benefactor to the Fitzwilliam. There are also two original poems and printed copies of poems by Wilfred Scawen Blunt, and a letter from him to William Morris (23 Aug. 1894), along with several photographs of Blunt as a young man and in later life.  An interesting group of extraneous material includes a letter from Edmund Gosse to William Morris (11 June 1895) about Robert Louis Stevenson.

The material will be housed in environmentally controlled storage, and be fully accessible to scholars in the Founder’s Library at the Museum alongside our existing collections. Discussions about how best to integrate the acquisition into our existing holdings are ongoing, and cataloguing will commence next year once these decisions have been taken. We are extremely grateful to the Friends of the National Libraries for their generosity and efficiency, which enabled us to make this important acquisition in our Bicentenary year.