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Robert Browning Collection: Box 3

BROWNING BOX 3 (formerly 2):

Fanny Carey’s Browning Album
Album [compiled and bequeathed (1921) by FANNY CAREY]; 5 boards with photographs and letter paper tipped in. The contents:

(i) Signed photograph of RB dated 29 Sept [18]87

(ii) Photograph of RB’s father (Robert Browning, 1782-1866).

(iii) Seven-line holograph poem ‘written to be inscribed on the gravestone of Levi Thaxter’ beginning ‘Thou, whom these eyes saw never, – say friends true’ initialled by RB.  Thaxter (1 Feb. 1824 – 31 May 1884) was a ‘devoted student’ of RB who gave Browning readings in Boston and is buried at Kittery Point in Maine with these words on his headstone (George Willis Cooke A Guide-Book to the Poetic and Dramatic Works of Robert Browning (1891), p. 195). 19 Apr. [18]85. 1L. [Kelley & Coley, E:228]

(iv) Two lines from of Luria; A Tragedy, Act V (ll. 180-81, beginning ‘If we could wait! The only fault’s with time:’). Signed by RB. 28 Jun. [18]78. 1L. [Kelley & Coley, E:236]

(v) Holograph of octet (ll. 79-86, beginning ‘Oh, which were best, to roam or rest?’) from ‘In a Gondola’, signed by RB. 23 Sept. [18]87. 1L. [Kelley & Coley, E:188]

(vi) ALS from PEN BROWNING to FANNY CAREY enclosing an excerpt [see (vii)] written by his mother Elizabeth Barrett Browning. 26 May 1898. 1L.

(vii) Envelope postscript of a letter from E.B.B. to [Mary Russell Mitford]. [15-16 Feb or 26 May? 1852]. [Kelley & Hudson, 52:23] The letter is at Wellsley College, Massachusetts.

(viii) Photograph (duplicate copy, see (ii)) of RB’s father.

(ix) Invitation to the 7 May 1912 Browning Centenary service at Westminster Abbey, addressed to Fanny Carey at Trent Leigh, Nottingham.

Robert Browning’s Pocket Book
Small black leather pocket wallet (173 x 147mm when open), used by RB, with ‘Greeting to Robert Browning’ and an owl represented in colour on the inside flap.  Contains two postal receipts for the proofs of Asolando, dated 6 and 8 November [18]89. Donated by Anthony Thompson [Kelley & Coley, H:677].  Correspondence relating to the gift:

1. ALS from SARIANNA BROWNING to LADY PAGET. 29 De Vere Gardens, 4 Jan. [1890]. 1L. Sarianna thanks Lady Paget for her sympathy, saying that the ‘sudden blow’ of RB’s death was ‘unexpected’, ‘it seem hard to take up the short remainder of my own life, without him’.

2. ALS from SARIANNA BROWNING to MISS [MARY] PAGET. 29 De Vere Gardens, 26 Feb. [1890]. 1L. Sarianna is confined to her room with neuralgia, but in response to Mary’s request for a gift of one of RB’s possessions, SB  says that while RB’s ‘habits were so simple that it is difficult to make relics’, Mary might have RB’s ‘small leather letter-case with his name painted on the inside’ which he used to store Italian notes. Enclosure: photograph of RB cut from a magazine. Envelope.

3. Sarianna’s unsigned and undated note card accompanying the pocket-book explains that the papers inside are ‘receipts for the registration of the corrected proofs of ‘Asolando’ sent to Mr. George Smith, adding that the ‘owl was his favourite bird’.

4. ALS from ANTHONY THOMPSON to [no name given]. 5. Chadlington Road, Oxford, 26 Jul. 1961. 1L. Thompson explains that the pocket book was given to Miss Mary Paget after RB’s death, it passed to Mary’s nephew J.M. Thompson of Magdalen from his mother.

3 ALS from RB to MRS BENECKE 28 Apr. 1888-27 July 1889; donated by J.R. Andrews. Oct. 1976.

1. ALS from RB to MRS BENECKE. 29 De Vere Gardens, 28 Apr. [18]88. 1L. Envelope. RB will be pleased to help Mrs Benecke.

2. ALS from RB to MRS BENECKE. 29 De Vere Gardens, 18 Jun. [18]89. 1L. RB will not have a chance to see Mrs Benecke’s son.

3. ALS from RB to MRS BENECKE. 29 De Vere Gardens, 27 July [18]89. 1L. RB would be able to receive Mrs Benecke’s visit at home on Thursday at 5. Envelope.

[A photocopy of each letter is enclosed with the letters]

Correspondence relating to donations

1. ALS from BRYSON to MISS BENECKE. Balliol College, Oxford, 4 Jul. 1952. 1L. Bryson thanks Benecke for her gift to Balliol of her family’s Browning papers.

2. Typed letter signed by SIR DAVID LINDSAY KEIR to MISS MARGARET BENECKE. Balliol College, Oxford, 10 July 1952. 1L. Keir (Master of Balliol) thanks Benecke for her gift.

3. ALS from JOHN R. ANDREWS to the Master of Balliol [i.e. John Edward Christopher Hill]. 1 Manston Terrace, Exeter, EX2 4NP, 1 Oct. [19]76. 1L. Andrews sends Hill documents [including Browning letters] from the late Miss M. Benecke of Eastbourne.

4. Typed letter, unsigned from [John Edward Christopher Hill?] to JOHN R. ANDREWS. 5 Oct. 1976. 1L. Thanks Andrews for the papers from Miss Benecke’s estate.

Correspondence relating to Browning’s DCL gown and the Beddoes box

1. ALS from FANNIE BARRETT BROWNING to the Master of Balliol [i.e. James Leigh Strachan Davidson]. 22 Jan. 1913. 1L. Fannie writes concerning the Beddoes papers which passed from RB to Pen; Pen died intestate and there is some confusion over whether or not RB intended the letters to pass to Balliol

2. ALS from FANNIE BARRETT BROWNING to James Leigh Strachan Davidson. 28 Jun. 1913. 1L. Fannie is donating RB’s Doctor of Civil Law gown to Balliol.

3. Autograph note from James Leigh Strachan Davidson to FANNIE BARRETT BROWNING. [n.p., n.d.]. 1L. Davidson confirms the safe arrival of RB’s DCL gown.

4. ALS from FANNIE BARRETT BROWNING to James Leigh Strachan Davidson. 16 Jun. [19]14. 1L. Fannie enquires whether she would be permitted to visit the college gardens in a bath chair (i.e. wheelchair) as she is still immobile following her illness.

5. ALS from C[harles] HENRY DANIEL to James Leigh Strachan Davidson. Provost’s Lodgings, Worcester College, Oxford, 18 Jun. 1914. 1L. Daniel (provost of Worcester College) writes to Davidson concerning Fannie Barrett Browning’s planned visit to the gardens in her bath chair.

Robert Browning accepts the Honorary Fellowship at Balliol

1. ALS from ROBERT BROWNING to ROBERT SCOTT. 19 Warwick Crescent, 21 Oct. [18]67. 1L. Browning writes to Scott, Master, accepting the honour and expressing his ‘deep and lasting gratitude’. [Kelley & Hudson, 67:105]

Robert Browning accepts Mrs Joachim’s invitation

1. ALS from ROBERT BROWNING to MRS ELLEN JOACHIM. 29 De Vere Gardens, 1 May [18]88. 1L. Envelope. Browning accepts the invitation extended by Mrs Joachim (sister-in-law of the violinist Joseph Joachim) to himself and Sarianna. [Photocopy included].

Robert Browning to the Rev. Henry Wall

1. ALS from ROBERT BROWNING to REV. HENRY WALL. 19 Warwick Crescent, 6 Feb. [18]71. 1L. Browning encloses a cheque to the Rev. Wall for the amount mentioned in Wall’s letter. [Photocopy included]

Six letters from RB to Mrs Benecke [wife of Charles Victor Benecke] (Jan. 1888 – Jul. 1889) accompanied by transcriptions of each letter by Quinn.  These six letters are those given by Miss Benecke, 22 Jun. 1952, via Miss M. Deneke.

1. ALS from ROBERT BROWNING to MRS BENECKE. 29 De Vere Gardens, 1 Jan. [18]88 but apparently 2 Jan 1887??. 1L. RB would be delighted if her sons [grandsons of Felix Mendelssohn see (2.)] were to call upon him. [Kelley & Hudson, 87:4] Envelope addressed to Mrs Benecke with postmark 2 Jan. [18]87

2. ALS from ROBERT BROWNING to MRS BENECKE. 29 De Vere Gardens, 26 Jan. [18]88. 1L. RB enjoyed Mrs Benecke’s sons’ visit and hopes that they will return. [Kelley & Hudson, 88:4]

3. ALS from ROBERT BROWNING to MRS BENECKE. 29 De Vere Gardens, 9 Jul. [18]88. 1L. RB has told Jowett of Mrs Benecke’s son, Edward Benecke’s ‘high promise’, in anticipation of his entry at that college.  Browning has read Edward’s work and thinks that he merits three awards: the Ireland Scholarship, the Gaisford Prize and the Newdigate. [Edward Benecke studied at Balliol 1888-92] [Kelley & Hudson, 88:23]

4. ALS from ROBERT BROWNING to MRS BENECKE. 29 De Vere Gardens, 4 Apr. [18]89. 1L. A prior engagement renders RB unable to join the Beneckes for a day in the country. [Kelley & Hudson, 88.170]

5. ALS from ROBERT BROWNING to MRS BENECKE. 29 De Vere Gardens, 29 May [18]89. 1L. RB apologises profusely for his long delay in replying; he is glad to hear of Edward Benecke’s progress at Balliol and interested that Edward has determined to become a poet. RB stresses the value of the Classical education that Edward is receiving, lamenting his own lack of formal education ‘serious as have been my endeavours to make up for early loss of time’. RB continues, ‘the temptation to reach the heights of poetical composition by a short cut is strong in just the proportion that their sight, from a distance is so fascinating as to lead one to overlook or overleap as obstacles what, if rightly treated, prove to be the most efficacious of helps’. [Kelley & Hudson, 89:93]

6. ALS from ROBERT BROWNING to MRS BENECKE. 29 De Vere Gardens, 16 Jul. [18]89. 1L. While in Oxford RB has asked Jowett about Edward Benecke’s progress: ‘the Master spoke highly of him and said he might get a “First Class” if he pleased: pray let him “please!” and his poetry will be all the better, I am sure’. [Kelley & Hudson, 89:139]

Fanny C. Carey bequest correspondence

1. ALS from FANNY C. CAREY to the ‘Master and Scholars of Balliol College, Oxford’. Trent Leigh, The Ropewalk, Nottingham, Dec. 1912. 1L. Envelope with wax seal. Miss Carey encloses a list (2L) of books and documents given to her by Mrs Sutherland Orr which she is bequeathing to Balliol; she hopes that they may be placed ‘with or near’ the Browning collection already held by Balliol. [Details systematised and summarised below:]

  1. Daniello Bartoli, De simboli Transporti al Morale, London: n.d.
  2. Francis Quarles, Emblemes, London: 1634
  3. Nathaniel Lee, Caesar Borgia, London: 1736
  4. RB, Ferishtah’s Fancies, London: 1884
  5. MS poem written to be inscribed on the gravestone of Levi Thaxter; Quotation as an autograph from ‘In a Gondola’; A tiny note of Mrs Browning to Miss Mitford; Signed photograph of Browning
  6. Helena Faucit Martin, On Rosalind, [Edinburgh], 1884
  7. Mrs Sutherland Orr, A Handbook to the works of Robert Browning, 6th edition
  8. R.B., Paracelsus, London: 1835
  9. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Prometheus Bound and other poems, London, 1833
  10. ‘A letter of Shelley’


- Dr Claire Williams, February 2013.

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