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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Hyde 25

Frances Reynolds papers


Correspondence of artist Frances Reynolds with authors Samuel Johnson, Elizabeth Robinson Montagu, Hannah More, and George Steevens; with drafts of her reminiscences of Johnson, and a poem annotated by Johnson.


  • 1774-1800 and undated

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.


.3 linear feet (3 volumes)

The bulk of the correspondence consists of fifteen letters from author Hannah More to artist Frances Reynolds, which discuss the Johnsonian circle and the larger 18th-century literary world in great detail. Also noteworthy are five letters from Reynolds to Samuel Johnson, mostly social in content.

The manuscript series consists mainly of three drafts of Reynolds's Recollections of Dr. Johnson (never published during her lifetime), and her untitled poem with suggested revisions in Johnson's hand.

Biographical / Historical

Frances Reynolds (1729-1807) was a portrait artist, the author of An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Taste (1789), and the sister of artist Sir Joshua Reynolds. She was also a friend of Samuel Johnson from ca. 1756 until his death in 1784.


Organized into the following two series:

  1. I. Correspondence
  2. II. Manuscripts

Physical Location

Hyde Case 9


These papers were passed down through the family of Frances Reynolds's sister Mary Reynolds Palmer (1716-1794), beginning with her son, the Rev. John Nicholas Palmer (1752-1827), then to his son Robert Samuel Palmer. In 1897, they were the property of Robert Samuel Palmer's daughter Lady Emily Anna Colomb (d.1907), of Dromquinna, Kenmare, Ireland. They later passed to her son Rupert Palmer Colomb (1868-1955),and by 1951 to his niece Doreen Ruthven-Smith Ashworth (1895-1988). She had them auctioned by Sotheby's on 1967 Nov. 27. Lots 194, 197, 198, 199, and 201 from this sale were acquired by Mary Hyde at that time. Lot 196 was apparently acquired by Robert F. Metzdorf, who gave a single Montagu-Reynolds letter to Mary Hyde as a Christmas present that year.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

*2003JM-58 (part), *2003JM-92, *2003JM-111, *2003JM-122. Bequest of Mary Hyde Eccles, Four Oaks Farm, Somerville, New Jersey; received: 2004.

Related Materials

Twelve letters from Elizabeth Montagu to Frances Reynolds, which first appeared on the market at the 1967 Sotheby's sale, are now at Princeton University.

Separated Materials

One other lot which shared a common provenance with these papers is also part of the Hyde Collection at the Houghton Library. In the Samuel Johnson Letters, MS Hyde 1, item (96), are 13 autograph letters from Samuel Johnson to Reynolds, and 29 transcripts of Johnson letters in Reynolds's hand.


Useful in tracing the provenance of this collection is Sir Robert Edgcumbe's The Parentage and Kinsfolk of Sir Joshua Reynolds P.R.A. (London: Chiswick Press, 1901).

Processing Information

Processed by: Rick Stattler

Reynolds, Frances, 1729-1807. Frances Reynolds papers: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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