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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Hyde 57



Letters, anecdotes and other papers relating to lexicographer Samuel Johnson, collected and bound in the 1930s.


  • 1712-1916
  • Majority of material found within 1773-1836

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.


.1 linear feet (1 volume)

This folio of inlaid manuscripts was compiled during the 1930s by an unknown collector. Almost all of the items relate at least tangentially to Samuel Johnson. The collection includes a group of seven slips of paper, pages (2-7), bearing what appear to be original unpublished anecdotes regarding Samuel Johnson, all in the same hand. Some are on the verso of postal covers addressed to antiquary Richard Gough (1735-1809). Gough may have received these anecdotes from some intimate of Johnson, or recorded them himself on scrap paper he found at hand. No publication by Hough on Johnson is known, and the handwriting does not appear to match Gough's. See the William Upcott Papers, MS Eng 1178, page (97a) for a sample by Gough's hand.

Also of note are two watercolor paintings depicting Johnson at the Thrale home at Streatham Park, pages (1) and (37). These are unsigned, but the 1938 Apr. 12 Sotheby's catalog credits them to Clarkson Stanfield as illustrations for an 1836 work by John Murray (not at Harvard). Much of the remainder of the collection consists of letters which mention Johnson in passing, refer to his biographies, or quote his published works. The items on pages (8), (18), (19), (21), and (23) came from the papers of publisher John Nichols, and items (12-17) and (22) are letters to or from Charles Burney. One letter is addressed to Hester Thrale (later Hester Lynch Piozzi), page (17); she is also apparently depicted in the paintings.

Physical Location


Custodial History

Several of the letters had been part of the collection of Sir Charles Russell, and were auctioned by Sotheby's on 1929 Feb. 13. However, other items resided in separate collections until as late as 1930 Feb. 17, when the Hoole dedication (since removed) was auctioned individually by Sotheby's. The collection had been assembled and bound together by an unknown owner before 1938 Apr. 12, when it was auctioned by Sotheby's, Lot 391. It appeared in a Maggs Bros. catalog in 1939 (catalog 671, no. 466), and again in 1944 (catalog 737, no. 947). The date of its acquisition by Donald and Mary Hyde is unknown.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2003JM-147. Bequest of Mary Hyde Eccles, Four Oaks Farm, Somerville, New Jersey; received: 2004.

Separated Materials

Several autograph Samuel Johnson items were bound with this collection in the 1930s, but were removed from the volume by the Hydes and interfiled with their other Johnson material. Now in the Samuel Johnson Letters, MS Hyde 1, are a letter to Elizabeth Aston, 1767 Nov. 17, item (4); a letter to Joseph Cradock, 1783 Jan. 20, item (25); a letter to Bennet Langton, 1784 Nov. 29, item (63); and three letters by Johnson to Hester Lynch Piozzi, 1770 July 11, 1781 Nov. 3, and 1783 June 28, item (93). Now in the Samuel Johnson Manuscripts, MS Hyde 50, is his dedication to John Hoole's Metastasio, item (16). These removed items explain the volume's now inaccurate spine title Dr. Johnson : Autograph Letters by and About, 1767-1916.

Processing Information

Processed by: Rick Stattler

Johnsoniana, 1712-1916: 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.

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