Friday, November 16, 2007

On the Trail of a Lost Manuscript

This is a literary all points bulletin.

The Hampstead & Highgate Express reports on one man's search for a lost manuscript, an unpublished work about artist Robert Seymour, who is best known for illustrating several serial installments of Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers. The 350-page document by Rowland Morewood was last mentioned in a 1927 magazine article. It was then known to be housed in a deedbox.

Stephen Jarvis, in the process of writing a biography of Seymour, says of the missing work "I have little doubt that overall this is the most important archive of material relating to Seymour in the world. I have been trying to track it down for about two years now. The deedbox really is the Holy Grail for my research."

This seems a terrific longshot, but I suppose it's possible that this document has survived out there somewhere. If you know of it, I suspect Mr. Jarvis would be eternally grateful if you'd contact him. His email address is at the end of the article.

[h/t: Shelf:Life]

[Update: See Mr. Jarvis' comment below, which is important.]


John Overholt said...

It doesn't look like Houghton has the manuscript he's looking for, but we do have something that sounds interesting. Apparently, his wife, Jane Seymour (!) published a book called An Account of the Origin of the Pickwick Papers about the relationship bewteen Seymour and Dickens. In the Harry Elkins Widener collection, we have her own copy, extra-illustrated with letters, original drawings, engravings and colored prints. I'm going to send him an email and let him know.

Unknown said...


I am Stephen Jarvis, the man who is trying to find the missing Seymour manuscript. I wanted to thank you for posting this on your blog. Also, I wanted to correct an error which was in the newspaper article. The last known reference to the manuscript was indeed, as the article states, in 1927. However, the album of Seymour pictures, collected by the manuscript's author R D Morewood, turned up much more recently - it was discovered in the secondhand bookshop twenty or so years ago. Of course, it might have been lying undiscovered in the bookshop for years, but there is also the chance that it was placed there by someone who is still alive. Any leads or suggestions as to what I might do to trace this material would be most gratefully appreciated. The deedbox, incidentally, even contained two of Seymour's original acid-etched plates for Pickwick (though they would have been worn down to some extent during the printing process), and if anyone has ever come across one of these plates that could be a very important clue. I suspect, unfortunately, that this collection no longer survives, and that it was simply thrown away by someone who had no conception of its historic importance...but I am still searching. Please, please contact me with any suggestions etc at

Many thanks, and best wishes


JBD said...

Stephen - Glad to help get the word out; I do hope someone sees it and has knowledge of the collection. These things are always worth searching for ... you just never know where they might turn up.