Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Diaries of "female Pepys" Will Stay in UK

Way back in December I noted the effort by the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester to stop the export of a collection of diaries and letters written by Mary Hamilton (1756-1816), tutor to the daughters of King George III. An American library purchased the 4,200+ pages of material at auction last year, but a temporary export ban was put in place which allowed Rylands to raise £145,000 and purchase the archive, the Manchester Evening News reports.

Archivist Elizabeth Gow says of the collection's author "She was incredibly well connected and really part of the elite at the time. There are letters which she has written to the princesses. There is also correspondence with literary women of the time and she takes a gossipy tone, making humorous remarks about Samuel Johnson. It will take a long time to categorise everything that's here but it will be of immense use to people interested in society, politics, literature and royalty during this period."

Also see the University of Manchester press release, which includes a quote from Bill Simpson, the director of the John Rylands Library: "The export of important literary archives, such as the papers of Mary Hamilton, impoverishes the nation's heritage. When the Culture Secretary halted the export of the Mary Hamilton archive, we gladly accepted the challenge of raising the funds to purchase it. We are grateful to our funders, without whose support this major acquisition would not have been possible."