Lectures and Correspondence of Sir Herbert J. C. Grierson (1866-1960)

Scope and Content

The lectures of Sir Herbert J. C. Grierson on English literature were taken down 1916-1919; 1922-1925, 1925-1926 and 1934-1935. The lectures include poetry, Shakespeare, and seventeenth century literature generally. There are various letters to William Fraser Mitchell between 1919 and 1956 at Gen. 1948/9/1-13, and to Professor O. L. Richmond (1881-1977), 1924-1955. There is also a list of contributors to a fund commemorating Grierson's retirement in 1935 and his seventieth birthday in 1936, at Dk.3.35.

Administrative / Biographical History

Herbert John Clifford Grierson was born in 1866 in Shetland. He studied at Aberdeen University (King's College) and was awarded the degree of MA. He also studied at Christ Church, Oxford. In 1894, Grierson was appointed Chalmers Professor of English at Aberdeen University, and in 1915 he was elected Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature. His publications include The first half of the sevententh century (Periods of European literature) (1906), The poems of John Donne edited from the old editions and numerous manuscripts, with introductions and commentary (1912), and Metaphysical lyrics and poems of the seventeenth century: Donne to Butler (1921). In addition, his twelve volume edition of The letters of Sir Walter Scott (1932-1937) was said to be 'one of the monuments of 20th-century erudition'. Grierson also maintained an interest in modern Scottish poetry. Professor Herbert J. C. Grierson retired in 1935 and was knighted in 1936. He was Rector of Edinburgh University from 1936 to 1939, and was the first holder of a Chair there to be elected by the student body as Rector. He died on 19 February 1960.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Notes of Grierson's lectures were acquired from: Miss M.M.Wedderburn, Edinburgh, 21 August 1979, Accession no. E79.53; Mrs. E.B.Robbie, Edinburgh, 1976, Accession no. E76.28; Dr. W.R.Aitken, Dunblane, 4 March 1986, Accession no. E.86.11; and, Mrs. Janet H. Caird, Inverness, 22 April 1988, Accession no. E88.29. Letters to Richmond were purchased in July 1997, Accession E97.40.


The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) Rice, D. Talbot. The university portraits. Edinburgh: The University Press, 1957. (2) Who was who 1951-1960. A companion to Who's who ... London: Adam and Charles Black, 1961.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various references to other letters to or from Grierson (check the Indexes for more details): to Charles Sarolea (1870-1953); from J. Masefield; and, from Augustus Muir. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: correspondence and papers at the National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, with Reference MSS 9320-49, Ch 8482-85, letters with Reference Acc 5001 5109 NRA 29131 MacIver, and letters to DN Smith, Reference MS 19604; correspondence and papers relating to John Donne at Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, Reference MSS Eng poet e 92-93, Eng lett d 363; correspondence with Sir Sydney Cockerell, at British Library, Manuscript Collections, Reference Add MS 52717; correspondence and miscellaneous papers at Aberdeen University, Special Libraries and Archives, NRA 22901 Grierson; and, letters to G.H.W. Rylands, at Cambridge University, King's College Archive Centre, Reference Rylands Papers/3/181 NRA 42463 Rylands.

Corporate Names