Papers of William Archer (1856-1924)

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 237 Coll-284
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      circa 20 letters.
  • Location
      Gen. 1429/20/1-12, 19; Dc.4.101-103; Gen. 1730 Archer

Scope and Content

The papers in the collection consist of correspondence with, for example: Colles, Walkley, Ogden, Parrott, and Downs, 1901-1923, at Gen. 1429/20/1-12; Clement Scott, 12 January 1887, at Gen. 1429/20/19; Spence, 24 April 1894, at Dc.4.101-103; and to Newbolt and others, 1899-1924, at Gen. 1730 Archer. There is also an article in pencil on the need for a national theatre for the Cambridge Magazine 1913, in Gen. 1429/20/1-12.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Archer was born in Perth, Scotland, on 23 August 1856. He studied at Edinburgh University where he graduated with the degree of M.A. in 1876. He then became a journalist with the Edinburgh Evening News until 1878, when he travelled to Australia. In 1878 he settled in London devoting himself to the study of theatre and becoming dramatic critic of the London Figaro between 1879 and 1881. He also began translating some of the work of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) including Pillars of society which was produced at London's Gaiety Theatre in December 1880, becoming the first Ibsen production in England. Travels in Italy followed between 1881 and 1882 before he was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple in 1883. In 1884, Archer became dramatic critic of World, a post which he held until 1905. He translated A doll's house which was produced at the Novelty Theatre in June 1889. His other publications and translations include Ibsen's Peer Gynt (1892) which had been done in collaboration with his brother Lt.-Col. Charles Archer (1861-1941), the eleven volumes of Ibsen's Collected works (1906-1908), India and the future (1917), and The green goddess (1921) his one successful play. Archer had also been the dramatic critic of the Tribune, the Nation, and the Star. In his lifetime he had contributed to the raising of the standard of English theatre and had worked for the abolition of theatrical censorship and for the formation of a national theatre. William Archer died on 27 December 1924.

Access Information

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


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Plarr, Victor G. Men and women of the time. A dictionary of contemporaries. 15th edition. Revised. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1899. (2) Who was who 1916-1928. Acompanion to Who's who.... London: Adam and Charles Black, 1962. (3) The dictionary of national biography. The concise dictionary Part 2. 1901-1970. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

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 Archer related material (check the Indexes for more details): letters in the Sarolea Collection (Sar.coll.1). In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: correspondence and papers, British Library, Manuscript Collections, Ref. Add MSS 45290-97, miscellaneous papers at Ref. Add MSS 65376-9, biographical account by ER Dibdin at Ref. Add MS 65376, draft of comic opera 'The Khan of Kashgan', at Ref. Add MS 65376, correspondence with Max Beerbohm, 1898-1924, at Ref. Add MSS 45290, ff.206-42, correspondence with Joseph Conrad, 1906-1918, at Ref. Add MSS 45291,ff.45-55, correspondence with ER Dibdin, 1888-c.1900, at Ref. Add MSS 65370-5, correspondence with John Galsworthy, 1906-1924, at Ref. Add MSS 45291,ff.142-80, correspondence with WE Henley, 1886-1901, at Ref. Add MSS 45292, ff.38-155, correspondence with George Meredith, 1894-1897, at Ref. MSS.45293,ff.212-18, correspondence with George Bernard Shaw, 1885-1923, at Ref. Add MSS 45296 50528, and correspondence with Society of Authors, 1909-1924, at Ref. Add MS 56656; correspondence and papers at the British Theatre Association Library; letters to Sir Graham Balfour, 1895-1907, at the National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, Ref. MSS.9894-9895, letters to Patrick Geddes, 1903-1914, at Ref. MSS.10535-44, 10581, letters (14), 1878-1923, at Ref. MS 9995; letters (36) to Sir Henry Bond, 1882-1923, at Cambridge University: King's College Archive Centre; letters (23), mainly to Henry Arthur Jones, 1883-1899, Leeds University, Brotherton Library; and correspondence with Gilbert Murray, 1899-1924, Oxford University: Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, Ref. MSS Gilbert Murray NRA 16865 Murray.