Ker Papers

Scope and Content

Papers of and relating to William Paton Ker. The collection consists of published and unpublished works including lectures, essays, poems and reviews by Ker; notes for works and lectures covering the whole of Ker's career; correspondence collected by R W Chambers; and miscellaneous material including Chambers' notes and writings on Ker, Ker's personal and administrative papers, obituaries of Ker, and other papers.

Administrative / Biographical History

Ker was born in Glasgow, the eldest son of William Ker, a merchant, and Caroline Agnes Paton. He was educated at Glasgow Academy and Glasgow University, then in 1874 he went to Balliol College Oxford with a Snell exhibition. He was elected to a Fellowship of All Souls, Oxford, in November 1879. In 1878 Ker was appointed assistant to William Young Snellar, Professor of Humanity at Edinburgh University. In 1883 he was appointed Professor of English Literature and History in the new University College of South Wales, Cardiff. In 1889 he became Quain Professor of English Language and Literature at University College London, where he remained until his retirement in 1922. In 1900 Ker was appointed Chairman of the Modern Languages Board and later of the English Board in the University of London. A department of Scandinavian studies was founded in London University in 1917 and Ker was its first director. Ker died walking in Italy in July 1923 and was buried in the old churchyard at Macugnaga, Italy. Ker wrote numerous books, articles and lectures, mainly on literature and poetry, many of which are listed in John Pafford's bibliography 'W.P. Ker, 1855-1923: a bibliography' (University of London Press, 1950). Ker's successor as Quain Professor of English at University College, R.W. Chambers, wrote a number of biographical studies of Ker.

Raymond Wilson Chambers studied at University College London, 1891-1899, and was appointed Quain Student in English there in 1899. He stayed at University College and was Librarian from 1901 to 1922. He was also Assistant Professor in the English Department, 1904-1914. In 1915 he became Reader in English. From 1915 to 1917 he served for a time with the Red Cross in France, and with the Y.M.C.A. with the British Expeditionary Force in Belgium. In 1922 he became Quain Professor of English at UCL in succession to W.P.Ker. In 1933 he visited the U.S.A. to deliver the Turnbull lectures in Baltimore. He published 'Thomas More' in 1935 and 'Man's unconquerable mind' in 1939. Chambers retired in 1941 and died in 1942.

Access Information


The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Other Finding Aids

A detailed list is avaialble on the online catalogue

Conditions Governing Use

Normal copyright restrictions apply.

Related Material

Glasgow University holds the archive of the Ker family, ref: MS Gen 1300.