Spencer, Herbert

Scope and Content

Correspondence, papers, drawings and newspaper cuttings relating to Herbert Spencer. Also contains photographs, portraits and drawings of Spencer, his family and other subjects, 1830-1936, as well as minutes of meetings of Herbert Spencer's trustees (1905-1936). Correspondents include Sir Robert Peel, Richard Cobden, John Bright, Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Sir John Herschel, Charles Darwin, George Grote, Edward Henry Stanley, Benjamin Jowett, John Stuart Mill, Charles Kingsley, Edward Stanley [fourteenth earl of Derby], Thomas Henry Huxley, William Gladstone, Leslie Stephen, Beatrice Webb, Sir Hubert Parry, James Anthony Froude, Lord Queensberry

Administrative / Biographical History

Herbert Spencer was born in Derby in 1820. He was educated at Hinton Charterhouse near Bath and returned to Derby at the age of 17 to take up a post as an assistant schoolmaster. After three months, he became a civil engineer with the London and Birmingham Railway. In 1842, he was appointed honorary secretary of the Complete Suffrage Movement - allied to the Chartist agitation - and became editor of The Pilot , the newspaper of the Chartist movement. He became sub-editor of The Economist in 1848 and in 1850 published his first book, Social Statistics , detailing theories of evolution. In 1855, he published his second book, The Principles of Psychology . From 1860 to 1893, Spencer worked on a series of volumes with the intention of applying evolution to all the sciences and developing an all-inclusive philosophical theory. His volumes covered biology, psychology, sociology, and ethics. He died in 1903.

Access Information

Access to this collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the supervised environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room. Uncatalogued material may not be seen. Please contact the University Archivist for details.

Acquisition Information

Deposited on permanent loan by the Athenaeum Library, 1971.

Other Finding Aids

T. D. Rogers, Handlist of the Herbert Spencer papers (MS. 791) deposited in the University of London Library by the Athenaeum, University of London Library (1972) . The hand-list and index is based on the list and index of correspondence made by Miss Rosemary Griffin, formerly of the Athenaeum Library, in 1970. It is a catalogue containing details of correspondents and dates of items, with descriptions of the contents of some items.

Archivist's Note

Separated Material

The British Library, London, holds literary manuscripts (Ref: Add MSS 36883-96, 43831), letters from Mary Ann Cross (known as George Eliot), 1851-1902 (Ref: Add MS 65530), and correspondence with William Ewart Gladstone, 1873-1896 (Ref: Add MSS 44441-785); the University of Chicago Library, Illinois, USA, has letters to Sir Percy William Bunting, 1882-1895; Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois, USA, contains correspondence, 1849-1903 (Ref: NUC MS 66-835); the Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Washington, USA, holds letters to Andrew Carnegie, 1883-1903; the Huntington Library, California, USA, has letters, mainly to John Fiske, 1864-1894; University College London holds letters to Sir Francis Galton, 1888-1897 (Ref: Galton papers), correspondence with George Croom Robertson (Ref: MS ADD 88), and letters to James Sully (Ref: MS ADD 158); the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, has letters to Alexander Campbell Fraser, 1853-1881 (Ref: Dep 208); the British Library of Political and Economic Science, London, contains letters to Frederic Harrison, 1885-1901, and letters to Martha Beatrice Webb, Lady Passfield, and Sidney James Webb, Baron Passfield (Ref: Passfield); the Houghton Library, Harvard University, Massachusetts, USA, contains letters to Rowland G Hazard, 1869-1886; the Royal Society, London, holds correspondence with Sir John Frederic William Herschel, 1st Bt, (Ref: HS); the Co-operative Union Archive, Manchester, has letters to George Jacob Holyoake, 1860-1903 (Ref: MM/96636/1-12); Imperial College, London, contains letters to Thomas Henry Huxley, 1852-1900 (Ref: B/Huxley); Trinity College Dublin holds correspondence with Catherina Elizabeth Baldeswina Lecky, 1875-1903 (Ref: MSS 1827-36, 1931); Exeter University University has letters to Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer; Northwestern University Library, Illinois, USA, contains correspondence with John Stuart Mill; the Royal Institution of Great Britain, London, has letters.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission should be sought from Senate House Library before any of these papers are photocopied or quoted from for publications. Publications based on these papers must also include an acknowledgement of the Athenaeum (the depositor) and Senate House Library. Copying must be undertaken by the Palaeography Room staff, who will need a minimum of 24 hours to process requests.