Abbott Papers

Scope and Content

Working papers, correspondence, diaries and personal papers of Professor Abbott. The material relates primarily to his own literary compositions (largely poetry and translations of early medieval French lyrics) and his scholarly work, particularly on Thomas Lovell Beddoes, James Boswell, George Darley, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Edward Thomas, and Gordon Bottomley, a personal friend. The collection also documents aspects of Abbott's personal life and friendships, and his activities as a collector of literary manuscripts and books. It includes a long series of letters to Abbott from Gordon Bottomley, letters and drafts of J.R. Ackerley, notebooks of Llewelyn Powys and letters of various members of the Powys family, and photostats of Gerard Manley Hopkins' letters.

Administrative / Biographical History

Claude Colleer Abbott (1889-1971) was Professor of English at the University of Durham 1932-1954, and earlier lectured at the University of Aberdeen. His most distinguished scholarly work was as an editor. His principal published works included his editions of The life and letters of George Darley (1928), The letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins to Robert Bridges (1935), The correspondence of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Richard Watson Dixon (1935), Further letters of Gerard Manley Hopkins including his correspondence with Coventry Patmore (1938, 2nd ed. 1956), and Poet and painter being the correspondence between Gordon Bottomley and Paul Nash, 1910-1946, with A. Bertram (1955). His Catalogue of papers relating to Boswell, Johnson and Sir William Forbes found at Fettercairn House (1936) lists the important collection of Boswell papers which he discovered at Fettercairn; he was bitterly disappointed to be deprived of the opportunity to edit these. From 1939 to 1952 he was editor of the Durham University Journal, and himself reviewed over a third of the books noticed in it over this period.

Abbott was also an accomplished minor poet, who published a number of collections of poems and verse translations; his Collected poems, 1918-1958 appeared in 1963. He was an active collector of 19th and 20th century British art as well as manuscripts and books, with an interest in the Pre-Raphaelites spanning all three fields. Whereas his collection of manuscripts and his papers came to the University of Durham, his library was bequeathed to the University of East Anglia and his art collection to Carlisle Art Gallery.


The present arrangement is temporary, pending full appraisal, sorting and cataloguing of the collection. Material in the 16 cartons which comprised the first accession was very roughly grouped into related classes by two of Professor Abbott's trustees, and is still in that order, as described by the accession list (see catalogues below). The contents of accessions 2 and 3 are gradually being appraised, sorted, and merged; so far most of the correspondence has been arranged alphabetically by correspondent, and the Hopkins photostats have also been arranged and separately boxed. Accession 4 is roughly grouped by document type. The contents of the fifth accession have been added to carton 16 of the first accession.

Access Information

Available for consultation, except for some material in accession 2 which is asterisked in the accession list.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by Prof. Abbott's trustees, 1972-93.

The Abbott Papers were transferred to the Library's control by his trustees in five blocks:

  • 1. 16 cartons transferred after Abbott's death.
  • 2. 3 deed boxes, transferred in 1991, which include Ackerley and Powys material.
  • 3. Circa 19 cartons of papers not transferred to the Library's control until 1991. The trustees' division of material between block 1 and blocks 2-3 was intended to be broadly between scholarly and personal material, but there is in fact no clear separation of the two. Block 3 includes Hopkins photostats, and Gordon Bottomley's letters to Abbott.
  • 4. Diary, autobiographical memoir, photograph albums, notebook, autograph album. Transferred in 1991.
  • 5. Short studies by Abbott of friends, other authors, books, reminiscences of episodes and encounters in his own life. Transferred in 1993.

Other Finding Aids

Accession lists of each of accessions 1-2 and 4-5 above. Accession 3 as yet has no catalogue, but the alphabetical arrangement of the correspondence (the largest component of this accession) now allows most material to be located easily.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Related Material

Abbott Literary Manuscripts