This small collection contains 146 letters from William Bell Scott to W.M. Rossetti, 1850-1890, together with three related letters from Alice Boyd to W.M. Rossetti, 1890. Six letters are appended from Rossetti's daughter Mrs Helen Rossetti Agresti to Professor C.C. Abbott of the University of Durham, 1949, concerning the acquisition of the collection by Durham University Library.
The subject matter of the letters is largely literary, artistic and domestic, with numerous references to the work and lives of members of Scott's wide circle of acquaintances and friends, particularly Dante Gabriel Rossetti and other leading Pre-Raphaelites. The letters fall into two distinct groups: the first up to 1863, when Scott was living in Newcastle, and the second from 1864. During the first period the letters tend to be discursive, with extensive comment on his current reading and gossip concerning friends in London. After Scott's return to London in 1864, there was no longer a need to write to keep in touch, except while at Penkill, and the letters sent at other times are largely occasioned by specific incidents or transactions.
Apart from the light which the letters shed on Scott himself, their greatest significance lies in the information they contain on Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Also of importance was Scott's role in introducing W.M. Rossetti to the work of Walt Whitman; Rossetti's subsequent article on Whitman, and edition of a selection of his poems, introduced him to the English public and helped to establish his reputation in Europe. The letters also contain references to the work and personalities of a wide range of the leading figures in Victorian literary and artistic circles. Among the most notable of those mentioned are Alma-Tadema, Ford Madox Brown, the Brownings, Carlyle, Holman-Hunt, the collector James Leathart, Millais, Patmore, Ruskin, the spasmodic poet Alexander Smith, Swinburne, Tennyson, Turner, Whistler, Walt Whitman and the sculptor Thomas Woolner.