Sussex Poets

Scope and Content

Kenneth Povey's manuscript and typescript notes, photographs relating to his research on William Hayley, James Hurdis and Charlotte Smith. Some notes are in an earlier, c. 1900, hand. Off-prints of his own articles, probably as presented to Mackenzie. One original letter by Hayley (1808) and one by Smith (1791).

Administrative / Biographical History

Kenneth Povey (1898-1965) was educated at Whitgift School, Croydon, and, after service in the Great War, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, graduating in 1921. He worked briefly in his father's textile firm in London before taking a Diploma in Librarianship at University College, London. His subsequent career saw him as Librarian of Queen's University, Belfast (1930-38), and of the University of Liverpool (1938-61). His main academic interests were in the techniques of early printing and in William Cowper (an edition being incomplete at his death) and George Crabbe. An obituary, listing his publications, appeared in The Library: Transactions of the Bibliographical Society for March 1968 (copy in file 1/8).

In the late 1920s, in the early volumes of Sussex County Magazine, he published a string of articles on Sussex poets:

'William Blake in Sussex', 1 (1927), 385-90

'Blake and "The bard of Oxford"', on Edward Garrard Marsh, 1 (1927), 391

'The poet of Coldwaltham', on William Hersee, 1 (1927), 481-4

'Charlotte Smith', 1 (1927), 567-8, 571

'The rise of Thomas Sockett', 2 (1928), 38-40

'John Flaxman's monuments in Sussex churches', 2 (1928), 102-7

'Amelia and the Hermit', on William Hayley, 3 (1929), 37-44

'The case of Rex v. Blake', 3 (1929), 314-7.

At the same period he started to publish on William Cowper in more academic journals.

Povey's collection of cuttings and offprints, with notes and correspondence on bibliographical subjects, are in Liverpool University Library. Povey's papers in this collection were augmented by his friend from Cambridge days, Basil William Sholto Mackenzie, 2nd Baron Amulree (1900-83), who seems to have been responsible for the notebooks at 1/3 and 1/4 which contain original letters, one from Charlotte Smith, 1791, and one from William Hayley, 1808 (bought in 1966). There are also notes in another hand of c. 1900.

The subjects of Povey's working papers in this collection:

William Hayley (1745-1820) was born at Chichester and educated at Eton and at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, which he left without taking a degree. His poetry enjoyed a certain popularity, but was ridiculed by critics, including Byron, Romney and Southey. He retired in the late 1790s first to his inherited estate at Eartham in West Sussex and then in 1800 to the sea coast at Felpham. Through his great friend, the sculptor John Flaxman, Hayley met William Blake (1757-1827), the poet and artist, and for three years, 1800-3, provided him with a cottage at Felpham.

James Hurdis (1763-1801) was born in Bishopstone, East Sussex, the son of a local customs officer, and attended the Prebendal School at Chichester and St. Mary Hall and Magdalen College at Oxford. He was curate at Burwash, East Sussex, for six years before being presented in 1791 to the living of Bishopstone, by the Earl of Chichester, whose son he had tutored. He was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford University in 1793. His friend William Hayley composed the verses on his memorial tablet in Bishopstone church.

Charlotte Smith (1749-1806) was the eldest daughter of Nicholas Turner of Stoke House, Surrey, and Bignor Park, Sussex, and attended a school in Chichester. Her first volume of poems was published with the support of William Hayley in 1784. Leaving her husband in 1785, she wrote voluminously and successfully to maintain herself and her nine children. Though she thereafter moved restlessly around south-east England and never lived there again, Bignor Park and its surrounding landscapes were repeatedly recreated in her novels and poems.

Access Information

Items in the collection may be consulted for the purpose of private study and personal research, within the controlled environment and restrictions of The Keep's Reading Rooms.

Acquisition Information

Bequeathed by Basil William Sholto Mackenzie, 2nd Baron Amulree, and received in 1984.


Prepared by John Farrant, August 2002.

Other Finding Aids

An online catalogue is available on The Keep's website.

Conditions Governing Use

COPIES FOR PRIVATE STUDY: Subject to copyright, conditions imposed by owners and protecting the documents, digital copies can be made.

PUBLICATION: A reader wishing to publish material in the collection should contact the Head of Special Collections, in writing. The reader is responsible for obtaining permission to publish from the copyright owner.

Custodial History

After Povey's death, some of his papers passed to Basil William Sholto Mackenzie, 2nd Baron Amulree (1900-83), who added to them.

Geographical Names