Papers of Robert Harborough Sherard

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection contains around 650 personal and business letters written to Sherard 1908-1943 by over 200 correspondents, including Lord Alfred Douglas and Robert Ross. There are copies of three letters from Oscar Wilde. In addition there are around 200 letters written by Sherard 1906-1937 (mainly copies), around 70 letters to Alice Muriel Fiddian, Sherard's third wife, and 35 other items of correspondence. There are two of Sherard's diaries, one covering the period July 22 - December 31 1934 and consisting chiefly of a record of letters written, and the other relating to Oscar Wilde twice defended and covering the period 1933-1939. The collection also contains newspaper cuttings 1887-1943, mainly relating to Sherard's work. There are around 60 typescripts and manuscripts of his articles, novels and short stories. Other items include photographs and prints of people and places c. 1920-1939, two family wills, documents relating to legal disputes, notes and other sundry papers.

The collection is supported by around 40 printed books by Sherard, plus pamphlets, periodicals and offprints containing his work.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert Harborough Sherard was born in London on 3 December 1861, the fourth child of the Reverend Bennet Sherard Calcraft Kennedy. His father was the illegitimate son of the sixth and last Earl of Harborough and his mother, Jane Stanley Wordsworth, granddaughter of the poet. In 1880 he went up to New College, Oxford but after a quarrel with his father, who cut him off from the expected family inheritance, was forced to leave for financial reasons. At this time he dropped the surname Kennedy. He left for Europe and later enrolled at the University of Bonn to study law and oriental languages, but again had to leave for lack of money. At the age of twenty he settled in Paris to earn his living as a journalist and novelist. In Paris he became acquainted with a number of the leading French literary figures of the eighties and nineties, including Emile Zola, Guy de Maupassant and Alphonse Daudet, and also with Oscar Wilde, with whom he formed a close friendship, although they fell out after Wilde's release from prison. In 1902, two years after Wilde's death, he published Oscar Wilde: the story of an unhappy friendship, which was to be the first of several works in which he maintained Wilde's innocence of the charge of homosexuality. Others include Oscar Wilde twice defended (1934) and Bernard Shaw, Frank Harris and Oscar Wilde (1936).

Sherard supported himself mostly from journalism, contributing articles to papers in France, England and America. He was also a prolific writer of novels, biographies and social commentaries, publishing thirty-three works in total. The biographies, besides those on Wilde, are Emile Zola (1893), Alphonse Daudet (1894), and Guy de Maupassant (1926). His social investigations, during which he lived with the poor and studied their conditions, resulted in works such as The White Slaves of England (l897). He lived in France for most of his life but died in Ealing on 30 January 1943.

Arrangement

The collection is divided into seven classes: correspondence, diaries, newspaper cuttings, works in manuscript and typescript, photographs and prints, wills, and sundry papers. Correspondence is divided into that received by Sherard, written by Sherard, received by Alice Fiddian, written by Alice Fiddian, and other letters. Within each, letters are filed first alphabetically by author/recipient and then chronologically.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to all researchers. No reader's ticket is required but an appointment is necessary. Check www.reading.ac.uk/special-collections/using/sc-using.asp for contact details and opening hours.

Acquisition Information

Purchased February 1 1964 from Rupert Hart-Davis.

Note

Description prepared by Bridget Andrews, with reference to The 1890s: an encyclopedia of British literature, art and culture edited by G.A. Cevasco (New York: Garland, 1993)

Other Finding Aids

The collection is listed at file level, and at item level in the case of the correspondence.