Papers of Edwin John Ellis

Scope and Content

The collection consists chiefly of correspondence, literary works, and artwork. There are eleven letters, most written by W.B. Yeats to Edwin John Ellis (c. 1890-1910) or to Mrs Ellis (c. 1922). There are forty manuscript items in both Ellis' and Yeats' hands relating to their edition of the works of William Blake, along with Xerox copies of further Yeats manuscript material on Blake. Six manuscript items and one typescript are works by Ellis. In addition there are approximately 150 drawings and sketches by Ellis, chiefly in pencil, ink or watercolour. Sundry papers include a copy of the obituary address given by Daniel Greiner at Ellis' grave, with an English translation.

Administrative / Biographical History

Edwin John Ellis was born in 1848, the son of Dr Alexander John Ellis, a Scottish linguist and natural scientist. When in his late teens, Edwin Ellis met John Butler Yeats at Heatherley's art school and the two became good friends, sharing a studio. With John Trivett Nettleship and Sidney Hall the two formed 'The Brotherhood', an informal group of artists working under the influence of William Blake. Along with William Butler Yeats, John Butler Yeats' son, Ellis edited a three-volume edition of The works of William Blake, poetic, symbolic and critical, which was published in 1893. His association with W.B. Yeats also extended to their participation in the Rhymers' Club, with Ellis contributing four poems to The Book of the Rhymers' Club (1892) and six to The Second Book of the Rhymers' Club (1894). He also published several volumes of poetry, including Fate in Arcadia (1892) and Seen in Three Days (1893); the novel The Man of Seven Offers (1895); and the verse drama Sancan the Bard (1895), which served as partial inspiration for Yeats' The King's Threshold (1904). Books illustrated by Ellis include Shakespeare's sonnets, nursery rhymes compiled by his father, and his own works. Ellis died in 1916 at Seeheim, Germany, the birthplace of his wife.

Access Information

Open to all researchers. No reader's ticket is required but an appointment is necessary. Check for contact details and opening hours.

Acquisition Information

Purchased March 23rd 1962 from Wilhelm Keller, Volksbank, Edenkoben, Pfalz, Germany.


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) and to internal sources.

Other Finding Aids

The collection is listed at item level, with transcripts of the corrospondence.