Papers of John Todhunter

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collections contains around 200 items of correspondence. Most are personal and literary letters written to Todhunter during the period 1868-1913. These include twenty-three letters from John Butler Yeats 1868-1885, fifteen from Robert Catterson Smith 1873-1906, nineteen from Charles Downing 1889-1913, eleven from William Michael Rossetti 1879-1888 and six from Edward Dowden 1879-1909, as well as letters from over fifty other correspondents. There are also copies of eight letters written by Todhunter to Herbert Horne 1887-1889, and letters written after Todhunter's death to his widow. In addition, the collection contains typescripts and manuscripts of Todhunter's work, including dialogues, essays, lectures, poems, plays and short stories. Other material includes seven watercolour sketches made by Todhunter during a tour in Italy in 1880, excerpts and cuttings relating to Todhunter 1879-1901, manuscripts of two of Todhunter's musical compositions, two legal agreements made with Todhunter's widow for publication of his work, and three travel journals containing descriptions of tours made in England and on the continent in the 1870s and 1880s.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Todhunter was born in Dublin on December 30th 1839, the eldest son of Thomas Harvey Todhunter, a Quaker merchant. He studied medicine at Trinity College Dublin, where he also won the Vice-Chancellor's prize for English Verse 1864, 1865 and 1866, and the Gold Medal of the Philosophical Society 1866 for a prose essay. After studying in Vienna and Paris he practised medicine in Dublin. In 1870 he accepted the post of Professor of English Literature in Alexander College, Dublin. After resigning in 1874 he travelled in Europe and in Egypt and finally settled in London. His home in Bedford Park, Chiswick, was in the midst of a small colony of writers and artists, including W.B. Yeats. Todhunter maintained his connections with the Irish literary revival and much of his later work is concerned with re-interpreting Irish myths and legends, and with Irish history. He was the author of seven volumes of poetry, from Laurella and other poems (1876) to The Banshee and other poems (1888), and a number of plays, mostly in verse, including Helena in Troas (1886), A Sicilian Idyll (1890), and The Black Cat (1895). His prose works included A study of Shelley (1879) and The life of Patrick Sarsfield (1895). Todhunter was also an occasional painter and composer. He died on October 25th 1916.

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

The literary works and associated papers were presented to the Library by J.R.A.D. Todhunter in January 1960. The letters to John Todhunter were presented in March 1963, also by J.R.A.D. Todhunter. The copies of the letters from John Todhunter to Herbert Horne were presented in 1967 by Mrs T.C. Dugdale.

Note

Description prepared by Bridget Andrews, with reference to internal sources.

Other Finding Aids

Most of the collection is listed at item level, with transcripts of the correspondence.