Mitford-Talfourd Correspondence

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection consists of the correspondence between Mary Russell Mitford and Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd, in which they discuss social, theatrical and literary topics, including their own writings such as Our village. Among the contemporaries who are mentioned in the letters are: Lord Byron, the publisher Henry Colburn, William Hazlitt, Washington Irving, the actor and theatre manager Charles John Kean, the actress Fanny Kemble, Charles Lamb, the actor and theatre manager William Charles Macready, and William Wordsworth.

Administrative / Biographical History

Mary Russell Mitford (1787-1855), playwright and writer, was born on 16 December 1787 at Alresford, Hampshire. She began to publish poetry in her late teens. Her first collection, Poems, was published in 1810 (enlarged second edition 1811). Longer poems followed, including Christina, or, the maid of the south seas (1811), inspired by the mutiny on the Bounty, Watlington Hill(1812), a poem about greyhound-racing, and Narrative poems on the female character in the various relations of human life (1813). She also contributed verse and prose to various magazines and annuals. The first of the stories appeared in the Lady's magazine between 1822 and 1824. They were included in the first volume of her most famous work, Our village: sketches of rural character and scenery (1824). Further volumes followed in 1826, 1828, 1830, and 1832.

Her play Rienzi was performed to considerable acclaim at Drury Lane in 1828 with Charles Young in the title role. She wrote Gaston de Blondeville and Inez de Castro in 1826-7. Mitford returned to prose with Belford Regis, or, sketches of a country town (1835, republished 1846 and 1849). She also published Country stories in 1837. Mitford's output declined in her later years, her most substantial work in the 1840s being Fragments des ™uvres d'Alexandre Dumas choisis à l'usage de la jeunesse(1846).

Mitford kept up a voluminous correspondence with her many friends and acquaintances, including Harness, Talfourd, Henry Chorley, Harriet Martineau, Ruskin (from 1847), and, above all, Elizabeth Barrett. She died on 10 January 1855.

Source: Martin Garrett, 'Mitford, Mary Russell (1787-1855)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press - http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/18859.

Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd (1795-1854), writer, judge, and politician, was born at Reading, Berkshire, on 26 May 1795. He spent the years between 1813 and 1817 in the chambers of Joseph Chitty in the Inner Temple, London, and then took what business he could as a pleader. He was called to the bar in 1821 and joined the Oxford circuit and Berkshire sessions. In 1833 he accepted the rank of serjeant-at-law and won his first election to parliament at Reading on 7 January 1835. He became a judge in 1848. As an MP Talfourd was responsible for the Infant Custody Act (1839) and the Copyright Act.

Talfourd published prolifically on drama and literature in the Edinburgh Review, the New Monthly Magazine (for which he was drama critic from 1820 to 1831), and other periodicals. His most important legacy was his poetic tragedy Ion (1835). He later diversified into travel writing, including Recollection of a first visit to the Alps in August and September 1841 (1842), and Vacation rambles (1845). In July 1849 he was promoted to the bench of the common pleas and received a knighthood. He died at Stafford on 13 March 1854.

Source: Edith Hall, 'Talfourd, Sir Thomas Noon (1795-1854)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press - http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/26951.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library from the London bookseller Thomas Thorp for £22 10s on 31 January 1931.

Note

Description compiled by Henry Sullivan and Jo Klett with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography articles on Mary Russell Mitford and Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928-35 (English MSS 665-667).

Related Material

The papers of both Mary Russell Mitford and Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd are widely dispersed within Britain and the United States. The most relevant related holdings are:

  • Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts: letters from Mary Russell Mitford to Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd (152 leaves), 1826-43 (ref.: GB 0161 MS Don d 38 );
  • Reading Central Library: c.40 letters from Mary Russell Mitford to Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd, Mary Anne Parry and others, 1809-40 (ref.: GB 1192 R/TU/TAL ).