Papers of and relating to John Gray

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 JHG
  • Former Reference
      GB 133 University Manuscripts Box GR
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      English and French
  • Physical Description
      0.1m good condition
  • Location
      Collection available at John Rylands Library, Deansgate.

Scope and Content

Papers, chiefly correspondence, by and relating to John Gray. This collection includes approximately two hundred letters to and from Gray's family, friends and acquaintances. Topics covered include literature and literary criticism, Gray's poetry, Gray's anthropological research, the commissioning of artwork for St. Peter's Church, Edinburgh, and a Toy Exhibition held Edinburgh's Outlook Tower which was organised by Gray in 1907. Many letters are of a social nature and include arrangements to visit and discussions of mutual acquaintances. Gray appears to have been in the habit of sending copies of his newly-published works to his friends and family, and many letters were written to thank him for these and for other gifts.

Chief correspondents in this collection include the poets Gordon Bottomley and Pierre Louÿs and Gray's niece, Coralie Tinklar. Other correspondents include historian and printer H.P.R. Finberg, artist Charles Haslewood Shannon, academic W.P. Ker, poet Ernest Dowson and art critic Félix Fénéon.

Also included in the John Gray collection is a series of letters and papers relating to the John Gray commemorative edition of the Aylesford Review (Vol. 14:2 1961), edited by Reverend Brocard Sewell, and papers relating to a publication entitled Frederick Rolfe and Others: A Miscellany of Essays on John Gray, Henry Williamson, Ronald Firbank, André Raffalovich, and Frederick Baron Corvo (St. Albert's Press, for the Aylesford Review, 1961).

Brocard Sewell corresponded extensively with Gray's youngest sister, Sister Mary Raphael, O.S.B., in preparation for the commemorative issue, and went on to produce a biography of Gray: Footnote to the Nineties: a Memoir of John Gray and André Raffalovich (London: Woolfe, 1968). The extensive biographical information provided by Sister Mary Raphael appears in Sewell's Footnote to the Nineties. Sewell's work also draws on letters from Gray to his friend Frances Langdale, photocopies of which can be found with the series of papers relating to Gray (JHG/3).

Administrative / Biographical History

John Henry Gray (1866-1934) was born in Bethnal Green, London, the eldest of nine children. After a three-year apprenticeship at the Woolwich Arsenal, where his father was employed as a carpenter and wheelwright, Gray spent a number of years as a civil servant, first as a clerk and later at the Foreign Office Library. In the late 1880s and early 1890s Gray moved in literary and artistic circles in London and Paris, contributing original poetry and prose to the literary magazine The Dial, and undertaking translations of poetry from French and German. His first volume of poetry, Silverpoints, was published in 1893. Gray regularly attended meetings of the Rhymer's Club and the Playgoer's Club in London, and became friends with many contemporary artists and writers during this period. He has been linked to Oscar Wilde, but it was through his literary connections that Gray met the writer André Raffalovich and the two remained close friends throughout their lives.

Following a breakdown in late 1892, Gray decided in 1898 to train at the Scots College, Rome, where he was ordained as a Roman Catholic Priest in 1901. His first appointment was to the Parish of St. Patrick's, Edinburgh, where Raffalovich followed him in 1905. Gray continued to write poetry and prose throughout his life, and his novel Park: a Fantastic Story was published in 1932. Raffalovich financed the building of the parish church of St. Peter's, Edinburgh, which was completed in 1907; Gray served as the incumbent of St. Peter's until his death in 1934.


An attempt has been made to separate Gray's archive from the letters and papers that were not accumulated by him and to restore as far as possible the original order of the papers. The collection is thus arranged in three subfonds: Gray's own archive of correspondence addressed to him; letters written by Gray; and papers relating to Gray created by others. The third subfonds includes copies of letters written by Gray to Miss F. Langdale. These copies have been placed in the subfonds of papers created by others (JHG/3), rather than with the main correspondence from Gray (JHG/2), because it is likely that they came to the collection through Brocard Sewell.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader, however a small number of photocopy letters (JHG/3/4) are closed for copyright reasons.

Acquisition Information

One hundred and six letters dating between 1890 and 1934 were donated to the University Library in 1961-62. Eleven letters to Gray from Pierre Louÿs and fifteen letters from Félix Fénéon were given to the University Library in 1962-63, and forty letters to Gray by Gordon Bottomley were also added to the collection in the same year. Some of the material may have been sourced from Anthony d'Offay.

Separated Material

Other papers of John Gray are held in The National Library of Scotland, Manuscript Collections. These comprise diaries, correspondence and literary papers, including correspondence with Andre Raffalovich 1898-1906.

Correspondence of Brocard Sewell relating to the Aylesford Review, 1924-1963, is held by the University of Victoria: McPherson Library (see National Register of Archives).

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Keeper of Manuscripts and Archives, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The archival history of these papers is uncertain. The collection was formed from three accessions arriving at the University Library in the early 1960s. The first finding aid for this collection was a handwritten list of correspondents, divided into themed groups. It appears to have been originally drawn up before the letters of Louÿs, Fénéon and Bottomley were added to the collection, as these accruals were added to the end of a group that was otherwise in alphabetical order. The items in the collection were numbered according to this thematic list. Some letters are undated by their authors but a year has later been added in pencil, possibly by the compiler of the original list.

It is possible that at least part of the collection was accumulated and/or deposited by Brocard Sewell, who was responsible for editing a commemorative edition of the Aylesford Review in 1961, and wrote several biographies of Gray and Raffalovich.

Related Material

The printed books acquired with the first John Gray accession are dispersed throughout the Library's printed book collection, many items can be found in the Private Press Collection. The Library also holds a small collection of letters by and to André Raffalovich, ref. University MSS HR.


John Gawsworth et al., Frederick Rolfe and Others: a Miscellany of Essays on John Gray, Henry Williamson, Ronald Firbank, André Raffalovich, and Frederick Baron Corvo (Aylesford: St. Albert's Press, 1961)

John Gray, Toy Exhibition 1907, Outlook Tower, Castlehill, Edinburgh: Catalogue

Brocard Sewell, Footnote to the Nineties: A Memoir of John Gray and André Raffalovich (London: Woolfe, 1968)

The Aylesford Review: John Gray Commemorative Number, (4:2, Spring 1961)

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (, accessed 21 Jan 2010)

Geographical Names