Papers of Anna Eliza Bray (1790-1883)

Scope and Content

The personal papers of Anna Eliza Bray, novelist, comprising correspondence, manuscripts, printed books and miscellaneous items. Includes 'Mrs Southey's Narrative', an autobiographical account of Caroline Southey's engagement and marriage to Robert Southey, which also describes his children's reaction to their relationship (reference Bray 2/4).

Administrative / Biographical History

Anna Eliza Bray (formerly Stothard, née Kempe) was an author of historical novels and West Country legend and folklore, as well as travel writings and biographies of several notable figures. She was born on 25th December 1790 in Newington, Surrey and died on 21st January 1883 in London.

She was first married to antiquarian draughtsman Charles Alfred Stothard in February 1818 (a son of the artist Thomas Stothard, R.A), who died on 27th May 1821, falling from a ladder in Bere Ferrers Church in Devon while making a drawing of the stained glass window. She subsequently endeavoured to bring his incomplete work, The Monumental Effigies of Great Britain, to publication, along with his memoirs. A few years later, she married the vicar of Tavistock Church, Rev. Edward Atkyns Bray, and moved to Devon. This is where she achieved most of her popular works, including 'The Borders of the Tamar and the Tavy', a descriptive account of the history, customs and folklore of West Devon, as set out in letters to Robert Southey, and a well-received 10-volume set of historical romance novels. After her husband's death in 1857, she moved back to London and continued to write well into the 1870s, as well as editing and publishing her late husband's poems and sermons.

Mrs Bray was closely acquainted with many great figures from the literary and artistic worlds of her day, most notably her father-in-law, the Royal Academy artist Thomas Stothard, and the Poet Laureate Robert Southey, his second wife Caroline and two of Southey's children, Charles Cuthbert Southey and Edith May Warter who lived in West Tarring, West Sussex, with her husband Rev. John Wood Warter. She corresponded with the celebrated Regency poet Letitia Elizabeth Landon and the Romantic poet and novelist Amelia Opie; she had her work published by John Murray, and was also acquainted with John Hawkins (geologist), Samuel Lysons (antiquary), Sir Walter Scott, Barron Field, Samuel Rogers and Derwent Coleridge, the third son of the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. She was tutored at a young age in drawing by the distinguished artist George Stubbs, a lifelong friend of her father and grandfather. Her brother, Alfred John Kempe, was an antiquarian and fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.


The collection is arranged as follows:

  • 1 Correspondence
  • 1/1 Landon family
  • 1/2 Warter family
  • 1/3 Southey family
  • 1/4 Kempe family
  • 1/5 Miscellaneous correspondence
  • 2 Manuscripts
  • 3 Printed books
  • 4 Miscellaneous items

Access Information

For information on visiting the archive please see Location and Opening Hours on our Website, which also gives information about reader tickets and using the search room.

Acquisition Information

Presented by Mr E M Kempe of Norwich, Norfolk, November 2000.

Other Finding Aids

The full collection is catalogued and can be consulted using West Sussex Record Office's Search Online facility. A hard copy catalogue is available in the searchroom.

Archivist's Note

The correspondence was originally organised in bundles but these had no order or chronology; the bundles were re-organised in 2015 for the purposes of cataloguing and for ease of use. However, a list of the original bundles was recorded and is kept in the Bray accession file at West Sussex Record Office (Accession 12182).

Related Material

Related material held at West Sussex Record Office includes:

  • Accession 8398 Papers of Alfred Humphrey Meadow Kempe (uncatalogued: boxlist available via WSRO)
  • Accession 17635 Kempe family papers - includes Alfred John Kempe's commonplace book and other miscellaneous items relating to Anna Eliza Bray (uncatalogued)
  • Kempe Mss, Papers of Sir Alfred Bray Kempe, FRS (includes approximately 116 letters from Anna Eliza Bray dating from 1868-1882: see catalogue)
  • Lib 2040 Gentleman's Magazine 1823 part 1 (obituary of Alfred Kempe)
  • Lib 2046 Gentleman's Magazine 1826 part 1 (review of 'De Foix')
  • Lib 2837 'Appendiciae et Pertinentiae or, Parochial Fragments relating to the Parish of West Tarring and the Chapelries of Heene and Durrington' by John Wood Warter (1853)
  • Lib 2879 'The Sea Board and the Down or, My Parish in the South Vol. 2' By John Wood Warter (1860)
  • Lib 5600 'The Letters of John Hawkins and Samuel and Daniel Lysons 1812-1830, with special reference to the Roman Villa at Bignor, Sussex' edited by Francis Steer (1966)
  • Lib 15696 Kempe, D.: Anna Eliza Bray: the life of an early Victorian Writer (2006)
  • PD 2212 Original artwork of Monumental effigy in Ifield Church by Charles Alfred Stothard (August 1814)
  • PD 2340/12 Engraving of Thomas Fitz-Alan Monument, Arundel by Charles Alfred Stothard (July 1815)
  • PD 2341/20B Engraving of Monumental effigy in Ifield Church by Charles Alfred Stothard (July 1815)

Correspondence from Robert Southey to Anna Eliza Bray and additional correspondence from Caroline Southey is held at the University of Rochester Library in New York. A list of these letters is kept in the Bray accession file at West Sussex Record Office, for researchers' information (Accession 12182). Some of the letters from Robert Southey were also transcribed by Anna Eliza Bray in her autobiography (refer to BRAY 2/20-22 and BRAY 3/13).

A collection of correspondence and papers (1814-1960 and copies of 61 letters from Robert Southey (1814-1839) are held at the British Library (Manuscript Collections).

21 letters from Anna Eliza Bray to Dawson and Mary Turner (1821-1836) are held at Cambridge University (Trinity College Library).