The archive of J.G. Sharps includes material which will be of value to those interested in the life and work of Elizabeth Gaskell, nineteenth-century literature more generally, biography and life writing, textual criticism, the history of collecting, Unitarianism, and nineteenth-century Manchester and Knutsford. The archive can be broadly divided into the following areas:
Material collected by J.G. Sharps
This comprises original holograph letters, typescripts and publications acquired by Sharps, primarily in relation to his Gaskell interest, although there are also papers relating to other significant figures. The material came from various sources: some was purchased through auction houses and manuscript dealers; some was sold, given, or bequeathed to Sharps by other private collectors (including A. Stanton Whitfield and Thomas Seccombe); and some was given to Sharps by people who were made aware of his research interests. His collection includes some highly significant material, and was credited by John Chapple as being perhaps the largest Gaskell collection in private hands. The manuscript material includes: MS transcript of a poem by James Graham, First Marquis of Montrose, in Elizabeth Gaskell's hand; 16 holograph letters written by Gaskell; an important group of letters relating to Gaskell's family including five letters written by her brother John Stevenson (two of which are incomplete), one letter from Marian Lumb (daughter of Hannah Lumb, who brought Gaskell up), and five letters of the Stevenson family dating from the 1790s; early typescripts of approximately 86 letters by Gaskell (and some written by John Stevenson), which include copies of letters that are no longer extant; a letter to Gaskell from Richard Cobden; three letters written by Charlotte Brontë's friend Ellen Nussey (one to Gaskell and two to Brontë's widower Arthur Bell Nichols); a letter from William Gaskell to Manchester writer Mrs Linnaeus [Isabella] Banks; MS verse signed by William and Mary Howitt; 14 letters to Thomas Seccombe (the literary scholar who edited and wrote introductions to some of Gaskell’s works) dating from 1910-1911, including six from Meta Gaskell; and some holograph letters either sent to or collected by A. Stanton Whitfield, including one letter from the historian E.A. Freeman, and one letter from the literary scholar Ernest de Selincourt.
The collection also contains some published material including: two Christmas numbers of Charles Dickens's periodical All the Year Round (1863-4); a number of copies of Gaskell's “My diary”: the early years of my daughter Marianne (privately printed by Clement Shorter, 1923), one of which is inscribed by Shorter; a copy of The works of Mr Abraham Cowley (1700), signed by William Gaskell; and two published sermons by William Gaskell.
Correspondence of J.G. Sharps
This consists of approximately 2,000 letters sent to Sharps from all over the world, dating from the 1950s to 2005. They relate to: his tireless attempts to track down primary sources relating to Gaskell; the acquisition of material for his collection; his search for publications and references relating to Gaskell; his research into many different aspects of her life and work – initially for his thesis and published book, and subsequently for papers, talks and general interest (the correspondence gives a fascinating insight into the extent and nature of his detective work); Gaskell-related enquiries he received from around the world; and his exchanges of information with other Gaskell scholars and specialists based in the UK and overseas.
Sharps's correspondents included well known Gaskell scholars past and present, as well as academics and writers specialising in other nineteenth-century writers, or the literature of the period generally, such as: Miriam Allott; Richard D. Altick; Barbara Brill; John Chapple; Dorothy W. Collin; Annette B. Hopkins; Coral Lansbury; Anne Lohrli; Francesco Marroni; Arthur Pollard; Robert L. Selig; Alan Shelston; Kathleen Tillotson; Ross D. Waller; Jane Whitehill; A. Stanton Whitfield; and Edgar Wright. There are also letters from Gaskell collectors and enthusiasts, literary societies, publishers, booksellers, libraries and musuems in the UK and America. In addition there are individual letters from a number of significant twentieth-century literary figures, including Valentine Ackland, F.W. Bateson, Michael Horovitz, Daphne Du Maurier and John Lehmann.
Other research material
This includes material created by Sharps himself, such as drafts and the final copy of his BLitt thesis on Gaskell, and drafts and proofs of Mrs Gaskell's observation and invention. However, there is also pre-publication material by other writers, including: galley proofs of Elizabeth Gaskell: a portrait in letters by J.A.V. Chapple, assisted by J.G. Sharps (1980); typescript of A. Stanton Whitfield’s Mrs Gaskell: her life and work (1929); proofs of Chapple and Pollard's Letters of Mrs Gaskell (1966); and typescript of Graham Handley’s An Elizabeth Gaskell chronology (2005). There are also numerous pamphlets, newsletters, cuttings and photocopied material.
Papers relating to the Gaskell Society
This material includes: notes for Gaskell Society talks given by Sharps; photographs taken at Society events; correspondence relating to Society activities; and copies of agendas and minutes.