John Payne Collection

Scope and Content

The collection includes original verse by John Payne and some of his translations. There are also corrected proofs and bound and unbound copies of his printed works; a few leaves of poems published in journals; as well as copies of the Villon Society's publicity material for John Payne's work. Also included in the collection is a notebook belonging to Payne's sister, Annie Harriette, later Mrs Mostyn Pritchard (d.1917); correspondence involving her sons, Owen and Hugh Mostyn Pritchard; and autograph verse by Owen Mostyn Pritchard.

The collection comprises: Letters from John Payne probably intended for publication in newspapers or journals; letters concerning John Payne's writings, 1896, 1906; letters to and from Owyn Mostyn Pritchard, 1898; john Payne's literary manuscripts, proof copies of John Payne's works, 1892; Owen Mostyn Pritchard's literary manuscripts, 1890-1892; other manuscript material, 1869; printed works by John Payne, 1882-1910; Villon Society, 1878-1914; other printed works, 1836, 1876.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Payne was much admired in the late 19th and early 20th centuries both for his original verse and for his translations of Arabic and Persian narratives. Payne was born in 1842 and lived for most of his life in London, where he worked as a solicitor. From 1866 onwards, he moved in artistic and literary circles , meeting some of the Pre-Raphaelites, Arthur O'Shaugnessy, Swinburne, Catulle Mendes, Anatole France, Richard Burton and others. Payne's remarkable aptitude for languages enabled him to translate French, Italian Turkish, Arabic and Persian prose and verse. He never married and in later life became a recluse, dying on 15 February 1916.

Reference: Wright, Thomas, The Life of John Payne ( 1919 ). Evans, B.I. English Poetry in the Later Nineteenth Century ( 1933 ).


The collection is arranged in the following series: Letters; manuscripts and galley proofs; printed works

Access Information

Open. Access to all registered researchers.

Acquisition Information

The letters, manuscripts and printed material which form the John Payne Collection, were found among the Masterman Papers (GB 150 CFGM), which were purchased by University of Birmingham Library in 1984. The John Payne papers were not separately identified in the first listing of the Masterman Papers (1987) and their significance only became evident during a recent re-examination and more detailed listing of the Masterman archive (1996).

No evidence has been found in the Masterman Papers as to how or when the Masterman family acquired the Payne material. Charles Masterman and Payne shared an admiration for the writings of the poets Swinburne and Rossetti, and it is likely that as a young man, Charles would have read Payne's original poems and his translations.

Since the Payne Collection includes not only John Payne's own manuscripts but also some papers of his sister, Annie Mostyn Pritchard and her sons, it seems probable that the collection was acquired after the deaths of John Payne and Annie Pritchard, possibly from Payne's biographer, Thomas Wright. The only definite link found between Payne and Masterman is Masternman's article on John Payne,which appeared in The Nation 15 May 1920, Supplement pages 224 and 226 (a typescript of this is located in the the Masterman archive.

Other Finding Aids

Please see full catalogue for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Further deposits are not expected.

Related Material

Further papers relating to John Payne are located in the Buckinghamshire Record Office. The papers relate to correspondence between John Payne and Thomas Wright.

University of Birmingham Information Services, Special Collections Department holds the Masterman Papers at (GB 150 CFGM).

Corporate Names