Porter Family Correspondence

Scope and Content

The bulk of the collection consists of family letters, the great majority from the naval surgeon and novelist William Ogilvie Porter (1774-1850) to his sisters and fellow novelists Jane (1776-1850) and Anna Maria (1780-1832), his mother Jane (née Blenkinsop, d. 1831) and his brother Sir Robert Ker Porter (1777-1842), the painter, traveller and diplomat. Much of the papers (in vol. E) and correspondence is concerned with W.O. Porter's novel Sir Edward Seaward's Narrative, first published in 1831 and often wrongly attributed to Jane Porter. The collection includes copies of contracts with Messrs. Longman, and sheds light on contemporary publishing practices.

Administrative / Biographical History

See above under Scope and content. The talented Porter siblings were the children of William Porter (1735-1779), an army surgeon. After their father's death they moved from Durham to Edinburgh, and later to London.


Volumes A-D and F contain correspondence, arranged chronologically (the contents of A-C in a single sequence, but with some earlier letters misplaced at the end of C; the contents of D and F each form a separate sequence). Volume E contains drafts, contracts, and papers concerning Sir Edward Seaward's Narrative.

Access Information

Open for consultation

Acquisition Information

Purchased at Sotheby's 1967 (Porter A & B, Phillipps MS. 14610; Porter C, Phillipps MS. 15547; Porter D, Phillipps MS. 15561; Porter E, Phillipps MS. 21783).

Other Finding Aids

Available online at online catalogue

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail PG.Library@durham.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Corporate Names