Morley Letters

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Photocopies of autograph letters to Henry Morley concerning the business of the periodical Household Words, from William Henry Wills, the assistant editor, 32 dated 1850-51 with 11 more down to 1862; and 9 from other correspondents; and 2 addressed to Charles Dickens, 1851-1868.

Administrative / Biographical History

The collection comprises photocopies of letters to Henry Morley concerning the business of the periodical Household Words, from William Henry Wills, the assistant editor, 32 dated 1850-51 with 11 more down to 1862; and 9 from other correspondents; and 2 addressed to Charles Dickens, 1851-1868.

Household Words made its debut on 30 March 1850. The creation of Charles Dickens (1812-1870), at that time the leading British novelist, it fulfilled a long-cherished wish of his to direct a journal in which he could communicate personally to his large circle of readers. Household Words was aimed at a middle-class audience, and its 'conductor' Dickens described it as a 'weekly miscellany of general literature'. Household Words survived for ten years, until its merger with All The Year Round.

Henry Morley (1822-1894), the recipient of the correspondence, was educated at King's College, London, and practised medicine between 1844 and 1848. By 1850, he had published some tracts and articles on the subject of health and sanitation, along with two books of poems and stories. His writing on health and sanitation brought him to the attention of Dickens, who invited him to contribute to Household Words. In 1851 he was offered a full-time post with the paper, where he remained throughout its existence. He produced more published work than any other contributor. Between 1857 and 1865 he was a lecturer in English Language and Literature at King's College, and from 1865 to 1889 was Professor of English Language and Literature at University College, London. Morley published many books of poetry and stories. He also edited some 300 volumes of English and foreign classics, which constituted 'Morley's Universal Library' and 'Cassell's National Library'.

William Henry Wills (1810-1880) received a scant education, but acquired a knowledge of literature from his wide reading. After the death of his father, the responsibility for supporting the family fell on the young William Henry. Trained as a wood-engraver with the printer Vizetelly (see also SxMs 48, The Vizetelly Papers), he moved into journalism, and contributed to periodicals such as Penny, Saturday , and Punch. In 1846 he was briefly a sub-editor under Dickens on the Daily News and in 1848 became Dickens's secretary. In 1849 he was appointed assistant editor of Household Words, a post which was to occupy all his energies throughout the periodical's lifespan. His work involved running the periodical's business transactions, managing the day-to-day activities of the editorial office, accepting, rejecting and revising contributions, and reading and correcting proofs. On occasions he co-write articles with Dickens. Dickens relied heavily on Wills to manage the daily work of the periodical, and entertained a very high opinion of him. The two became close friends, and in his later years Dickens wrote that he had 'no more intimate friend'. In 1868 Wills suffered a concussion of the brain in a hunting accident, which forced him to retire from his post as assistant editor of All The Year Round. He never returned to active work.

Household Words, the periodical discussed in the letters, made its debut on 30 March 1850. The creation of Charles Dickens (1812-1870), at that time the leading British novelist, it fulfilled a long-cherished wish of his to direct a journal in which he could communicate personally to his large circle of readers. Household Words was aimed at a middle-class audience, and its 'conductor' Dickens described it as a 'weekly miscellany of general literature'. Household Words survived for ten years, until its merger with All The Year Round.

Conditions Governing Access

Items in the collection may be consulted for the purpose of private study and personal research, within the controlled environment and restrictions of The Keep's Reading Rooms.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Mrs A. K. Morley in 1970.

Note

Prepared by John Farrant, August 2002.

Other Finding Aids

An online catalogue is available on The Keep's website.

Conditions Governing Use

COPIES FOR PRIVATE STUDY: Subject to copyright, conditions imposed by owners and protecting the documents, digital copies can be made.

This collection comprises photocopies of original documents which may still be in copyright. The Archive is able to supply copies of them, only with the written permission of the copyright owner or representative.

PUBLICATION: A reader wishing to publish material in the collection should contact the Head of Special Collections, in writing. The reader is responsible for obtaining permission to publish from the copyright owner.

Location of Originals

In the possession of the donor in 1970.