Janet – March 2018

Stored in the Bloodaxe archive in the Robinson Library there is a note written in the margins of the manuscript of Ken Smith’s poetry collection, ‘The Poet Reclining’ from 1977, one of Bloodaxe Book’s first publications:

‘pity Janet, you’ve done it again!’

References to ‘Janet’ continue to appear frequently in the editorial marginalia, minutes and notes. As part of her practice-based PhD research, Kate Sweeney has decided to build a ‘Janet’ – from traces of administration ephemera found in the archive. An amalgamated, chimerical idea of a ‘Janet’ from paper. From the margins, notes and minutes, but mainly from the post-its – a part of the archive and Apart from the archive – much like Janet herself…

‘Treasure of the Month’

This month’s treasure is Janet. Janet seeps through on post-its pressed upon other people. A part and apart, her stickiness is temporary, her yellow glow fleets over faces. She is deeply disposable unless undetected – then, she slips off her sheet, off her box and into the archive…

Image: Post-it note attached to material in The Bloodaxe Archive, contained in BXB/4/5/1 and stored in Special Collections at The Robinson Library.

Mary Elizabeth Coleridge’s Handwritten Poetry Collection – December 2016


Note written by Lucy Violet Holdsworth to accompany Mary Coleridge’s handwritten collection of poems, later to be published as ‘Fancy’s Following’. (Miscellaneous Manuscripts 56)














Mary Elizabeth Coleridge was born on 23 September 1861, and she grew up surrounded by literary and artistic talent. She was the great-grand-niece of Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and her family friends included Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Anthony Trollope, John Ruskin, and Robert Browning. During her lifetime, she became best known for her essays, reviews and her five published novels. These included ‘The King with Two Faces’ which she received the substantial sum of £900 for in 1897.

However, posthumously it is her poetry which has taken centre stage. Our first Treasure of the Month for 2017 is a fair copy of Mary Coleridge’s first poetry collection, ‘Fancy’s Following’, which was handwritten by the poet for her friend, Lucy Violet Holdsworth.


Page taken from Mary Coleridge’s handwritten collection of poems, later to be published as ‘Fancy’s Following’. (Miscellaneous Manuscripts. 56)






Page taken from Mary Coleridge’s handwritten collection of poems, later to be published as ‘Fancy’s Following’. (Miscellaneous Manuscripts. 56)

The copy was made before it was later issued privately by Daniel Press in 1896, and in fact, it was this small white book which led to the publication. Holdsworth’s cousin, Monica Bridges (nee. Waterhouse) was married to the Robert Seymour Bridges, Britain’s poet laureate from 1913 – 1930. Holdsworth planned for the book to be left out for Bridges to take notice and when he did, he asked to meet Mary to encourage her to publish her work. Coleridge agreed, but with the stipulation that it was published under the pseudonym ‘Anodos’ in order not to disgrace her family name by acknowledging she was the author. It wasn’t until four months after her death in 1907 that a book of two hundred and thirty-seven of her poems was finally published under her real name, and by that time, it proved so popular that it was reprinted four times in just six months.


The score for ‘The Blue Bird’, a poem by Mary Coleridge set to Music by Charles Villiers Stanford. (Stanford Collection, Op.119.3.)


‘A Blue Bird’, which appeared in ‘Fancy’s Following’, was one of eight of Mary Coleridge’s poems which was set to music by Charles Villiers Stanford. The score can be found in our Stanford (Charles Villiers) Collection, and you can listen to a performance of it below.

Research our Children’s Literature Collections for your PhD

Newcastle University are offering over £1million in PhD funding through the Research Excellence Academy scheme for students to start a full-time PhD in autumn 2016. The University’s Children’s Literature Unit would particularly welcome applications for this funding to study our children’s literature collections.

Newcastle University’s Research Excellence Academy PhD Studentships

Each studentship covers tuition fees and living expenses for the three years of your PhD studies. There are two schemes available:

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences: This scheme covers a number of academic subjects, including English Literature. This funding would particularly suit cross-disciplinary research proposals. The deadline for applications is 30th April 2016. See: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/postgraduate/funding/sources/allstudents/hrea16.html

School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics: There are a number of studentships available and your main supervisor will be based within the School of English. The department are also offering extra support to international applicants. The deadline for applications is 5pm on 16th May 2016. See: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/elll/study/postgraduate/funding/reastudentshipslitandcw.htm

Our Children’s Literature Collections

Our children’s literature collections hold great potential for academic research. As well as the Booktrust collection of contemporary children’s books, we hold a number of Special Collections children’s literature.

Britnell Collection A collection of late 19th and early 20th Century children’s literature, focusing on literacy, language, and moral instruction.

Burnett Collection A collection of children’s books and annuals published in the early to mid-20th century. Includes Timothy’s Quest (1900) and Girl’s Fun Annual (1952).


Butler Collection Includes 18th century pamphlets, books by the likes of Daniel Defoe and J.M. Barrie and titles illustrated by Randolph Caldecott.


Davin Collection Contemporary editions of popular children’s literature largely from the early 20th Century. Also includes catalogues and critical responses to children’s literature.

Chorley Collection Children’s literature chiefly from the 19th century. Includes Kate Greenaway’s Almanack for 1884, R. M. Ballantyne’s The Coral Island and the work of Randolph Caldecott.


Meade Collection Around 180 books by L.T. Meade which were published between 1878 and 2003. Titles include: The Autocrat of the Nursery, Kitty O’Donovan and The Scamp Family.


If you are considering applying for either of Newcastle University’s Research Excellence Academy studentship opportunities in children’s literature, please contact Dr. Lucy Pearson, lucy.pearson@newcastle.ac.uk / +44 (0) 191 208 3894.

To find out more about our holdings please refer to the Collections Guide. To discover how you can consult materials see Using our collections.

150th Anniversary of the birth of Rudyard Kipling – December 2015

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

Lithograph portrait of Rudyard Kipling by William Nicholson, 1899 (Pollard Collection)

Lithograph portrait of Rudyard Kipling by William Nicholson, 1899 (Pollard Collection)

150 years ago, on 30th December 1865, Alice and John Lockwood Kipling welcomed their son, Joseph Rudyard, into the world. Rudyard Kipling would go on to become something of a celebrity, with notoriety as a ’poet of empire’. Despite this reputation and his friendships with the likes of Cecil Rhodes and King George V, Kipling declined a knighthood, the Poet Laureateship and the Order of Merit; although he did accept other awards including the Nobel Prize for Literature (1907) and an honorary degree from the University of Durham (1907). After a perforated ulcer took his life on 18th January 1936, he was given a Westminster Abbey funeral – Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin was among his pallbearers. He lies in Poets’ Corner.

Kipling’s early years were spent in India – first in Bombay (now called Mumbai) and later in Lahore and Allahabad. (An 11-year interlude in England from the age of five was an unhappy period.) He found work as a journalist and editor, first with the Civil and Military Gazette and then with its sister paper, the Pioneer. Throughout this period, however, he was writing and publishing short stories and poems and his writing reflected the culture, language, sights, sounds and smells of India that he had fallen in love with as a child and was experiencing on adolescent insomnia-fuelled nocturnal walks. His writing was critically well-received and was popular in England.

Hoping to leverage some of his fame, Kipling returned to the UK where he met agent and publisher, Wolcott Balestier. This proved to be a life-changing encounter: Kipling married Balestier’s sister, Caroline (Carrie) in 1892, settled in her native America and had three children with her – Josephine, Elsie and John.  Kipling liked to be around children and flourished as a writer of juvenile fiction, enchanting boys and girls with works such as The Jungle Book (1894) and penning parental advice, in verse, to his son in the poem ‘If’ (1895).

‘Rikki Tikki Tavi the mongoose and cobra’ by Charles Maurice Detmold for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, 1902 (Pollard Collection)

‘Rikki Tikki Tavi the mongoose and cobra’ by Charles Maurice Detmold for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, 1902 (Pollard Collection)

A publically sensationalised quarrel with brother-in-law, Beatty, and the death from pneumonia of Josephine drove Kipling into retreat in England. Again, he focussed on his writing, publishing Just So Stories (1902) in tribute to Josephine. [Newcastle University Special Collections holds the 1955 reprint]

As Kipling withdrew from public view, Europe prepared for war against Germany. Kipling supported the war, perceiving it to be a battle between civilisation and barbarism. He served as a war correspondent from the trenches in France and was keen for his son, John, to see active service, pulling strings to get him enlisted with the Irish Guards. John was killed at the Battle of Loos (September 1915) – he was 18 years old and his body has never been undisputedly identified. Kipling, distraught, turned his attention away from children’s stories and towards involvement with the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission: he helped to create graveyards, advising on the language to be used for the memorial inscriptions; wrote a regimental history of the Irish Guards; and influenced the wording of the letter which would be sent, on the King’s command, from Lord Derby (Secretary of State for War) to mourning relatives. By this time, Kipling’s literary prominence was waning as the world tried to come to terms with the aftermath of the First World War and Kipling with his own grief.

In 2011 the Friends of University Library purchased a significant collection of Kipling’s work in first and early editions; as well as material relating to Kipling, such as ephemera and cuttings which had been brought together by Mr Eric Pollard. The Pollard Collection is accessible via the Library’s online catalogue and the Special Collections team invite as wide an audience as possible to use it. Kipling’s work has been appraised and reappraised over the years and the Pollard Collection demonstrates the breadth of his work.

A Special Collections exhibition will draw upon the collection to remember Kipling in February 2016 – the year that marks the 80th anniversary of his death.

Kipling’s signature, from a letter to Lord Derby, 8th December 1917 (Manuscript Album)

Kipling’s signature, from a letter to Lord Derby, 8th December 1917 (Manuscript Album)

Cornish and Chaplin’s Spennymoor Settlement – August 2014

Christmas card with message "A happy xmas Sid, Rene, and family from Norman, Sarah and family" which includes a reproduction of painting 'Church Street, Low Spennymoor' by Norman Cornish
Christmas card with message “A happy xmas Sid, Rene, and family from Norman, Sarah and family” which includes a reproduction of painting ‘Church Street, Low Spennymoor’ by Norman Cornish (Chaplin (Sid) Archive, SC/RC/3/7)

The last of the famous “Pitman Painters”, Norman Cornish, died on the 1st August aged 94. Hailing from Spennymoor, County Durham, he worked as a miner at the Dean and Chapter Colliery in Ferryhill until 1966 when he pursued a career as an artist full-time. He is best known for painting the mining village culture found in the North East, expertly capturing the characters and essence of the area.

Cornish was also a long standing member of the Spennymoor Settlement, a community centre serving the South Durham coalfield area. Established in 1930 as a reaction to the effects of the economic depression, it’s declared objectives were “To encourage tolerant neighbourliness and voluntary social services and give its members opportunities for increasing their knowledge, widening their interests, and cultivating their creative powers in a friendly atmosphere”. This was achieved partly through the provision of classes and talks on varied subjects, including cobbling, painting and sketching, sewing, woodwork, and drama.

The Spennymoor Settlement was also known as the Pitman Academy as it nurtured the talents of many prominent North-East art individuals whose roots were in mining, including those of writer Sid Chaplin. Chaplin from Shildon, Co. Durham, also worked at the Dean and Chapter Colliery and was involved with the Spennymoor Settlement, meaning his path invariably crossed with that of Norman Cornish. Various records within the Chaplin (Sid) Archive held at the Newcastle University Special Collections and Archives, relate to the Spennymoor settlement. These include correspondence during Sid’s time as the honorary secretary, a programme for the Festival of Art 1949, and the 21st Birthday Commemorative magazine from 1951 that includes short story “The Bicycle against the wall” by Sid Chaplin, and an image of a portrait of Sid Chaplin by Norman Cornish.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) – February 2012

Front cover of Little Dorritt, no III
Front cover of Little Dorit, no.III (Rare Books, RB823.83 DIC)

7th February 2012 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, regarded by many as the consummate Victorian author.

He began his career in journalism, writing for the journals The Mirror of ParliamentThe True Sun and later, The Morning Chronicle. The contacts he made in the press industry enabled him to publish Sketches by Boz (1836): a collection of short portrayals of London characters and scenes which were illustrated by George Cruikshank and had previously been serialised in popular newspapers and periodicals.

John Macrone first published Sketches as a two-volume set in February 1836 and followed it with a second complete series in one volume in August that same year. It is a work of both non-fiction and fiction.

Title page of Sketches of Boz, 1836
Title page from Sketches by Boz (1936) (19th Century Collections,  19th C. Coll. 823.83 DIC)

Dickens’ family had been sent to Marshalsea prison when his father fell into debt. Dickens had been sent to work in a blacking factory.

The social ills of the Nineteenth Century such as child labour, the Poor Law and the poor treatment of London’s waif-children are recurrent themes in his novels.

In The Adventures of Oliver Twist, 1837-39 (19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll. 823.83 DIC) workhouse conditions, the recruitment of children as criminals, the social effects of industrialisation, London slums and the hypocrisies of the middle-class come under particular scrutiny.

Illustration of 'The Last Chance'
Illustration of ‘The Last Chance’ from The Adventures of Oliver Twist (19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll. 823.83 DIC)

Dickens first visited America in 1842, his impressions of which are described in American Notes. He was already popular in the U.S. and was mobbed on arrival. Here his interest in social reform continued and his itinerary included visits to prisons, factories and hospitals. He was also saw first-hand the effects of slavery and was a vehement campaigner for its abolition. The trip was both a success and a disappointment: he wearied of the attention he attracted, failed to persuade Americanc of the need for an international copyright agreement, and was unimpressed by the level of information put out by the press. The success of the British reading tour and the prospect of large profits motivated him to visit America again in 1867 but by this time his health was failing and he did not travel far.

Illustration of emigrants: a crowd of people on board a ship.
Image of ‘Emigrant’ from the Illustration London News (19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll. 030 ILL)

Many nineteenth-century authors established themselves through writing serialised fiction. That is, the issuing of instalments in newspapers, like the Illustrated London News, and popular magazines, like The Strand, or, as ‘part serials’ i.e. discrete monthly parts. Serialisation impacted upon the novel form: the more an author wrote the more handsomely they were paid but there was also a need to engage readers with every instalment and authors like Dickens adapted plots according to reader responses. Serialisation made book-buying affordable for the middle-class because it spread the cost of purchasing a novel over an average of eighteen to twenty months, with each instalment selling at an average of 1 shilling – a little over £2.00 in today’s spending worth. Typically, when the final instalment had been acquired, the parts were stripped of their paper wrappers and advertisements, trimmed and bound in leather or fine cloth. Thus it is rare to find novels as part serials today. The copy of Little Dorrit (see image at the beginning of this post), 1855-57 (Rare Books, RB823.83 DIC) which is held in the Rare Books collection is a good example of a book in parts. The parts are stab stitched, with paper wrappers intact, marked with the price and some of the parts bear the inscription of a former owner and the stamp of Holden bookseller, Church St., Liverpool. It offers an opportunity to experience the text as the contemporary readers would have experienced it, with a greater number of illustrations (by H.K. Browne) and the cliffhangers at the end of each part.

Dickens’ final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, 1870 (Rare Books, RB823.83 DIC) remains unfinished. There are no clues regarding an intended ending in the notes which Dickens left although he sent a summary of the story to his friend John Forster. He died from a stroke, having completed a full day’s work on the novel. The sixth instalment was the last to be published.

Extract from The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Extract from The Mystery of Edwin Drood, 1870 (Rare Books, RB823.83 DIC)