This week’s war: 9


Left Bournemouth by 10.11 train. … C. & I got out at Winchester & went to the Cathedral, having on the way there to wait while about 1000 recruits mostly in (very) plain clothes marched past…. [weather] Fine. [LUL MS.9]

2 October 1914. Diary entry by Alfred Osten Walker, naturalist and gardener. This week’s war: 9.

This week’s war: 5


Meeting in the Church Room to promote recruiting for the war. I took the chair at 8pm. “Rule Britannia” by the choir & meeting; opening remarks by me; … Two men came forward to enlist, Piper & Gill…. Very fine & hot. Wind SE4. [LUL MS.9]

7 September 1914. Diary entry by Alfred Osten Walker, naturalist and gardener. This week’s war: 5.

This week’s war


In commemoration of the centenary of the First World War, Manuscripts and more will feature a weekly series of short comments on the war drawn from contemporary letters and diaries in Special Collections and Archives. Until the end of September 2014, you can also see original materials as part of the  ‘Over by Christmas: Life in Liverpool during the First World War‘ exhibition at the Victoria Gallery & Museum and in the Sydney Jones library.

Twittering about Burns

Edward Rushton's poem on Robert Burns in SPEC Y78.3.747

Edward Rushton's poem on Robert Burns in SPEC Y78.3.747

For the occasion of Burns Night, celebrated on 25 January, Manuscripts and More has a guest editor: Professor Paul Baines of the School of English has uncovered the author of an anonymous sonnet in memory of Robert Burns copied into one of our 18th century books, as he explains below….

“The Scottish poet Robert Burns died on 21 July 1796, at the age of 37, and his death prompted a widespread outpouring of elegies and other poetic memorials across Britain. In Liverpool, several such elegies were published in The Liverpool Phenix [sic] or Ferguson’s Weekly Gazette, a local newspaper. Of these, four were then collected in a pamphlet called Liverpool Testimonials, to the Departed Genius of Robert Burns, the Scottish Bard, published by a firm of printers, Merritt and Wright, operating from Castle Street.

The book is not dated and so far no advertisements for it have been found, but it must date from within a few months after Burns’s death, as the idea of the publication was in part to help raise money for Burns’s widow and children, left by his death, as the preface indicates, in poverty. Thirty-five subscribers were listed, with the amounts donated to the cause. Dr John Currie, who would edit a large edition of Burns in 1800, heads the list with ten guineas, and there are contributions from William Roscoe, William Rathbone, the Rev. William Shepherd, several members of the Gladstone family, and two bookselling firms.

The publication was also designed as a sort of showcase for the talents of ‘the Gentlemen of Liverpool’ who wrote them, on grounds of their ‘distinguished merit’. By the 1790s, Liverpool could boast a lively coterie of poets, mostly of radical, reformist, and anti-slavery views.

We notice these circumstances with pride and pleasure, as we conceive they are not less characteristic of the taste for letters which has lately distinguished this town, than the liberal subscription raised here for the family of the unfortunate Bard, is characteristic of its benevolence.

The first three poems are by ‘J.B.’, identified in the Liverpool SCA copy as ‘Jno. Bree’; ‘G. P.’ (George Perry), and ‘W. R.’ (William Roscoe). The fourth printed poem is by ‘E. W.’, actually Edward Rushton, the blind poet and anti-slavery campaigner (1756-1814), and identified as such, in pencil, in the British Library and Liverpool copies. Rushton’s poem, a kind of tribute to Burns’s own ‘To a Mountain Daisy’, was reprinted in his volume of Poems (1806). Rushton was also a Liverpool agent for Currie’s 1800 edition of Burns, selling it from his shop in Paradise Street.

The manuscript ‘Sonnet’ about Burns reproduced above was written onto the blank final leaf of Liverpool’s copy of Liverpool Testimonials at some point relatively soon after publication. This has not been previously identified, but it is in fact also by Rushton, and was printed, alongside his longer elegy, in an Edinburgh book called Fugitive Pieces (1797), p. 103. It was also widely known in America, being reprinted in The Time Piece, 25 September 1797, The Medley, 20 October 1797, and New-York Gazette, 2 October 1797. Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, 19 April 1803, printed it under the title ‘Helpless Swallow’, and ascribed it to Roscoe, and at least six other American papers to 1813 followed suit in that mistake.

Rushton himself included a revised version of the poem, now called ‘The Swallow’, in his book of Poems of 1806, and the poem gained in recognition and reputation following Rushton’s death in 1814. Another Liverpool paper, The Kaleidoscope of 22 November 1825, reprinted it from Rushton’s posthumous collection of 1824, as it ‘feelingly and beautifully depicted the power of sympathy for the suffering child of genius’; it then turned up in The Preston Chronicle, 13 October 1832, with some approving commentary on Rushton and his son, the political reformer also called Edward; and in The Leicester Chronicle, 26 January 1833. It was also quoted approvingly in an article on social issues in The Liverpool Mercury, 28 August 1846.

The manuscript text we have in our copy of Liverpool Testimonials is a fair copy,
not a working manuscript, and certainly not an autograph, though Rushton did,
after a series of operations, regain some sight in one eye from 1806-7. It was
probably copied in from a printed source to ‘complete’ the volume. The left hand
edge has been cropped in binding, but it is possible to reconstruct the text
fully from printed copies; it follows the ‘early’ text established in Fugitive Pieces (1797), rather than Rushton’s revised version of 1806, though it is likely that both Fugitive Pieces and the manuscript derive from a local newspaper printing, not yet found.


Go place the swallow on yon turfy bed,

Much will he struggle, but can never rise:

Go raise him even with the daisy’s head,

And the poor twitt’rer like an arrow flies.

So oft thro’ life the man of pow’rs and worth,                            5

Haply the caterer for an infant train,

Like BURNS, must struggle on the bare-worn earth,

While all his efforts to arise are vain.

Yet should the hand of relative or friend

Just from the surface, lift the suff’ring wight,                               10

Soon would the wings of industry extend,

Soon would he rise from anguish to delight.

Go then, ye affluent, go, your hands outstretch,

And from despair’s dark verge, oh! raise the woe-worn

22 November 2014 marks the bicentenary of Rushton’s death, and the city of Liverpool will be marking the occasion with an exhibition, a specially-written play, an academic conference, and two books from Liverpool University Press: an edition of the poems by Professor Paul Baines of the School of English and a critical study of his work by Dr Franca Dellarosa of the Università degli Studi di Bari “Aldo Moro”.

Advent and after: 1. Advent Sunday


Image of Calendar for December from LUL MS F.2.8
Calendar for December from Book of Hours LUL MS F.2.8















Advent (from the Latin adventus, ‘coming’), is the period of preparation leading up to Christmas. This year the whole of Advent,  including four Advent Sundays, falls within December so our posts this month explore Advent associations in Special Collections & Archives, linked to the Advent calendar on our website:

The first Sunday in Advent (the nearest Sunday to St  Andrew’s Day, 30 November) is the beginning of the Christian church year.

In the 5th century, Advent began on St Martin’s Day – November 11 – shown in blue in this calendar from a Medieval Book of Hours. The date is not given as the 11th but in a version of the Roman system of Kalens (1st), Nones, and Ides  – so as November 15 (Ides) minus four days.

Calendar from LUL MS F.2.8

Calendar from Book of Hours showing St Martin's Day, 11 November

Welsh manuscripts: the John Glyn Davies collection

LUL MS 132 detail

Liverpool University Library MS 132

Famous in Wales for his children’s poems based on sea-shanties he heard in his youth, John Glyn Davies (1870 – 1953) was a key figure in the Celtic Studies Department at the University of Liverpool.  After working for various shipping companies, including the Rathbone Brothers and Henry Tate and Sons, he took up a position as Librarian in the University of Wales at Aberystwyth, where he was instrumental in bringing together the collections that would later form the nucleus of the National Library of Wales.  In 1907, he left Aberystwyth for Liverpool, where he became friends with Librarian and Gypsiologist John Sampson, and was appointed as Lecturer in Welsh in 1908.  When Professor Kuno Meyer retired in 1920, Davies became Head of the Celtic Studies Department, and remained in this post until his retirement in 1936.

Over the years, Davies collected a number of Welsh manuscripts from the 18th and 19th centuries and, in 1950, donated a collection of these manuscripts to the University of Liverpool.  The larger part of this collection is formed of manuscript poems from the 18th century, most of which are written in the popular cywydd form and several of which have some connection with the prominent Wynn family of Maesyneuadd in Gwynedd.

LUL MS 132 margin

Liverpool University Library MS 132 margin

LUL MS 132, Cywydd Marwnad Ellis Prys (1730), is a manuscript copy of Tomos Prys’ poem with an English note inscribed in the margin from the transcriber, Jack Owen, to William Wynne of Maesyneuadd.

This same Mr. Wynne is very possibly also the subject of LUL MS 134, a comic tribute to a small furore surrounding ‘Mr. Wynne o Vaesyneuadd’ and his quilt, written circa 1751.

LUL MS 134 crop

Liverpool University Library MS 134

A notable inclusion in this sequence is a manuscript poem by Evan Evans on the death of his contemporary, William Wynne of Llangynhafal (son of William Wynne of Maesyneuadd), who was a cleric, antiquarian and poet.  In LUL MS 135, Cywydd Marwnad y Parchedig Mr. Wm. Wynne (ca.1750), Evans addresses Wynne as “a poet and excellent Welshman, and a friend” (“bardd a chymreigydd godidog, a chyfaill”).  Evans, who wrote under the bardic pseudonyms ‘Ieuan Brydydd Hir’ or ‘Ieuan Fardd’, was a notable poet and scholar of Welsh manuscripts who, along with figures such as William Wynne, was instrumental in promoting the literary and antiquarian renaissance in Wales in the 18th century.

LUL MS 136 address

Liverpool University Library MS 136 address

Among the non-poetical items collected by Davies is a handwritten letter from one William Jones, a settler in “Welsh Prairie,” Pennsylvania, to his niece (LUL MS 136).  Written in 1813, this letter gives a wonderful insight into the lives of Welsh settlers in 19th century America, telling of their journey across the Atlantic to New York and overland to their new home in Pennsylvania, with many references to the trials of Job! 

These manuscripts, along with many others acquired by the university or donated by various collectors, form part of the LUL MS sequence which is currently being re-catalogued.

Text by Angharad Gwilym.


Welsh Biography Online:
[accessed July 2013]

A Guide to the Manuscript Collections in Liverpool University Library
(Liverpool University Press, 1962)