A substantial collection (370 volumes) of fiction written by local authors was added to the Research Collections in 2010. Titles include well-known authors who lived in the county, including Laurence Housman, Mrs Henry Wood and Mrs Sherwood, in addition to lesser known names. Children’s literature is well represented within the collection.
Arguably the most famous author represented, Mrs Henry Wood* (1814 – 1887), was born Ellen Price in Worcester in 1814. In 1836 she married Henry Wood, who worked in the banking and shipping trade in Dauphiné in the South of France, where they lived for 20 years. On the failure of Wood’s business, the family (including four children) returned to England, settling in Norwood in London, and Ellen Wood turned to writing. This supported the family (Henry Wood died in 1866). She wrote over 30 novels, many of which (especially East Lynne) enjoyed remarkable popularity.
Among the best known of her stories are East Lynne, Danesbury House, Oswald Cray, Mrs. Halliburton’s Troubles, The Channings, Lord Oakburn’s Daughters and The Shadow of Ashlydyat. In 1867, Wood purchased the English magazine Argosy, which had been founded by Alexander Strahan in 1865. She wrote much of the magazine herself, and continued as its editor until her death in 1887, when her son Charles Wood took over. At her death (caused by bronchitis) her estate was valued at over £36,000, then a very considerable sum.
After her death, she was buried in Highgate Cemetery, London. In 1916 a monument to Mrs. Wood was installed in Worcester Cathedral.
Image - From a miniature by Reginald Easton (1807-1893) (courtesy of Wikipedia)
Laurence Housman (1865 – 1959) was an English playwright, writer and illustrator. Born in Bromsgrove, he was the brother of the poet A. E. Housman and the writer Clemence Housman. A prolific writer and illustrator, he wrote novels and children’s fairy stories, but is best know for his plays, some of which contained controversial subject matter because of their depiction of biblical characters and living members of the Royal House.
Bethlehem (1902), Angels and Ministers (1921), Little Plays of St. Francis (1922) and Victoria Regina (1934) which was even staged on Broadway. Housman’s play, Pains and Penalties, about Queen Caroline, was produced by Edith Craig and the Pioneer Players.
Mrs Mary Martha Sherwood** (née Butt) (1775 – 1851) was born in Stanford-on-Teme, Worcestershire. She was a prolific and influential writer of children’s literature in 19th-century Britain. She composed over 400 books, tracts, magazine articles, and chapbooks; among the most famous are The History of Little Henry and his Bearer (1814), The History of Henry Milner (1822–37), and The History of the Fairchild Family (1818–47). Sherwood is known primarily for the strong evangelicalism that colored her early writings and her exploration of colonial attitudes; however, her later works are characterized by common Victorian themes, such as domesticity.
Sherwood’s childhood was uneventful, although she recalled it as the happiest part of her life. After she married Captain Henry Sherwood and moved to India, she converted to evangelical Christianity and began to write for children. Although her books were initially intended only for the children of the military encampments in India, the British public also received them enthusiastically. The Sherwoods returned to England after a decade in India and, building upon her popularity, Sherwood opened a boarding school and published scores of texts for children and the poor.
Many of Sherwood’s books were bestsellers and she has been described as “one of the most significant authors of children’s literature of the nineteenth century.” Her depictions of domesticity and Britain’s relationship with India likely shaped the opinions of many young British readers. However, her works fell from favor as a different style of children’s literature came into fashion during the late nineteenth century, one exemplified by Lewis Carroll’s playful and nonsensical Alice in Wonderland.
A collection of literature in German, including prose, poetry and translation published between 1821 and 1934.
The collection was donated in 2008 by Bishop Peter, former Bishop of Worcester, and his brother John, in memory of their parents, Frank and Maria Selby.
The collection includes works by Dostojewski, Freud, Goethe, Nietzsche and Shakespeare.