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2020 Literature research collections

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Local authors

We have 370 volumes of fiction and children’s literature written by local authors. These include Laurence Housman, Mrs Henry Wood and Mrs Sherwood, as well as some lesser known names.

Mrs Henry Wood (1814–1887) was born Ellen Price in Worcester in 1814. In 1836, she married Henry Wood. They lived in Dauphiné in the South of France for 20 years, until her husband’s banking and shipping business failed.

Ellen Wood started writing on the family’s return to England and supported the family following her husband’s death in 1866. She wrote over 30 novels and enjoyed remarkable popularity.

Her best-known 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, writing and editing much of the magazine herself until her death in 1887. In 1916, a monument to Mrs Wood was installed in Worcester Cathedral.

 

Laurence Housman (1865–1959) was born in Bromsgrove. He was a prolific playwright, writer and illustrator, and the brother of poet A.E. Housman and writer Clemence Housman.

Housman wrote novels and children’s fairy stories but is best known for his plays. Some of these caused controversy because of their depiction of biblical characters and living members of the Royal House. Play include 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’s works explore include evangelicalism, colonial attitudes and common Victorian themes such as domesticity.

Sherwood spent ten years in India. Many of her texts were written for the children of military encampments there. On her return to England, she opened a boarding school and published scores of texts for children and the poor, many of which were bestsellers.  

 

 

Charles Harrington play books

Charles James Harrington (1851-191?) was a travelling player who set up his own travelling company. Little is known about him but his career probably lasted from c.1865 to 1912.

Our Research Collections hold 54 play texts signed and annotated by Harrington.

 

 

Selby collection

A collection of literature in German, including prose, poetry and translation published between 1821 and 1934, including works by Dostojewski, Freud, Goethe, Nietzsche and Shakespeare.

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.