John Rylands Library and English Language Studies

14 01 2014

Manchester Students from Linguistics and English Language are using high resolution images in LUNA to dual benefit: working with original documents allows them to find real-life examples of the linguistic history they have been studying, while editing those documents using LUNA enables the creation of searchable text to go with the images.

Small groups of dissertation students have been editing several folios each of previously unedited Middle English manuscripts in the Rylands Medieval Collection. They present the text of their chosen  extract, provide a glossary, and explore aspects of the language, handwriting or textual history. The exercise has proved enjoyable and rewarding, with some outstanding dissertations produced. The first such student has gone on to an MA and now a PhD involving Middle English.

A new venture this year sees students on the final-year course Modern English Language (1500-present) each editing a letter from the Mary Hamilton Papers as part of their coursework. This rich collection of eighteenth-century documents is the subject of research projects in Europe and North America on history, literature and culture. In addition to writing a linguistic commentary, our students have to produce a text marked up to modern encoding standards.

Most work, whether Middle or Modern English, is done with online images, but students visit Deansgate to get an even better sense of the originals – and the beautiful library which houses them.

David Denison

Smith Professor of English

Language & Medieval Literature


Conference Registration deadline extended

11 01 2011

The deadline for registration for the ‘Writ from the Heart’ Conference has now been extended to Friday the 21st January. Please see the link below for a registration form and for conference programme details.

Conference Registration Form

Conference Programme

Again,  please feel free to get back to me if you have any queries regarding the conference.

Best wishes

Lisa Crawley

‘Writ from the Heart’ Conference Programme and Registration Form

24 11 2010

I am delighted to post the links below for the Programme and the Registration Form for the forthcoming ‘Writ from the Heart’ Conference to be held at The John Rylands University Library, The University of Manchester, on the 29 January 2011.

Conference Programme

Conference Registration Form

Please feel free to get back to me if you have any queries regarding the conference.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Lisa Crawley

Women’s Life Writing Conference at the John Rylands University Library

15 11 2010

You may already be aware that a one-day conference is being organized at John Rylands University Library, The University of Manchester to celebrate the cataloguing of the Mary Hamilton papers – Writ from the Heart? Women’s Life Writing in the Long Eighteenth Century 29 January 2011. 

Details are still being finalized but the day is likely to run from around 9.30 to 5.30 and there will be a social event for all those who wish to join us on the 28th January (the evening before the conference).  For now you may be interested in a list of participants and papers (there will be two parallel sessions running).

Key note speaker Claire Harman – ‘”My immense Mass of Manuscripts”: Fanny Burney as archivist, biographer and autobiographer’.

  • Sonja Boon – Gender, Epistolarity and the Suffering Body: Narrating the Bodily Self in Women’s Medical Consultation Letters to Samuel-Auguste Tissot
  • Daniel Cook – ‘Lying is an Occupation’: Laetitia Pilkington’s Memoirs revisited
  • Lisa Crawley – A life recovered: Mary Hamilton; 1756-1816
  • Ashley Cross – Perdita and the Swan: Disability and Style in the Life Writing of Mary Robinson and Anna Seward
  • Dr Laura Davies – ‘But O Lord my time my life my all is in thy hand’: the experience and representation of time in the spiritual lives of early Methodist women.
  • Dr Sam George – The Familiar Letter and Natural History Writing for Girls in the Long Eighteenth Century
  • Jacqui Grainger – ‘Tales from the Green Room’: aberrant women and their dangerous behaviour in the collection at Chawton House Library
  • Marcella Hermesdorf – The Religious “Selves” of Hannah
  • Dr E. Wyn James – Cushions, Copy-books and Computers: Media in the Transmission of the Hymns and Letters of Ann Griffiths (1776–1805)
  • Jane Maxwell – Manuscript sources in Trinity College Library Dublin for the study of 18th century women’s history 
  • Victoria Joule – ‘She did but take up old stories’: Generic Fluidity and Women’s Life-Writing
  • Susan Nash – Signature Stories: Helen Timberlake’s Petition to George III
  • Jeremy Parrett – “…an infinite deal of nothing”: Women’s lives recorded, reflected and shared through the nascent genre of album-making at the beginning of the 19th century(The Sir Harry Page Collection of albums and common-place books at MMU Special Collections)
  • Sarah Prescott – Leaving and Returning: Place as Life History in Hester Thrale Piozzi’s Tour in North Wales (1774)
  • Rosemary Raughter – ‘My dear busy friend’: the correspondence of Lady Arbella Denny and Lady Caldwell, 1754-1777 (Bagshawe Muniments, John Rylands University Library, Manchester)
  • Caroline Rozell – The Almost-True Story of Jane Barker/Galesia: Autobiography, Narrative, and the Fictionalized Life
  • Gillian Skinner – ‘So young a Woman, Gifted with such enchanting talents’: creative women’s lives in Burney’s Early Journals and Letters
  • Richard Wragg – A Naval Wife: The Letters of Susannah Middleton


Further information will be posted shortly but in the meantime please get back to me at if you have any questions.

Lisa Crawley


Francis Napier Letter

4 10 2010

Besides the Mary Hamilton papers the John Rylands University Library holds a number of significant eighteenth century collections including the Thrale-Piozzi Manuscripts, which includes over 150 letters from Hester Thrale-Piozzi to Samuel Johnson, letters from Elizabeth Montagu, letters from the poet Anna Seward and from Frances Burney amongst others. [The following link will direct you to the online catalogue to the collection:]

 We also hold many of the printed works of Samuel Johnson including Johnson’s personal copy of the 4th edition of his Dictionary printed in 1773 (Ref: /2922) which he bequeathed to the artist Sir Joshua Reynolds and which includes numerous manuscript corrections and annotations written by Johnson.

Within the Mary Hamilton Papers, a letter written to Hamilton by her friend, Lord Francis Napier aptly displays the interrelationships and social connections of these three collections. Written in 1784 Napier notes the death of Samuel Johnson:

“I could not resist the inclination I felt to condole with you and the rest of the Indigo tribe on the death of Dr Johnston (sic). Alas poor Mary he fell a victim to Signora Piozzi’s marriage therefore I insist if you are not already married, that you will not by a pretended cruelty run the risk of sacrificing Mr Dickenson. It would certainly make a fine subject for a Poem for the blue stocking tribe that one of the society had murdered a deserving young man”. (20 December 1784, HAM/1/20/90)

Lord Napier suggests, somewhat in jest, that Johnson died of a broken heart because of Hester Thrale’s marriage and teases Hamilton about her own forthcoming marriage to John Dickenson.

Lisa Crawley

Samuel Johnson and Oliver Goldsmith

17 08 2010

The image below is taken from Diary No 7, (23 April-24 June 1784). Hamilton socialised with many well known figures of her day including Samuel Johnson. The diary entry for 14th May 1784 describes a dinner that they both attended and it demonstrates what rich a resource Hamilton’s writings offer for the study of prominent figures in society during the late eighteenth century.

At a dinner with guests that included Eva Maria Garrick, Frances Burney, Hannah More and Elizabeth Carter, Hamilton recorded Samuel Johnson’s unflattering description and characterisation of the author Oliver Goldsmith.

Hamilton writes that Johnson (she spells his name ‘Johnston’ in her diary) noted that he ‘never knew a Head so unfurnished [as Goldsmith’s]; he gave him credit for being a Clerical Scholar so far as he had learnt at school, but that he knew very little of any subject he ever wrote upon…upon the most common subjects he was most ignorant, of which he gave many and daily proofs; he had the habit of lying to such a degree that the Club to which he belonged and the society he lived in never scrupled to tell him they wanted Faith for what he advanced. [He continued noting that he] was the most envious of Men; he could not bear to hear the praise of any one, nay! even the Beauty of a woman being praised he could not endure’.

According to the diary, Johnson did note that Goldsmith had many ‘good qualities’ before listing his ‘many failings’. Of his book on the History of England, Johnson noted that Goldsmith ‘knew nothing more of it than turning over two or 3 English Historians & abridging them’.

This description of Goldsmith covers four pages of the diary and also includes Elizabeth Carter’s view of him and a story by Mrs Garrick of Goldsmith being often at her house when her husband, [the actor, David Garrick] was alive and that he was never ‘happy if he did not gain the attention of the Whole Company to himself’.

Lisa Crawley.

Diary entry for 14th May 1784

Gambling and the Prince of Wales

16 08 2010

An interesting letter written to Hamilton by her relation, Mrs Wilhelmina Murray (HAM/1/5/2/11), provides an entertaining insight into gambling amongst high society in the eighteenth century.

Murray wrote that at the Duchess of Cumberland’s the previous Thursday, a Lady Ferrars ‘took her luck at the Faro table as usual’ but being an invalid she did not want to stay until the fashionably late hours and so she left some guineas on the table and said that she would be much obliged if some one would play for her. ‘[S]he was no sooner gone that the Prince of W[ales] sat down & said he would play for her’. By three in the morning the Prince had won about 100 guineas and was so excited by this that he wanted to go straight to Lady Ferrars to give her the money.

 After repeatedly knocking at her door a servant stuck his head out of a window and asked where the fire was.  When the door was finally opened the Prince ran in to the house but  ‘had the grace to stop at the bedchamber door’ while a Lady who went to Lady Ferrars with him, entered her room and threw the money on the table. They both then left ‘leaving the whole house in an uproar’.

In the same letter Murray also reported that Lady Hopetoun had told her that the Prince was so drunk he could not stand and that he was ‘making indecent love to the Duchess of Argyle…[stating] that she was still handsomer than all the d….d young things’.

Lisa Crawley