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Princeton University Library Collection of James Payn Materials


Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Payn, James, 1830-1898

James Payn, an English novelist and editor, was born at Cheltenham, England. He contributed regularly to The Illustrated London News, Household Words, and Chamber's Journal, and became editor to the latter. It was in the " Journal that Payn published his most popular story, Lost Sir Massingberd (1864). Some of his other popular works include Married Beneath Him (1865), Carolyn's Year (1868), By Proxy (1878), and The Talk of The Town (1885). In 1883 he became editor of Cornhill Magazine which published some of his writings, such as a Handbook of the English Lakes (1859), Maxims by a Man of the World (1869), Some Private Views (1881), and Some Literary Recollections (1884), which was later collected in several volumes. William Morris Colles was an author's agent and the founder and managing director of "Authors' Syndicate" in London, England.

The collection consists primarily of letters (122) by Payn to William Morris Colles concerning the possible sale of his stories and books. Some of the letters deal with editorial changes to Payn's books or articles, copyrights, and publishing in American journals such as Harper's Magazine; in others Payn complains of not being compensated enough for his work. There are 6 letters, undated but probably written between 1888-1894, from Payn to his friend Walter Herries Pollock, editor of the Saturday Review, referring to Chaloner's best opera, the meetings of the Rabelais Club, Sir Walter Besant, and a review of George Eliot's MEMOIRS. Also Included is correspondence from other friends and authors, such as Grant Allen (1848-1899), Robert Buchanan, Anstey Guthrie, Sir James Knowles (1831-1908), William Edward Norris (1847-1925), Mrs. Margaret Oliphant (1828-1897), Sir Leslie Stephen (1832-1904), and Edmund Yates (1831-1894). In addition, there are some newspaper clippings with articles, Payn's obituary, and portrait engravings, including a full page from the 2 April 1898 issue of The Illustrated London News. A later addition consists of James Payn's complete autograph manuscript of "A Confidential Agent," bound in two volumes.

Folders are arranged by accession number.

The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject.

122 letters to William Morris Colles were purchased on November 9, 1965.

Six letters to W. Pollock were purchased on December 20, 1982.

Letters from authors, newspaper clippings, and engravings, source unknown.

A manuscript draft of "A Confidential Agent" was purchased in 2019 (AM 2019-119).

Folder inventory added by Nicholas Williams '2015 in 2012, and updated with a new accession by Kelly Bolding in 2019.

No appraisal information is available.

Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Date
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Collection Inventory

Letters from James Payn to J. Morris Colles, 1891-1892. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

57 Letters from James Payn to J. Morris Colles, 1893-1897. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1864-1897. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

6 Letters from Payn to Walter Herries Pollock, 1888-1894. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Newspaper Clippings, Engravings, and Autograph of James Payn, 1898. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

"A Confidential Agent" Manuscript, circa 1879. 1 box.
Scope and Contents

James Payn's complete autograph manuscript of "A Confidential Agent," bound in two volumes.

Physical Description

1 box

Print, Suggest