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Letters from the Hon. Robert Curzon Jnr., 1810-1873, to the Rev. Walter Sneyd, 1809-1888

Letters from the Hon. Robert Curzon Jnr., 1810-1873, to the Rev. Walter Sneyd, 1809-1888 Thumbnail


1. The Hon. Robert Curzon junior is a figure of significance for three reasons that have long been a matter of record. Firstly, be was the only person ever to investigate the contents of the monastic libraries of the Middle East and Meteora, others both before and after his time being either content or forced to confine themselves to one area or another. Secondly, he saved from almost certain destruction among the remains of some of these libraries a number of important manuscripts which are now, as a result of his efforts, in the British Museum. Thirdly, he described this enterprise in Visits to Monasteries in the Levant. Raskin described this work as the most delightful book of travels he ever opened. It went through three editions in its first year (1849), three further editions appeared in 1851,1865 and 1881, a seventh edition appeared in 1916, and the last edition appeared in 1955. The notice in The Dictionary of National Bioeranhy by Stanley Lane Poole has remained unaltered since it was written in 1886. It is very short and has virtually nothing to say about Curzon. He deserves to be better known.

2. In 1966 I began an investigation to ascertain the whereabouts or fate of manuscript material that would throw light on Curzon. Therewere over five hundred of his letters to the Rev. Walter Sneyd among the Sneyd Papers in the University Library at Keele, but the whereabouts of the Parham Papers was unknown. They were last seen in 1927 and it took five years to trace the largest surviving portion of them, during which time a second, smaller but quite unknown, portion came to light, followed by a third. From this material and from the letters to Sneyd it has been possible to make the first detailed biographical study of Curzon, and this forms the major part of the introduction.

3. The letters to Sneyd have an importance of their own. Firstly, apart from the light they throw on Curzon's career they are often more valuable for what they tell us about his personality than for what he actually says. Secondly, it is very rarely that one is made party to confidences of the sort Curzon shared with Sneyd. Curzon's letters illuminate over a period of nearly forty years the struggle taking place behind the scenes in an ancient, land-owning, Victorian family, from almost devastatingly close range. Thirdly, the unique character of the letters gives Curzon a claim to be considered as a letter writer. In so far as any undertaking which has had the advantage of freely given expert and local knowledge, constant encouragement andconstructive criticism can be called original, this work represents the results of original research


(1974). Letters from the Hon. Robert Curzon Jnr., 1810-1873, to the Rev. Walter Sneyd, 1809-1888


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