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King's College London College Archives

FURNIVALL, Frederick James (1825-1910)


Reference code(s): GB 0100 KCLCA K/PP132 Furnivall

Held at: King's College London College Archives

Title: FURNIVALL, Frederick James (1825-1910)

Date(s): 1760, 1841-1967

Level of description: Collection (fonds)

Extent: 0.16 cubic metres (16 boxes)

Name of creator(s): Furnivall | Frederick James | 1825-1910 | scholar, editor and oarsman


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born in Egham, Surrey, 1825; studied at University College London, 1841-1842; studied mathematics at Trinity Hall Cambridge, 1843-1846; founded branch of Church Missionary Society at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, [1843]; studied law at Lincoln's Inn, 1846-1849; joined the Philological Society, 1847; joined the Christian Socialist movement, 1848; jointly opened a school for poor boys and men at Little Ormond Yard, Bloomsbury, London, 1848; called to the bar at Gray's Inn, 1849; practiced law as a conveyancer, 1850-1872; jointly opened a working men's association near Oxford Street, London, 1852; became secretary of the Philological Society, 1853-1910; jointly opened Working Men's College, Red Lion Square, London, 1854, teaching English Grammar and literature, organising social events and inaugurating the Maurice Rowing Club and Furnivall Cycling Club for its students; within Philological Society formed Unregistered Words Committee with Richard Chevenix Trench and Herbert Coleridge, 1857, resulting in the proposal for a New English Dictionary on Historical Principles [later published as the Oxford English Dictionary], 1859; took over editing duties of dictionary when first official editor Herbert Coleridge died, 1861-1876; founded Early English Text Society, 1864; lost his inheritance through the collapse of the Overend & Gurney Bank, 1867, leaving him short of money for most of his life; founded Chaucer Society, 1868; founded the Ballad Society, 1868; unsuccessfully tried to form Lydgate & Occleve Society, 1872; founded the New Shakspere Society, 1873; founded Sunday Shakspere Society, 1874; embroiled in acrimonious dispute with Algernon Swinburne and Thomas Halliwell Phillips over attribution of Shakespeare's works, 1876-1881; founded Wycliff Society, 1881; awarded civil list pension, 1884; founded Shelley Society at the suggestion of Henry Sweet, 1886; lost libel lawsuit brought by the actor Leonard Outram, over accusations of impropriety in the arrangements for a performance of Strafford organised by the Browning Society, 1888; founded the National Amateur Rowing Association, 1891; formed the Hammersmith Girls Sculling Club (later the Furnivall Club) the first all female rowing club, 1896; Honorary Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, 1902; Member of the British Academy, 1902; founded Gifford Street Foster Homes scheme, 1907; vice president of the Spelling Reform Society, 1907; died, 1910. Publications: Include: Association a Necessary Part of Christianity (1850); The Sabbath-Day: an Address to the Members of the Working Men's College (1856). As editor: La Queste del Saint Graal (London: J B Nichols and Sons for the Roxburghe Club, 1849); Robert of Brunne's "Handlyng synne" written A.D. 1303, with the French treatise on which it is founded, Le Manuel des Pechiez, by William of Wadington London (London: J B Nichols for the Roxburghe Club, 1862); Le morte Arthur: edited from the Harleian Ms. 2252 in the British Museum (London: Macmillan, 1864); The wright's chaste wife…a merry tale by Adam of Cobsam, from a MS in the library of the Archbishop of Canterbury (London: Early English Text Society Original Series 12, 1865); Bishop Percy's folio manuscript: ballads and romances (London: N Trübner & Co, 1867-1868); Hymns to the Virgin & Christ: the parliament of devils, and other religious poems, chiefly from the Archbishop of Canterbury's Lambeth MS 853 (London: Early English Text Society Original Series 24, 1867-1868); Education in early England: some notes used as forewords to a collection of treatises on "Manners and meals in olden time" (London: Early English Text Society Ordinary Series 32, 1867); A six-text print of Chaucer's Canterbury tales (London: Published for the Chaucer Society by N Trübner, 1869-77); The fraternitye of vacabondes by John Awdeley ... from the edition of 1575 in the Bodleian Library (London Early English Text Society Extra Series 9, 1869); The fyrst boke of the introduction of knowledge made by Andrew Borde, of physycke doctor… (London: Early English Text Society Extra Series 10, 1870); The Succession of Shakspere's works and the use of metrical tests in settling it (London: Smith, Elder & Co, 1874); Introduction to The Leopold Shakspere : the poet's works, in chronological order (London: Cassell, Petter & Galpin, [1877]); The pilgrimage of the life of man, Englished by John Lydgate, A.D. 1426, from the French of Guillaume de Deguileville, A.D. 1330, 1355 (London: Printed for the Roxburghe Club by Nichols and Sons, 1905); The tale of Beryn: with a prologue of the merry adventure of the pardoner with a tapster at Canterbury (London: Early English Text Society Extra Series 105, 1909).


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers, 1841-1967, including: correspondence and papers relating to Furnivall's family, his inheritance and the family home, Great Fosters House, Egham, Surrey, 1865-1926; papers relating to Furnivall's university education, including notes of Professor Thomas Graham's lectures on chemistry and Professor Henry Malden's lectures on the Greek language, University College London, 1841-1842; personal accounts, invoices and receipts, 1863-1908; correspondence to and from friends and acquaintances, 1865-1910, including William Woodham Webb, Walter Brindley Slater, George Edward Cockayne, Thomas Arnold and Beatrice Harraden; Teena Rochfort-Smith. A Memoir, publication paying tribute to Furnivall's mistress, 1883; photographic images of Furnivall, 1876-[1910]; papers relating to the study of philology and the Philological Society, 1858-1909, notably letters and publications concerning the New English Dictionary, 1859-1909; journals, correspondence, lecture notes and printed material relating to the Working Men's College, education and social reform, 1842-1912; papers relating to the Early English Text Society, 1865-1910, notably letters from Walter William Skeat concerning the editing and publication of William Langland's Piers Plowman, 1866; correspondence, proofs, notes relating to the Chaucer Society, 1866-1900; papers relating to the Ballad Society, 1867-1875, principally correspondence and proofs concerning the publication of Bishop Percy's Folio Manuscript, 1867-1868; correspondence and notes regarding the formation of the proposed Lydgate and Occleve Society, 1872; correspondence, publications and proofs relating to the New Shakspere Society, 1873-1886; articles and printed circulars relating to an acrimonious dispute with Algernon Swinburne, 1876-1881; notes of lectures on Shakespeare and Elizabethan literature given by Furnivall, John Llewellyn Davies, John Wesley Hales, George MacDonald and William Spalding, 1874-1876; papers relating to the Browning Society, 1881-1967, notably Woodburytype image of Robert Browning, 1881; Browning Society proceedings, entertainment programmes and papers, 1884-1892; two letters from Robert Browning, 1874-1888; letters from Alma Forman [Alma Murray] concerning the Browning Society's theatre productions, 1885-1888; correspondence relating to a lawsuit brought by Leonard Outram, 1886-1888; prospectus, reports, letters and newspaper cuttings relating to Shelley and the Shelley Society, 1886-1892; publications relating to Thomas James Wise's Ashley Library, 1887-1895; correspondence relating to fundraising for the Maurice Rowing Club, 1886-1887; correspondence and newspaper cuttings relating to the debate over the superiority of sculls over oars, 1886; letters, memoranda and bills of sales relating to the purchase and repair of boats and sculls, 1886-1889; photographic postcards of the Hammersmith Girls Sculling Club [later the Furnivall Sculling Club], 1907; leaflets, prospectuses and letters relating to other societies, 1870-1910; obituaries and memorials to Furnivall, 1910-1949; miscellaneous material including Genuine and Curious Memoirs of the Famous Captain Thurot by John Francis Durand. (London: J Burd & J Williams, 1760) and Pigot & Co's New Map of the Environs of London Extending 14 Miles round St Paul's in Every Direction, 1832.


Language/scripts of material: English, Anglo Saxon English, Middle English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Latin and Swedish.

System of arrangement:

Due to its custodial history the collection did not have any discernible order. To give the material context, the collection has been arranged into subject areas primarily in relation to Furnivall's interests and subsequent founding or membership of numerous societies as detailed above.

Conditions governing access:

Open, subject to signature of Reader's undertaking form, and appropriate provision of two forms of identification, to include one hotographic ID.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies, subject to the condition of the original, may be supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Director of Archive Services, King's College London.

Physical characteristics:

Finding aids:

This Summary and an online detailed catalogue.

Detailed catalogue


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information:

Included in the collection were a small number of items which were of doubtful provenance and these have been removed.


Accruals unlikely

Archival history:

The papers in the collection along with Furnivall's personal library were donated by his son Percival Furnivall, FRCS, to the Department of English Language and Literature, King's College London in 1910. The collection was subsequently integrated with that of his contemporary Walter William Skeat, whose papers and books were also donated to the College by Skeat's widow in 1913. The collections formed the core of the holdings of the departmental Library of English Language and Literature, known as the 'Skeat & Furnivall Library.' The private papers of both men were extracted from the collection and transferred to King's College Archives in 1979. Some material remains unattributed, possibly not relating to either individuals. This remains as the 'Skeat & Furnivall Library' collection.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Transferred from King's College Library.


Existence and location of originals:

Existence and location of copies:

Related material:

King's College London Library and Special Collections holds Furnivall's personal library; King's College London Archives holds the papers of the Early English Text Society, 1864-2005; Huntington Library, California holds c.1000 items of correspondence; British Library, Manuscript Collections holds miscellaneous correspondence (ref MSS 34813, 43798), 1851-1870; Cambridge University, King's College Archive Centre holds 12 letters to Oscar Browning, 1879-1903; Baylor University, Armstrong Browning Library holds correspondence relating to the Browning Society; British Library, Manuscript Collections holds letters to W H Griffin (ref MSS 45563-64), 1900-1905; Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections holds 120 items of correspondence with James Halliwell Phillipps, 1857-1881; British Library, Manuscript Collections holds letters to William Carew Hazlitt (ref MSS 38898-913 passim), 1861-1908; Harvard University, Houghton Library holds postcards to George Lyman Kittredge (ref MS Eng 620); Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections holds 81 letters to David Laing (ref La iv 17), 1864-1878; Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts holds letters to Arthur Sampson Napier (ref MS Eng lett d 79), 1886-1896; Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, holds correspondence relating to the New Shakspere Society; Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts holds letters to Sir Thomas Phillipps (ref MSS Phillipps-Robinson), 1864-1869; Lancaster University, Ruskin Library holds 31 letters from, and papers relating to John Ruskin (ref B XV, L17, MS73); King's College London Archives holds the papers of Walter William Skeat, 1772, 1868-1932; King's College London Library and Special Collections holds Skeat's personal library.

Publication note:

'Outram vs Furnivall: Dissension within the Browning Society' by William S Peterson. Bulletin of the New York Public Library, Feb 1967, pp93-104; Dr F J Furnivall, Victorian Scholar and Adventurer by William Benzie. (Norman, Oklahoma: Pilgrim Books, 1983).



Archivist's note: Sources: Frederick James Furnivall: a volume of personal record edited by John Munro (Henry Frowde, London, 1911); Dr F J Furnivall, Victorian Scholar and Adventurer by William Benzie (Norman, Oklahoma: Pilgrim Books, 1983); Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; The Meaning of Everything by Simon Winchester (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003). Description compiled by Caroline Lam, 2007.

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: October 2007

Christianity | Ancient religions | Religions
English literature | European literature | National literatures
Etymology | Comparative linguistics | Linguistic research | Linguistics
Greek literature | European literature | National literatures

Personal names
Arnold | Matthew | 1822-1888 | poet and critic
Browning | Robert | 1812-1889 | poet
Carlyle | Thomas | 1795-1881 | historian and philosopher
Furnivall | Frederick James | 1825-1910 | scholar, editor and oarsman
Gladstone | William Ewart | 1809-1898 | statesman
Graham | Thomas | 1805-1869 | chemist

Corporate names
Browning Society
Chaucer Society
Maurice Boat Club
New Shakespeare Society
Philological Society
Shelley Society

Coventry | Warwickshire | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe
Surbiton | Surrey | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe
Kingston upon Thames