Visit to Maugham Library 26.10.15

During the October half term, The King’s School Archives opened its doors to CILIP in Kent to showcase its world-class collections. The School Archivist, Mr Peter Henderson, previously a history teacher at the school, gave a private tour of the Maugham Library and opened up some of the significant items from the Hugh Walpole Collection to view.

Somerset Maugham was a boy at The King’s School from 1885-1889. Maugham wrote about his school days in ‘Of Human Bondage’. The Maugham Library is a collection of books, manuscripts, photographs, and other items that were gifted to the school, together with the finances to house the collection, by Maugham to Canon Frederick Shirley when Shirley was Headmaster. The library is now a teaching room for English lessons. Looking at the shelves gives you a sense of the man himself. This was his personal working collection of books, some of which are annotated (in pencil!), providing clues as to his writing practice, particularly his pieces of literary criticism.

The Walpole Collection represents manuscript works from most of the major writers of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Hugh Walpole attended The King’s School from 1896-1898. In the 1920s and 1930s he made a collection of English literary manuscripts, which was presented to the school in 1938. Seeing a small portion of the extensive collection out on display, together with an Augustus John portrait of Hugh Walpole himself was impressive! Highlights of the collection included Walter Scott, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Wilkie Collins, Christina Rossetti, Lewis Carroll, George Eliot, Rudyard Kipling, M R James, W B Yeats, letters from First World War poets, and Eric Gill’s ‘Four Gospels’ – which was just beautiful to see up close! Just to name a few!!! Peter Henderson provided wonderful anecdotes of how the collection came together, and the stories behind individual acquisitions. This was a real literary feast for the eyes and ears!

write-up by Philippa Rose, CILIPinKent

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