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Simpson, Evelyn Mary Spearing, 1885-1963



  • Existence: 1885 - 1963


Evelyn Mary Spearing Simpson was born on September 2, 1885 and was educated at Perse School and Newnham College, Oxford. She taught at Bedford College and was a fellow at Newnham, leaving to join the V.A.D. (Voluntary Aid Detachment) as a nurse in France during World War I. At the end of the war she returned to England and became English tutor at St. Hugh's College, Oxford. She resigned her position in 1921 upon marrying Percy Simpson, then librarian of the English faculty library at Oxford. The couple had two children: Edward Simpson, who was killed in a mountaineering accident near Chamonix in 1953; and Mary Simpson Fleay.

Evelyn Simpson's Study of the Prose Works of John Donne was published in 1924. The first two volumes of Percy Simpson's and C. H. Herford's projected edition of the Works of Ben Jonson appeared in the following year. After Herford's death in 1931, it became clear that Simpson would be unable to finish the edition alone. In 1937, when he was 72, Evelyn put aside her work on the sermons of John Donne and joined him as junior editor for volumes 6-11, the last of which appeared in 1952.

As the Jonson edition neared completion, Evelyn undertook a comprehensive edition of John Donne's Sermons in collaboration with George R. Potter of the University of California at Berkeley; the first volume appeared in 1953. Following Potter's death in 1954, Evelyn completed the ten-volume edition alone, despite failing eyesight and her husband's increasing frailty. The final volume appeared in 1962, shortly before Percy Simpson's death at the age of 97. Evelyn then began work on an anthology of Donne's prose, but it was unfinished at her death in September 1963. Edited by her close friend Helen Gardner, with T. S. Healy, Selected Prose was published in 1967 "as chosen by Evelyn Simpson."

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Walter Wilson Greg papers

Call Number: OSB MSS 162

The papers contain correspondence, printed material, writings and other papers documenting the scholarly career of Walter Wilson Greg, particularly his work on the Bibilography of the English Printed Drama(BEPD), his book reviews and his periodical articles concerning the editing of Shakespeare.

Dates: 1495-1959, bulk 1905-1959

Evelyn Simpson papers

Call Number: OSB MSS 90

Correspondence and writings documenting aspects of the scholarly career of Evelyn Spearing Simpson, particularly her work on a complete edition of the Sermons of John Donne. Correspondents include her Donne collaborator George R. Potter and his wife Mabel; friend and fellow Donne scholar Helen Gardner; and Mary Holtby. Writings include research notes, drafts, typescripts and proofs of most volumes of the Sermons edition; and drafts and typescripts of scholarly articles on Donne's work.

Dates: 1906-1963