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William Force Stead papers

Call Number: OSB MSS 158

Scope and Contents

The William Force Stead Papers document the literary career, personal life, and religious vocation of poet, clergyman and scholar William Force Stead. The papers include personal and professional correspondence; writings; notebooks, personal papers and photographs; printed material; and documents relating to Stead's work as Honorary Secretary of the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association.

Series I through Series VI contain material acquired in 1969 and organized shortly thereafter into six series, while Series VII through X contain post-1969 acquisitions in order of acquisition, and Series XI contains printed material acquired at various times during the 1970s. For some types of material, therefore, it is necessary to consult several series.Correspondence is located in Series I, Correspondence, as well as in Series VII through Series X, while Stead's writings are located in Series II, Series III, and Series VII and Series X. Many of the items in Series XI, Printed Materials, are also works by Stead.

Correspondence includes extensive and detailed family correspondence with Stead's father, brother, and wife, Anne Frances Goldsborough Stead; letters from a number of English literary figures, including Edmund Blunden, T. S. Eliot, Frank Morley, Lady Ottoline Morrell, and W. B.Yeats, and English composer Henry Vere Fitzroy Somerset; and letters from a variety of scholarly and religious colleagues on personal and professional subjects. The Stead Papers also contain notes, drafts, and manuscripts and typescripts for many of Stead's works, particularly his poetry and his religious meditations; folders with titles beginning with "Stead" in Series II appear to contain draft chapters of an unpublished memoir. Other material of biographical interest includes several boxes of diaries; papers relating to Stead's consular service; and school notebooks, found in Series IV, as well as additional personal and family documentation in Series VII through Series X.


  • 1859 - 1968
  • Majority of material found within 1900 - 1940


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 68 (film reel): ‡a Restricted fragile material. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The William Force Stead Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Series I-VI purchased from Dom Julian Stead, and purchased from Wesleyan University Library, 1969; Series VII gift of Dom Julian Stead, 1974; Series VIII transferred from the Manuscript Department, University of Virginia Library, 1975; Series IX purchased from Frank Shivers, 1978; Series X gift of Dom Julian Stead, 1978.

T. S. Eliot letter to W. F. Stead, 1930 December 2, purchased from Gotham Book Mart, 1969.


Organized into 11 series: I. Correspondence, 1900-1972. II. Writings, 1899-1963. III. Notebooks, 1876-1955. IV. Personal Papers, 1891-1967. V. Photographs, 1910-1935. VI. Keats-Shelley Memorial Association Papers, 1906-1950. VII. November 1974 Acquisition, 1848-1968. VIII. October 1975 Acquisition, 1978, undated. IX. May 1978 Acquisition, 1922-1948. X. December 1978 Acquisition, 1859-1960. XI. Printed Materials, 1900-1960.


32.83 Linear Feet (75 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The William Force Stead Papers document the literary career and aspects of the personal life of poet, clergyman and scholar William Force Stead. The papers include personal and professional correspondence; writings; notebooks, personal papers and photographs; printed material; and documents relating to Stead's work as Honorary Secretary of the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association. The letters document aspects of Stead's literary and religious careers as well as his family relationships. Literary correspondents include Edmund Blunden, T. S. Eliot, William Golding, Frank Morley, Lady Ottoline Morrell, and W. B.Yeats. There are also letters by English composer Henry Vere Fitzroy Somerset. The collection contains drafts, manuscripts and typescripts of many works by Stead, including drafts of what appears to be an unpublished memoir. Personal papers include diaries from between 1896 and 1928; records of Stead's marriage and of his work for the U. S. Consular Service; and family photographs.

William Force Stead, 1884-1967

William Force Stead was born in Washington DC in 1884. He attended the University of Virginia for several years, and in 1908 joined the United States Consular Service. From 1908 until 1915 he was a Vice-Consul in England, first in Nottingham and then in Liverpool. In 1911 he married Anne Frances Goldsborough in Baltimore, Maryland; the couple's first child, Philip, was born two years later. Their second son Peter was born in 1926.

Stead was ordained a minister in the Church of England in 1916, and served for two years as a curate at Ross-on-Wye. He received his B.A. in theology from Queen's College, Oxford in 1921, following which he was appointed Assistant Chaplain of the English Church in Florence, Italy. In 1926 Stead received an M.A. from Queen's College, and thereafter served as Chaplain of Worcester College, Oxford from 1926 to 1933. It was during this time that he baptized his friend, the American-born poet T. S. Eliot, into the Church of England. Stead's other literary friends included W. B. Yeats, Edmund Blunden, Richard Cobden-Sanderson, C. S. Lewis, and Robert Sencourt.

Between 1911 and 1933 Stead published seven volumes of poetry, including Windflowers (1911), Festival in Tuscany (1927), and Uriel: A Hymn in Praise of Divine Immanence (1933).

In August of 1933 Stead was received into the Roman Catholic Church by the English Dominican Bede Jarrett. Anne Stead had become a Catholic three years earlier, and spent much of her time in a convent in Birmingham. As a result of his conversion, Stead resigned from the Worcester College chaplaincy; he moved to the nearby village of Clifton Hampden. During the 1930s, Stead published anthololgies, magazine articles and reviews; wrote a B.Litt thesis on the works of the Jesuit poet Robert Southwell; and published the first edition of Christopher Smart's Jubiliate Agno.

Stead and his son Peter sailed for the United States on August 12, 1939 to visit relatives in Baltimore. World War II broke out before they could return to England, and their passports were canceled. Anne Stead remained in England throughout the war, choosing to remain close to their oldest child, Philip, who had proved to be mentally handicapped and was institutionalized.

Stead never lived in England again, although he visited several times after the war. From 1943 through 1958 he was Professor of English at Trinity College in Washington, DC, a Roman Catholic school for girls. In Baltimore, Stead met Nancy Howard DeFord Venable, a widow and literary hostess, and eventually shared her homes in Baltimore and St. Mâlo, France with her. The pair traveled frequently and entertained literary friends, including T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, William Golding, Vere Somerset, and Tennessee Williams. Stead's health and memory began to fail in the final years of his life, and he died in Nancy Venable's Baltimore home on March 8, 1967.

Processing Information

This collection was initially sorted and partially arranged and listed by library staff in the 1970s. The three 1969 purchases were merged before arrangement and listing and roughly grouped by type of material. The subsequent additions were not interfiled; each of these is described separately in the contents list below, titled according to month and year of acquisition. The volumes in Series XI, Printed Materials, were apparently acquired at various times during the 1970s, and have been left at the end of the collection where they were originally placed.

As a rule, descriptive information found in the Collection Contents section is drawn in large part from information supplied with the collection, acknowledgement lists created by library staff, and from an initial survey of the contents. Folder titles appearing in the contents list below are largely based on those provided by the creator or by library staff in the 1970s. Titles have not been verified against the contents of the folders. Some folder titles are apparently original; other folder titles were supplied by staff during the initial processing and in 2010.

Guide to the William Force Stead Papers
by Diane J Ducharme and Thanh Tran
June 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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