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Bertie Greatheed papers

Call Number: OSB MSS 68

Scope and Contents

The Bertie Greatheed Papers consist of letters, manuscripts and printed material documenting the literary career and friendships of Bertie Greatheed. The papers span the dates 1741-1824 and are organized into three series: I. Letters; II. Manuscripts; III. Printed Material.

Series I, Letters , is located in Box 1, folders 1-21 and has been arranged alphabetically by author. There are several letters concerning the 1788 production of The Regent, including congratulatory notes from relatives and from friends such as Lady Sophia Trevannion Byron and James Robson.

There are also letters by all of the other major members of the Della Cruscans. Notes by Robert Merry are accompanied by signed drafts of "Ode to Winter," "Address to Bacchus," and "Madness." Letters by William Parsons, located in folders 10-14, also enclose poems, including a draft of "Verses Written on the Island of Staffa." The earliest letters by Parsons, addressed to Greatheed at Eton, are almost entirely comic narratives written in verse. Folder 16 contains letters to Greatheed in Florence by Mrs. Piozzi.

Series II, Manuscripts , is housed in folders 22-107 and is organized into two subseries: Poems and Prose. Material within each subseries is arranged alphabetically by author and then by title, with material by unidentified authors listed at the end of the subseries. With few exceptions, works are attributed based on docketing or signatures on the manuscripts. Where this is not the case, the author's name appears in brackets in the listing.

Works by the Della Cruscans Robert Merry and William Parsons are located in folders 44-56. Merry's poems include "To Cloe in England, Written in Florence," and a heavily corrected draft of "A Character." Works by Parsons include an "Epistle from Naples to Bertie Greatheed" and a translation of the opening of Dante's Inferno."

Poems signed "Ellison" are found in folders 27-36. They include translations from Greek and Latin originals; "A Song of the Bards of Cairbar," probably in imitation of Fingal; "The Thoughts of an Evening;" and "Guy's Cliff." Folder 35 contains Ellison's translation of Gray's "O Tu, severi religio loci," another translation of which, by Hugh Hutton, can be found in folder 40.

Other poems with identifiable authors include Coleridge's "Recantation: A Political Allegory;" "Alonzo the Brave, and the Fair Imogen," by Matthew Lewis; and a poem attributed in the docketing to Thomas Gray, "The University Courtship."

Poems by unidentified authors are located in folders 62-96 and include epigrams, epitaphs and mock epitaphs, satires, songs, riddles and occasional verses in a variety of hands. Satires include "On a House of Office;" "The Royal Vision;" and "On the Duchess of Leeds Marrying Lord Portmore a Week after the Death of the Duke." Folder 84 contains "On the discovery of the bodies of Henry 8th and Charles 1st;" a "Ditirambo sul caffe" is located in folder 69.

There are eleven folders of Prose, including an account of prayers offered at a London synagogue for the Prince of Wales in 1788; a description of an avalanche; and a "prophecy," supposed to have been written in 1701, concerning the destruction of the French royal line.

Series III, Printed Material , is housed in Box 3 and organized into four subseries: Artwork, Newspaper Clippings, Playbills, and Other Printed Material. Newspaper Clippings includes carefully saved and annotated copies of reviews of Greatheed's The Regent and a chronology of the life of Napoleon published in 1814. Folder 119 contains a playbill for an October 19, 1741 production of King Richard the Third, annotated "announcing Garrick's first performance." Other Printed Material includes a broadside advertisement for a 1777 performance by the magician Philadelphius Philadelphia.

Oversize material has been housed in Box 4.


  • 1785-1819




Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Bertie Greatheed 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

Bequest of James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.


2.3 Linear Feet ((4 boxes) + 3 broadside folders)

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


Correspondence, printed ephemera, and clippings regarding Greatheed's play, "The Regent." Also includes poetry by Greatheed and others, such as Robert Merry and William Parsons. There is one letter from Thomas King detailing his comments on the prologue to Greatheed's play.


Bertie Greatheed, the son of Samuel Greatheed of Guy's Cliff, MP for Coventry, and Lady Mary Bertie, was born on October 17, 1759. He was raised at Guy's Cliff, and there met the actress Sarah Siddons when she was employed by his mother in 1771-73.

While living in Florence, Greatheed joined the society "Gli Oziosi" (The Idlers) and contributed to their privately published Arno Miscellany (1784). In 1785 he was one of the major contributors to the Della Cruscan Florence Miscellany, with Robert Merry, William Parsons, and Mrs. Piozzi.

In 1788, his blank verse tragedy, The Regent, was staged at Drury Lane Theatre, with his friend Sarah Siddons and John Kemble in the lead roles, but the play failed and was withdrawn after only nine nights.

The Greatheed family was in Paris in 1802-1803, during the Peace of Amiens; Bertie Bertie Greatheed, his son, received permission from Napoleon to draw many of the art treasures which had been brought to the Louvre. The Greatheeds journeyed to Italy in 1804, where Bertie Bertie Greatheed died in October, at Vicenza. His drawings were returned to his father by Napoleon on learning of the son's death.

Greatheed spent much time and money on improvements to Guy's Cliff, and designed the house's Elizabethan Revival additions and the memorial to the execution of Piers Gaveston on Blacklow Hill. He also acquired a considerable collection of Old Master paintings, including works attributed to Canaletto, Caravaggio, Salvator Rosa, Lely, and Reynolds.

Greatheed's only child, Bertie Bertie, had married in France before his early death, and in 1823 his daughter Anne Caroline Greatheed married Lord Charles Percy, who took the surname Greatheed Bertie Percy. Bertie Greatheed died at Guy's Cliff on January 16, 1826.
Guide to the Bertie Greatheed Papers
by Diane J. Ducharme
June 1996
Language of description
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • 2010-02-10: Transformed with yale.addEadidUrl.xsl. Adds @url with handle for finding aid. Overwrites @url if already present.
  • 2007-08-13: beinecke.great.xml converted for compliance with Yale EAD Best Practice Guidelines with brbl-migrate-01.xsl (mr2007-08-13).
  • 2007-03-08: PUBLIC "-//Yale University::Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library//TEXT (US::CtYBR::::[BERTIE GREATHEED PAPERS ])//EN" "great.xml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).

Repository Details

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977