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Kenelm Henry Digby collection

Call Number: OSB MSS 81

Scope and Contents

The Kenelm Henry Digby Collection consists of papers relating to the faith and literary career of Kenelm Henry Digby, possibly collected by Bernard Holland in the course of his research for Memoir of Kenelm Henry Digby (1919). The collection has been organized into two series: Series I. Correspondence, and Series II, Other Papers. The papers span the dates 1815-1918.

Series I, Correspondence , spans the years 1815-1918 and is organized into two subseries: Digby Family Correspondence and Research Correspondence. Each subseries is arranged alphabetically by name of correspondent.

The first subseries, Digby Family Correspondence, contains a few letters by members of Digby's family, including his brother Richard and his daughter Marcella, who speaks of their shared faith and her life as a nun in Chile. There is also a letter from Hubert Dormer to his future wife Mary Digby discussing plans for the couple to live with Digby after their marriage. A few correspondents are represented only by letters of condolence written on the death of Digby, including Edward John Tilt and Cardinal Manning.

In addition to these, there are letters to Digby from various friends, in particular the comte d'Esgrigny, whom Digby and his family visited many times. The letters in the collection date from the last years of Digby's life and contain family and personal news; wishes for Digby's improved health; and comments on faith and the political situation of the Catholic Church in France.

The fourteen letters from Ambrose Lisle Phillipps contain much discussion of English Catholic teachings and practices; news of and reflections on the early progress of what came to be known as the Oxford Movement; reports on Movement figures such as Wiseman, Newman, and Manning; and commentary on the increase in conversions among the English and the popular and political reactions against them.

Other friends represented in the collection include Robert Hare, George Spencer, and the Anglican Julius Charles Hare, who in two 1842 letters expresses his anger at Digby's "virulent bigotry" against Protestantism in general and the Church of England in particular. There is also one 1858 letter to Digby from Montalembert, in English, praising his Lover's Seat.

The second subseries, Research Correspondence, consists of letters to Bernard Holland written in response to his requests for information on Digby's life. Folder 31 contains a biographical sketch of his daughter Marcella, which was enclosed in a letter to Holland. There are also letters from his publisher concerning publication details.

Series II, Other Papers , is housed in folders 39-45 and contains newspaper clippings relating to various works by Digby; obituary notices for him; one folder of research notes; and a sketchbook holding a variety of landscape drawings in pencil and ink.


  • 1815-1918


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Kenelm Henry Digby Collection is 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

Purchased on the James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn Fund, 2002


0.41 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The collection contains letters from various Digby family members and friends, including Marcella Digby; the comte d'Esgrigny; Henry Edward, Cardinal Manning; Montalembert; and Robert Hare. Letters from Ambrose Lisle Phillipps discuss Catholicism in England, recent conversions, and the early Oxford Movement; letters from Charles Julius Hare comment unfavorably on Digby's attacks on Protestantism. There is also a small amount of research correspondence with Bernard Holland, author of Memoir of Kenelm Henry Digby (1919).
The collection also includes newspaper clippings of reviews of Digby's later works; obituaries of Digby; and a sketchbook.


Kenelm Henry Digby, youngest son of William Digby, Anglican Dean of Clonfert, was born in Ireland in 1800 and took his B.A. at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1819. In 1822 he published The Broad Stone of Honour, a lengthy but popular and influental work on chivalry.

Digby converted to Roman Catholicism in 1825 and published a much rewritten version of Broad Stone in 1826-27. Mores Catholici, an eleven-volume work on medieval Catholicism and culture, appeared in 1831-40, and Compitum, or, The Meeting of the Ways at the Catholic Church, a Catholic apologetic, in 1848. In addition to these, Digby published several collections of poetry; the meditative The Lover's Seat (1856); The Chapel of St. John, or, A Life of Faith in the Nineteenth Century (1861), dedicated to his late wife; and Evenings on the Thames, or, Serene Hours and What They Require (1864).

Digby married Jane Mary Dillon in 1833; the couple had seven children, one of whom, Marcella Digby, was received into the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Roehampton in 1859 against her father's wishes. The Digbys spent much time in France during the 1840s and 1850s. After Jane Digby's death in 1860, Digby led an increasingly retired life at his home in Kensington until his own death on March 22, 1880.

Guide to the Kenelm Henry Digby Collection
Under Revision
by Diane J. Ducharme
March 2003
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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