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William Watson collection

Call Number: GEN MSS 460

Scope and Contents

This finding aid encompasses accessions of single manuscripts and small groups of manuscripts and other papers, by or pertaining to William Watson, acquired by the library from a variety of sources. Materials incorporated into the collection prior to March 2000 have been organized into four series. Additions since March 2000 have been placed in Series V.

Series I, John Alexander Symington Purchase , consists of three subseries: William Watson Correspondence, Writings by William Watson, and John Alexander Symington Papers Concerning William Watson. Correspondence consists mostly of typed transcriptions of letters. Some transcripts are identified as prepared by John Alexander Symington. Writings are mostly poems; also present are a few prose and musical works. Symington's papers concern his purchase and sale of Watson letters and manuscripts.

Series II, Maureen Pring Watson Gift , consists of eight subseries: William Watson Correspondence, Writings by William Watson, Music by William Watson, William Watson Personal Papers, Maureen Pring Watson Papers, Printed Material, Drawings, and Photographs. The William Watson Correspondence includes letters from William to Maureen Pring Watson, typed transcripts of letters to John Lane, and other original and typed transcripts of letters to and from Watson or concerning him. Writings by William Watson include poetry collections, prose works, and a large number of single poems. Also present are inscribed title pages cut from many of his published works. Music by William Watson consists of song settings of Watson's poems for voice and piano and a few hymns and pieces for piano solo. Most song settings were composed by Watson; a few were composed by others on Watson's texts. The William Watson Personal Papers include correspondence and legal documents relating to his brother Robinson Watson and a libel case pursued against him by William Watson. Also present are other personal legal documents and several locks of hair of William and Maureen Pring Watson. The Maureen Pring Watson Papers consist of two drafts of her biography of her husband titled "England, Are You Proud?," and a small amount of correspondence and other papers, including letters from Walter E. Swayze concerning his research for a dissertation on Watson and documents relating to Maureen Pring Watson's residence in the United States after her husband's death. Printed Material consists mostly of clippings concerning Watson, with a few newspaper broadside advertisements and other materials. Most Drawings and Photographs are portraits of William or Maureen Pring Watson. Also present are photographs of other members of the Watson and Pring families. Many photographs are annotated on the verso by Maureen Pring Watson.

Series III, George S. MacManus Purchase , consists of four subseries: William Watson Correspondence, Other Correspondence Concerning William Watson, a small subseries of Writings by William Watson, mostly poems, and a small subseries of R. W. D. Holland Papers Concerning William Watson. Holland's papers relate to his research on Watson and include correspondence concerning the life of Maureen Pring Watson after her husband's death.

Series IV, Materials From Other Sources , consists of three subseries: Correspondence of William Watson, Poems by William Watson, and Other William Watson Papers. Poems include a holograph of Wordsworth's Grave and Other Poems.

In all series, most correspondence of William Watson concerns his writing and relations with his publishers; also discussed are his views on literature, his own literary reputation, and family, friendships, and social engagements. In addition to correspondents listed in folder titles, other correspondents represented in typed transcripts in Series I and II include Arthur James Balfour, Earl of Balfour, David Beatty, Earl Beatty, Arthur Christopher Benson, Augustine Birrell, Robert Seymour Bridges, Herbert Gardner, Baron Burghclere, Sir Hall Caine, Edward Henry Carson, Baron Carson, Austin Dobson, John Drinkwater, Alfred Hayes, William Holman Hunt, Richard Holt Hutton, Richard Le Gallienne, Justin Huntly McCarthy, George Meredith, John Morley, Coventry Kersey Dighton Patmore, Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch, Clement King Shorter, Thomas Humphry Ward, Sir Thomas Herbert Warren, and Robinson Watson.

Literary manuscripts appearing in all series are holographs, mostly drafts with corrections, unless otherwise described in folder titles. Multiple copies of single poems within a series are indicated in folder titles and may include variant versions. Additional versions of single poems may be appear as part of collections of poems, in clippings, enclosed with letters, or as single poems in other series.


  • 1867-1952


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 15: Restricted Fragile. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The William Watson 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

Ongoing collection of documents acquired by gift and purchase from various sources. Source information is recorded in the finding aid or on the folders. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.


9.6 Linear Feet ((15 boxes) + 2 broadside)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


Chiefly correspondence, including original letters and typed transcripts to and from William Watson and other letters and transcripts concerning him; and holograph writings by Watson, including a holograph of Wordsworth's Grave and Other Poems, many single poems, and a smaller amount of other poetry collections, prose writings, and music.
Also included are personal papers of William Watson; papers of Maureen Pring Watson, including drafts of a biography of her husband; photograph portraits of William Watson, Maureen Pring Watson, and other family members; and other photographs, drawings, and printed material. Also present are a small amount of papers relating to research on William Watson by John Alexander Symington, R. W. D. Holland, and Walter E. Swayze.
Correspondence includes a large number of letters from William Watson to Maureen Pring Watson and to publisher John Lane. Watson's personal papers include a group of letters and documents concerning his brother Robinson Watson. Most other correspondence concerns Watson's writing and relations with his publishers; also discussed are his views on literature, his interest in his literary reputation, and his family, friendships, and social engagements.

WILLIAM WATSON (1858-1935)

The English poet Sir William Watson was the author of Wordsworth's Grave and Other Poems (1890), Lachrymae Musarum, written on the death of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1892), Ode on the Day of the Coronation of King Edward VII (1902), and other political and occasional poems, poetry collections, and prose writings. Watson married Maureen Pring in 1909, and he was knighted in 1917. After her husband's death, Maureen Pring Watson lived in South Africa and the United States.

Processing Information

Parts of this finding aid were produced from previously existing cards in the Manuscripts Card Catalog. All pertinent bibliographic information has been retained. This finding aid is updated periodically to account for new materials that have been added to the collection. The date of the most recent update is noted on the title page. For information on material that may have been acquired for the collection since the last update, please consult the Public Service Desk.

Guide to the William Watson Collection
Under Revision
by Karen M. Spicher
April 2000
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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Access Information

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