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W. S. Lewis Collection of Helen and Paget Toynbee

Call Number: LWL MSS 29

Scope and Contents

The W. S. Lewis Collection of Helen and Paget Toynbee contains correspondence and research materials related to publications on Horace Walpole edited by the Toynbees, as well as press clippings documenting the reception of their work and some of their own writings appearing in the periodical press. The material was acquired by Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis, a later editor of Horace Walpole's correspondence, for work on Walpole and kept for his library collection centered on Walpole and his circle.


  • 1888 - 1932


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The W. S. Lewis Collection of Helen and Paget Toynbee is the physical property of the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the W. S. Lewis Librarian/Executive Director.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bequest of Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis (Yale 1918), 1979.


Organized into four series: I. Correspondence, 1888-1930. II. Research Material and Images, 1897-1913. III. Press Clippings, 1898-1932. IV. Other Papers, 1904-1913.


2.92 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

Language of Materials



Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The collection contains correspondence and research materials related to publications on Horace Walpole edited by Helen Toynbee and Paget Toynbee, as well as press clippings documenting the reception of their work.

Helen Wrigley Toynbee (1868-1910)

Little is known of Helen Wrigley Toynbee—whose life has always been defined by her relationship to three men—beyond a succinct statement in the Dictionary of National Biography entry on her husband, the Dante scholar Paget Toynbee: “On 23 August 1894 he married Helen Wrigley (1868/9–1910), scholar, and daughter of Edwin Grundy Wrigley, of Bury, Lancashire, who spent her life editing the letters of Horace Walpole.” Additional facts appear as succinctly on an enameled brass memorial inside St Anne’s Church in Dropmore, Buckinghamshire:

In loving memory of / Helen Toynbee / wife of Paget Toynbee of / Fiveways Burnham Bucks / Born 19 Oct. 1868 Died 18 April 1910 / Married Paget Toynbee in this Church 23 August 1894 /Buried in the adjoining Churchyard 21 April 1910.

Her father Edwin Wrigley (1832-1892) was a wealthy paper manufacturer in a family partnership at Bridge Hall Mill near Bury; he also commissioned the yacht Bonita, died at a hotel near Cairo, Egypt, at age 60, and left an estate worth at the time more than 120,000 pounds. According to census records, Helen Wrigley lived with her parents through 1891, along with several siblings and a domestic staff. A newspaper column titled “Foreign Literary Gossip,” clipped from the Seattle Post Intelligencer, told of the soon-to-appear new Clarendon Press edition of Walpole’s letters, describing the Toynbees as “the most modest, unassuming of people” and Helen Toynbee as “especially notable among English university women as absolutely without pretension or formality. And she is regarded as one of the most erudite of English female scholars.”

Helen Toynbee began editing Horace Walpole’s letters after her marriage, working from Dorney Wood, their home near Burnham, Buckinghamshire, and after 1907 at their new home Fiveways in Burnham. In 1900 she made a public appeal in several newspapers and journals for any unpublished Walpole letters and managed to uncover more than four hundred that had not been included in Peter Cunningham’s standard 1857 edition. Toynbee turned out sixteen volumes of The Letters of Horace Walpole, Fourth Earl of Orford for the Clarendon Press at the University of Oxford between 1903 and 1905. When she suddenly died in April 1910 following an operation, she had nearly completed her editorial work on the letters between Marie du Deffand and Horace Walpole. Paget Toynbee finished her project, and the three-volume edition was issued by Methuen in 1912; that same year he gave her Walpole-related papers to the Bodleian Library (Walpole Papers of Helen Toynbee, 1896-1908, MSS. Eng. misc. c. 51-53, d. 46).

Paget Jackson Toynbee (1855-1932)

Paget Jackson Toynbee, a leading Dante scholar of his time, was the husband of Helen Wright Toynbee, a leading Horace Walpole scholar of her time. He was born in Wimbledon, England on January 20, 1855, the son of surgeon Joseph Toynbee and his wife Harriet. A graduate of Balliol College, Oxford, Toynbee spent some years as a tutor and then gave up teaching for a life of research and writing. His first field of study was Old French language and literature, resulting in two books issued in the early 1890s. He then turned to Dante and between 1898 and 1924 published several titles including Dictionary of Proper Names and Notable Matters in the Works of Dante (1898), Dante in English Literature from Chaucer to Cary (1909), and the fourth revision of the Oxford Dante (1924).

Correspondence shows that Toynbee had been for many years assisting his wife Helen with her sixteen-volume masterwork The Letters of Horace Walpole, Fourth Earl of Orford (1903-1905), and following her sudden death in 1910, he stepped in to complete her unfinished edition of the letters between Walpole and Marie du Deffand (1912). After that he produced three supplementary volumes of Walpole’s letters (1918–1925) as well as The Correspondence of Gray, Walpole, West and Ashton (1915) while continuing his work on Dante. Toynbee was elected to the British Academy in 1919 and received an honorary LLD from the University of Edinburgh in 1923.

Paget Toynbee died at his home Fiveways in Burnham, Bucks, on May 13, 1932. He made a bequest of his substantial library, including early editions of Dante and other Italian authors, to the Bodleian Library, where he also placed his and Helen’s papers related to their work on Dante and Walpole (GB 161 MSS. Toynbee b. 1, c. 1-2, d. 1-32, e. 1-7, f. 1-2 and MSS. Eng. misc. c. 51-53, d. 46).

Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis (1895-1979)

Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis was born in Alameda, California, on November 14, 1895, the son of Miranda Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis and Azro Nathaniel Lewis. He attended the Thacher School in Ojai, California, and Yale University (Class of 1918). He met Annie Burr Auchincloss (1902-1959) in Farmington, Connecticut, in 1923, and the couple were married in 1928. Together they spent three decades building a collection of books, prints, paintings, manuscripts, and decorative arts related to Horace Walpole, his circle, and his time, and formed a research library at their home in Farmington. Wilmarth Lewis, the author of two autobiographies—Collector's Progress (1951) and One Man's Education (1967)—died in Hartford on October 7, 1979; he left his home and collections to Yale University by bequest.

Custodial History

The material in this collection appears to have been channeled to Wilmarth Lewis by R. W. Chapman, secretary of the Clarendon Press at Oxford University, who wrote to Lewis on October 16, 1933, that "The Delegates have considered their position in relation to Dr. Paget Toynbee's bequest to them of Walpole materials collected by him with a view to publication" (LWL MSS 20, Box 154). Chapman knew that Lewis was considering his own edition of Walpole's correspondence, and thought some of Toynbee's notes might be helpful. He added "I was able to assure them that they might safely hand over this and kindred material to you, as editor-in-shief of the proposed Yale edition. They have pleasure accordingly in directing me to send you, on loan, this material." Chapman did not describe any specific items in the material except for "old reviews" that he thought might be candidates for destruction; they are likely those now in Series III.

Guide to the W. S. Lewis Collection of Helen and Paget Toynbee
by Sandra Markham
February 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid in English.

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