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Inventory of the John Forster Papers, 1828-1894
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical note
  • Subject matter
  • Persons represented by 5 or more pieces
  • Important and interesting items
  • Physical description

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: John Forster Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1828-1894
    Creator: Forster, John
    Extent: 135 pieces
    Repository: The Huntington Library
    San Marino, California 91108
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Acquired from a Sotheby Sale on December 10, 1964. Lot #180.


    Collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information please go to following URL .

    Publication Rights

    In order to quote from, publish, or reproduce any of the manuscripts or visual materials, researchers must obtain formal permission from the office of the Library Director. In most instances, permission is given by the Huntington as owner of the physical property rights only, and researchers must also obtain permission from the holder of the literary rights. In some instances, the Huntington owns the literary rights, as well as the physical property rights. Researchers may contact the appropriate curator for further information.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], John Forster Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Biographical note

    John Forster (1812-1876) was one of England's more influential writers and editors. He was born April 2, 1812 in Newcastle, England. At the age of 15, in June 1827, he wrote a singularly clever and elaborate paper entitled A Few Thoughts in Vindication of the Stage. Entering University College in London in 1828 as a law student, Forster became friends with such fellow students as James Emerson Tennent and James Whiteside. He was admitted to the bar in 1843, but seldom practiced law thereafter.
    Forster was an editor and a contributor to many magazines and newspapers including The Examiner, Foreign Quarterly Review, Daily News, and the Edinburgh Review. In 1836, the first of his five volumes of Lives of the Statesmen of the Commonwealth was published as part of Lardner's Cyclopaedia. This set included a biography of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford which would cause a controversy concerning authorship after Forster's death. He also published biographies of such notables as Oliver Goldsmith (1854), Landor (1869), and the first volume of a biography of Jonathan Swift (1876). Perhaps his most famous biography, however, was that of his friend Charles Dickens which appeared in three volumes in 1872, 1873, and 1874.
    First married to L. E. Landon, a poetess, he became estranged from his wife and on September 12, 1856, married Eliza Ann (Crosbie) Colburn. Eliza was the daughter of Captain Robert Crosbie, R.N., and widow of Henry Colburn, a well-known publisher. There were no children as the result of either marriage.
    John Forster died on February 2, 1876. He had been working on the first volume of Life of Jonathan Swift at the time.

    Subject matter

    The collection deals primarily with the personal life and business dealings of both John Forster and Eliza Ann (Crosbie) Colburn Forster. Includes mostly correspondence to both John and Eliza Forster as well as a number of manuscripts both by and about Forster. Also included is detailed genealogical information.

    Persons represented by 5 or more pieces

    • 1. ALTHAUS, Julius (1883-1900) physician
      • 7 autograph letters to John Forster dated 1871-1873.

        HM 52443-52449
    • 2. BULWER-LYTTON, Edward Robert, 1st Earl Lytton (1831-1891) statesman and poet
      • 1 manuscript dedication to John Forster from Poems by Owen Meredith, 1894. Dated 1857.

        HM 52455
      • 6 autograph letters to Eliza Ann (Crosbie) Colburn Forster dated 1860-1880.

        HM 52456-52461
    • 3. CARLYLE, Thomas (1795-1881) essayist and historian
      • 11 letters to John Forster dated 1847-1876.

        HM 52464-52474
    • 4. COOPER, Anthony Ashley, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury (1801-1885) philanthropist
      • 5 autograph letters to Eliza Ann (Crosbie) Colburn Forster dated 1869-1881.

        HM 52477-52481
    • 5. RAWLINS, Henry E. personal friend and employee
      • 2 manuscripts, one compilation of extracts of letters of condolence to Mrs. Forster on the occasion of John Forster's death, and one memoir of John Forster.

        HM 52545-52546
      • 5 autograph letters to Whitwell Elwin (Forster's biographer) dated 1876-1880.

        HM 52547-52551

    Important and interesting items

    CROSBIE, Fanny.
    To Whitwell Elwin, 1893, Apr. 22. Letter covers the controversy over authorship of Life of Strafford between John Forster and Robert Browning following Forster's death. HM 52487
    ELWIN, Whitwell.
    To Eliza Ann (Crosbie) Colburn Forster, 1879. Discusses the controversy concerning authorship of Life of Strafford between John Forster and Robert Browning following Forster's death. HM 52496
    BULWER-LYTTON, Edward Robert

    1st Earl Lytton.
    Dedication to John Forster, dated 1857. Printed poems with autograph corrections in the hand of John Forster. HM 52455
    FORSTER, John.
    A Few Thoughts in Vindication of the Stage, June, 1827. A contemporary copy of the first elaborate paper written by John Forster. Written at the age of 15 (see biographical note). HM 52506
    WHITESIDE, James.
    Journal: extract. Recounts the death of John Forster form the point of view of an old friend. HM 52568

    Physical description

    Mostly letters. Primarily autograph, but with many contemporary copies. Also includes 10 manuscripts, and a large amount of genealogical material. Papers in good condition (three requiring repair).