John Forster Papers: Finding Aid
Processed by Huntington Library staff, January 1988; supplementary encoding and
revision supplied by Xiuzhi Zhou and Diann Benti.
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2129
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Overview of the Collection
Title: John Forster Papers
Dates (inclusive): 1828-1894
Collection Number: mssHM 52437-52572
135 pieces in 2 boxes
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2129
Abstract: This collection consists of correspondence and literary manuscripts
by English authors and friends of English editor and Charles Dickens biographer John Forster (1812-1876) and his second wife,
Ann Crosbie Colburn Forster.
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[Identification of item]. John Forster Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino,
Purchased from Sotheby's (Lot 180), December 10, 1964.
English writer and editor John Forster (1812-1876) was born April 2, 1812, in Newcastle,
England. At the age of 15, in June 1827, he wrote a paper, "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 poet L. E. Landon, Forster 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.
Scope and Content
The collection consists of correspondence and literary manuscripts by English authors and
friends of both John Forster and his second wife, Eliza Ann Crosbie Colburn Forster. The
literary manuscripts include essays, poems, and diary and text extracts both by and about
John Forster. The correspondence deals with the personal life and business dealings of
Forster. There is also detailed genealogical information in the collection.
Correspondents include: Julius Althaus, Robert Barrett Browning, Edward Robert
Bulwer-Lytton, Thomas Carlyle, Sir John Duke Coleridge, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Fanny
Crosbie, Charles Dickens, Benjamin Disraeli, Whitwell Elwin, Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell,
Eliza Lynn Linton, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Bryan Waller Procter, Henry E. Rawlins, Sir
James Emerson Tennent, and James Whiteside.
Persons represented by 5 or more pieces:
Althaus, Julius (1883-1900) physician. 7 autograph letters to John Forster dated 1871-1873. HM 52443-52449
- 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
- Carlyle, Thomas (1795-1881) essayist and historian. 11 letters to John Forster dated 1847-1876. HM 52464-52474
- 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
- 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
Some notable items include:
- 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
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
Forster, John, 1812-1876.
Authors -- 19th century -- Correspondence.
Authors, English -- 19th century -- Correspondence.
Editors -- Great Britain -- Correspondence.
Letters (correspondence) -- 19th century.
Manuscripts -- 19th century.
Althaus, Julius, 1833-1900.
Browning, Robert Barrett, 1846-1912.
Carlyle, Thomas, 1795-1881.
Coleridge, John Duke Coleridge, Baron, 1820-1894.
Cornwall, Barry, 1787-1874.
Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870.
Disraeli, Benjamin, 1804-1881.
Elwin, Whitwell, 1816-1900.
Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn, 1810-1865.
Linton, E. Lynn (Elizabeth Lynn), 1822-1898.
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 1807-1882.
Lytton, Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton, Earl of, 1831-1891.
Rawlins, Henry E.
Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of, 1801-1885.
Tennent, James Emerson, Sir, 1804-1869.
Whiteside, James, 1804-1876.
Frith-Worth; Anonymous; Ephemera