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John Geoffrey Sharps Papers

Date range: 1692–2005

Medium: Archive

Papers and collection of John Geoffrey Sharps (1936–2006), the distinguished Gaskell scholar, enthusiast and collector.

Sharps’s passion for Gaskell research developed early. His Oxford B.Litt. thesis formed the foundation of his encyclopaedic book, Mrs Gaskell’s Observation and Invention: A Study of her Non-Biographical Works (1970), which remains essential reading for anyone interested in Gaskell’s work.

Sharps enthusiastically engaged in literary detective work, scouring the catalogues of booksellers and manuscript dealers, and writing hundreds of letters to libraries and other collectors. He built up an impressive Gaskell collection of his own, but was generous in sharing his discoveries with others; his collection is cited in numerous scholarly works on Gaskell.

Sharps’s collection, generously donated by his widow in 2006, includes:

  • No fewer than sixteen holograph letters written by Elizabeth Gaskell,along with her transcription of a 17th-century ballad;
  • An important group of early letters exchanged between other members of the Gaskell family, including the last two extant letters Elizabeth received from her brother John Stevenson before his disappearance at sea in 1828, and letters from her aunts Hannah Lumb and Dorothy Stevenson;
  • Three holograph letters from Charlotte Brontë’s close friend Ellen Nussey;
  • A single letter from Richard Cobden;
  • A letter from William Gaskell to Isabella Banks;
  • Fourteen letters (including six written by Elizabeth’s daughter Meta) to the literary scholar and biographer, Thomas Seccombe, who edited some of Gaskell’s novels in the early 20th century.

In addition the archive contains a substantial quantity of Sharps’s own research papers, including at least 2,500 in-letters spanning at least fifty years. Among the correspondents are Daphne Du Maurier, Valentine Ackland, John Lehmann, as well as numerous fellow Gaskell scholars.

See also:

Further information:

  • Collection-level overview available online via ELGAR.
  • Catalogue available via Special Collections reading rooms.


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