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Collection Overview

Gladstone, W. E. (William Ewart), 1809-1898
Edward and Maude Ottley Collection of W. E. Gladstone Correspondence
Manuscripts Division
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2 boxes and 0.8 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-2


This collection consists of correspondence of Gladstone (and related persons) collected by Edward and Maude Ottley. In addition to letters by prominent government officials and statesmen, a number of literary and artistic figures are represented, including Robert Browning, Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Samuel Langhorne Clemens ("Mark Twain"), Charles Lutwidge Dodgson ("Lewis Carroll"), Kate Greenaway, Joseph Joachim, Andrew Lang, James Russell Lowell, Robert Bulwer Lytton, George MacDonald, Sir John Everett Millais, Anne Thackeray Ritchie, John Ruskin, George Augustus Sala, Anthony Trollope, Mrs. Humphry Ward, and Charlotte M. Yonge.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

This collection of papers—mostly autograph letters with a few covers preserved as autographs—was made by Edward Bickersteth Ottley and his wife Maude. It is clear that almost all the letters were not solicited or bought, but given by friends and relations. E. B. Ottley (1853-1910) was the son of Laurence Ottley (1808-61), rector of Richmond and later Rural Dean of Ripon, and his wife Elizabeth (née Bickersteth).

These two Gladstonian connections account for a good proportion of the letters described here. Many of them are addressed to Gladstone himself; some are to Mrs. Gladstone; quite a few are addressed to their daughter Mary (later Mrs. Drew). Others are addressed to Hamilton, either in his official capacity in Gladstone's office or as a private citizen—as DNB records, and these letters prove, music was his principal recreation. A few are addressed to (or refer to) J. A. Godley, who was Gladstone's principal secretary. It seems likely that the letters were begged from Hamilton by the Ottleys at around the time of their marriage, which occurred about half way through Gladstone's second government – most of the letters from this source can be dated to 1880-82.

Other family connections are evident here: some of the letters are addressed to Archdeacon Edward Bickersteth (1814-92), after whom Ottley was presumably named; others to Hamilton's father W. K. Hamilton as Bishop of Salisbury. Some are not so easy to account for, although friendship through common interests might well do so: some letters are addressed to the musicologist Sir George Grove (1820-1900), some to the family of Charles Frederic Moberly Bell (1847-1911), manager of The Times. A particularly notable letter from George Meredith is addressed to James Cotter Morison, and some fine letters from notable contemporaries such as Florence Nightingale are addressed to Henry Fawcett (politician) or his wife Millicent (the women's suffrage campaigner)

The following catalogue lists more than 180 letters, some from minor figures such as music teachers or lesser MPs in Gladstone's second government, others from major political and literary figures—of particular note are letters from Benjamin Disraeli (almost his last known letter, and annotated by his old rival Gladstone), George Meredith (a splendid letter to his close friend Cotter Morison: most of this correspondence is thought lost), Robert Browning, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, James Russell Lowell, Frederic Leighton (inviting Gladstone to join the Prince of Wales in viewing his Arab Hall), George Macdonald, J. E. Millais, Florence Nightingale, and Anthony Trollope. Of especial interest, perhaps, is a letter from Queen Victoria to her least favorite Prime Minister, Gladstone himself, and (as a pendant) a slip of paper inscribed by both, presumably employed to mark papers sent back and forth between the Queen and Downing Street.

The catalogue includes all the letters whose authors I have been able to trace and which seemed worthwhile describing: a very few were not legible, and there is a small number of cut signatures. I have identified the writers with their dates and titles, and with few exceptions have listed them according to their own style (for instance, the Earl of Derby is under D; the Marquess of Hartington, later the Duke of Devonshire, is under H); their occupation or notable achievement follows, in italics. Most of the letters are one or two pages; in a few instances I have noted longer letters. All addresses are in London unless otherwise noted, and the dates have been transcribed or estimated where they could reasonably be guessed at.


The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by name of correspondent, with unidentified letters and fragments foldered at the end.

Collection Creator Biography:

Gladstone, W. E. (William Ewart), 1809-1898

E. B. Ottley (1853-1910) was the son of Laurence Ottley (1808-61), rector of Richmond and later Rural Dean of Ripon, and his wife Elizabeth (neé Bickersteth). Ottley was an early graduate of Keble College, Oxford, and like most men at the College, he took holy orders. His first post was as curate at Hawarden in Cheshire, where W. E. Gladstone was the local landlord. Gladstone took a great interest in the young Ottley and several diary entries record his appreciation of his conversation. In 1883 Ottley married Maude Isabel Mary Hamilton, daughter of Walter Kerr Hamilton (1808-69), Bishop of Salisbury, and sister of Edward Walter Hamilton (1847-1908). E. W. Hamilton was a career Civil Servant, being employed as private secretary to two distinguished politicians, first Robert Lowe (later Viscount Sherbrooke) and then W. E. Gladstone. Ottley left Hawarden in 1880, just at the time that Gladstone began his second administration (1880-85) and at the time when Hamilton went to work for him, but it is reasonable to suppose that this was the way he met his future wife.

Collection History


This collection was purchased in 2002 with funds from the Richard M. Ludwig Endowment donated by Michael Spence. The letters were once all mounted in two albums, one with the initials of Edward Ottley, the other with those of his wife-it seemed necessary to dismount them all, to prevent further damage from acid in the paper and in the very solid glue with which they were fixed to the leaves.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Christopher Edwards in 2002. Finding aid written by Christopher Edwards in 2002.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Edward and Maude Ottley Collection of W. E. Gladstone Correspondence; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
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Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
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Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-2