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Collection Overview

Sharp, William, 1855-1905 and Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Princeton University Library Collection of William Sharp Materials
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1 box and 0.2 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1


Consists of selected correspondence and manuscripts of the Scottish author William Sharp, who is best known for the mystical tales of the Celtic world that he published under the pen name "Fiona Macleod."

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of selected correspondence (letters, notecards, and postcards), poetry, and a typed essay, all signed either by William Sharp or under his pseudonym, "Fiona Macleod." The bulk of the correspondence is between Sharp and the novelist James Stanley Little. Sharp talks about his "cousin" Fiona Macleod and her new book, Pharais, his travels, his health, his financial problems, and about Hall Caine and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Included are letters to the English publisher John Lane regarding dinner invitations, jobs, books published, engravings in his books, and letters to the writer Coulson Kernahan. There also are letters from Sharp to the editors of Harper's Magazine and the Quarterly Review of Literature in New York regarding his essays and poems.

The collection includes six letters of Fiona Macleod. One to the editor of the London Daily Chronicle gives the address of her private secretary and typist, who is also the sister of her cousin (i.e., Mary Sharp). Another (to "Dear Sir") states that she does not consent to reproductions of her portrait. There is also a letter sent to a Rev. Wilkins Rees from Mary Sharp accompanied by a photograph of her, on the verso of which she writes that this is a portrait of Fiona Macleod's sister who did all the writing and typing for her. Also included is correspondence of Elizabeth Sharp to James Stanley Little and miscellaneous correspondence and autographs of Mrs. Sharp's brother, Robert Farquharson Sharp.

Holograph poems include "On Mont St. Victoire," "Buon' Riposo," "Innismore and London," and "On the Tidings from Venice." The typescript of a two-part essay labeled "The Irish Muse," which was published in the North American Review (1904), contains corrections and annotations by Mary Sharp. Also included are a poem titled "A Dream" (from With the Wild Geese, 1902) by Emily Lawless, a letter to Mr. Gilman, and a newspaper clipping of an obituary of the author Mrs. Thomas A. Janvier (Catherine Ann Drinker, a friend of Elizabeth Sharp), which were all tipped in a book written by Fiona Macleod.


Folders are organized in alphabetical order by correspondent.

Collection Creator Biography:

Sharp, William, 1855-1905

William Sharp was a Scottish writer of poetry and literary biography who, from 1893, wrote under the name of Fiona MacLeod, a pseudonym kept secret during most of his life. Sharp was also an editor of the poetry of Matthew Arnold, Walter Scott, Algernon Swinburne, and others. He was introduced to Dante Gabriel Rossetti and joined the Rossetti literary group. In 1884 he married his cousin Elizabeth, and from 1891 devoted himself full time to writing and traveling widely. About this time, he developed a romantic attachment to Edith Wingate Rinder (E.W.R.), another writer of the Celtic Edinburgh circle. It was to Rinder he attributed the inspiration for his writings as Fiona Macleod, and to whom he dedicated his first "Macleod" novel, Pharais (1894), and subsequently The Mountain Lovers (1895), and The Washer Of The Ford (1896), as well as two plays, The House of Usna (1903) and The Immortal Hour (1908). Sharp proceeded to invent a life for Fiona Macleod through her publications, by claiming she was his cousin and that he was her agent, and through letters he wrote in her name or letters he drafted and sent to his sister, Mary Sharp, to copy and mail. Under his own name Sharp wrote literary biographies, poems, including the volume Earth's Voices (1884), and novels, notably Silence Farm (1899). With his wife he compiled the anthology Lyra Celtica (1896). In 1910, Elizabeth Sharp published a biographical memoir attempting to explain the creative necessity behind the deception, and she edited a complete edition of his works.

Collection History


The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject

59 letters of William Sharp and 15 letters of Elizabeth Sharp to James Stanley Little, as well as 5 letters and autographs of Robert Farquharson Sharp, were purchased in July, 1954 .

Poetry manuscripts, letters of William and Mary Sharp, and the photograph of Mary Sharp were a gift of Mrs. John W. Landis on May 2, 1958 .

Letter with poem "On Mont St. Victoire" was purchased on May 15, 1967 .

7 letters and notecards, and 5 postcards from London and Sussex, of William Sharp were purchased on May 5, 1958 .


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Dina Britain on August 17, 2006. Finding aid written by Dina Britain on August 18, 2008. Folder inventory added by James Clark '14 in 2012.

The engraving of Joseph Johnson by the engraver William Sharp (AM 19742) was returned to General Manuscripts Miscellaneous (C0140) in November 2018.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

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:

Princeton University Library Collection of William Sharp Materials; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1