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Collection Overview

Payn, James, 1830-1898
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Princeton University Library Collection of James Payn Materials
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1864-1898 (mostly 1891-1894)
2 boxes and 0.6 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Boxes 1, B-001318


Consists primarily of letters by James Payn, the English novelist and editor, to William Morris Colles, his literary agent, regarding the possible sale of his stories and books.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists primarily of letters (122) by Payn to William Morris Colles concerning the possible sale of his stories and books. Some of the letters deal with editorial changes to Payn's books or articles, copyrights, and publishing in American journals such as Harper's Magazine; in others Payn complains of not being compensated enough for his work. There are 6 letters, undated but probably written between 1888-1894, from Payn to his friend Walter Herries Pollock, editor of the Saturday Review, referring to Chaloner's best opera, the meetings of the Rabelais Club, Sir Walter Besant, and a review of George Eliot's MEMOIRS. Also Included is correspondence from other friends and authors, such as Grant Allen (1848-1899), Robert Buchanan, Anstey Guthrie, Sir James Knowles (1831-1908), William Edward Norris (1847-1925), Mrs. Margaret Oliphant (1828-1897), Sir Leslie Stephen (1832-1904), and Edmund Yates (1831-1894). In addition, there are some newspaper clippings with articles, Payn's obituary, and portrait engravings, including a full page from the 2 April 1898 issue of The Illustrated London News. A later addition consists of James Payn's complete autograph manuscript of "A Confidential Agent," bound in two volumes.


Folders are arranged by accession number.

Collection Creator Biography:

Payn, James, 1830-1898

James Payn, an English novelist and editor, was born at Cheltenham, England. He contributed regularly to The Illustrated London News, Household Words, and Chamber's Journal, and became editor to the latter. It was in the " Journal that Payn published his most popular story, Lost Sir Massingberd (1864). Some of his other popular works include Married Beneath Him (1865), Carolyn's Year (1868), By Proxy (1878), and The Talk of The Town (1885). In 1883 he became editor of Cornhill Magazine which published some of his writings, such as a Handbook of the English Lakes (1859), Maxims by a Man of the World (1869), Some Private Views (1881), and Some Literary Recollections (1884), which was later collected in several volumes. William Morris Colles was an author's agent and the founder and managing director of "Authors' Syndicate" in London, England.

Collection History


122 letters to William Morris Colles were purchased on November 9, 1965 .

Six letters to W. Pollock were purchased on December 20, 1982 .

Letters from authors, newspaper clippings, and engravings, source unknown.

A manuscript draft of "A Confidential Agent" was purchased in 2019 (AM 2019-119).

Custodial 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.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

Folder inventory added by Nicholas Williams '2015 in 2012, and updated with a new accession by Kelly Bolding in 2019.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

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 James Payn 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:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Boxes 1, B-001318