Document ReferencePw V
TitleLiterary Manuscripts in the Portland (Welbeck) Collection, 16th-19th centuries
Date16th century-20th century
Extent200 volumes and 11 boxes
AbstractPrincipal document types present include; literary manuscripts, political correspondence, diplomatic papers, accounts, household recipes, commonplace books
Access ConditionsAccessible to all readers, though some items are fragile, and in these cases the microfilm copy should be used in the first instance.
Admin HistoryThis Collection, which has become known to researchers as 'The Portland Literary Papers', in fact comprises several series of literary, personal and official papers from the Library of the Dukes of Portland at Welbeck Abbey. It complements in many respects material concerning individual members of the family and held in the other Portland collections. This is particularly true of the bound volumes of political, diplomatic and financial records in the Collection, which seem to have been preserved in this context because of their physical form and therefore the convenience of housing them on book shelves, rather than for any intrinsic association with the loose sheet literary manuscripts they accompanied.

The exact provenance of the material in the Collection is still in many cases obscure. Some of the papers were undoubtedly generated within the family, both of the Cavendish-Bentinck Dukes of Portland and their Cavendish, Holles and Harley forebears. However, the overlapping circles of activity which engaged, for example, Robert Harley and William Bentinck, the 1st Earl of Portland, make it difficult to be certain in all cases how the papers were collected and brought together.

A few of the archival sub-groups are clear; there is a small discrete series covering the papers of Denzel, John and Gervase Holles; Cavendish records, including literary and personal papers of William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne (1593-1676), are scattered through the Collection. By far the most significant group, in terms of the coherence of the literary collection, are the papers associated with the Harleys, both Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford (1661-1724) and his son, Edward Harley, 2nd Earl of Oxford (1689-1741).

Both the Harleys were active collectors of books and manuscripts. Their general literary and historical collections were sold after the death of the 2nd Duke, with the Harleian Manuscripts coming into the possession of the nation in 1753, in what is now the British Library. The Harley family papers descended to the Dukes of Portland by the marriage in 1734 of Margaret Harley, heiress of the 2nd Earl of Oxford, to the 2nd Duke of Portland. They remained intact at Welbeck Abbey, with the exception of a significant series which Elizabeth Cavendish Bentinck took to Longleat in 1759 on her marriage to Thomas Tynne, Viscount Weymouth, later first Marquess of Bath. The 7th Duke of Portland in the late 1940s dispersed the collections at Welbeck, with the majority of the Harley papers going to the British Library.

The present series does not provide clear distinctions between the Holles, Cavendish, Harley or Bentinck elements, but in some cases gathers material together by subject or author, a reflection of the deliberate efforts made in the last century to organise and indeed augment the collection. While some of the papers were acquired by members of the various families in the course of their public lives or in pursuit of their personal literary interests, it is also clear that a number of the manuscripts were deliberately purchased. Into this category fall, for instance, about 24 volumes which came from the Phillipps Library in the late nineteenth century.

The period of William J.A.C.J. Cavendish-Bentinck, 6th Duke of Portland, (1857-1943), saw the organisation and extension of the library, with its contents identified, rebound or repackaged. Although the 6th Duke was clearly a keen bibliophile, purchasing additional material as opportunity arose, the activity of his librarian, Richard W. Goulding, was critical in giving the Collection its present arrangement. Francis Needham succeeded Goulding as librarian and continued his work, corresponding with other scholars in research on the manuscripts and annotating their covers with his conclusions.
Custodial HistoryThese papers form a sub-group of the Portland (Welbeck) Collection (Pw) and were part of the first deposit received from Welbeck Abbey in 1949 from the 7th Duke of Portland.

The University of Nottingham was granted a JISC (Non Formula Funding) award in 1995-1996 to catalogue the Portland (Literary) papers. The award supported the detailed listing of the papers, checked attributions when possible, and enabled a detailed examination of the paper evidence, including watermarks.
DescriptionAlthough the Collection is primarily known as a resource for English and Latin satirical verse of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, its runs of general historical documents (including political and diplomatic correspondence, genealogical records, personal papers, household recipes and volumes of accounts) give it an interest and significance which extends far beyond the core literary content.

Among the earliest papers are the commonplace books of Denzel Holles and his grandson, John Holles, 2nd Earl of Clare. Early Cavendish material includes genealogical records, but the Cavendish interest is mainly represented by William, the 1st Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne, with both literary and personal materials surviving. Political subject material from the late seventeenth century includes records concerning Dutch and foreign affairs, both closely associated with the papers of the 1st Earl of Portland (Pw A), although the volumes of the correspondence between William Blathwayt and Sir Robert Southwell were in fact purchased by the 6th Duke.

Later members of the Cavendish-Bentinck family are also featured, whose political papers are located in other series within the entire Portland Collection. There is copy correspondence of the 3rd Duke of Portland, and notebooks in his hand (see also Pw F); several items of Lord William Bentinck including a Peninsular campaign journal and a copy of the consititution for Sicily (see also Pw J) and correspondence concerning Lord George Bentinck's horse racing interests (see also Pw L).

The Collection's literary strengths are particularly associated with the Cavendish and Harley periods of the family's history. The majority of the items are manuscript verse on loose sheets, but the Collection also includes verse anthologies, both in the form of scribal copies of various authors and gatherings of the manuscripts of particular poets. There are over 1,000 texts (mainly early 18th-century) in Latin and a further small quantity in French, Italian, Greek and in one case, Hungarian. Examples of prose works and drama are also present.

The manuscript verse includes examples of various genres, such as sonnets, ballads and epitaphs. Many of the works represent political satire; these contain numerous allusions to contemporary personalities and events. Where possible autograph texts have been identified, but the Collection is also clearly a resource which demonstrates the practice of scribal copying, and the exchange of manuscript texts. An 'Index of First Lines within the Portland Literary Collection' is available in PDF format, accessible from the link in the Multimedia field below (scroll right down to the bottom of this catalogue record).

Among the authors represented, either in autograph or copy form, are Aphra Behn (1640-1689), Thomas Brown (1663-1704), Daniel Defoe (1661-1731), John Donne (1573-1631), John Dryden (1631-1700), John Gay (1685-1732), Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), Katherine Philips (1727-94), Alexander Pope (1688-1744), Matthew Prior (1664-1721), James Shirley (1596-1666), Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647-1680).

The majority of the texts are, however, anonymous. As the Collection is used, further attributions have been made and this is expected to continue. Some of the works did not, however, circulate as literary productions in the conventional sense. There are, for instance, over 600 examples of Latin compositions from Westminster School, and others from Christ Church Oxford, both surviving here as a result of the Harley association. The majority of these were exercises, in imitation of specific classical texts, and their interest lies as much in this educational context as in their literary merit.

The final section of the Collection consists of 58 publications of the Roxburghe Club, of which the 6th Duke of Portland became a member c.1906.
MgtGroupLiterary and cultural records
Family and estate collections
Political and diplomatic papers
MgtSubGroup16th-19thC manuscripts
ArrangementThe Collection retains the arrangement given to it when housed at Welbeck. The manuscript volumes are filed together first and reflect some associations of origin or subject but not a fully systematic ordering. The loose sheet manuscripts have been divided between those with a clearly identified author (whether the papers are autograph or copy) and those which initially were unidentified. The final sequence is of the printed volumes from the Roxburghe Club publications.
TermEnglish poetry - 17th century
English poetry - 18th century
Political satire, English
Great Britain - Politics and government - 17th century - humour
Great Britain - Politics and government - 18th century - humour
FindingAidsCopyright in all Finding Aids belongs to the University of Nottingham. Online: Detailed online catalogue accessible from the website for Manuscripts and Special Collections, Manuscripts Online Catalogue. The original hard copy catalogue (95 pp), without enhanced item level entries or searchable indexing is available in the Reading Room, King's Meadow Campus; and at the National Register of Archives, The National Archives, Kew.
ReprodnNoteReprographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on access status the condition of the documents.
ConditionSome volumes may be fragile.
Related MaterialLongleat, Wiltshire
British Library
Related RecordPwB
Publication NoteAn 'Index of First Lines within the Portland Literary Collection' is available in PDF format, accessible from the link in the Multimedia field below (scroll right down to the bottom of this catalogue record).


Click the links below to view related name indexes

CodePersonNameDates of existence
NA1110Needham; Francis (1900-1971); Mr; librarian to the 6th Duke of Portland1900-1971
NA715Bentinck; William J.A.C.J. Cavendish- (1857-1943); 6th Duke of Portland; succ. 18791857-1943
NA689Cavendish; William (1593-1676); 1st Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne; cr. Viscount Mansfield 1620; Earl of Newcastle upon Tyne 1628; Marquess of Newcastle upon Tyne 1643; Duke of Newcastle upon Tyne 16651593-1676
NA1105Bentinck; William H. Cavendish- (1774-1839); Lord; 2nd son of 3rd Duke of Portland; Governor-General of India 1827-351774-1839
NA1081Bentinck; W. George F. Cavendish- (1802-1848); Lord; Lord George Bentinck M.P.; son of 4th Duke of Portland1802-1848
NA905Bentinck; William H.C. Cavendish- (1738-1809); 3rd Duke of Portland; succ. 17621738-1809
NA1111Behn; Aphra (1640-1689); poet1640-1689
NA1112Blathwayt; William (c.1649-1717); sec. to Sir William Temple at the Hague 1668; sec. at war 1683-1704; M.P. Bath 1693-1710c.1649-1717
NA1113Brown; Thomas (1663-1704); poet1663-1704
NA1114Defoe; Daniel (1661-1731); poet and writer1661-1731
NA1116Dowland; John (1563-1626)1563-1626
NA1117Dryden; John (1631-1700); poet1631-1700
NA1118Gay; John (1685-1732); poet and dramatist1685-1732
NA1119Harvey; Christopher (1597-1663); poet1597-1663
NA1120Jordan; Thomas (c.1620-c.1685)c.1620-c.1685
NA1121Marvell; Andrew (1621-1678); poet1621-1678
NA1122Philips; Katherine (1727-1794); Quakeress1727-1794
NA1123Pope; Alexander (1688-1744); poet1688-1744
NA1124Prior; Matthew (1664-1721); poet and diplomat1664-1721
NA1125Rowe; Elizabeth (1674-1737); Mrs; author née Singer1674-1737
NA1126Sackville; Charles (1638-1706); 6th Earl of Dorset1638-1706
NA1127Shirley; James (1596-1666); poet1596-1666
NA1128Southwell; Robert (1635-1702); Sir; diplomat1635-1702
NA1129Strode; William (1602-1645); Mr1602-1645
NA1130Swift; Jonathan (1667-1745); Dr; satirist and writer1667-1745
NA1131Waller; Edmund (1605-1687)1605-1687
NA1132Wilmot; Elizabeth (-1681); Countess of Rochester; poet-1681
NA573Wilmot; John (1647-1680); 2nd Earl of Rochester; poet1647-1680
NA893Harley; Robert (1661-1724); 1st Earl of Oxford and Mortimer; M.P.; speaker 1701-1705; P.M. 1711-17141661-1724
NA1047Harley; Edward (1689-1741); 2nd Earl of Oxford and Mortimer; styled Lord Harley 1711-17241689-1741
NA1133Holles; Denzel (c.1538-1590); of Irby, Lincolnshire; son of Sir William Hollesc.1538-1590
NA970Holles; John (1595-1666); 2nd Earl of Clare; of Haughton Notts; M.P. East Retford 1624-26; succ. 16371595-1666
NA1110Needham; Francis (1900-1971); Mr; librarian to the 6th Duke of Portland1900-1971
NA715Bentinck; William J.A.C.J. Cavendish- (1857-1943); 6th Duke of Portland; succ. 18791857-1943
NA75739Harley; family; Earls of Oxford
NA75925Cavendish family; family; Dukes of Newcastle upon Tyne
NA75927Cavendish-Bentinck; family; of Welbeck, Nottinghamshire; Dukes of Portland
NA75942Holles; family; Earls of Clare
NA73395Donne; John (c.1572-1631); Dr; D.D.; poet and devinec.1572-1631
NA75960Holles; family; Dukes of Newcastle upon Tyne
NA66865Goulding; Richard William (1868-1929); Mr; librarian and private secretary to 6th Duke of Portland1868-1929
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