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McKerrow, Amy (1876-1945), wife of R. B. McKerrow
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Letter from F. C. Francis to Amy McKerrow

81 Marsh Lane, London, N.W.7.—He and his family hope to see Colin while he is at St Albans, and he has asked a friend to visit Malcolm. The Press still expect to print R. B. McKerrow’s small book (‘Elements of Bibliography’), but not before the end of the war. Would like to check a point in the corrected copy of Printers’ and Publishers’ Devices. His family had a pleasant Christmas.



81 Marsh Lane | London NW7.
2 January 1942.

Dear Mrs McKerrow,

A happy new year to all three of you!

Kitty has told you how delighted we all were that Colin got safely through the Anatomy. We shall look forward to seeing him while he is at St. Albans and to having him back in the family occasionally. Will you pass this message on to him? I saw my friend Pafford a day or two ago. I find he is some little way away from Malcolm, but I did ask him again to do what he could to see him and he has promised to do so.

My main purpose in writing this letter is to tell you that I have been in touch with R. W. Chapman about that little book of Dr. McKerrow’s. It appears that they are not hoping to print before the end of the War, but that the whole transaction is on a regular basis and that they are expecting to publish the book. It remains, I think, if you would still like me to see to the final details, to go through the MS. making the alterations in the general form, which Dr. McKerrow apparently agreed on. I should like sometime to see the original MS. to see any corrections that have already been made. I may say that it would give me great pleasure to be associated in such a task.

I should like sometime to see the corrected copy of the “Devices”—or perhaps Colin could look for me to see if any device had been added for Hugo Goes of York? That is the present reason for wanting to see it. Dr. Scholderer has discovered such a device and he wishes to know if his discovery has been anticipated.

We have had a very pleasant Christmas—indeed it is still going on for the children! Parties galore! They have all enjoyed this christmas† more than any before, I think. I expect it is because they are now all able to take part in games and in the general excitement. We were all out in Christmas afternoon and evening with Dr. Bell’s family and to the family’s great excitement stayed the night! I do hope you had a pleasant time. You would enjoy having your house to yourselves and having Colin with you. Was Malcolm able to get home?

We shall look forward to seeing you again soon and we shall expect a visit from Colin as soon as he can manage it after reaching Hill End.

With our love

Yours ever


† Sic.

Letter from Kenneth Sisam to Amy McKerrow

The Clarendon Press, Oxford.—The Press would still like to publish R. B. McKerrow’s ‘Elements of Bibliography’ if the MS is in a suitable state, but could not, after the war, go on with the proposal to produce a new edition of Printers’ and Publishers’ Devices.



The Clarendon Press, Oxford
12th June, 1940.

Dear Mrs. McKerrow,

I am writing a separate letter about the short Bibliography. I find that we had the MS. for a short time, but returned it on 24th July 1939. {1}

When we last saw your husband he said it was in lecture form, and it would need a certain amount of revision to give it book form, not only in details of wording—in some points it would want rounding or pulling together. We agreed that Miss Walker should read through the MS. to see if your husband had in fact carried out this revision, and should report on it. We should like to go on with the work if it is ready for publication in book form, or can easily be made ready.

I explained that this would have to be a cheap book, to distinguish it from the larger book; and that we thought the royalty proposed would probably give a better result than a higher royalty on a dearer book.

Yours sincerely,
Kenneth Sisam

P.S. Perhaps I should add that I am sure the Delegates, after this war, could not go on with the proposal, which had never been more than tentative, to produce a new edition of Printers’ and Publishers’ Devices. Possibly Mr. Ferguson could persuade the Bibliographical Society to take it up when their commitments are clear, for they, with their body of subscribers, are in the best position to circulate it.


Mrs. A. McKerrow,
Picket Piece, Wendover, Bucks.


Typed, except signature and initials. At the head is the reference ‘4673/K.S.’, and by the postscript is ‘3985’.

{1} See Add. Ms. a. 355/6/2a-b.

Letter from Kenneth Sisam to Amy McKerrow

The Clarendon Press, Oxford.—Discusses various arrangements connected with the Review of English Studies (following the death of her husband).



The Clarendon Press, Oxford
28th March, 1940.

Dear Mrs. McKerrow,

Thank you for your letter of 26th March. I am afraid I cannot answer about the offprints because the arrangements for that number were made by Miss Dowling, but I am asking her if it is possible to get any more. Both your correspondents deserve them, and I am returning the letters.

We shall continue to send you the Review of English Studies, but should not think of asking you to pay the subscription in view of your husband’s connection with the journal.

You may like to know that, after a good deal of consultation, we have decided to recommend to the Delegates that Professor Sutherland, who has still many years ahead of him but is not immediately required for war work, should be the new Editor, retaining Miss Dowling to look after the practical work which she has been accustomed to do.

A letter from your solicitors required us to make some financial proposals which perhaps they have referred to you. There is no hurry for a reply, because Dr. Chapman is still poorly, and my own household has been so disorganised by illness that I am taking my son away for about ten days’ holiday on the 2nd so as to be able to close the house. It has indeed been a harsh winter.

Yours sincerely,
Kenneth Sisam

Mrs. A. McKerrow.

ENCL. {1}


Typed, except the signature. At the head is the reference ‘4690/K.S.’

{1} It is not clear what was enclosed.

Letter from Alice Walker to R. B. McKerrow

2 Bankfield Lane, Southport.—Responds to his suggestions about her edition of Lodge. Offers to help with his work on Shakespeare, and reiterates her view of the importance of phonology in textual criticism.



2 Bankfield Lane, Southport.
5 March 1936.

Dear Dr. McKerrow,

Thank you very much for your letter. I will stay my hand in the matter of my application to the Publications Committee until at least the notes to Lodge are finished. In the meantime, I have asked Miss Willcock to find out, if she can, what is likely to be the most effective method of appeal. I will call and see you next time I am in London about the texts, as you suggest. I shall be down again probably towards the end of this month and certainly early in April. When my plans are more definite I will write again and you can then let me know when you can best spare the time to see me.

I am much interested in what you tell me about your Shakespeare. I didn’t know exactly what you were doing, though I gathered that you had some Shakespeare text (or texts) on hand. I should like to help you very much, if I can be of use. My time is my own except in domestic crises (which fortunately don’t occur very often) and I can give you whatever time you want. Thank you very much for asking me. I will be as ruthlessly accurate as I can and I am sure I shan’t find it dull. I have, I fear, a sadly materialistic mind that much prefers textual problems and notes to literary psycho-analysis.

If I had known exactly what you were doing I would have been more tactful in what I said about Shakespeare’s editors. I didn’t intend it as a caveat! What rouse me are Professor Dover Wilson’s thoroughly mischievous ways and the conviction that quite simple phonological explanations can be found for a good many variants over which editors boggle. I am sorry you think so badly of philologists. Phonology is one of the studies in which I have a full confidence, though I think the method of both Wyld and Jespersen makes their work unnecessarily difficult and I found when teaching that even the best students wanted a lot of help with them. I don’t think the phonological part of an Elizabethan language textbook should offer any serious difficulties. The greatest obstacle, I think, is likely to be the lack of anything very detailed on historical syntax, though Kellner has broken a lot of ground. Anyway, if you think it will be a useful work and don’t know of anyone else doing it, I shall proceed. It can be done along with other things and if it proves beyond my capacity I can always abandon it.

I won’t argue any more about Malichus! As long as you don’t insist that ‘malhecho’ is what was intended, I am satisfied! My great desire is to root out that alien and to have substituted something or someone that will satisfy the biped or quadruped requirements of miche suggested by the N.E.D.

My mother, thank you, is much better. I am sorry I have involved you in such a lot of letter writing when you are so busy. I hope Mrs McKerrow is well again and that you take to housekeeping more kindly than I do!

Yours sincerely,
Alice Walker.


Typed, except the signature.

Letter from F. C. Francis to W. W. Greg

The British Museum.—Answers questions about The English Schoolmaster (1580) and refers to McKerrow’s books and papers.



The British Museum, London, W.C.1
4 Nov. 1942

Dear Greg,

Had your letter been here half a day later The English Schoolmaster {1} would have been on his way to more desirable quarters! {2} Thank goodness, all the case books will soon be got away.

It does contain Psalms. Here is the list of them

  1. Psalm 119, pt 1 & 2, in prose in “Cranmer’s” version. [Next came Proverbs, c. 4, in the Geneva version.] {3}

  2. Psalms 1, 4, 50. vv. 1–11, 51. vv. 1–10, 67, 104. vv. 1–9, 112, 113, 120, 126, 148. vv. 1–6, all in Sternhold and Hopkins[’] version. {4}

It seems odd to find the two different prose versions being used. But the whole book is a curious and interesting one.

I hope to be able to let you have proofs for the Jubilee volume soon; but I am still awaiting an† vital contribution {5}.

I am glad to know that you have a note ‘on the stocks’!

You would have been mildly interested in the suggestions propounded in the paper by O. M. Willard, which I read at the last meeting of the Society. It is an attempt to work out statistically a relation between the size and number of original editions of pre-1640 books and the numbers of surviving copies. The whole thing is rather flimsy, but it does at any rate make one cock a more wary eye at the records of copies both in STC and elsewhere.

Yours sincerely
F. C. Francis.

P.S. I started on a brief list of McKerrow’s books, last week end; but it is still doubtful if Mrs McKerrow wants to sell. She feels, I think, that she doesn’t want to do any thing which the boys may regret later. But many of the books are only useful to a specialist.

P.P.S. I am mildly interested in Charles Crawford; is there much known about him? McKerrow has some of his MS. notes.


Letter-head of The Library. Francis’s name appears below the word ‘Editor’, with the address shown.

{1} Presumably Le maistre d'escole Anglois, or The Englishe Scholemaister, by Jacques Bellot (1580) (STC (2nd ed.) 1855).

{2} Greg had presumably asked that the book should not be evacuated out of London.

{3} The square brackets are in the original.

{4} Greg has written in pencil in the margin ‘Day’s’ followed by an indistinct word.

{5} See Oliver M. Willard, ‘The Survival of English Books Printed before 1640: a Theory and some Illustrations’, The Library, 4th series, xxiii. 171–90.

† Sic.

PPS. to a letter from Alice Walker to R. B. McKerrow

(Place of writing not indicated.)—Asks whether there is any difference between the Cambridge editions, and relates an amusing story of a lecturer in America.



PPS (to my letter)

I found the enclosed card waiting for me when I went over to Englefield Green this afternoon. I am not sure that I feel as keen as I did about separate volumes!

A propos of this, is there any difference between the Cambridge editions? So far I have been using the 1902 or thereabouts (sorry to be so vague) but I have parted with the copy I had and now have the London Library 1892 edition. It reached me today appropriately addressed as enclosed. My handwriting must be illegible and it is very kind of you to say you can read it!

This last coincidence reminded my hostess of a story she heard yesterday of a man who was lecturing in America on the Testament of Beauty. He was vastly flattered to find an unexpectedly large audience of very well-dressed women which, unfortunately, after the first few minutes gradually seeped away. He found he had been lecturing in the Elizabeth Arden Hall [If you don’t know who Elizabeth Arden is, Mrs McKerrow will—or see the Sphere, Byestander etc.]



Typed, except the initials at the end, a square bracket, and an underlining. The square brackets are in the original.

Letter from Sir William Osler to R. B. McKerrow

13 Norham Gardens, Oxford.—Will find out if there is someone in London who administers ‘twilight sleep’.

(With envelope.)



13 Norham Gardens, Oxford.

Dear McKerrow

I do not know in London of a man who does the ‘Twilight Sleep’—but I will find out. Much difference of opinion about it—some strongly in favour—others against. Will let you know very soon.

With best wishes to your wife

Yours &c
Wm Osler

[Direction on envelope:] R B McKerrow Esq | 4 Phoenix Lodge Mansions | Brook Green | Hammersmith


The envelope was postmarked at Oxford at 6.30 p.m. on 9 January 1916.

{1} A combination of analgesia and amnesia induced by an injection of a mixture of morphine and scopolamine, most commonly used to relieve the pain of childbirth. The contents of this letter suggest that Amy McKerrow was pregnant at the time, in which case she presumably suffered a miscarriage on this occasion.