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McKerrow, Colin Bonnet (1919–1972), physiologist
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Letter from John Dover Wilson to R. B. McKerrow

Three Beeches, Balerno, Midlothian.—Thanks him for a copy of his Prolegomena, and praises it. Has just returned from Germany, and finds it hard to believe that a war is coming.

(With envelope.)



Three Beeches, Balerno, Midlothian

My dear McKerrow,

The Prolegomena arrived by the first post this morning & I fell to at once. I had to run off to the University at 11, but have read enough to realise how grateful we all ought to be to you & how gently you have handled my serial theorisings, a good deal of which I have ceased to believe myself! And then this afternoon I had your letter. My dear man, you little know the thickness of skull I have developed after 18 years of editorial adventure {1} or you could not imagine I should be anything but delighted with your friendly thwackings. Think of EKC’s {2} bludgeon for example; yet we are still friends. Indeed I even gave him £100 prize the other day!.

I am sorry to hear about Colin & Malcolm. But I think you’ll find that they will be allowed to finish their course & hope that there will not be a war.

I have just returned from a fortnight in Germany, where I was overwhelmed with kindness by all, & cannot believe a war between our two nations is coming. Anyhow it’s the most peaceful country in Europe to look at. I left them all dancing round maypoles!

Yours ever

Many thanks for the book. I am so glad you have got it out. Kindest regards to Mrs McKerrow. My wife & I laughed over your tirade against N.C. {3}—quite a pleasant man really & a keen Shakespearean

[Direction on the envelope:] Dr R. B. McKerrow | Picket Piece | Wendover | Bucks


The envelope was postmarked at Edinburgh at 8.30 p.m. on 6 May 1939.

{1} The reference is to the period since the publication of the first volume in the Cambridge Shakespeare in 1921, though Dover Wilson had in fact been invited to help edit the series in 1919. See ODNB.

{2} Sir Edmund Chambers.

{3} Neville Chamberlain, the prime minister. ‘There is probably no prime minister who knew his Shakespeare better than Chamberlain’ (ODNB).

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.