Item 23 - Letter from J. Dover Wilson to R. B. McKerrow

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Letter from J. Dover Wilson to R. B. McKerrow


  • 5 May 1939 (Creation)

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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).

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