Fonds DUFF - Papers of J. D. Duff

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Papers of J. D. Duff


  • 1888-1940 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

16 small boxes, 1 large box. Letters on paper, some with envelopes; diaries bound in leather, paper or board.

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Name of creator


Biographical history

James Duff Duff was born on 20 November 1860 in Alvah, Banff, Scotland, son of James Duff (1828-1898), a retired colonel of the 74th Highlanders, and Jane Bracken Dunlop (1829-1919). He and his twin brother Alan Colquhoun Duff (1860-1897, of the Indian Civil Service) were among the first pupils at Fettes College, Edinburgh. J. D. Duff came as a scholar to Trinity in Michaelmas 1878, was awarded the Porson Prize in 1881 and took a first in the Classical Tripos in 1882. Elected a Fellow in 1883, and later a College Lecturer, he remained in Cambridge for the rest of his life, also teaching at Girton College. He edited Lucretius, but is perhaps best known for his work on 'Silver Latin' writers such as Juvenal, Pliny and Seneca. Having taught himself Russian in order to read the novels of Tolstoy and especially Turgenev, which he had much admired in French translation, in their original language, from 1917 on he published several translations from Russian. These included works by Lermontov, Aksakov and Tolstoy. He never visited Russia, but corresponded in Russian with friends such as Alexandra Grigorievna Pashkova, the wife of a Russian landowner, whose two sons were Trinity undergraduates.

In 1890 Duff proposed marriage to Laura Eleanor Lenox-Conyngham (1871-1956), daughter of Sir William Lenox-Conyngham of Springhill, co. Londonderry, but then suffered a nervous collapse and put himself under the care of the eminent psychiatrist George Henry Savage (1842-1921) . His friends and fellow members of the Apostles Society, Henry Babington Smith and Arthur Clough, took him to Italy and Switzerland to nurse him back to health. On his return to England, Duff broke off the engagement and returned to his duties at Trinity, but they eventually married in December 1895 and had five children: Lieutenant-General Alan Colquhoun Duff (1896-1973) who published novels under the pseudonym Hugh Imber; Sir James Fitzjames Duff (1898-1970), educationist and academic administrator; Patrick William Duff (1901-1991), Regius Professor of Civil Law at Trinity College, Cambridge; Mary Geraldine Duff (1904-1995), principal at Norwich Training College, Norwich; and Hester Laura Elisabeth Duff (1912-2001). He died at his home in Cambridge on 25 April 1940, aged seventy-nine.

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The majority of this archive consists of letters by Duff to members of his family, viz.: (A): to his wife Laura, 45 letters, 1897-1909; (B): to his son Alan, 356 letters, 1909-1933; (C): to his son Patrick, 96 letters, 1909-1934; (D): to his son James, 4 letters, 1909-1916; (E): to his daughter Hester, 8 letters, 1933-1934; (F): to his daughter Mary, 1 letter, 1911.

There are also 68 letters (G) from Laura Duff to her son Alan, 1915-1940, and three (H) to her husband J.D. Duff, relating to their son James's entrance examinations for Wellington College in 1910. J, K and L are letters written by their sons: 3 letters and a postcard from Alan Duff to his mother, 1909-1920 (J), a letter from James Duff to Alan Duff, 1911 (K), and a letter from Patrick Duff to J. F. Duff, relating to J. F. Duff winning a scholarship to Trinity in 1916 (L).

The final group of letters (M) are by various authors: one from J. D. Duff to Diana Frances Crawley, future wife of his son Alan, on the death of her father, 1933; letters to A. C. Duff from W. G. Collett (1911) and R. Moore (1913) at Wellington College; letter to J. D. Duff from G. M. Trevelyan, 1934 about Edward Fitzgerald's letters; letter to Laura Duff from the Postmaster at Cambridge, 1923, relating to a telegram from Cairo.

Miscellaneous material (N) comprises: copy of the marriage certificate of James Duff Duff and Laura Lenox-Coningham, 1895; page torn from a notebook with short phrase in Ancient Greek; memoir, "Lemnos" of an army camp, probably by A. C. Duff, with envelope addressed to J. D. Duff.

Finally there are twenty eight of J. D. Duff's pocket diaries (usually by Lett's) dating from 1888-1912, 1915-1918, 1922-1926, and 1931-1934; the earliest are kept as appointment books, with brief notes of college and social occasions, but Duff's entries later expand to be fuller records of his days, typically recording weather, reading material, pastimes and family news. A notebook with A. C. Duff's name and address at the front contains 'Extracts from F[ather's] Diary'.

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      Related units of description

      Add.Ms.a/325: transcripts by J. D. Duff of T. B. Macaulay's letters to T. F. Ellis (1 vol, 1931)
      Add.Ms.a/326: transcripts by J. D. Duff of Macaulay's journal (1 vol, 1931)
      Add.Ms.a/327: transcripts by J. D. Duff of letters and poems by or about Edward Fitzgerald (1 vol, 1934)
      Add.Ms.a/376: memoir of J D Duff by A C Duff (1 vol, c 1970)
      Add.Ms.a/410: correspondence between G. S. Duncan, J. D. Duff and H. M. Butler
      Add.Ms.a/519: items belonging to J. D. and P. W. Duff, including a preface to the translations of H A J Munro and photographs of Lord Adrian (1 bundle, 1884-1963)
      Add.Ms.c/196: letters to J. D. Duff from A E Housman, W T Vesey and W T Heitland (1 box, 1921–1933)

      Girton College Archive: Papers relating to the retirement of James Duff in 1934 as a lecturer in Classics for Girton, including presentation, menu at retirement dinner, poem etc: GCPP Duff
      Durham University Archives: The Duff Papers, DUF, include letters from James Fitzjames Duff to his parents J. D. Duff and L. E. Duff and other relatives, as well as much other material relating to J. F. Duff and other members of the Duff family.

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          Archivist's note

          Collection level record created by Rebecca Hughes in May 2019.

          Accession area