Fonds HOUG - Papers of Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton

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Papers of Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton


  • [1736?]-1951 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

160 boxes

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Richard Monckton Milnes was born on 19 June 1809, son of Robert Pemberton Milnes, MP for Pontefract, and his wife Henrietta Maria Monckton, daughter of the 4th Viscount Galway. Milnes was admitted to Trinity College Cambridge in 1827 and graduated MA in 1831. While at Cambridge he was one of the founding members of the Cambridge Conversazione Society (The Apostles) and was a friend of Tennyson, Hallam and Thackeray. He pursued an active literary life, both by publishing in prose and verse and maintaining an active correspondence with many of the prominent writers of the age. His regular breakfast parties also played a part in bringing many figures of note from all walks of life together

Milnes was the son and grandson of Members of Parliament and in 1837 he was elected to the Commons to represent his father's old constituency of Pontefract. Initially a follower of Peel, he moved towards the Liberal side of the House, and became a supporter of Lord John Russell. Though never rising to high office, he was prominent in legislation concerning copyright, the Deceased Wife's Sister Marriage Bill and the abolition of capital punishment. In 1845 he succeeded in getting a pension paid to Tennyson

Having courted Florence Nightingale, Milnes married Annabella, daughter of the 2nd Baron Crewe; they had three children. He was created Baron Houghton in 1863. He died in Vichy in 1885.

Archival history

Shortly after Houghton's death, his correspondence and other papers were entrusted to Arthur Edwin Scanes, who 'classified and catalogued' them; this work is praised by T. Wemyss Reid in the preface to his Life, Letters, and Friendships of... Lord Houghton, and it is likely that the labelled paper files which can be found throughout the collection are his work. Notes by Scanes on documents such as 'found with 1874 letters' (HOUG/227/65) suggests that Houghton kept at least some of his correspondence filed chronologically, and that it was Scanes who arranged them by correspondent.

A list by Scanes: 'Correspondence of the late Lord Houghton | List of Boxes and their Contents', describing three boxes worth of material, can be found at HOUG/HC; not all the papers described there can be matched with items now in the collection, and reference is made to family letters 'already handed over to the present Lord Houghton'.

When James Pope Hennessy was given access to Houghton's papers in the 1940s to write his two-volume life, he describes them as being 'housed in twelve japanned-tin deed boxes' (preface to Vol. 1., 1949); in the preface to his second volume (1951), he mentions 'a mahogany chest, apparently unopened since the period of the Franco-Prussian war, and continuing upwards of four thousand letters which Wemyss Reid could not have seen'.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

A first accession was given to Trinity College by Lady Crewe, wife of Houghton's son, in 1959; a second was given by her daughter the Duchess of Roxburghe in 1974.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Houghton's archive includes: Cambridge papers, 1827-1830; a voluminous correspondence; literary papers; publications, 1834-1873; political papers, 1837-1880s; business and estate papers; papers relating to travels, 1828-1885, papers relating to clubs and societies; commonplace books, 1838-1865; press cuttings, 1801-1878; diaries of Annabella Hungerford Milnes, Lady Houghton, 1855-1872; papers of Houghton’ father Robert Pemberton Milnes and other members of his family.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

The two accessions are arranged very differently. The first, containing the majority of the correspondence, is essentially a box-by-box item list. The second accession is arranged hierarchically and contains more subject-related material.

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      Finding aids

      A printed finding aid for the first accession and an incomplete one for the second accession are available at Trinity College Library. There are also index cards for the whole collection.

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      Publication note

      T. Wemyss Reid, The life, letters, and friendships of Richard Monckton Milnes, first Lord Houghton (London : Cassell, 1890, 2. vols.)
      James Pope-Hennessy, Monckton Milnes: the years of promise, 1809-1851, (London: Constable, 1949)
      James Pope-Hennessy, Monckton Milnes: the flight of youth, 1851-1885, (London: Constable, 1951)

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          Archivist's note

          May 2023: This on-line catalogue is a work in progress, as information continues to be transferred from the printed finding aids and index cards, and descriptions are expanded. It is hoped that further information about the original arrangement of the material will emerge as work continues.

          Accession area