- 1880–1922 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
Name of creator
Robert Erskine Childers was born in 1870, the son of Robert Caesar Childers, a Pali scholar, and was educated at Haileybury and Trinity College, whence he graduated BA in 1893. From 1895 to 1910, with a period absent to serve in the South African War, he was a clerk in the House of Commons. During this time he made a number of voyages in sailboats, and in 1903 published 'The Riddle of the Sands', an espionage novel about German preparations to invade England.
In 1910, he resigned his position to pursue his Irish interests, having become convinced of the arguments for Home Rule, and was involved, briefly, in running guns to the Republicans. On the outbreak of the First World War, Childers was drafted into the Navy, owing much to his knowledge of the German Coast, and later into the Royal Naval Air Service as an intelligence officer. After the war he was decommissioned with the DSC and rank of Major.
In 1919 he moved to Dublin. He was one of the envoys sent by the Irish to the Versailles Conference and in 1921 was elected to the Dáil Éireann. He accompanied Éamon De Valera on the first delegation to London after the truce and was principal secretary to the delegation that negotiated the treaty with the English government in late 1921.
He was, however, unsatisfied with the outcome and when the Irish Free State was established, Childers joined the Republican army. On 10 November 1922 he was captured by Free State soldiers, court-martialled, and shot on 24 November.
A box list was created in 1977. This is accompanied by an undated box list for the material that arrived in 1981.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Gift of Col. Robert Alden Childers, June 1977. The reviews of 'The Times History of the War in South Africa', 'The HAC in South Africa', 'War and the Arme Blanche', and 'German Influence on British Cavalry' which had been intended to be part of the gift in 1977, was given in February 1981.
Content and structure area
Scope and content
The papers consist of correspondence, printed material, writings, personal papers, and photographs documenting the English life of Erskine Childers. The correspondence includes incoming letters to Erskine and to Molly Childers, copies of letters sent by Erskine, and a large number of letters written to others from others.
There are over 75 letters from Erskine to Molly dated 1903-1913; Erskine's other principal correspondents include Ian Hamilton, Field Marshal Frederick Roberts, and Basil Williams. Molly's principal correspondents include Benoît-Constant Coquelin, Kate Courtney, and John Singer Sargent. The collection includes letters from a variety of other correspondents, among them Edward Arnold, Julian Corbett, Arthur Conan Doyle, Henry James, William James, Lord Kitchener, J. Ellis McTaggart, Walter Runciman, George Bernard Shaw (to Emily Ford), and G. M. Trevelyan.
Printed material includes cuttings of reviews for 'The H.A.C. in South Africa', 'The Times History of the war in South Africa', 'War and the Arme Blanche', 'The Riddle of the Sands', and 'The German Influence on British Cavalry'; cuttings of articles on cruising printed in 'The Times' from 1907-1913; as well as two issues of 'Poblacht na hÉireann' from 21, 23 October, 1922.
The collection also includes a holograph poem apiece by Bronson Alcott and William Ellery Channing, photographs of Benoît-Constant Coquelin, and a signed photograph of Sarah Bernhardt.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
The collection has not yet been catalogued, and items may be arranged in a different order in future.
Conditions governing reproduction
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
Cite as: Trinity College Library Cambridge, Papers of Robert Erskine Childers, CHIL.
Subject access points
Place access points
Name access points
- Childers, Mary Alden Osgood (1875-1964) American born writer and Irish nationalist, known as Molly (Subject)
- Roberts, Frederick Sleigh (1832-1914) 1st Earl Roberts of Kandahar, Field Marshal (Subject)
- Courtney, Catherine (1847-1929), social worker and internationalist, wife of Baron Courtney of Penwith, (Subject)
- Sargent, John Singer (1856-1925) painter (Subject)
- Doyle, Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan (1859-1930) Knight, author, physician and criminologist (Subject)
- James, Henry (1843-1916), writer (Subject)
- James, William (1842-1910) American philosopher and psychologist (Subject)
- Kitchener, Horatio Herbert (1850-1916) 1st Earl Kitchener, Field Marshal (Subject)
- McTaggart, John McTaggart Ellis (1866-1925) philosopher (Subject)
- Runciman, Walter (1870-1949), 1st Viscount Runciman of Doxford, politician (Subject)
- Shaw, George Bernard (1856-1950) author and playwright (Subject)
- Trevelyan, George Macaulay (1876-1962), historian, public educator, and conservationist (Subject)
- Bernhardt, Sarah (1844-1923) actor (Subject)
- Alcott, Amos Bronson (1799–1888) Transcendentalist and reformer (Subject)
- Corbett, Sir Julian Stafford (1854-1922) Knight, naval historian (Subject)
- Arnold, Edward Augustus (1857-1942) publisher (Subject)
- Channing, William Ellery (1817–1901) poet (Subject)
- Coquelin, Benoît-Constant (1841-1909) French actor (Subject)
- Williams, Arthur Frederic Basil (1867-1950) historian (Subject)
- Hamilton, Sir Ian Standish Monteith (1853–1947), Knight, army officer (Subject)
Genre access points
Rules and/or conventions used
Level of detail
Dates of creation revision deletion
Collection level description created by Diana Smith in June 2019, using the preliminary box lists.