The original preservation of Clifford’s papers was the work of his widow, who also collected various obituaries and reviews of her husband’s work and recovered from Frederick Pollock some letters written to him by his friend (A3/1–10, A4/1–11, A4/13, and A5/2). Some of these letters had been used by Pollock in preparing his introduction to Clifford’s Lectures and Essays (1879), but other letters referred to in that work appear not to have survived. At some point the papers were sorted into envelopes by Clifford’s younger daughter Margaret, an arrangement which substantially survives. It is unclear whether this was done while Lucy Clifford was still alive or in the short period between her death in 1929 and that of Margaret in 1932. The papers afterwards passed into the custody of Clifford’s elder daughter Ethel, Lady Dilke. According to Fisher Dilke, Lady Dilke’s grandson:
‘Ethel died in 1959, but her house, Lepe Point near Exbury, Hampshire, remained in partial ownership of my parents Christopher [Wentworth] Dilke and Alice Mary Dilke until the lease ran out in 1965. My mother found the box containing the papers. Later, when she was looking for a piece of jewellery that her mother-in-law Ethel Dilke had left her, she found a locked jewel case with a missing key. She took the case to a jeweller, who broke it open. Instead of jewellery, the case contained the returned letters from WKC to Sir Frederick Pollock, including the letter that WKC wrote twenty minutes or so before he died.’
In 1965 the papers moved with the Dilkes to Valehouse (or Vale House) Farm, near Whitchurch Canonicorum in Dorset, and as a result they were occasionally referred to as the Valehouse Collection. For three or four years they were deposited in a bank in Beaminster, and during this time a list of the contents of the several packets was compiled by Mrs Dilke, who also added a few other items of interest (G1). Afterwards, however, they were kept in Mrs Dilke’s own study. When Christopher Dilke died in 1987 ownership of the papers descended to his son Fisher, who transferred them to his own house in London in 1995. At this time the box contained, besides the items described in the present catalogue, various papers relating to Lucy Clifford, including letters to her from Henry James and other important literary figures. These were subsequently separated from her husband’s papers and sold at auction. The remaining items were given to Trinity in 2008 by Fisher Dilke, who desired that the name of his mother should also be associated with the donation.