Series 35 - Typescript copies of letters (A-G) to Sir James George Frazer

Identity area

Reference code

Add. MS b/35


Typescript copies of letters (A-G) to Sir James George Frazer


  • c 1947-c 1955 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

2 boxes

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Frazer was born 1 January 1854 in Glasgow, and after graduating MA in 1874 from the University of Glasgow, entered Trinity College with a scholarship. He was Second Classic in 1878, and a year later was made a Fellow of the College on the strength of his dissertation, "The Growth of Plato’s Ideal Theory”. This Title Alpha Fellowship, for which no duties were required, was renewed as a Title B fellowship (for those 'engaged in the systematic study of some important branch of literature or science') in 1885 and 1890, before becoming qualified to hold a Pension Fellowship in 1895, at which time it became tenable for life.

“The Golden Bough”, the work for which Frazer is best known, was first published in 1890. The book drew on a comprehensive amount of data and traced common evolutionary patterns in the development of seemingly disparate cultures worldwide. His evolutionary theory of societal development, in which societies moved from a belief in primitive magic, to religion, to science was expanded over three editions, which ballooned from two, to three, to twelve volumes, with an additional volume (“Aftermath”) twenty years later.

Frazer followed “The Golden Bough” with other anthropological works, including “Totemism and Exogamy” (1910), “The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead” (1913-1924), “Folk-Lore in the Old Testament” (1918), “The Worship of Nature” (1926), “Myths of the Origin of Fire” (1930), “The Fear of the Dead in Primitive Religion” (1933), and the four volume “Anthologia Anthropologica. The Native Races of Africa and Madagascar [and Australasia, Asia and Europe, and America]” (1938-1939). His first published work was the revised edition of George Long’s “C. Sallusti Crispi Catalina et Iugurtha” (1884); he continued to produce works of classical scholarship at intervals, with editions of “Pausanias’s Description of Greece” (1898), Apollodorus’s “The Library” (1921), and Ovid’s “Fasti” (one for Macmillan, 1929, one for Loeb, 1931). He also produced more literary works, editing the letters of William Cowper (1912) and essays of Joseph Addison (1915), and writing a series of articles in Addison’s style, “Sir Roger de Coverley” in “The Saturday Review” (1915, published as a book in 1920).

In 1896, he married Lilly Grove (born Elizabeth Johanna de Boys Adelsdorfer in 1854/5), a French widow with two children, Charles Grenville Grove (1878-1949) and Lilly Mary Grove (c 1880-1919). Lilly’s first husband Charles Baylee Grove had been a captain in the British merchant service; they married in 1877, he died in January 1889. Lilly was a French teacher who produced French schoolbooks and plays and promoted the use of phonographic records in the teaching of languages. Her publications include “Scenes of Familiar Life” (1896), “Berthes aux grands pieds” (1902), “Histoire de Monsieur Blanc” (1910), and “Je sais un conte” (1911). She was working on a book on the history of dance when she met Frazer (“Dancing”, 1895), and later wrote a book for children based on “The Golden Bough”, entitled “Leaves from the Golden Bough” (1924). She also translated one of his books, “Adonis” in 1921, and several works by French scholars, including Albert Houtin’s “A Short History of Christianity” (1926) and François Aulard’s “Christianity and the French Revolution” (1927). In the 1930s she commissioned an operetta based on her story “The Singing Wood”, and co-authored a book with James, a small book entitled “Pasha the Pom: the Story of a Little Dog” (1937).

Lilly had a highly developed business sense, and stepped into the role of James’s manager and press agent, promoting him in Britain as well as the continent, where she arranged for his works to be translated into French. James received many honours, most notably a knighthood in 1914, followed by the Order of Merit in 1925. He was named to the first chair of social anthropology in Britain at the University of Liverpool in 1908, was inducted into numerous societies, awarded a number of honorary degrees, and was particularly pleased by a lectureship in anthropology established in his honour in 1922. He was very often in the news, referenced whenever folklore or myth were discussed, and wrote a number of articles for both academic journals and popular newspapers, including a much-reproduced opinion piece in “The Morning Post” in 1925, in favour of forgiveness of the French war debt.

After James suffered a dramatic loss of sight while giving a lecture in May 1931, he and Lilly travelled to Switzerland for a number of eye operations, which were temporarily helpful, but failed to stave off an eventual near blindness. Secretaries were employed as James revised and added to earlier works in the later 1930s. Lilly became increasingly deaf herself. In the late 1930s, they moved from accommodation in London to 7 Causewayside in Cambridge, where they died within a day of each other: James on 7 May and Lilly on 8 May, 1941.

Name of creator

(b 1905)

Biographical history

Robert Angus Downie, assistant to James George Frazer, and author of 'James George Frazer: The Portrait of a Scholar' (1940) and 'Frazer and The Golden Bough' (1970), editor of the three volumes of 'Anthologia anthropologica': 'The native races of Africa and Madagascar : a copious selection of passages for the study of social anthropology from the manuscript notebooks of Sir James George Frazer / arranged and edited from the MSS. by Robert Angus Downie' (1938), 'The native races of Asia and Europe ... ' (1939), and 'The native races of Australasia, including Australia, New Zealand, Oceania, New Guinea, and Indonesia ... ' (1939).

Archival history

These typescripts were created by Robert Angus Downie, Sir James George Frazer's assistant, who had received the originals from which they were made as a loan from the Frazers in February 1941. The Frazers' wish was that he should find a publisher for a volume of Frazer's letters. In 1947 the Trinity College Council agreed to pay the cost of making typed copies of these letters in order to assist Mr Downie's attempts to interest a publisher, with the understanding that when finished, a set of copies should be sent to the College. In 1955 the Trinity College Senior Bursar Tressilian C. Nicholas received what he described as three large files of typescript letters and sent them to the library. These copies do not represent all of the originals that were in Mr Downie's possession. See the catalogue record for ADD.Ms.c.56 for more information on the originals.

These Additional Manuscripts appear to have been first catalogued at the same time as the Frazer Papers, in 1973. They were recatalogued in June 1984, probably at the same time that the additional Frazer Papers found in the furniture store on the Matthew's site [Blue Boar Court] were catalogued.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The six boxes which comprise Add.Ms.b.35-37 contain over 1100 typescript copies of letters written to Sir James George Frazer, arranged by surname of correspondent. Their existence is explained in the archival history above, with related information in the catalogue record for Add.Ms.c.56. The typescripts were made between 1947 and 1955, and are transcripts of letters written between 1888 and 1930, with the bulk dating from 1900-1920, earlier than the closely related Sir James George Frazer Papers also at Trinity College Library. Many of the correspondents here are also represented by letters in the Sir James George Frazer Papers.

The letters document the life and work of social anthropologist and classical scholar Sir James George Frazer. Research strengths include Frazer's writings in the 1900s and 1910s, social anthropology, folklore, classical scholarship, Trinity College academic and social life, and the impact of World War I. There is evidence here of Frazer's support of anthropologists who wished to embark on expeditions, discussions of anthropological theory and classical scholarship, and discussions of books Frazer published during this period: the second and third editions of 'The Golden Bough', as well as 'Lectures on the Early History of the Kingship', 'Adonis, Attis, Osiris', 'Psyche's Task', 'Totemism and Exogamy', 'The Letters of William Cowper', 'The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead', 'The Essays of Joseph Addison', and 'Folk-Lore in the Old Testament'.

Add.Ms.b.35 are the first two boxes in the alphabetic sequence of letters, covering the surnames A-G. There are 383 typescript copies of letters in these first two boxes, as well as three other items catalogued as stand-alone items: typescript copies of an offprint, an extract, and a cutting of an article (Items 351a, 372, and 380a). Of the eleven copies of letters written by J. G. Frazer, five are published in Robert Ackerman's 'Selected Letters of Sir J. G. Frazer', and none are represented by originals in the Add.Ms.c.56-61 series (see the Allied Materials note below). There is one letter written to Lilly Frazer, from Wickham Steed (Item 366).

Most of the letters are from correspondents represented by one or two letters only, but there are four groups of more than 15 letters from one correspondent: from John Sutherland Black (Items 83-95), Edward Clodd (Items 173-197, which include 6 letters written by JGF to Clodd), William Crooke (Items 241-267), and W. Warde Fowler (Items 314-330). There are also two third-party letters: from J. B. Postgate to A. B. Cook (Item 227), and from J. H. Driberg to John Roscoe (Item 284), each probably originally enclosures in letters sent to Frazer. None of these letters are represented by originals in the Add.Ms.c.56-61 series.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


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Language of material

  • Ancient Greek
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Latin

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Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

The location of the originals from which the typescripts for letters A through F were made is unknown unless otherwise noted. The originals for typescripts G are housed as ADD.Ms.c.57.1-75, as noted.

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

The main papers bequeathed by Lady Frazer on her death in 1941 are catalogued as The Papers of Sir James George Frazer, FRAZ 1-35. Frazer papers which were in the possession of Robert Downie at the time of Lady Frazer's death were returned in part in 1955, and are catalogued as ADD.Ms.c.56-61. Another accession of Frazer papers is catalogued as ADD.Ms.d.55-60.

Publication note

Robert Ackerman, 'J. G. Frazer, His Life and Work' (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

Notes area


The numbering sequence of the typescripts lacks the following: Add.Ms.b.35.87, 209-210, 212, 214, 216-217, 232, 299, 313, 355.
The typescripts have two holes punched along the left margin, and many carry pencilled numbers at bottom left, indicating the number of words typed.
Some typescripts have been corrected by Robert Angus Downie, with lacunae in the typescripts filled in by Downie, often supplying words in foreign languages. These corrections and completions have been noted in the catalogue record.

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