Sir Walter Besant Manuscript
Scope and Contents
Accompanied by a typescript of the same manuscript, with a few typed corrections, the work explores the theme of the social ills of England in 1825, and the resulting improvements under the reign of Queen Victoria up through 1895. Possibly an unpublished preliminary essay that was greatly enlarged upon in Besant's publication of The Queen's Reign and Its Commemoration (1897), the topics covered include political freedoms, provincialism, child labor, educational reform, religion, trade and agriculture, colonization, health and hygiene, medical improvements, and finally a proposal for an alliance of the "Five Great Nations" (Great Britain, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand). Besant remarks, "Perhaps, the United States as well will join, though in the present temper of the people that appears improbable."
- circa 1895
- Besant, Walter, Sir (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information. Please see our Sensitive Materials Statement.
Biographical or Historical Information
Besant spent three terms at King's College, London and graduated from Christ's College, Cambridge in 1859. After his graduation, Besant worked briefly but unsuccessfully as a journalist, then accepted a mathematics teaching position at Leamington College, followed by a senior professorship at Royal College on the island of Mauritius from 1861 to 1867.
Besant returned to London to pursue his literary career, and published his first book, Studies in Early French Poetry, in 1868, followed by several articles on French literature and social topics. Encouraged by his success, Besant continued to write while he supported himself as secretary of the Palestine Exploration Fund, a position which he held until the success of All Sorts and Conditions of Men established his literary career in 1882.
A prolific writer, Besant published sometimes three or four novels a year, and his most successful collaboration was with James Rice, the editor of Once a Week. From 1872 until Rice's death in 1882 the two published more than a dozen novels and collected editions of long stories that brought them commercial and critical acclaim. After Rice's death, Besant continued writing the East End working-class romances upon which his reputation was made.
During the final period of his career, from 1887 until his death in 1901, the quality of Besant's novels suffered, but he continued to pursue his interests in various social reforms in both his fiction and nonfiction writing. One work in particular, Fifty Years Ago (A Picture of Society in This Country as It Was When the Queen Ascended the Throne), was published in 1888 as an historical retrospective of the year Queen Victoria began her reign. Another work, The Queen's Reign and Its Commemoration was published in 1897, and echoes Besant's familiar themes of social reform and the vast improvements that had taken place since Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837.
In 1895, Besant was knighted, largely due to his East End writings and his efforts on behalf of social reform.
0.20 Linear Feet (1 box)
Language of Materials
Method of Acquisition
Offensive Language Statement
Our finding aids and other collection descriptions may occasionally re-use language provided by creators or former holders of the materials, but we strive to place outdated or offensive terminology in context. That said, we recognize that we may not always make the right decision and welcome feedback from all sources so we can learn and adjust our practices. Please contact us at email@example.com if you encounter problematic language in our finding aids or other collection description. We will review the language and, as appropriate, update it in a way that balances preservation of the original context with our ongoing commitment to describing materials with respectful and inclusive language.
- Sir Walter Besant Manuscript
- Archives staff
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- April 20, 2021: This finding aid underwent changes in Spring 2021 after a reparative archives review. The following link leads to the legacy version of this finding aid: http://library.uncg.edu/info/depts/scua/legacyFA/04.MSS160.legacy.pdf