Date Published: 1883 to 1908
Binding: No binding
W.E. Norris was a prolific English novelist and writer of short stories. Son of the Chief Justice of Ceylon. He was born in London and educated at Eton College. He travelled abroad, abandoned the idea of joining the diplomatic service, qualified as a barrister in 1874, and eventually chose to follow a literary career. He wrote more than sixty novels. He lived in Torquay. During the winter he went to Algiers or the Riviera. Some of his best known works are Matrimony (1881), My Friend Jim (1886), The Widower (1898), Nature’s Comedian (1904), and Pauline (1908).
The collection dates from 1883 to 1908 and consists of 11 signed letters and a signed note.
1 Signed note:
• Undated fragmentary note taken from an autograph album, mounted on a larger piece of blue paper. Reads “not the story be offered in the quarter that you speak of before a part of it is in type? | Very truly yours | W. E. Norris”.
11 Autographed Letters Signed (ALS):
• ALS addressed “Dear Madam”, 15 July 1883, re legality of marriage of a British subject abroad and thanking her for her comments on his writing (“It is always particularly pleasant to me to receive encouragement from America….”). • ALS to [the father of Stephen John Aldrich], 14 Dover St W. London 6 December, 1889. 2 pp., 22 lines of text, written in small, neat style, apologizing for being unable to assist the recipient in settling his son. It reads: “My dear Sir, | I most sincerely wish that I could be of any use to you in finding some opening for your son, but I fear that it is out of my power to help you. I will, of course, bear him in mind; only I cannot honestly say that I think there is the least prospect of my being able to do him a good turn. I have no commercial interest, and even for those who are engaged in my own pursuit of literature (and whom I am asked almost every day to assist) I can do very little indeed - practically nothing, in fact. | Has your son every thought of trying the colonies? It seems to me that a young fellow has far more chances there than in this country. I am very sorry to be obliged to reply in so discouraging a manner; but I cannot do otherwise. | Please give my kindest remembrance to Mrs. Aldrich, and | Believe me | Very faithfully yours | W. E. Norris”.
• 3 ALS, 6 pp. total, on printed letterheads (one embossed with a crest depicting a phoenix or a crane feeding its young; one on mourning paper), Bellair, Torquay, 23 May 1906, 13 February 1907, and 5 March 1908. To Archibald Marshall, thanking him for sending copies of Exton Manor and Richard Baldock. Norris praises the books, and says of the contemporary state of the novel: "Successes in the way of fiction don't seem to be very numerous just now; but the conditions, in this transition period, are difficult and cramping. Possibly they may become less so when the tedious fight between the 'Times' and other publishers has come to an end, one way or another."
• Series of 6 ALS, 15 closely-written pp., most on Norris's personal stationery, Mount Stuart; Underbank, Torquay; and Alvington; 22 May 1891 to 6 September 1894, where dated, with two envelopes. An interesting correspondence to Miss Peard (possibly Frances Mary Peard [1835-1923]; prolific and popular English novelist), concerning the submission of a work of fiction ("[c. 1890] You will see that I have promised to furnish her [a 'Miss Bertram'] with a serial story to appear in '90, and I humbly hope that I shall get paid for it. I dare not offer any advice to you in the matter; but I imagine that no magazine can possibly be started without capital and that the early contributors, at all events, do not run much risk of being defrauded. However, this is for you to decide about."); discussing literature and literary societies ("[22 May 1891] Would you call George Meredith's 'Shaving of Shagpat' a novel? If so, I should be inclined to recommend it to the consideration of the Society of which you tell me. Failing that, I should name 'Romola' [George Eliot] and 'The Newcomes' [Thackeray], as being the two best English novels, according to my notions, which have been written in this century. . . . The picture of 'a whole locality reading and talking about the same book at the same time' is a truly appalling one." [and 31 May 1891] "If you really think that I ought to suggest 'points for consideration' in 'Romola' and 'The Newcomes' to the mining population of Backworth, I will try to do so. Each of these novels, it seems to me, contains one admirably drawn character, and although the workmanship is excellent throughout, it is really to the two studies of Colonel Newcome and Tito Melema that they owe their immortality. If the miners of Backworth care to take the trouble of reading carefully all that is told about Colonel Newcome, they will see that the picture is absolutely true -- that his defects are those which almost always go with, and are perhaps inseparable from, his noble qualities, and that, although it may not be possible to help loving him as he appears in print, he would in real life have continually vexed and irritated his intimates by his honest inability to see two sides to any question. . . . Tito Melema must have been a harder piece of work. . . ."); commenting on "the technical side of light literature" ("To have discovered something about the methods by which these two characters have been made to stand upon their feet is . . . of the slightest use to any human being, except to a novel-writer. . . . I quite admit that music and painting cannot be appreciated without some preliminary training. A man whose ear is uneducated will hear nothing in a symphony of Schubert's beyond the melody. . . . But in a novel everything is, or ought to be, clearly set before him. He must see and understand it; and unless he does so, the fault is not his but the author's. Why, then, should he waste his time prying into the mechanism of the thing? He may sharpen his critical faculties by such prying; but he won't add to his enjoyment."); agreeing [14 June 1893] to send a copy of one of his own books "to the library in which you take so kind an interest, although I always have great difficulty in believing that anyone, either above or below ground, can really care to read my productions."; commenting on critics (" . . . one has the comfort of knowing that, in the opinion of so able a critic as Sir John Lubbock, 'even nonsense' is not without its occasional uses. The wrath aroused in the breasts of one's fellow-scribes (most of whom take themselves quite seriously) by this genial utterance is comic to witness."; and [6 Sept. 1894] extending an invitation to dine with Henry James who ". . . will be with us then, and I am sure he would like to meet you."
Collection is on consignment with LDRB.