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James Reynolds Withers papers

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.10313

Scope and Contents

Literary papers and correspondence of Withers, including poems; an autobiographical memoir; correspondence; miscellaneous manuscript and printed items; papers of his friend and posthumous editor Janet E. Aspland photographic prints; and paintings.


  • Creation: 1840s-1910s


Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Biographical / Historical

James Reynolds Withers (1812-1892) was born in Weston Colville, Cambridgeshire. At the age of 12 he was placed with a market gardener in Fordham, Cambridgeshire, and lived there for most of the remainder of his life, making a living by mending shoes, selling vegetables, and as an agricultural labourer. From 1854 onwards he published several volumes of poetry, together with shorter pamphlets and broadsheets; a posthumous volume, 'Fairy revels', appeared in 1901.


7 archive box(es) (7 boxes and 2 paintings) : Paper

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Reynolds Withers Bowen, August 2019

Related Materials

The following printed items were received as part of the donation and transferred to the Rare Books Department (all are by Withers unless otherwise stated):

‘Poems upon various subjects’, Cambridge: C. W. Naylor, and London: Wertheim and Macintosh, 1854 (8000.d.1539)

‘Poems upon various subjects’, Cambridge: C. W. Naylor, and London: Macintosh, 1856, with manuscript cancellation of a line on the errata page (8000.d.1540)

David Masson, editor, ‘Macmillan’s magazine’, Vol. 1 (Nov. 1859–April 1860), including [Dinah Maria Craik], ‘A hedgeside poet’ (pp. 449–454), with a manuscript note re the composition of the article in the hand of Janet E. Aspland, 1900, on second front end-paper (Cam.c.860.60)

‘In reply to an invitation to dine with a friend’, no imprint, but printed on paper watermarked ‘62’ [i.e. 1862?], single sheet, printed one side (Cam.b.883.12)

‘To the Prince of Wales, and Alexandra of Denmark, on their marriage, March 10th, 1863’, Soham: Fyson, typographer, single sheet, printed one side (Cam.b.863.3)

‘On the top of Helvellyn, lines written by J. R. Withers, after a tour in the Lake District, September 1864’, Manchester: John Heywood, 1865, booklet, 8 pp + printed cover, the poem dated ‘Fordham, December 1864’ at the foot of the text, with 16 further copies all lacking the printed cover, of which 15 are tied in a bundle (8000.d.1541(3-5))

‘Elegy on the late Richard Cobden, M.P.’, Manchester: John Heywood, 1865, booklet, 8 pp + blank free endpapers and printed cover (the title of the poem in the text is ‘In memory of Richard Cobden’), with pencil markings, including an emendation to the text (8000.d.1541(1))

[Isa Craig, editor], ‘The Argosy: a magazine of tales, travels, essays, and poems’, Vol. II No. VIII (July 1866), including [Isa Craig], ‘Poetry on twelve shillings a week’ (pp. 157–161), with ownership inscription of Janet E. Aspland on first page, and a note in her hand on the front cover (Cam.b.866.5)

‘Rustic songs and wayside musings’, London: Darton and Co., 1867, with inscriptions in Withers’s hand dated 1883 and 1887, and notes on his birth and death in another hand, on the half-title page (8000.d.1538)

‘Fordham. The church restoration’, no imprint, bifolium, paginated 1–4, the poem dated ‘May 15th 1873’ at the foot of the text, two copies, one on pink paper and one on blue (Cam.d.873.11–12)

‘Granny’s tale’, London: printed for the author by Cassell, Petter and Galpin, [c. 1873], with manuscript annotation on title page (8000.d.1541(2))

‘Farewell to the fair: a poem’, Newmarket: printed by George Simpson, bookseller, 1877, booklet, 8 pp + printed cover, the poem text dated in manuscript ‘1877’ (Cam.e.877.2)

‘When the bushes first are green’, no imprint, ‘Reprinted from “The Newmarket Journal” of April 21st, 1883’, single sheet, printed one side, the poem dated ‘Fordham, April 17th 1883’ at the foot of the text, with manuscript notes on the reverse (Cam.b.883.12)

‘An elegy on poor Patch’, Soham: Jackson, printer, single sheet, printed one side, the poem dated ‘Fordham, August 6th 1885’ at the foot of the text (Cam.b.885.9)

George Newman (‘Lloegryn’), ‘Other lyrics: an aftermath’, Ashford: printed at the office of the ‘Kent County Examiner’, 1900 (Syn.7.90.76)

‘All Saints parish magazine’, Cambridge, April 1914, including Frederick Sherlock, ‘News of the month’ with mention of placement of a brass tablet to Withers in the church of Weston Colville, pp. 93–4, with marginal manuscript annotation, and newspaper cutting relating to Withers [1901] pasted to p. 93 (Cam.b.914.14)

Related Materials

The British Library, London: Royal Literary Fund case file: Mr James Reynolds Withers ‎ (17 Jun 1859−2 Jan 1877). Western Manuscripts Reference: Loan 96 RLF 1/1512. Extent: 1 file (28 documents).

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Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

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