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Guide to the Richard Grant White Papers
  MS 692

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

@ 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by library staff. Finding aid by Christine George.

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 04, 2011
Finding Aid is written in English.
using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Creator: White, Richard Grant, 1821-1885
Title: Richard Grant White Papers
Dates [inclusive]: 1838-1921 (Bulk 1850-1890)
Abstract: Richard Grant White was a noted Shakespeare scholar and social critic in nineteenth century America. His papers contain his correspondence with notable figures of his day and a plethora of articles written by him or about him.
Quantity: 2.5 Linear feet (6 boxes, 1 oversize)
Language of Materials Note: The Richard Grant White Papers are written in English.
Mixed materials [Box]: 6
Mixed materials [Oversize]: OS
Mixed materials [Box]: 1
Mixed materials [Box]: 3
Mixed materials [Box]: 2
Mixed materials [Box]: 5
Mixed materials [Box]: 4
Call Phrase: MS 692

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Biographical Note

Dates of Note
May 23, 1821 White was born in New York City
1839 White graduated from the University of the City of New York (now known as New York University)
1845 White was admitted to the bar
October 16, 1850 White married Alexina Black Mease
December 25, 1851 Son Richard Mansfield White was born
1853 White wrote a criticism of John Payne Collier’s “found” Shakespeare folio manuscript that was published in Putman’s Magazine. The folio is now understood to be a forgery
November 9, 1853 Son Stanford White, famous architect and murder victim from “The Trial of the Century,” was born
1854 Shakespeare’s Scholar, which included his 1853  Putman’s Magazine article was published
1860 White became staff member of the New York World
c.1861-c.1865 Wrote to the British newspaper the Spector as “A Yankee”
1861-1878 White was chief of the United States Revenue Marine in New York
1866 The New Gospel of Peace by St. Benjamin, which was a critique of “Copperheads,” was published
1870 Words and their Uses was published
April 8, 1885 White died in New York City

Richard Grant White, the famous writer and social critic, was born on May 23, 1821 in New York City to Richard Mansfield White (1797-1842) and Ann Eliza Toucey (1802-1842). White’s grandfather was Calvin White, rector of Christ’s Church in Middletown, Connecticut. The Whites had four other children: Marion White Williams (1823-1900), Ann Eliza White (1831-1849), Charles Mellvaine White (1834-1842), and Augusta White (b. 1838).

When White graduated from the University of the City of New York (now New York University) in 1839, he had no intention to become a writer. White first began studying medicine and then law. He was admitted to the bar in 1845. After White’s father died, he had to support two sisters and turned to writing. He was hired as a music critic for the Courier and Enquirer.

On October 16, 1850, White married Alexina Black Mease (b. 1802). They had two children: Richard Mansfield White in 1851 and Stanford White in 1853, the famous playboy architect who was also equally famous for his murder in 1906 and the ensuing “Trial of Century.”

White's writing eventually moved on to other topics, such as copyright in Great Britain and the United States, the public school system, the English language, and Civil War politics. As important as all of those writings were, perhaps what White was most known for was his work with Shakespeare.

White’s reputation as one of the preeminent Shakespeare scholars began when he published a criticism of Collier’s folio, a Shakespeare forgery, in Putman’s Magazine in 1853. White went on to publish extensively on Shakespeare, including the book  Shakespeare’s Scholar, which was published in 1854 and contained his article from 1853. White was one of the vice presidents of the New Shakespeare Society of London.

When the Civil War broke out in the United States, White sprang to action. He became the chief of the United States Revenue Marine in New York in 1861, a position he held until 1878. The U.S. Revenue Marine (which would later be turned into the U.S. Coast Guard) was formed in August 1790 as a way to enforce federal trade and tariff laws and combat smuggling. During the Civil War, the Revenue Marine assisted the U.S. Navy. White also wrote articles about the Civil War that were published in the Spector under the pseudonym “A Yankee” that helped shape British opinion of the war. In the United States, White was critical of the group known as “Copperheads.” Copperheads were Northerners who were against the Civil War and wanted a quick and speedy resolution with the South. His criticisms were readily apparent in his work,  New Gospel of Peace by St. Benjamin.

Throughout his life, White was interested in music. Later in life he became an expert in violin construction and was considered an excellent cello player. White’s obituary makes reference to how he would invite three other string players over to his house a couple times a week so that he could play in a string quartet. Richard Grant White died in New York City on April 8, 1885.


Chamberlain, Joshua Lawrence, et al, New York University: It’s History, Influence, Equipment and Characteristics with Biographical Sketches and Portraits of Founders, Benefactors, Officers and Alumni (Boston: R. Herndon Company, 1901), http://www.archive.org/stream/cu31924092721939/cu31924092721939_djvu.txt.

“Obituary: Richard Grant White,” NY Times, April 9, 1885, http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F2061EF93B5411738DDDA00894DC405B8584F0D3.

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Scope and Content Note

The Richard Grant White Papers contain materials created through White’s public persona, namely correspondence and published articles. The correspondence contains letters written by some of the nineteenth century’s most notable literary and critical figures, addressing a variety of topics such as publishing, copyright, and civil war politics. There is a small section of personal correspondence White wrote to his family, namely his wife, sons, and younger sister.

The bulk of the collection is made up of articles published in newspapers and journals. These articles are ones that White wrote himself, articles that were written about White and his work, and other articles that may have been of interest to White. These articles and clippings span five decades of the nineteenth century, including the Civil War years.

There is also a small section of ephemera, notes, and photographs, most of which pertain to White’s career.

There is little to no material relating to White's son, Stanford White. This collection is composed entirely of materials relating to Richard Grant White.

Arrangement Note

This collection is arranged into five series. The materials within those series are organized chronologically.

  1. Series I: Correspondence
  2. Series II: Writing
  3. Series III: Printed Materials and Clippings
  4. Series IV: Music
  5. Series V: Notes and Ephemera

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Aldrich, Thomas Bailey, 1836-1907
  • Clark, William George, 1821-1878
  • Everett, Edward, 1794-1865
  • Furness, Horace Howard, 1833-1912
  • Godkin, Edwin Lawrence, 1831-1902
  • Halliwell, James Orchard, 1820-1889
  • Hawthorone, Julian, 1846-1934
  • Howells, William Dean, 1837-1920
  • Hutton, Richard Holt, 1826-1897
  • Ingleby, Clement Mansfield, 1823-1886
  • Lowell, James Russell, 1819-1891
  • Norton, Charles Eliot, 1827-1908
  • Olmsted, Frederick Law, 1822-1903
  • Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616
  • Stanhope, Arthur Philip Stanhope, 6th earl, 1838-1905
  • Stedman, Edmund Clarence, 1833-1908
  • Stephen, Leslie, 1832-1904
  • Vaux, Calvert, 1824-1895
  • White, Alexina B., (Alexina Black)
  • White, Augusta
  • White, Richard Mansfield

Subject Topics

  • American newspapers
  • Criticism
  • Critics
  • Letters
  • Music--History and criticism
  • Theater--New York (State)--New York

Subject Places

  • New York (N.Y.)

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Use Restrictions

Permission to quote from this collection in a publication must be requested and granted in writing. Send permission requests, citing the name of the collection from which you wish to quote to: Manuscript Curator, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024

Preferred Citation Note

This collection should be cited as the Richard Grant White Papers, MS 692, The New-York Historical Society.

Related Archival Materials Note

The New-York Historical Society Library has a number of Richard Grant White’s publications in its book collection as well as a few catalogues of White’s personal library.

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Container List

Series I: Correspondence, 1847-1891, undated

Scope and Content

Through the correspondence in this series, White comes across as a respected scholar, social critic, and family man. There are letters from some of the most prominent individuals of the late nineteenth century discussing a variety of topics. Also included are letters White wrote to his family.

Subseries A: Correspondence Received by Richard Grant White, 1847-1891, undated

Scope and Content

The bulk of the correspondence in this section was received in the 1870s and 1880s and reads as something of a Who’s Who within the literary and academic communities. Included within this subseries are letters from: Thomas Bailey Aldrich (American poet, novelist, travel writer, and editor); Robert Browning (English poet and playwright); William Cullen Bryant (American poet, journalist and editor of the  New York Evening Post); William George Clark (English Classical and Shakespearian scholar); Clarence Cook (American author and art critic); Howard Crosby (American scholar, preacher, and professor); George William Curtis (American writer and public speaker); Charles Dalrymple (Scottish politician); Charles Dickens (English author); Morgan Dix (American religious author); Alexander Dyce (Scottish editor and literary historian); Edward Everett (American politician and educator; Horace Howard Furness (American Shakespearean scholar); Richard Watson Gilder (American poet and editor); Edwin Lawrence Godkin (American journalist and newspaper editor); Percy Greg (English writer); James Orchard Halliwell (English Shakespearian scholar); Julian Hawthorne (American writer and journalist); Thomas Wentworth Higginson (American minister, author, abolitionist, and soldier); Oliver Wendell Holmes (American author); William Dean Howells (American author and literary critic); Daniel Huntington (American artist); Alfred H. Huth (English author and bibliophile); Richard Holt Hutton (English writer and theologian); Clement Mansfield (Shakespearian scholar); Ellen Kean (English actress); James Russell Lowell (American poet, critic, editor, and diplomat); John Morley (English statesman, writer, and newspaper editor); Charles Eliot Norton (American author and social critic); Frederick Law Olmsted (American journalist, social critic, public administrator, and landscape designer); Frederick William Seward (Assistant Secretary of State during the Civil War); William H. Seward (President Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State); Howard Staunton (English chess master); Edmund Clarence Stedman (American poet, critic, and essayist); Leslie Stephen (English author, critic, and mountaineer); Calvert Vaux (architect and landscape designer); and W. Aldis Wright (English writer and editor). The letters are organized first by the sender’s last name and then chronologically.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Correspondence Received, A-D
1859-1884, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Correspondence Received, E-G
1862-1891, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Correspondence Received, H
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Correspondence Received, I-N
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Correspondence Received, O-Stedman
1856-1884, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Correspondence Received, Stephen-W
1860-1887, undated

Subseries B: Correspondence Sent by Richard Grant White, 1849-1884, undated

Scope and Content

This subseries contains two different correspondence subjects. The first is White’s family correspondence. Within those letters, White wrote to his wife, his sons, and his sister Augusta. The other correspondence is from White to publishing companies, newspaper editors, and other prominent individuals.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Family Correspondence
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Family Correspondence
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Family Correspondence
Box: 2 Folder : 1 General Correspondence
Box: 2 Folder : 2 General Correspondence
1868-1884, undated

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Series II: Writing, 1853-1884, undated

Scope and Content

This series contains the early stages of White’s writings. There are handwritten literary manuscripts and printed galleys--a vital editing step before actual publication--with annotations in the margins. There are also bound volumes that White wrote out by hand, such as the Truths from Shakespeare, which is made up of Shakespeare quote “snippets” White particularly liked.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Literary Manuscripts
1856-1857, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Literary Manuscripts
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Literary Manuscripts
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Galleys
Box: 3 Companion to the Bryan Gallery of Christian Art Galley
Box: 3 Shakespeare's Scholar Part 1 Galley
Box: 3 Shakespeare's Scholar Part 2 Galley
Box: 3 A Grammar of the "Grammerless Tongue"
Box: 3 Index Studioru
Box: 3 Truths from Shakespeare

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Series III: Printed Materials and Clippings, 1845-1886, undated

Scope and Content

This series contains printed materials from the height of White’s career. There are articles he wrote, articles that were written about him, and other clippings that may have been written by him. They cover areas such as the English language, theater, publishing, copyright, public schools, and civil war politics.

Subseries A: Material Written by Richard Grant White, 1847-1885, undated

Scope and Content

Within this series are a number of White's published articles. These articles include critical reviews, essays, and letters to the editor that were published in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and journals. There are two particular areas that White focused on that are highlighted: copyright and public schools. These articles are separated from the rest.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Articles by Richard Grant White
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Articles on the Copyright Issue
Box: 2 Folder : 9 Articles by Richard Grant White
Box: 2 Folder : 10 Articles by Richard Grant White
Box: 4 Folder : 1 Articles by Richard Grant White
Box: 4 Folder : 2 Criticism of Public Schools
Box: 4 Folder : 3 Articles by Richard Grant White
Box: 4 Folder : 4 Articles by Richard Grant White

Subseries B: Material Written about Richard Grant White, 1854-1886, undated

Scope and Content

There has been a great deal written about both White and his work. This subseries contains articles that were written about White’s publications, opinions, and character.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 5 Articles about Richard Grant White
Box: 4 Folder : 6 Articles about Richard Grant White
Box: 4 Folder : 7 Articles about Richard Grant White
Box: 4 Folder : 8 Articles about Richard Grant White
Box: 4 Folder : 9 Reviews of England Without and Within
Box: 4 Folder : 10 Articles about Richard Grant White
Box: 4 Folder : 11 Articles about Richard Grant White

Subseries C: Newspaper and Journal Clippings, 1845-1886, undated

Scope and Content

This series contains newspaper and journal articles dated from 1845 to 1886. Some of these articles may have been authored by White under a pseudonym or as an unaccredited staff writer. There are letters to the editor from someone writing under the pseudonyms Free Soil, Wantright, and Republican. There are also a large number of theatrical reviews and book reviews.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 1 Dated Clippings
Box: 5 Folder : 2 Dated Clippings
Box: 5 Folder : 3 Dated Clippings
Box: 5 Folder : 4 Dated Clippings
Box: 5 Folder : 5 Dated Clippings
Box: 5 Folder : 6 Dated Clippings
Box: 5 Folder : 7 Dated Clippings
Box: 5 Folder : 8 Dated Clippings
Box: 5 Folder : 9 Dated Clippings
Box: 5 Folder : 10 Dated Clippings
Box: 6 Folder : 1 Undated Clippings
Box: 6 Folder : 2 Undated Clippings
Box: 7 Unsorted Clippings

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Series IV: Music, 1842, undated

Scope and Content

The materials in this series concern White’s interest in music. There is one volume and folders of loose sheet music for the violin and cello. The loose sheet music is stored in an oversized cabinet.

Container 1     Title Date
Box: 3 Septetto in Sol. per Flauto, Due Violini, Due Viole e Due Violoncelli
Oversize: OS Sheet Music
Oversize: OS Sheet Music

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Series V: Notes and Ephemera, 1838-1921, undated

Scope and Content

There are a variety of materials within this small series. There are estate documents, photographs, handwritten notes, and ephemera. Of note is correspondence from one of White’s descendents, inquiring about the status of the family’s possession of copyright over White’s works, contained within the official documents folder.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 6 Folder : 3 Official Documents
1838-1921, undated
Box: 6 Folder : 4 Assorted Printed Materials
1864-1888, undated
Box: 6 Folder : 5 Photographs, Drawings, and Maps
Box: 6 Folder : 6 Handwritten Notes
1878, undated
Box: 6 Folder : 7 Ephemera

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