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Letters from Maria Edgeworth to Peter Holland and letters from Sir Henry Holland to Maria Edgeworth, Lucy Aikin and Peter Holland


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Comprises: A. Letters from Maria Edgeworth to Peter Holland (1812-1847); B. Letters from Henry Holland to Maria Edgeworth (1809-1849); C. Letters from Henry Holland to Lucy Aikin (1804-1833); and D. Letters from Henry Holland to Peter Holland (1799-1853).


  • Creation: Creation: Majority of material found within Bulk, 1799-1853
  • Creation: Creation: 1799-20th century


0.75 Linear metres (5 boxes)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

Some letters are very fragile and are closed for preservation purposes.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 16087/1].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. 16087/1-5

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 16087


Letters from the writer Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849) to the physician Peter Holland (1766-1855); and letters from his son, the physician Sir Henry Holland (1788-1873) to Maria, Peter and the historian Lucy Aikin (1781-1864).

Biographical / Historical

Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849), writer and educationist, was born in Black Bourton, Oxfordshire to Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744-1817), engineer, inventor and educationist, and the first of his four wives, Anna Maria Elers (1743-1773). The family returned to live on the family estate in Edgeworthstown, Ireland, in 1782. Maria, who had been educated at various establishments in England, became responsible for the education of her many younger half-siblings (Richard Lovell Edgeworth had twenty-two children in total).

Maria was encouraged by her father in her writing and her first published work, Letters for Literary Ladies, was published in 1795. This was followed by her first children's book, The Parent's Assistant in 1796. Along with her father, Maria published their seminal work Practical Education in 1798.

Her first novel, Castle Rackrent, was published in 1800 and Maria soon became regarded as one of the pre-eminent novelists of the period and certainly one of the most commercially successful. After her father's death in 1817 and her subsequent editing of the Memoirs of Richard Lovell Edgeworth, her creative output diminished and her final novel, Helen was published in 1834.

Maria had a wide social as well as familial network and was acquainted with many of the pre-eminent literary and scientific minds of the day, including Sir Humphrey Davy, David Ricardo and Sir Walter Scott, many of whom became long-term correspondents.

Physicians Peter Holland (1766-1855) and his son Sir Henry Holland (1788-1873) were regular correspondents of Maria and slotted neatly into the literary and scientific milieu of the day. The Hollands came from Knutsford and had family connections to the potter Josiah Wedgewood and the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell.

Originally interested in a mercantile career, Henry spent time in Liverpool and Glasgow before deciding to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh in 1806. Whilst Peter Holland was a well respected physician, his son Henry used his social skills to become a successful London society physician, counting among his patients Princess Caroline [of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, then Princess of Wales] and later, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Henry was avidly interested in scientific and literary progress and his letters reflect his wide interests and multiple social and professional connections. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1815.

Henry was also a consummate traveller, visiting Iceland twice and America eight times, as well as frequently venturing into Europe. He published several works as a result of his travels including Travels in the Ionian Isles, Albania, Thessaly, Macedonia, &c during 1812 and 1813 (1814).

Henry Holland was married twice, firstly to Margaret Emma Caldwell (1792-1830) in 1822 and secondly to Saba Smith (1802-1866), the daughter of Revd Sydney Smith, in 1834. Henry Holland was made a baronet in April 1853. He had seven children including Henry Thurstan Holland, first Viscount Knutsford (1825-1914). He died on 27 October 1873, on his 85th birthday, at his home in Brook Street, London.

Lucy Aikin (1781-1864), historian, was also the daughter of a physician, John Aikin (1747-1822) and his wife Martha Jennings (d.1830). Their family also blended science and literature: her aunt was the writer Anna Laetitia Barbauld and Lucy's brothers Arthur and Charles Rochemont Aikin became chemists.

Like Maria, Lucy published works for the education of children including Poetry for Children (1801) but became most well known for her historical works detailing life at the courts of Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I (published 1818, 1822 and 1833 respectively).


The letters are arranged by sender and recipient; then chronologically.

Custodial History

This collection of letters was passed down through the descendants of Sir Henry Holland.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased by the Bodleian Library from John Wilson Manuscripts, May 2019 with the generous help of The Murray Family and the Roy Davids bequest fund.

Related Materials

Bodleian Library

  1. Archive of Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849) and the Edgeworth Family, 17th-19th century

British Library

  1. Add MS 51814 - correspondence of Henry Holland with Lord Holland, 1815-1844

Cambridge University Library

  1. MSS.DAR.166[.2]: 235-254 - Letters from Henry Holland to Charles Robert Darwin, 1862-1872
  2. MSS.DAR.86: A79-80 - Letter from Henry Holland to Erasmus Alvey Darwin, 1869.
  3. MSS.DAR.47: 148-149 - Letter from Henry Holland to Charles Robert Darwin, [1859].

Cheshire Archives and Local Studies

  1. Stanley of Alderley records, DSA/11 - Letters from Sir Henry Holland, 1802-1813

National Library of Scotland

  1. Acc. 7515 - 21 letters from Henry Holland to his father, Peter Holland, 1810-1811


  • Henry Holland, Travels in the Ionian Isles, Albania, Thessaly, Macedonia, &c., during the years 1812 and 1813 (London, 1815).
  • Henry Holland, Recollections of past life (London, 1872).
Catalogue of letters from Maria Edgeworth to Peter Holland and letters from Sir Henry Holland to Maria Edgeworth, Lucy Aikin and Peter Holland
Finding aid prepared by Rachael Marsay
Language of description
Script of description
Catalogued with the generous support of the Roy Davids bequest

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom