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Travel journal and engagement diary of Mary Harper Roberts (née Harper)

 Single Item
MS. 17181

  • Request

Comprises three items:

  1. Manuscript travel journal, 1885. Begins with account of a visit to Switzerland (29 Jun-31 Jul 1885), including meeting her future husband, Ernest Stewart Roberts. The family returned to Oxford on 31 Jul 1885 and the remainder of the journal describes their life in Oxford and the couple's courtship. The last entry (30 Dec 1885) refers to Roberts' marriage proposal. Inscribed 'Mary Harper July 4th 1885 - Lucerne'. Includes pressed pieces of edelweiss.
  2. Engagement diary, Apr 1878-Feb 1888. Vellum bound notebook with lists of invitations accepted and declined.
  3. Printed first edition of Sherborne, Oxford and Cambridge: recollections of Mrs Ernest Stewart Roberts (London, 1934).


  • Creation: 1878-1934


1 box

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 17181].

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MS. 17181

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 17181


Travel journal and engagement diary of Mary Harper Roberts (née Harper), 1878-1934.

Biographical / Historical

Mary Harper Roberts (née Harper) was born on 13th December 1856 in Sherborne, the second daughter of Hugo Daniel Harper (1821-1895) and his wife, Mary (Mollie) Charlotte Harness, daughter of General Sir Henry Drury Harness. Harper was headmaster of Sherborne School between 1851 and 1877, and Mary spent her childhood in Sherborne. The family moved to Oxford in 1877 when Harper became principal of Jesus College, Oxford (a post he held until his death in 1895). In her memoirs, Mary recollected meeting Lewis Carroll and Oscar Wilde during her time in Oxford.

Mary met her husband, Rev. Ernest Stewart Roberts (1847-1912), during a visit to Switzerland in 1885. They were married on 3rd August 1886 and Mary moved to Cambridge where Ernest was a fellow and senior tutor. Ernest had won a scholarship to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, in 1865 and remained at the college thereafter, becoming Master in 1903 (a post he held until his death in June 1912); he was also University Lecturer in Classics (Epigraphy and Dialects) between 1883 and 1906, and Vice-Chancellor of the University between 1906 and 1908. After her husband's death in 1912, Mary lived at Great Shelford with her sister and daughter; she returned to Oxford briefly before finally moving to Streatley with her daughter Margaret in 1921. Mary published Sherborne, Oxford and Cambridge: recollections of Mrs Ernest Stewart Roberts in 1934, with an introduction by the writer Rose Macaulay (1881-1958), the daughter of Mary's neighbours in Great Shelford.

Mary and Ernest had three children: the eldest, Caroline Mary Stewart Roberts, was born in 1887 and married Arthur Duncan-Jones in 1907; Walter Stewart Roberts, who was born in 1889, retired from the Egyptian Civil Service in 1923 and married Elizabeth M.E. Kerr in 1928; and the youngest, Margaret Stewart Roberts, was born in 1890.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased by the Bodleian Library with the support of the Friends of the Bodleian from Blackwells Rare Books, November 2019.

Catalogue of travel journal and engagement diary of Mary Harper Roberts (née Harper), 1878-1934
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