Baylor's Armstrong Browning Library Acquires Joseph Milsand Archive

  • News Photo 2521
    A letter to Milsand from the Brownings, dated 31 January 1858. Browning wrote on the left side of the sheet and his wife continued on the right.
    Photo by Mary Goolsby
  • News Photo 2520
    From left, Rita Patteson, curator of manuscripts, Tricia Filippin, graduate assistant, and Cynthia Burgess, curator of books and printed materials, check the contents of the Milsand Archive as it arrives at Armstrong Browning Library.
    Photo by Mary Goolsby
  • News Photo 2522
    Robert Browning stands to the left of his friend Joseph Milsand as they view a study in oil by Browning's son, Pen, titled "Honore Charbonier." The photograph was taken in 1883 by William Grove.
  • News Photo 2523
    Joseph Milsand (1817-1886)
Feb. 8, 2005

by Rita Patteson, Curator of Manuscripts, ABL

Baylor University's Armstrong Browning Library has acquired the unique and extensive archive of Joseph Milsand, French philosopher, literary critic and longtime friend of Victorian poet Robert Browning. The collection was delivered to the library in December.

"This valuable acquisition was made possible by the generosity of the Bob and Anna Wright Family Foundation of Vernon, Texas," said Dr. Reagan Ramsower, dean of the Baylor Libraries. "As Baylor students, Bob and Anna Smith Wright were profoundly influenced by beloved English professor A.J. Armstrong and his passion and devotion for the Brownings. By providing this archive, previously unavailable to students and researchers, the Wrights hope to continue Dr. Armstrong's vision.

"Once the wealth of new information contained in the Milsand Archive becomes known, future biographers of Robert Browning and scholarly critics of his works will want to draw heavily from this untapped source material," Ramsower added.

Strong supporters of Baylor, the Wrights are lifetime members of the Baylor Alumni Association. They were inducted into the Baylor Heritage Club and are members of the Armstrong Browning Library Guardian Angels. As undergraduates, they were active in various student organizations. Bob received his bachelor's degree with a double major in mathematics and education in 1946 and his master's degree in education in 1947. Anna obtained her bachelor's degree from Baylor in 1947 and her master's of education degree from Midwestern State University in 1975. The Wrights have three children and six grandchildren. The couple attends First Presbyterian Church in Vernon.

Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning were introduced to Milsand in Paris in 1851 a few months after his review of Browning's works appeared in the Revue des Deux Mondes, and an intimate friendship was soon formed. After Mrs. Browning's death in 1861, Milsand and Browning met for extended visits at least once every year. "First interpreter and best" and "one of the finest, gentlest and trust-worthiest of men" is how Browning described his friend.

Milsand became known to English and French readers through his critical writings on English literature (some published under the pen name of Antoine Dilmans) which included, besides notices of the Brownings, articles on Thomas Carlyle, Alfred Tennyson and William Blake. Milsand's book-length study of John Ruskin, L'Esthétique anglais (Paris, 1864), was the first comprehensive French assessment of Ruskin's work. Milsand's interest in philosophy and religion resulted in numerous publications including articles on the Quakers, English philosophers and modern French Protestantism as well as an important evaluation of Martin Luther, Luther et le serf-abitre (Paris, 1884), a book recommended by William James, who said of its author: "He is undoubtedly a man of genius with an insight into the deepest relations of things."

The archive contains more than 4,000 autograph letters, numerous rare books, pamphlets, journals, photographs, drawings, newspapers and albums. It includes original manuscripts of nearly all of Milsand's known writings, together with a large number of annotated proofs and most of his printed works, documenting his career from the age of 20 until his death. More than 62,000 manuscript pages of Milsand's articles, essays, study notes and personal journals record his thoughts and observations.

Of particular interest in the archive is a correspondence of more than 160 letters between Milsand and Browning's sister, Sarianna, which provides new insights into the lives and works of both of the Brownings and the social environment in which the families lived. There are also some 600 letters between the Milsands and their daughter, Claire, many of which were written from or addressed to Browning's London home. These documents contain intimate glimpses of the two families.

Other noteworthy items include a collection of letters, books and papers belonging to the artist and critic W.H. Darley (1801-1857), with a notebook containing holograph verses by his brother, poet and critic George Darley; letters from Carlyle, Ruskin, James, Frédéric Soulié, William Makepeace Thackeray, Auguste Rodin, Alfred de Musset and Anne Thackeray Ritchie; a first edition of A Selection from the Works of Robert Browning (1865), apparently the only extant copy in its original eight parts; and 180 volumes of Revue des Deux Mondes (1835-1872).

"The strength of the archive lies in the enormous amount of original manuscript material that will furnish dozens of research subjects, not only for Baylor students pursuing master and doctoral degrees, but also for members of Baylor's faculty and visiting scholars from a wide range of disciplines," Ramsower noted.

For more information regarding the acquisition of the Joseph Milsand Archive and its availability, contact Patteson at (254) 710-4967 or Rita_Patteson@baylor.edu.

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