ABL Acquires Valuable Browning-related Archive

The Armstrong Browning Library of Baylor University has acquired the unique and extensive archive of Joseph Milsand, French philosopher, literary critic and longtime friend of 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,” Dr. Ramsower explained. “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,” he added.

Strong supporters of Baylor University, 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 BA with a double major in mathematics and education in 1946 and his MA in education in 1947. Anna obtained her BA from Baylor in 1947 and her MEd from Midwestern State University in 1975. The Wrights have three children and six grandchildren. The couple attend First Presbyterian Church in Vernon.

Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning were introduced to Milsand in Paris in 1851 shortly 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’EsthTtique 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 over 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 over 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, Frederic Soulie, 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).

Dean Ramsower points out that “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.”

-Rita Patteson, Armstrong Browning Library

For further information regarding the acquisition of the Joseph Milsand Archive and its availability, please contact Rita Patteson, curator of manuscripts. 254-710-4967