“Too late at the feast once more! Serendipity in reverse again! Not even a crumb from the table for me. I put it to any of you: does it not seem rather unfair for Brigham Young to make off with both Mrs. Lorimer and Colonel Enderby’s Wife? Greed, pure greed.”
Such was the reaction of Robert Wolff, a private collector of Victorian literature, upon hearing of BYU’s purchase of the Victorian collection that had been compiled by David Magee of San Francisco. The book world of the 1960s was astounded by the news that Brigham Young University had purchased a collection of Victorian literature of such magnitude. As Robert Metzdorf, another private collector of Victorian literature, said:
“What a collection! When shall we look upon its like again? . . . In the end all must agree, however reluctantly, that the unattainable is a jewel of great value and that its final setting is no more than it deserves.”
That final setting is, happily, at BYU. A collection of Victorian literature as rich and broad as this probably has not been assembled since the mid-1960s. Not content with what was purchased from Mr. Magee, Special Collections has added thousands of items to this collection since it was first acquired and continues to do so.
The topics for scholarly research are myriad. Consider the gems that can be mined in this collection: all aspects of 19th-century English literature; 19th-century history of Great Britain, including politics, biography, religion, travel, and exploration; 19th-century printing in England; the religious novel; women authors; popular 19th-century literature; children’s books; social history; and the Industrial Revolution.
In addition to its Victorian Collection, Special Collections has made an effort to develop collections of early 20th-century English literature. The Edwardian Collection at BYU, purchased from San Francisco book dealer David Magee in the early 1970s, comprises approximately 2,000 titles including all of the major and many of the minor authors of the period immediately following the Victoria era, such as Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, John Galsworthy, A. E. Housman, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, John Masefield, Eden Phillpotts (581 titles), Siegfried Sassoon, Arthur Symons, P. G. Wodehouse (238 titles), Virginia Woolf, and William Butler Yeats.