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Alfred Terhune Collection Relating to Edward FitzGerald

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: JPM/KM
Date: May 1990

Biographical History

Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883), born Edward Marlborough Purcell, was a British poet, best known as the author of the first and most famous English translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

Alfred Terhune (1899-1975) was a professor of English at Syracuse University; his life-long interest in FitzGerald resulted in a comprehensive four-volume edition of The Letters of Edward FitzGerald (1830-1883).

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Alfred M. Terhune Collection Relating to Edward FitzGerald consists of a variety of materials -- correspondence, memorabilia, notes, printed material, writings, and miscellaneous items -- both by and about Edward FitzGerald. The collection was assembled by Syracuse University English Professor Alfred Terhune in support of his research on FitzGerald, which eventually resulted in the publication of The Letters of Edward FitzGerald (1830-1883) (4 volumes). Although the collection is focused on FitzGerald and appears highly integrated, it should nevertheless be viewed as a combination of disparate items, representative of the interests of a number of individuals (Henry Bertram Lister, Waldo Maas, Terhune) and organizations (most notably the Omar Khayyam Club), and spanning nearly a century of collecting tastes and history. As such, the collection consists of a wide variety of materials concerning Edward FitzGerald and his associates, running the gamut from the funereal (FitzGerald obituaries and will) to the lighthearted (Omar Khayyam Club menus and seating charts); the scholarly (original FitzGerald correspondence, a Thackeray bookplate) to the mythic (a rose from the tomb of Omar Khayyam).

Despite his quiet lifestyle, FitzGerald was as personable in his private life as he was multi-faceted in his literary career. It is indicative of the complexity of his character that he inspired so diverse a range of admirers (E.B. Cowell, George Crabbe, Joseph Fletcher, Fanny Kemble, A.P. Moor, Alfred Tennyson, William Makepeace Thackeray, W. Aldis Wright). The Terhune collection illuminates the many sides of FitzGerald's personality and provides insight into those individuals (Maas, Terhune, Lister) who studied, recorded, and, above all, shared a fascination with his life. The collection has been organized to reflect the range of both primary and secondary FitzGerald material, and includes original FitzGerald letters; incoming and outgoing correspondence of his associates, many containing references to FitzGerald; a section of FitzGerald miscellany, consisting primarily of memorabilia and printed material; the Waldo Maas files; and Terhune's correspondence and research notes, including 76 reels of microfilm containing FitzGerald letters.

The first section of the collection, Edward FitzGerald Letters, consists of 45 outgoing items of FitzGerald correspondence written between 1844 and 1883, a small fragment of his voluminous output of letters, yet illuminating the man and his interests. Evidence of FitzGerald's playful Spirit is a letter to Anna Biddle, thanking her for her gift of apples (4 Nov. 1873):

What you sent me were really beautiful little Fellows; cherubic looking Apple-lets; it seemed a pity to eat them; and I don't think they were Quite so good as handsome.

Characteristic of the many FitzGerald letters which discuss literature is this observation to Anna Biddle (29 Dec. 1876):

I will only say of "Harold" that I think AT [Alfred Tennyson] had better been of my mind in not writing, or publishing, more. These latter Inferiorities will temporarily, though not justly, cloud his present Reputation and be a Drag upon those works of his which are to live. So I think.

The next section of the Terhune collection is the Edward FitzGerald Associates' Letters which are chronologically arranged and span 1846 through 1943, many of which contain references to the translator and his work. A letter from a Quaker poet Bernard Barton to George Crabbe, son of the poet, recounts an anecdote FitzGerald enjoyed telling (6 Aug. 1846): "I longed to follow the example of Edward Fgd's friend Squire Jenney who heroically doffs the trowsers, & sits with only calico drawers an--so I am told." However, not all the letters in the Associates' section are light in tone. Following FitzGerald's death in 1883, many of the correspondents discuss the funeral arrangements and the practical aspects of the author's work, such as the copyright of his translation of the Rubaiyat.

The next division of the Terhune collection is designated FitzGerald Miscellany. The items in this section are related to FitzGerald both in terms of subject and time period, and comprise engravings, Omar Khayyam Club menus and seating charts, manuscripts by Henry B. Lister, photographs, postcards, printed material, and other items of memorabilia. This section includes a rare manuscript poem by FitzGerald, "A Country Carol."

The Waldo Maas files follow the FitzGerald Miscellany and consist primarily of Maas' correspondence and notebooks. An early FitzGerald collector, Maas accumulated a large assortment of material in anticipation of publishing FitzGerald's letters. Although the exact sequence and timing are unclear, it appears that the Maas collection was acquired for Terhune's work, and that some Maas items became integrated with his own research material. In the arrangement of the Terhune collection, the original Maas folders and item numbers, when available, have been retained. (A number of items of memorabilia which Maas collected may be found in the FitzGerald Miscellany.) Assembled primarily during the first half of the 20th century, the Maas files are reflective of early research work an FitzGerald. The Maas correspondence is particularly significant for its exchange of information with people who had known FitzGerald as well as a number of FitzGerald scholars. Maas' three-year correspondence with Amy I. Biddell is noteworthy for its extent as well as its illuminating discussions of FitzGerald and the Biddell family. The humor and sympathy of these letters demonstrates FitzGerald's capacity to touch many lives nearly a century after his death. Also included in this section is a series of notebooks containing the typed transcripts of FitzGerald letters which Maas was able to obtain from a variety of sources.

The fifth division of the collection are the Terhune Correspondence-Subject Files which consists primarily of incoming letters about FitzGerald. In addition to the correspondence related to bibliographical questions and the ordering of books, there are also a number of letters which include discussions of various aspects of FitzGerald's life and work. The most voluminous and perhaps most interesting of Terhune's exchanges is with author Frank Hussey who wrote a monograph on FitzGerald and sailing. While the letters focus on FitzGerald's love of the sport, they also provide source material on Suffolk and its environs during the Victorian era.

The Terhune Writings follow the Correspondence-Subject File and consist of the typescript manuscript of Terhune's dissertation, "Edward FitzGerald: a Biography," and the typescript of The Letters of Edward FitzGerald. This four- volume set was edited by Terhune and his wife, Annabelle, who completed the project following her husband's death.

The last section of the collection is the Terhune Research Notes, an assemblage of biographical material and background information which Terhune accumulated during his years of research on FitzGerald. Material relates to FitzGerald's associates as well as the various periods of the author's life. Extensive documentation for many of the FitzGerald letters describes how undated letters were chronologically ordered and elucidates for the modern reader some of the more obscure passages contained in the letters. This section has many useful bibliographical references and provides insight into not only the various aspects of FitzGerald's life but also Terhune's research methodology.

The Terhune collection is thus an excellent resource for information, both primary and secondary, on Edward FitzGerald.

Arrangement of the Collection

Arrangement varies; see Scope and Contents above.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

The manuscript collection is supported by an assortment of nearly 300 editions of the Rubaiyat, including copies of FitzGerald's first edition English translation of the Persian classic by Omar Khayyam. These reside in the Rare Books collection; please see the Classic Catalog for a complete listing.

The Terhune Collection is also supplemented by two additional manuscript sources: the George Crabbe Collection which relates to FitzGerald's death and the disposition of his estate, and the Robert Bernard Martin manuscript of With Friends Possessed: a Life of Edward FitzGerald, a biographical study published in 1985.

Subject Headings


Barton, Bernard, 1784-1849.
Brooke, Francis Capper.
Cowell, Edward B. (Edward Byles), 1826-1903.
Crabbe, George.
FitzGerald, Edward, 1809-1883.
Fletcher, Joseph.
Hussey, Frank, 1906-
Kerrich, Mary Eleanor FitzGerald.
Lister, Henry Bertram, 1869-
Maas, Waldo.
Moor, A. P.
Omar Khayyam.
Quaritch, Bernard, 1819-1899.
Tennyson, Alfred Tennyson, Baron, 1809-1892.
Terhune, Alfred McKinley, 1899-1975.
Terhune, Annabelle Burdick.
Thackeray, William Makepeace, 1811-1863.

Corporate Bodies

Omar Khayyam Club (London, England)
Omar Khayyam Club of America.

Associated Titles

The Letters of Edward FitzGerald.


Authors, English -- 19th century.
Biographers -- United States.


Great Britain -- Social life and customs.
Suffolk (England) -- Social life and customs.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Alfred Terhune Collection relating to Edward FitzGerald,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Alfred M. Terhune.

Table of Contents

Edward FitzGerald letters

Edward FitzGerald associates' letters

Edward FitzGerald miscellany

Waldo Maas

Terhune correspondence-subject files

Terhune writings

Terhune research notes

Microfilm index

Selected index to Edward FitzGerald associates' letters


Selected index to Edward FitzGerald associates' letters