The archive of the Royal Literary Fund contains tens of thousands of documents dating from the Fund’s foundation by David Williams in 1790 through until the present day. It is a unique and valuable resource for studying both the lives of specific writers and the history of authorship in Britain. Materials dating from between 1790 and the mid twentieth century are deposited on loan at the British Library; these materials have been fully catalogued to facilitate access.
The bulk of the available material consists of case files for more than 3600 applicants who first applied for aid between 1790 and 1939. These include such exalted figures as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, François-René de Chateaubriand, James Hogg, John Clare, Joseph Conrad, Bram Stoker, E. Nesbit, James Joyce, Dorothy Richardson and Arthur Machen, as well as hundreds of less famous writers. The files include thousands of letters from applicants and their supporters as well as application forms, receipts and other documents chronicling literary lives, successes and disappointments. Together they comprise a rich and diverse account of over a century of authors struggling to earn their livings by the pen. As well as the case files, the archive includes Minute Books, Annual Reports, administrative documents and papers relating to the Anniversary Dinners which the Fund held to raise its profile and income between 1793 and 1939.
Accessing the archive
The full catalogue of available documents can be accessed using through the British Library:
British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue
To search only for records in the Royal Literary Fund Archive, add ‘RLF’ to your search terms. The records are most easily navigated using the hierarchal links and the search-refining options displayed to the left. Most of the catalogued materials are also available on microfilm in a number of libraries, including the National Library of Scotland, the Bodleian Library, Cambridge University Library and the library of Cardiff University. The references in the online catalogue are consistent with those used for the microfilms.