Letter from Sen. Symington
to the President of the University
donating the manuscript to the library
Click to enlarge
This manuscript was first documented by Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte’s biographer, who probably saw it just after her death. The first page of “The Secret” was reproduced in Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Bronte, which was published in 1857. It was among the papers and effects that Charlotte had left in her father’s house after her marriage, and it was bequeathed to her husband Arthur Nicholls along with all of Charlotte’s other possessions after her death.
Nicholls returned to his native Ireland in 1861, and the manuscript must have gone with him. The collector and author Clement Shorter purchased the manuscript from Nicholls, along with many other pieces of Brontë juvenilia, in 1895. The manuscript is included in Shorter’s The Brontës: Life and Letters, which was published in 1908. At some point, the juvenilia purchased by Shorter passed to book dealer T.J. Wise, who sold them piece-by-piece as literary curiosities. This particular manuscript was sold in New York around 1915.
Senator Stuart Symington
No information is available on the manuscript’s whereabouts between 1915 and 1973, and it was presumed lost. However, the manuscript was rediscovered among the personal papers of Evelyn Wadsworth Symington, wife of United States Senator Stuart Symington, after her death in 1973. The senator and his son, Congressman James W. Symington, presented the manuscript to the University of Missouri Libraries in 1975, "trusting that this imperishable font of learning will use it to instill in tomorrow's young writers and all graduates to come ... a love of their native language and an awareness of the need to transmit it undiminished to generations yet unborn that it may as well serve our children as it did our fathers." *
*From the remarks of Congressman Symington at the commencement exercises of the Graduate School, May 9, 1975.