A collection of material on Dr Samuel Johnson, assembled by the editor of the Manchester City News, John Cumming Walters, being a mixture of original typescript and manuscript, including a lecture by Walters, and newspaper and magazine cuttings.

John Cuming Walters (1863-1933), editor of the Manchester City News [Dr Samuel Johnson; Johnsoniana; James Boswell]
Publication details: 
Manchester and other English cities: 1894 to 1921.
SKU: 12557

A notable man by any measure, Walters is a puzzling omission from the Oxford DNB. For many years a central figure in the literary life of the north-west of England, he was an authority on Shakespeare (his extensive papers on whom are now in the Folger), Tennyson and Dickens. Walters was the author of 'about 20 books and [...] 250 lectures', and an 'actual or corresponding member of close upon fifty' literary societies, in addition to his professional work as editor of the Manchester City News (for twenty-five years), and the Manchester Evening Chronicle. Shortly before his death (and as reported in The Times, 28 April 1932) Walters boasted of having written 'between 15,000 and 20,000 leading articles, nearly 20,000 reviews of books, 8,000 dramatic notices, and 15,000 special articles'. His journalistic achievements including a year-long successful 'anti-slum campaign'. Further information on Walters' life is to be found in L. M. Angus-Butterworth's 'Lancashire Literary Worthies' (1980). The present collection is in fair condition, on aged paper, with occasional leaves frayed and worn. It is divided into three parts: first, newspaper cuttings relating to Johnson; second, a heavily-revised draft, in typescript and manuscript, of a lecture by Walters on Johnson; and third, a miscellaneous collection of notes and transcripts, both typed and in autograph, also by Walters. Part One: Forty-five cuttings relating to Johnson, from English newspapers including the Birmingham Daily Gazette, the Liverpool Daily Post, the Daily Chronicle and the Times Literary Supplement, with the earliest dated cutting from 1894 and the latest from 1920. Authors include G. K. Chesterton, Andrew Lang and Arthur Waugh. Several of the cuttings are loose, but most are laid down on 12mo leaves. Included is at least one piece by Walters himself, titled 'The "Great Cham" in Manchester. Missing Leaves From Boswell's "Life of Johnson." Although anonymous, this piece carries the autograph signature 'J. Cuming Walters' with the date 'J. C. W | 1909'. Part Two: 94p., 12mo (in a separate packet) on one side each of 94 loose leaves, numbered 1 and 78, with numerous interpolated leaves ('8a' and so on). A mixture of typescript and manuscript, and including transcripts and cuttings. Apparently unpublished. The lecture begins: 'I have been asked to give you a night with Dr Johnson. That does not mean that I shall exhaust Dr Johnson in a night. So far from that being the case, the magnitude of the task appals me, & I wonder whether anyone ought to offer to make an attempt to do what is obviously impossible.' A relaxed piece, with Walters declaring his intention at the outset: 'I do not propose to give you a catalogue of biographical facts, but in discursive manner pass through a series of illustrations of Johnson's character.' Walters' assessment of his subject's character, later in the piece, begins: 'Here, then, were Johnson's sterling virtues. Seldom are so many found in one man. He was unselfish to a degree. He could live on eightpence a day, sometimes on fourpence, though no-one enjoyed a substantial meal more than he; & when he saved it was that he might give away. His worldly fortune when he died consisted of a thousand pounds, & he left it to his negro servant in order to ensure that he might never want.' Much of the lecture concern's Boswell's biography, 'mainly a biography of talking' according to Walters. At one point Walters gives his view of how Boswell's biography 'should be read. I claim a right to an opinion as one who having read it twenty times hopes to read it twenty times again, as one who has scored it, filled the margins with notes and comments, and made research in dozens of other books to help the study and add to the pleasure of it. And my advice is - never to begin at page one and read to page 1000, regularly turning over the leaves, and following the items and incidents consecutively; - in other words, never read it through, and never pick it up with that intention. Get through it by jumps and jerks. Pick it up and lay it down when you like. Begin in the middle, skip a hundred pages and begin again, go back 200 pages and make a fresh start. Alight on anything, anyhow, and anywhere. You will read it all in time, but you will never have read it "through".' Laid down on several of the leaves are cuttings from newspapers and books, and pinned to one leaf is a cutting from the St James's Gazette, 6 February 1896, of an article titled 'Mr. Birrell and Mr. Asquith on Dr. Johnson'. Part Three: 90pp., 12mo; and 20pp., 16mo. A jumble of disordered miscellaneous notes and transcripts, both typed and in autograph. One section of six numbered pages dates 1921. Topics include 'Johnson's scheme of life', his 'Use of conversation', and Boswell's biography.