Letters, literary manuscripts, and personal papers of the Porter family
The Porter family papers consist of letters, literary manuscripts and personal papers of an English literary family from the mid-18th century to the mid-19th century. Two-thirds of the almost 3000 items in the collection consists of the correspondence of the siblings, Sir Robert Ker Porter (1777-1842), Jane Porter (1776-1850), Anna Maria Porter (1778-1832), and other members of the Porter family.
- 1750 - 1849
- Porter family (Family)
Language of Materials
Most of the collection is in English; some materials are in French, Russian, Persian, or Serbian and are noted individually as such in the finding aid.
Conditions Governing Access
No access restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.
History of the Porter Family
Members of this Porter family trace their ancestry back to Sir William Porter, who fought at Agincourt and Endymion Porter (1587-1649), a courtier and patron of artists. Their maternal ancestry includes John Tweddell (1769-1799), a classical scholar. William Porter (1735-1779), a surgeon with the 6th Inniskilling dragoons, married Jane Blenkinsop (1745-1831), daughter of Robert Blenkinsop of Durham, and they had 5 children: John (1772-1810), a colonel; William Ogilvie (1774-1850), a surgeon; Jane (1776-1850), a writer; Robert Ker (1777-1842), a painter and diplomat; and Anna Maria (1778-1832), a writer. All four of the youngest siblings authored books.
In 1812, Robert Ker Porter married Princess Maria (Mary) Scherbatoff (d. 1826) and their daughter, Maria (Mary), born in 1813, married Pierre Kikine in 1837.
The following is a Porter Family Chronology abstracted from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and other sources.
- William Porter (father) is born and later spends 23 years as a surgeon to the 6th Inniskilling dragoons.
- Jane Blenkinsop Porter (mother) is born.
- John Porter is born.
- William Ogilvie Porter is born.
- Jane Porter is born at Durham.
- Robert Ker Porter is born at Durham.
- Anna Maria Porter is born at Durham.
- William Porter (father) dies and the family moves to Edinburgh seeking an inexpensive, good education for the children.
- Jane and Anna Maria Porter attend George Fulton's school; Walter Scott, whose mother was acquainted with Jane Blenkinsop Porter, may have played with Jane and Anna Maria Porter; Flora MacDonald influences Robert Ker Porter's interest in painting military subjects; the family moves to London.
- Benjamin West, impressed with Robert Ker Porter's artistic ability, gets him admitted to the Royal Academy School at Somerset-House; Anna Maria Porter begins writing stories which become part of Artless Tales.
- Robert Ker Porter wins a prize from the Society of the Arts for The Witch of Endor drawing and paints an altarpiece for Shoreditch church and Christ Allaying the Storm for a Catholic chapel in Portsea.
- Robert Ker Porter exhibits 38 pictures, mostly historical pieces and landscapes.
- 1793 and 1795
- Anna Maria Porter publishes Artless Tales.
- Jane, Robert and Anna Maria Porter work on a periodical, The Quiz, with Thomas Dibdin; Anna Maria Porter publishes Walsh Colville.
- Robert Ker Porter paints St. John Preaching for St John's College, Cambridge; Anna Maria Porter publishes Octavia.
- Jane Porter authors The Spirit of the Elbe; the Porter family is living at 16 Great Newport Street, Leicester Square.
- Jane Porter writes "A Defence of the Profession of an Actor"; Robert Ker Porter paints Storming of Seringapatam.
- Jane Porter authors The Two Princes of Persia: Addressed to Youth.
- Robert Ker Porter authors An Historical Sketch of the Battle of Alexandria, and of the Campaign in Egypt : illustrative of the great picture, now exhibiting in the Lyceum, Strand, painted by Robert Ker Porter.
- Jane Porter's book, Thaddeus of Warsaw, is published by Longman and Company in 4 volumes; Robert Ker Porter is appointed captain in the Westminster militia but his family dissuades him from a military career.
- Jane Porter writes a "Sketch of the Campaign of Count Suwarrow Ryminski"; Robert Ker Porter is appointed court painter to Tsar Alexander I of Russia; the Porter women move to Long Ditton, Kingston and some years later to Esher, Surrey.
- Anna Maria Porter's book, A Sailor's Friendship, and a Soldier's Love, is published in two volumes.
- some time between 1805 and 1807
- Robert Ker Porter becomes engaged to Maria, daughter of Prince Theodor Scherbatoff.
- Robert Ker Porter is knighted by King Gustavus IV of Sweden.
- Jane Porter edits The Aphorisms of Sir Philip Sidney. Anna Maria Porter writes The Hungarian Brothers.
- Forced to leave Russia, Robert Ker Porter travels to Finland, Sweden and Germany and is made a knight of St Joachim of Wurttemberg.
- Robert Ker Porter accompanies Sir John Moore to Spain and is with Moore at the Battle of Corunna; Robert Ker Porter's book, Travelling Sketches in Russia and Sweden 1805-1808, is published in 2 illustrated volumes and his Letters from Portugal and Spain, Written during the March of the Troops under Sir John Moore comes out later in the year.
- Anna Maria Porter's novel, Don Sebastian, or the House of Braganza, is published.
- Jane Porter publishes The Scottish Chiefs in five volumes; William Ogilvie Porter retires as a naval surgeon to be a physician in Bristol for the next 40 years; Colonel John Porter dies on the Isle of Man.
- Robert Ker Porter returns to Russia at the Tsar's invitation. Anna Maria Porter writes Ballad Romances and Other Poems.
- Robert Ker Porter marries Maria Scherbatoff in Russia, and subsequently interacts with Russian military and diplomatic circles.
- Robert Ker Porter comes back to England, his Narrative of the Campaign in Russia during 1812 is printed, and in April 1813, he is knighted by the prince regent.
- Robert Ker Porter's daughter Maria is born and he returns to Russia.
- Anna Maria Porter writes The Recluse of Norway and Tales of Pity on Fishing, Shooting and Hunting.
- Jane Porter's book, The Pastor's Fireside, is published in three volumes.
- Anna Maria Porter's book, The Knight of St John, is published in three volumes.
- Robert Ker Porter travels to Persia, Georgia, Armenia, etc., and in 1819 he receives the insignia of the order of the Lion and of the Sun from the Persian monarch, Futteh Ali Shah.
- Anna Maria Porter's novel, The Fast of St. Magdalen, a romance is published in three volumes.
- Jane Porter's play, Switzerland, is acted in Drury Lane for one night only.
- Robert Ker Porter's notes of his travels are published in his Travels in Georgia, Persia, Armenia, Ancient Babylonia, 1817-1820, in two volumes; after a brief visit to England, Robert Ker Porter returns to Russia; Anna Maria Porter's work, The Village of Mariendorpt, a Tale in Four Volumes, is published.
- Jane Porter's play, Owen, Prince of Powys is acted in Drury Lane only three times; Anna Maria Porter's book, Roche Blanche, or, The Hunters of the Pyrenees, is published in three volumes.
- Jane Porter's book, Duke Christian of Lüneburg, is published in three volumes.
- Robert Ker Porter is appointed British Consul in Venezuela and for the next fifteen years he resides in Caracas where he also continues to draw and paint.
- Jane and Anna Maria Porter collaborate on Tales Round a Winter's Hearth, a work in three volumes; Anna Maria Porter's book, Honor O'Hara, a novel, is published in 3 volumes; Maria Scherbatoff Porter dies in St Petersburg.
- Jane and Anna Maria Porter collaborate on Coming Out, and, The Field of Forty Footsteps, a work in two volumes.
- Anna Maria Porter's The Barony is published in three volumes.
- William Ogilvie Porter writes Sir Edward Seaward's Narrative of his Shipwreck, and Consequent Discovery of Certain Islands in the Caribbean Sea: with Details of his Residence There, and of Various Extraordinary and Highly Interesting Events in his Life, from the Year 1733 to 1749, as Written in his own Diary; Jane Blenkinsop Porter dies at Esher.
- Robert Ker Porter is made knight commander of the order of Hanover; Jane and Anna Maria settle in London and visit William Ogilvie Porter in Bristol; Anna Maria Porter dies in Bristol.
- Jane Porter writes a preface to Young Hearts.
- Maria, Robert Ker Porter's daughter, marries Pierre Kikine.
- Robert Ker Porter returns to England for a brief visit with his brother, William Ogilvie Porter, in Bristol and then he travels to St Petersburg to visit his daughter, Maria Porter Kikine. Jane Porter either travels with Robert Ker Porter or meets him in St Petersburg.
- Robert Ker Porter dies on the day of his return trip to England and is buried in St Petersburg.
- Jane Porter sells Robert Ker Porter's books, engravings and other belongings at Christies and wraps up his estate in 1844.
- Jane Porter moves to William Ogilvie Porter's home in Bristol.
- Jane Porter dies in May in Bristol; William Ogilvie Porter dies in August in Bristol.
- Sir Thomas Phillipps purchases some of the Porter correspondence.
11 Linear Feet (46 document cases + 7 volumes, 1 oversize box)
Scope and Contents
In this collection of almost 3,000 items written between 1750 and 1849, two-thirds are letters written either by members of the Porter family or to them. The other third of the collection consists of the Porter family members' literary manuscripts and personal papers.
Literary manuscripts include poetry, prose, dramatic dialogue, and research notes.
Personal papers include journals and diaries, notes related to family and friends, lists and notes regarding travel, financial matters and household concerns, health records including prescriptions and remedies, and recipes.
There is a large amount of unattributed material which may be useful to peruse when researching any of the Porter family members. Also, a probable scarcity of paper led to drafts of prose and poetry and notes, etc. being written on the versos of letters and envelopes for several items in the collection. This has typically been noted in the finding aid.
Most of the collection spans the first half of the 19th century. A few items are dated in the latter half of the 18th century.
Authorship has priority over recipient in the organization of this collection. The letters written by the Porter family members are separated by the family member's name and then listed chronologically within that family member's name. Letters written to Porter family members and others are listed alphabetically by the writer's last name.
The literary manuscripts and personal papers have also been separated by family member's name. The list indicates whether the family member was an author/sender or recipient. Within those divisions the literary manuscripts are listed first and personal papers second. These are then organized by document type or subject and chronologically within each document type or subject. If dates are the same, the items are listed in Phillipps number order.
There is some "as yet unattributed" material. Please notify Spencer Research Library staff if you are able to provide information for any of these items.
The preservation photographs of the original Phillipps bindings are listed in Phillipps number order.
All the items in the collection have the following information (if available) for each item: Phillipps number (in pdfs), box and folder numbers, author/sender, place the item was sent from (in parentheses as part of date information), name of recipient and place the item was sent to, date, extent, and notes.
Other Finding Aids
There are several additional ways to access item-level information regarding what is in this collection:
ksrl.sc.portersender.pdf for a listing of the items in the collection in alphabetical order by the last names of the sender/authors.
ksrl.sc.porterrecipient.pdf for a listing of the items in the collection in alphabetical order by the last names of the recipients of letters, etc.
ksrl.sc.porterdate.pdf for a chronological listing of the items in the collection.
ksrl.sc.porterphillips.pdf for a listing of the items in the collection in Phillips number order.
ksrl.sc.porterbindings.pdf for a listing of the Phillipps bindings and notations on them in Phillips number order.
In 1852, two years after the last Porter siblings (Jane and William Ogilvie) died, Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872) purchased Porter family papers for addition to his huge collection of books and manuscripts. His manuscript acquisitions were usually bound into volumes at his Middle Hill Bindery, each volume being assigned a five-digit number and each manuscript within it an item number. Most of Spencer Library's Porter family collection came from sales of material from the Phillipps estate and was received in Phillipps bindings.
After disbinding to facilitate consultation and conservation, Spencer Library staff recorded the Phillipps number for each item in a database listing the collection, the foundation for this finding aid. As well as documenting this provenance, the Phillipps numbers have often been used by scholars to identify and cite the manuscripts. Preservation photographs recording the appearance of the bindings were also taken in Spencer Library and have been included in the Porter family collection.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Purchases, Wredon, 1958, 1967; Francis Edwards, 1976; Sotheby, 1978; David Holmes, 1993, 1996; Michael Marsland, 2005; unknown purchase, 2013; Ian Brabner Rare Americana, 2016; source unknown, 2005.
- Authors, English -- 19th century
- Badeley family
- Balkan Peninsula -- Description and travel
- Clitherow family
- Denham family
- Diplomatic and consular service -- Great Britain -- History -- 19th century
- Diplomatic and consular service, British -- Venezuela -- History -- 19th century
- English literature -- 19th century
- Europe, Eastern -- Description and travel
- Great Britain -- Social life and customs -- 19th century
- Kikine, Maria Scherbatoff Porter, 1813-
- Middle East -- Description and travel
- Mocatta family
- Porter, Anna Maria, 1778-1832
- Porter, Jane, 1776-1850
- Porter, Maria Scherbatoff, -1826
- Porter, Mrs. (Jane), 1745-1831
- Porter, Robert Ker, Sir, 1777-1842
- Porter, William Ogilvie, 1774-1850
- Porter, William, 1735-1779
- Russia -- Description and travel
- Scherbatoff family
- Venezuela -- Description and travel
- Women -- Intellectual life -- 19th century
- Guide to the Porter Family Collection
- Letters, literary manuscripts, and personal papers of the Porter family
- Finding aid prepared by alh, am, mab, acs, bwg, ksc, 2012. Finding aid encoded by mab, 2012. Finding aid revised by cmp and mwh, 2021.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Finding aid written in English.
- Finding aid permalink
- Preferred citation
Letters, literary manuscripts, and personal papers of the Porter family, Department of Special Collections, MS 28, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas