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Identity statement

Reference code(s)
GB0100 KCLCA Skeat
SKEAT, Reverend Walter William (1835-1912)
1772, 1868-1932
Level of description
Collection (fonds)
Extent and medium of the unit of description (quantity, bulk, or size)
9 boxes


Name of creator(s)

Skeat, Walter William, 1835-1912, Professor of Anglo-Saxon, philologist, Anglican clergyman

Administrative / Biographical history

Born in London, 1835; educated at King's College School (where the Anglo-Saxon scholar Thomas Oswald Cockayne was his form-master) and Highgate School; entered Christ's College, Cambridge, 1854; studied theology and mathematics; took the mathematical tripos (fourteenth wrangler), 1858; elected a fellow of Christ's College, 1860; took orders, 1860; curate of East Dereham, Norfolk, 1860; curate of Godalming, but illness ended his career in the church; returned to Cambridge and was appointed lecturer in mathematics, Christ's College, 1864; Fellow of Christ's College; began the serious study of Early English; following the foundation of the Early English Text Society (1864) by Frederick James Furnivall and Richard Morris, Skeat produced editions of texts; founder and president of the English Dialect Society, 1873-1896; elected to the new Elrington and Bosworth professorship of Anglo-Saxon, Cambridge, 1878; in his later years, pursued the systematic study of place-names; Fellow of the British Academy; died in Cambridge, 1912. Publications (as editor and author): Songs and Ballads of Uhland (1864); Lancelot of the Laik (1865); Parallel Extracts from MSS of Piers Plowman (1866); Romance of Partenay (1866); A Tale of Ludlow Castle (1866); Langland's Piers Plowman (in four parts, 1867-1884); Pierce the Plowman's Creed (1867, new edition 1906); William of Palerne (1867); The Lay of Havelok (1868, new edition 1902); A Moeso-Gothic Glossary ( 1868); Piers Plowman, Prologue and Passus I-VII (1869, 1874, 1879, 1886, 1889, 1891, etc); John Barbour's The Bruce (in four parts, 1870-1889; another edition, Scottish Text Society, 1893-1895); Joseph of Arimathæa (1871); Chatterton's Poems (2 volumes, 1871, 1890); Specimens of English from 1394 to 1597 (1871, 1879, 1880, 1887, 1890, etc); The four Gospels, in Anglo-Saxon and Northumbrian (1871-1887); in conjunction with Dr Morris, Specimens of Early English from 1298 to 1393 (1872, 1873, 1894, etc); Chaucer's Treatise on the Astrolabe (1872); Questions in English Literature (1873, 1887); Seven Reprinted Glossaries (1873); Chaucer, The Prioress's Tale, etc (1874, 1877, 1880, 1888, 1891, etc); Seven (other) Reprinted Glossaries (1874); Ray's Collection of English Words not generally used, with rearrangements (1874); Fletcher's The Two Noble Kinsmen (1875); Shakespeare's Plutarch (1875); Five Original Provincial Glossaries (1876); A List of English Words, compared with Icelandic (1876); Chaucer, The Man of Lawes Tale, etc (1877, 1879, 1889, etc); with J H Nodal, Bibliographical List of Works in English Dialects (1873-1877); Alexander and Dindymus (1878); Wycliffe's New Testament (1879); Five Reprinted Glossaries (1879); Specimens of English Dialects (1879); Wycliffe's Job, Psalms, etc (1881); Ælfric's Lives of Saints (in four parts, 1881-1900); The Gospel of St Mark in Gothic (1882); Edwin Guest, History of English Rhythms (new edition by Skeat,1882); Fitzherbert's Book of Husbandry (1882); An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (in four parts, 1879-1882, 2nd edition, 1884, 3rd edition, 1898, 4th edition, 1910); A Concise Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (1882, 1885, 1887, 1890; new editions (rewritten), 1901, 1911); The Tale of Gamelyn (1884); The Kingis Quair (1884); The Wars of Alexander (1886); Principles of English Etymology, First Series (1887, 1892); in conjunction with A L Mayhe, A Concise Dictionary of Middle English (1888); Chaucer, The Minor Poems (1888, 1896); Chaucer, The Legend of Good Women (1889); Principles of English Etymology, Second Series (1891); Chaucer, Prologue to the Canterbury Tales (1891, 1895); A Primer of English Etymology (1892, 1895); Twelve Facsimiles of Old English Manuscripts (1892); Chaucer, House of Fame (1893); Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer (6 volumes, 1894); The Student's Chaucer (1895); Nine Specimens of English Dialects (1895); Two Collections of Derbycisms , by S Pegge (1896); A Student's Pastime (1896) (Skeat's autobiography); Chaucerian Pieces (volume vii of Chaucer's Works ) (1897); The Chaucer Canon (1900); Notes on English Etymology (1901); The Place-names of Cambridgeshire (1901); The Place-names of Huntingdonshire (1903); The Place-names of Hertfordshire (1904); A Primer of Classical and English Philology (1905); The Place-names of Bedfordshire (1906); The Proverbs of Alfred (1907); Chaucer's Poems in Modern English (6 volumes, 1904-1908); Piers the Plowman in Modern English (1905); Early English Proverbs (1910); The Place-names of Berkshire (1911); contributions to the Philological Society's Transactions .

Archival history

Skeat's papers were formerly stored at King's College London Library with those of Frederick James Furnivall, and some attempt was made to integrate the collections thematically. Since transfer to King's College Archives individual provenances have largely been re-established, but some material remains unattributed.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The papers were given to King's College with Skeat's library (1913).

Content & structure

Scope and content

Papers, 1868-1932, of and concerning Walter William Skeat, including correspondence relating to the English Dialect Society, 1887-1912, letters to Skeat, 1868-1912, fragments of letters and drafts of letters by Skeat, 1873-1905, and correspondence of the Skeat family, 1914-1928. The bulk of the collection comprises working papers, almost all undated, including notes and transcripts of various manuscripts and texts, sometimes unattributed but among them Beowulf , The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, Piers Plowman by William Langland, Bodleian manuscripts, works of William Shakespeare, homilies, and proverbs; bibliographical references; dictionaries, thesauri, word lists, glossaries; notes on etymology, grammar, place-names, and pronunciation; lectures including 'The Language of Chaucer'; articles including philology, the language of Edmund Spenser with special reference to his Faerie Queen , emendations in Piers Plowman , and phonetics; proofs (largely undated) including an English dictionary, publications relating to Chaucer, The Kingis Quair , Pierce the Plowman's Crede , and an incomplete proof copy of The Seven Sleepers ; printed material by Skeat including William of Palerne (unbound, uncut), 'Souvent me Souvient' (reprinted from Christ's College Magazine), Troilus and Criseyde (incomplete) and A Charter of Canute (a passage from the York Gospels, edited by Skeat); printed material relating to Skeat's interests, including articles on etymology and the derivation of words; leaflets (1911) advertising the proposed University of London Institute of Phonetics; an incomplete copy of The Annual Register 1771 (1772); and an examination questions paper (1911) in English Language and Literature for King's College, University of London.

System of arrangement

The material has been arranged in the following sections: correspondence; notes, notebooks, transcriptions; unpublished lectures, sermons, articles and notes; proofs; printed material.

Conditions of access & use

Conditions governing access

Open, subject to signature of Reader's undertaking form, and appropriate provision of two forms of identification, to include one photographic ID.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copies, subject to the condition of the original, may be supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Director of Archive Services, King's College London.

Language/scripts of material

English, Middle English, Early English, Anglo-Saxon, Latin, Greek

Finding aids

Manuscript list available in reading room at King's College London Archives.

Allied materials

Existence and location of originals

King's College London College Archives

Related units of description

King's College Library, Special Collections, holds the Skeat and Furnivall collection, which comprises annotated books on English language and literature from the libraries of Skeat and of Frederick James Furnivall. King's College London Archives also holds papers of the philologist Frederick James Furnivall (Ref: Furnivall), who was an associate of Skeat.

Description control

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project. Sources: brief description in King's College London Manuscripts and Private Papers: A Select Guide (1982); Dictionary of National Biography; Who Was Who; National Register of Archives; King's College Library online catalogue.

Rules or conventions

Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

This catalogue is made available under the Open Data Commons Attribution License. This catalogue may be updated from time to time in order to reflect additional material and/or new understandings of the material.

Date(s) of descriptions

Jan 2001

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  • Bibliographies
  • Books
  • Communications media
  • Comparative linguistics
  • Dictionaries
  • Educational evaluation
  • English literature
  • Etymology
  • European literature
  • Examinations
  • Information sciences
  • Linguistic research
  • Linguistics
  • Literary analysis
  • Literature
  • National literatures
  • Periodicals
  • Publications
  • Reference materials
  • Secondary documents
  • Student evaluation

Personal names

  • Chaucer, Geoffrey, c 1342/43-1400, Poet
  • Langland, William, [1330-1400], Poet
  • Skeat, Walter William, 1835-1912, Philologist
  • Spenser, Edmund, 1552-1599, Poet

Corporate names

  • English Dialect Society
  • King's College London College Archives
  • University of London, Institute of Phonetics

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