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2002 articles 1986 articles

The man who wrote on the manuscripts in the British Museum

C. J. Wright

Abstract

IN November 1898 W. C. Hazlitt, the grandson of Hazlitt the essayist and a distinguished man of letters in his own right, received out of the blue a letter from one W. S. G. Richards. Richards explained that he was working on the genealogies of West Country families, especially those boasting royal blood, and could trace the descent of Catherine Reynell, W. C. Hazlitt's mother, from Charlemagne. Would he be interested? This was not such a disingenuous inquiry as it might seem. W. C. Hazlitt had long been collecting and publishing material on his family history. His The Hazlitts, An Account of their Origin and Descent (Edinburgh, 1911) was to devote a whole chapter to the Reynells, but this makes no allusion to their Carolingian descent and there is no evidence that he ever replied to Richards's letter. If this was the case he showed commendable prudence. At least one person who had accepted Richards's assistance with a genealogical matter had come bitterly to regret it. What Richards had neglected to say in his letter to Hazlitt was that in 1891 he had achieved temporary notoriety and been sent to prison for two months for tampering with the genealogical manuscripts in the British Museum.

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