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Richard Garnett

Richard Garnett (1835 - 1906) was a British librarian and writer. In 1851 he became an assistant in the British Museum library, where he spent the rest of his career. During the 1880s Garnett’s work focused on editing the extensive general catalogue of the British Museum, later the British Library. He also wrote various literary biographies, including of Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose work strongly influenced Schreiner’s thinking. Garnett was a prominent and well-known figure in London’s literary circles.

There are a small number of extant letters from Schreiner to Garnett which date mainly from the 1880s and mainly concern Schreiner’s thanks for and responses to the books and pamphlets which Garnett had sent to her over this period. It appears from the letters that the correspondence between Schreiner and Garnett, while formal and business-like in some respects, was a ‘writer to writer’ one. It is evident, for example from Schreiner’s letter of 5 January 1889, that Garnett sent her some of his writings for her to comment on, and also that he took an interest in her writings and offered his opinion of these. In this instance, Schreiner was quick to correct what she regarded as his ‘misreading’ of her work, thereby offering interesting insight into her writing practices, “No, you are quite mistaken about my work I never or seldom re-touch anything. I write down at a dash a thing as it comes in my minds. If I don’t find it perfect (to my ideas & according to my powers) I burn it. Sometimes I write a thing entirely over again. As a rule I don’t even re-read any thing till I see it in proof. Then I make corrections. I think however a great deal before I write.”

Schreiner’s last extant letter to Garnett dates from her 1897 visit to Britain, and in it she asks him to assist Cronwright-Schreiner, who was then researching his book The Angora Goat (1898), in using the Reading Room of the British Museum.

For further information see:
Alan Bell (2004) ‘Garnett, Richard (1835-1906)’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Oxford University Press http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/33334
Barbara McCrimmon (1989) Richard Garnett: The Scholar as Librarian Chicago: American Library Association
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