Elizabeth Firth Manuscripts

Ref: MS 58

Title: Elizabeth Firth Manuscripts

Diaries recording the day-to-day events in the life of a young girl in the Yorkshire village of Thornton in the 1810s and 1820s, together with other related material. The collection is notable for including references to the Bronte family, and contains a letter from Charlotte Bronte to Elizabeth Franks (née Firth).

Dates: 1812-1857
Level: Fonds
Extent: 1 box
Name of creator: Elizabeth Firth; George Charles Moore Smith

Administrative / biographical history:

The diaries which form the bulk of the collection are of the simplest kind: brief day-to-day records of social and church occasions in the life of a young girl in the Yorkshire village of Thornton in the 1810s and 1820s. Their principal interest lies in the references to members of the Brontë family with whom Elizabeth was acquainted, and the collection includes a letter from Charlotte Brontë to Elizabeth Firth.

Miss Elizabeth Firth lived at Kipping House at Thornton, near Bradford, to which village the Brontë Family moved in 1815 when Patrick Brontë became curate there. Elizabeth was then 18 years old; her father, John Scholefield Firth, was a doctor; her mother had died in an accident the previous year. A friendship rapidly developed between Elizabeth and Maria Brontë, and both father and daughter were asked to become godparents to the Brontës daughter Elizabeth. In 1820 the Brontës moved to Haworth, and the following year Maria died. In December 1821 Patrick Brontë proposed marriage to Elzabeth Firth, a proposal which is thought to have led to a rupture in her relations with the Brontë family of almost two years before the relationship was resumed. Elizabeth married the Rev. James Clarke Franks in September 1824.

The collection also includes a pedigree of descendants of Elizabeth Firth (Mrs. James Clarke Franks), the Moore Smith and Franks families, compiled by George Charles Moore Smith, her grandson, who became Professor of English Language and Literature from 1896 to 1924, successively at Firth College, University College, and the University of Sheffield as the institution progressed to full university status in 1905.

A transcription of the diaries is available.

  • Related collections: Moore Smith Mss.
  • Source: Donated by Douglas Hamer, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, University of Sheffield, in 1963; to whom given by the surviving sisters of Professor Moore Smith circa 1940.
  • System of arrangement: By genre
  • Subjects: Great Britain - Yorkshire - Social conditions - 19th century; English diaries - 19th century
  • Names: Firth, Elizabeth; Brontë family; Franks, James Clarke; Smith, George Charles Moore; Thornton (West Riding of Yorkshire)
  • Conditions of access: Available to all researchers, by appointment
  • Restrictions: None
  • Copyright: The University of Sheffield Library
  • Finding aids: Listed