William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan
Finding aid for
Finding aid created by
Thomas Somerville Letters, 1795-1799
Meg Hixon, August 2011
Thomas Somerville letters
Strahan, Andrew, d. 1831
The Thomas Somerville letters are 13 letters bound into a single volume. In his correspondence, addressed to publishers Andrew Strahan and Cadell & Davis in London, Somerville discussed the creation and subsequent publication of his book The History of Great Britain during the Reign of Queen Anne .
The material is in English
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown
Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.
Thomas Somerville Letters, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
The letters are primarily arranged chronologically within a single bound volume, with occasional aberrations.
Thomas Somerville, the only son of minister William Somerville, was born in Hawick, Roxburghshire, Scotland, in 1741. In 1756, he matriculated at the University of Edinburgh, where he studied divinity. He received his license to preach in November 1764, was ordained in 1767, and took positions as a tutor, before getting his first parish at Minto, a position he held until the king presented him to the parish of Jedburgh, Scotland, in 1772. Somerville led the church at Jedburgh until his death. During his lifetime, he supported continued British presence in North America and became a prominent voice in support of abolition. He is particularly noted for two historical works: The History of Political Transactions, and of Parties, from the Restoration of King Charles the Second, to the Death of King William and The History of Great Britain during the Reign of Queen Anne; both were published by Andrew Strahan of London. Somerville died on May 16, 1830. He and his wife, Martha Charters, whom he married in 1770, had six children, including the physician William Somerville (1771-1860).
Collection Scope and Content Note
The Thomas Somerville letters are 13 letters bound into a single volume. In his correspondence, addressed to publishers Andrew Strahan and Cadell & Davies in London, Somerville discussed the creation and subsequent publication of his book The History of Great Britain during the Reign of Queen Anne. He wrote 8 letters to Strahan and 5 to Cadell & Davies. Somerville recounted several aspects of his work as a historian; for example, in one 5-page letter to Strahan, he discussed the book in depth, and voiced his "hope for an auspicious reception of the history of the reign of Queen Anne" (October 11, 1795). Somerville also noted the thoroughness of his research, and alluded to the processes of creation that underlie historical authorship: "There is not a publication, foreign or domestic, relative to the history I have prepared, that has not been inspected by me with minute attention. I could easily produce a bulky volume of original papers, but I mean to publish only such of them as are illustrative of the history, or curious on account of the distinguished characters of the authors" (October 11, 1795).
Somerville strove for brevity in his writing and wanted the opportunity to refine his published work in the future. He seemed equally concerned with both the literary quality and the factual content of his work, and wrote Strahan, "I expect to have at least the merit of publishing not a sentence, or perhaps not a word, superfluous" (January 25, 1798). He later reported, "I have been occupied for some time past in the perusal of the Shrewsbury papers, which contain valuable materials upon the subject of my former volume and would enable me to improve it with interesting facts" (October 4, 1798).
Somerville's later correspondence focused more prominently on different aspects of publication, and included several discussions of his subscribers. About marketing methods, he wrote "I am perfectly satisfied with your proposed indulgence concerning the Indian speculation. I must, at the same time, desire you to observe, that I did not mean that all the hundred copies which I commissioned should be placed to the list of my subscribers" (October 18, 1798).
- Authors and publishers--Great Britain.
- Authors, Scottish--18th century.
- Great Britain--Historiography.
- Historians--Great Britain.
- Historiography--Great Britain--History--18th century.
- Publishers and publishing--Great Britain.
- Somerville, Thomas, 1741-1830.
Additional Descriptive Data
The University of Michigan Library holds several items written by Thomas Somerville, including his autobiography: Somerville, Thomas, and William Lee. My Own Life And Times, 1741-1814. Edinburgh: Edmonston & Douglas, 1861.
Sher, Richard B. "Somerville, Thomas (1741-1830)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. DOI:10.1093
Somerville, Thomas, and William Lee. My Own Life And Times, 1741-1814. Edinburgh: Edmonston & Douglas, 1861.