I spent most of yesterday in the Sheffield Archive tracing literary clubs and societies in the city after1800. Interestingly, it was mostly a constellation of the same group of people, usually involving the poet James Montgomery, who finally came together to form the Sheffield Literary and Philosophical Society at the end of 1822. Among the enthusiastic joiners was Thomas Asline Ward, whose correspondence and diaries show him to have been ready to sign up for anything that would put him in contact with books, although at one point he writes to his old friend Joseph Hunter (then away studying at Manchester College, York) to confess that he was developing into a restless bibliophile with bookish indigestion:
‘I have so easy an access to books that I think it in some measure a disadvantage. Novelty is perpetually attracting, & allures me from one steady pursuit. I swallow with avidity whatever presents itself, & digest nothing properly’
Here’s a page from his diary from early in 1822 that shows just how busy he was with the world of books:
The archive at Sheffield is wonderful, and really well catalogued in relation to the Literary and Philosophical Society. I’m really grateful to the very helpful staff.