Prince Charles warns of race against time to save our treasured literary ...

Prince Charles warns of race against time to save our treasured literary ...
Prince Charles warns of race against time to save our treasured literary ...

Priceless manuscripts from some of Britain’s greatest poets and authors could be lost to the nation without urgent action, Prince Charles warns today.

Writing in the Daily Mail, the heir to the throne said it was ‘too awful to contemplate’ the loss of handwritten texts by some of the country’s best-known writers – including Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns and Charlotte Bronte.

And he warned that the UK is facing a race against time to save a collection of literary treasures from being auctioned off and potentially taken abroad.

His heartfelt appeal came amid growing pressure to save the Honresfield Library Collection, which includes notebooks from the Bronte sisters, letters from Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott’s original manuscript for his novel Rob Roy.

Prince Charles reads to pupils of Borrowdale Primary School in Borrowdale, Cumbria, to officially open its new nursery room and playground

Prince Charles reads to pupils of Borrowdale Primary School in Borrowdale, Cumbria, to officially open its new nursery room and playground

The entire collection had been due to go to auction in July. 

However, Sotheby’s agreed to halt the sale so that charity Friends of the National Libraries (FNL) can try to raise the £15million needed to keep the texts in Britain.

FNL, of which Charles is patron, has so far raised £7.5million towards the ambitious target. 

However, time is running out to meet the deadline.

The prince has already made a donation to the fund, which has also received more than £116,000 in public donations.

Describing the collection as a treasure trove of ‘jewels’, Charles likened the manuscripts to the sketches of great artists such as Leonardo da Vinci.

He added: ‘In saving these priceless manuscripts for the public, we have the opportunity to ensure that these invaluable records of works of genius will remain in the land where they were created, and where they belong.’

Praising the appeal as ‘a very important national endeavour’, Charles said that literature was ‘in the DNA’ of British culture. 

He paid tribute to classic works such as the novels of Charles Dickens and modern writers including Zadie Smith and JK Rowling, describing them as ‘our most influential exports’.

Thought to have been lost for a century, the Honresfield Library is a unique treasury of cornerstones of British culture

Thought to have been lost for a century, the Honresfield Library is a unique treasury of cornerstones of British culture

Charlotte Bronte's small booklet worth approximately £600,000 with the Walter Scott manuscripts beneath, also worth around £1million

Charlotte Bronte's small booklet worth approximately £600,000 with the Walter Scott manuscripts beneath, also worth around £1million

And he added that the nation would benefit if the Honresfield collection was kept in Britain as the manuscripts would be shared between libraries around the country, ‘north and south’.

Writing in today’s Mail, he also revealed that the appeal was a ‘very personal one’. He recalled how his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, used to read to him as a child and growing up he was ‘surrounded by books’ in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle.

The FNL appeal to save the texts has won other high-profile supporters including Stephen Fry and the estate of the poet TS Eliot.

Actor Ralph Fiennes is also playing his part with a solo performance of Eliot’s Four Quartets in London from next month, which will reportedly benefit the cause through royalties paid to the Eliot charity, Old Possum’s Practical Trust.

The campaign is being supported by a consortium of institutions across the country including the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford and the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth, West Yorkshire.

Describing it as a ‘noble campaign’, Charles said the appeal would protect part of Britain’s cultural heritage and keep it in this country, rather than allowing it to fall into the hands of private collectors.

He wrote: ‘For anyone who has ever been moved by the words of these incomparable artists, the idea of reading these manuscripts is thrilling beyond words. 

'For the same reason, the idea of them being lost to this country is too awful to contemplate.’ 

The collection was put together in the

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