(William) Sidney Walker (1795-1846), Classical and Literary Scholar. Sidney Walker was born on 4 December 1795, the eldest child of a naval officer, John Walker, and his wife Harriet, née Falconar. In 1811 (the year of his father's death) he entered Eton, where his small stature, slovenly appearance, and awkward manners led to his being bullied; but he also acquired a group of loyal friends with literary tastes similar to his own, won several school prizes, and published a volume of verse, Gustavus Vasa, and other poems (1813). In October 1814 he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge as a sizar; and during the next few years pursued a very successful undergraduate career, winning a college scholarship, a Craven scholarship, and the Porson prize for Greek verse; as well as publishing poems and translations. His abilities as a classicist led to his election to a fellowship at Trinity in 1820. He lived quietly in college throughout the 1820s, writing essays and reviews for the periodical press, editing a Corpus poetarum latinorum, and taking a major part in preparing for publication a newly-discovered Latin treatise by Milton. In the autumn of 1825, at the suggestion of several friends, he appeared as a candidate for the vacant Regius Professorship of Greek, and does not seem to have been much perturbed by his failure to be elected. Four years later, having decided that his scepticism on certain points of doctrine precluded him from taking holy orders, he resigned his fellowship. In 1831 he moved to London, where he lived in lodgings for the remainder of his life, supported by small pensions from Trinity and from his old friend W.M. Praed, and the proceeds of occasional literary work. He became increasingly interested in Shakespeare, and left at his death a large collection of essays and notes on the plays and poems. He died in London on 15 October 1846, after suffering for some years from intermittent mental illness.
The letters which form the bulk of the material catalogued here, were written by Sidney Walker over a quarter of a century to several female relations: principally, his mother (who after her husband's death lived at various addresses in London and its suburbs); his mother's sister Maria, who had married William Walker, a solicitor at Thirsk in the North Riding (and probably a brother or cousin of Sidney's father); and his unmarried cousin Margaret, a daughter of Maria Walker. The letters, which are written in lively style, contain remarks on the works of Byron, Galt, Scott, Southey and other contemporary authors; comments on Walker's own publications and activities; examples of his English verse; and news of and enquiries about family members.
This collection was acquired by the University Library from J.J. Green Esq. of Tunbridge Wells in 1903.