Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840-1922) was born at Petworth House, Sussex. He grew up in that county, at Crabbet Park (he was later to found The Crabbet Club) and Newbuildings Place on an estate owned by his family for centuries. He served in the diplomatic service for eleven years, in Europe and South America, where commenced a lifelong series of poems and romantic liaisons. In 1869 he married Lady Anne Isabella Noel King, granddaughter of Lord Byron, with whom he had one surviving child: Judith Blunt, later Judith Lytton Lady Wentworth. Blunt and his wife traveled extensively in Turkey, Algeria, Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Arabia; returning to England he took up horse breeding and politics, lobbying prime minister W.E. Gladstone for Egyptian independence. Books on Egypt, Ireland and India followed, as did further pamphlets and poems continuing the anti-imperialist theme. In 1885 he stood (unsuccessfully) for parliament, on a platform of support for Irish home rule (his commitment to the Irish cause landed him a brief spell in prison for chairing an anti-eviction meeting in Galway). His published memoirs further elaborated his views on international relations; fuller diaries, chronicling his ongoing romantic pursuits, were deposited with the Fitzwilliam Museum at his death in 1922, with the instruction that they should remain unseen for at least thirty years.
This is the largest single holding of works by and associated with Blunt in the world. The collection includes Blunt's original autograph diaries and the transcriptions that formed the basis of published versions, as well as annotated proofs and printed editions; autographs of his major poems and other important published works, including memoranda on government policy, with much unpublished manuscript material; extensive correspondence to and from Blunt, with figures including Winston Churchill; and printed works by Blunt, including pamphlets and reprints of public letters. Correspondents range from political figures such as Roger Casement, Winston Churchill and T.E. Lawrence; literary figures including Lord Alfred Douglas, E. M. Forster , Ezra Pound and Oscar Wilde; and various women admirers including Jane Morris, Lady Blanche Hozier, Lady Mary A. Galloway.
A significant part of the Blunt Archive, including the notebooks containing the original diaries and eighteen volumes of transcribed memoirs, was in a box Blunt bequeathed to the Fitzwilliam Museum at his death in 1922, with the stipulation that it should not be opened until 1952. Shortly before that date, Margaret Carleton presented a further box under the same restriction. The boxes were opened in September 1952 when it was ruled that only Syndics of the Museum and relevant staff should have access to the papers until 1972. They have since been made available to the public.