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Ward Diaries

RA Collection: Archive

Archive context

Showing item 64 of 73 in this group

Reference code



Ward Diaries





Extent & medium

8 volumes

Previous reference codes


Historical Background

Born in 1784 in Westmorland, Ward came to London in 1809 to pracitice as a painter. Although he exhibited in London from 1817 to 1831 he did not achieve a high level of success and returned to pracitice in Westmorland, where he died in 1850.

In 1810 Ward was introduced by John Jackson to James Northcote, R.A. Ward became facinated by Northcote and began to record the conversations that they shared. Strangely William Hazlitt was doing something similar. However Ward's reports did not see publication until 1901.

Content Description

Eight small volumes being diaries, commonplace books and records of Ward's conversations with James Northcote.

The diaries (the earliest of which frequently breaks into short-hand) are densely written and full of interest as the concerns, activities and friends of a struggling young(ish) artist. Ward details his trips away from London, although there are periods when the diaries have been wholly neglected.

The records of Ward's encounters with Northcote fall into two groups. Firstly original manuscripts in Ward's own hand, and secondly those transcribed from original volumes (now lost) and displaying the editting hand of Ernest Fletcher.

Acquisition Details

Presented to the Academy by Rev. A.W. Jones, Lincoln Theological College, 1970


The arrangement was fixed in 1973 by Jean Agnew, working for the Academy on behalf of the Historic Manuscripts Commission.


Elements of the diaries are recorded in an unidentified variety of short-hand, in all probability the system popularised by Samuel Taylor (c.1748-1811). Ward uses personal symbols for some words, an example being "portrait" and for names. So far only that symbol used for James Northcote has been identified.

Finding Aids

An earlier finding aid, compiled by Jean Agnew in 1973, is available in the National Register of Archives and at the Royal Academy Library.


ed. E. Fletcher, Conversations of James Northcote, RA, with James Ward..., London (1901)