The 4 O'clock Friends

One of the most extraordinary literary archives in the world is about to be revealed to the public.

The John Murray publishing house saved more than 150,000 documents, manuscripts and letters from writers including Walter Scott, Disraeli, Darwin and Livingstone.

Episodes

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01Lord Byron2006120520070716

One of the most extraordinary literary archives in the world is about to be revealed to the public.

The John Murray publishing house saved more than 150,000 documents, manuscripts and letters from writers including Walter Scott, Disraeli, Darwin and Livingstone.

Vanessa Collingridge discovers how these great writers would meet at Murray's home each day, forming a group they called The 4 o'clock Friends.

She discovers how Byron's memoirs were burned in John Murray's fireplace, and how this priceless collection of literary papers was found in an old linen press.

02Charles Darwin2006121220070717

One of Murray's most famous authors was Charles Darwin, and the archive includes his original letter outlining the chapters of The Origin of Species.

It was a book which changed our understanding of the world, but when Vanessa Collingridge delves into the boxes of papers, she discovers that the letter in which he asks the publisher to read his manuscript is surprisingly modest.

03Isabella Bird Bishop2006121920070718

The famous publishing family were strong supporters of women's writing.

Their authors included the explorer Isabella Bird Bishop, and her letters to Murray include vivid descriptions of her travels, a stunning series of photographs, and some exotic hand-made passports.

04Walter Scott2006122620070719

Vanessa Collingridge uncovers remarkable material surrounding Walter Scott, whose Waverley Novels were originally printed anonymously.

When the publisher John Murray guessed the identity of the man behind the blockbusters, Scott denied having anything to do with them.

But shortly afterwards, at a dinner in Edinburgh, he was forced to admit he was the writer.

Amazingly, Murray's son was a witness to the confession, and wrote home to tell his father his suspicions had been right all along.

05 LASTDavid Livingstone2007010220070720

Featuring David Livingstone's first-hand account of being attacked by a lion, and Austin Layard's description of how misgovernment is destroying Baghdad and her people.