Guide to the Research Collections
There are many important manuscripts in the Arents Tobacco Collection. Of note are literary manuscripts such as "The Poor Labouring Bee" (ca. 1599) by Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, a manuscript of "Court Eclogs" (1716) by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in the hand of Alexander Pope, Charles Lamb's "Farewell to Tobacco" (ca. 1805), Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest,5
and "Father Abraham," a first draft of part of William Faulkner's The Hamlet
(1940). Other manuscripts include documents of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Walter Raleigh, Catherine de Medici, and Louis XIV, among others.
A large group of manuscripts bears on the United States, Included are a letter, a receipt, and a document signed by George Washington; letters of Thomas Jefferson and Charles Carroll of Carrollton; and other manuscripts of figures famous in American history. In addition are Revolutionary tobacco payments and Confederate documents for rations. Of prime importance in this American group are the manuscripts of Robert Morris, including official copies of contracts, accounts, court evidence statements, and other items relating to suits involving Morris and various other parties as a result of his tobacco trade activities. There are 54 autograph letters of Morris, among them a tobacco contract negotiated by him between the United States and the Fermes Générales of France.
Further documents include commercial papers related to the tobacco trade in Virginia, Maryland, New York, and Georgia in the eighteenth century, and two receipt books of the New York City tobacconist James Bryer dated 1795 and 1807. A large group of manuscript documents comes from Frederick County, Maryland; ranging in date from the mid-eighteenth century, this group consists of bills of indictment, slave bills, tavern licenses, bills of sale, and the like.
Japanese manuscripts date from the early eighteenth century onward. A delicately illustrated rice paper manuscript (ca. 1773) called "Haensô No Ben" (A Farewell to Tobacco) contains poems on a universally expressed and often unrealized wish to abandon the "precious bane."