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William Canton’s Letters to Miss L.

Identifier: MRBC-MS-00285

Scope and Contents

The William Canton Letters to Miss L consists of the following:

Series I. William Canton's letters to Miss L: Canton's letters to Miss L were written between 1913 and 1916.

Series II. Photographs: There are photographs of William and Annie Canton and of their daughter Winifred. Also included are photographs of Alice Lachmund (Miss L) and her sister, identified only as D.

Series III. Miscellaneous items: The miscellaneous items include some postcards, a map of London, and the obituary of William Canton.

Dates of Materials

  • 1913-1916


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to research according to the regulations of the Mortimer Rare Book Room.

Conditions Governing Use

The William Canton letters to Miss L are the physical property of the Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors of the works or their legal representatives.

Biographical / Historical

William Canton was an English poet and journalist born October 17, 1825, on the island of Chushan, China where his father was in the British colonial civil service. His parents were Thomas Canton and Mary Thomas. After his father's death in Jamaica William was educated in France and briefly studied for the Catholic priesthood at the Benedictine College in Douai; his family were Catholics. Subsequent to the studies at the Benedictine College he left the Catholic Church and became a Protestant.

Settling in London in 1867 Canton taught and worked as a journalist. In 1874 he married Emma Moore. Their daughter, who died in 1877, was commemorated in a prose work The Invisible Playmate (1894) and was the first prose work to bring him recognition. Emma died in 1880.

Canton moved to Glasgow in 1876 and worked as an editor in various capacities. He married Annie Elizabeth Taylor in 1882. A daughter, Winifred Vida, was born in 1890 and a son, Guy Desmond, in 1896. In 1891 Canton returned to London as the general manager to the publishers Isbister & Co. and over time became editors of various magazines.

In 1901 Winifred died. That same year he began the writing of the History of the British and Foreign Bible Society, a work that took him nine years. He also wrote many popular books for the Bible Society as well as published poems and stories in various publications. He died May 2, 1926 at Hendon, London, where he has lived since 1912.

Miss L (Alice Lachmund) had initiated a correspondence with William Canton apparently in response to his writings. The letters she received from William Canton, as well as a letter from Mrs. Canton and Guy, were written between 1913 and 1916. Before giving the letters of William Canton's to Smith College Miss Lachmund had blackened out her name leaving only "Miss L." The letters were given as an anonymous gift.

Alice Lachmund (February 10, 1877-January 10, 1973) was born in St. Louis, Missouri to Charles and Fanny L. Lachmund. She was initially a member of the Class of 1899 of Smith College however she did not graduate from Smith. She did receive a Ph.B. from the University of Chicago and apparently taught home economics in the St. Louis school system. Lachmund did author an unpublished work entitled, The Naffz Family History (1960?).


1 boxes (3 linear inches)


William Canton wrote letters to Miss L (Alice Lachmund) between 1913-1916 in response to her letters; there are also letters from Annie (Canton's wife) and Guy Desmond (their son). Also included with these letters are photographs of William Canton and his family and of Miss L. and her sister D.


This collection is organized into three series:

  1. Series I. William Canton's letters to Miss L
  2. Series II. Photographs
  3. Series III. Miscellaneous items

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The William Canton letters to Miss L were an anonymous gift to Smith College Mortimer Rare Book Room in June 1953. The Miss L of the letters and the gift donor was Alice Lachmund. Prior to the letters coming to Smith College, Lachmund had blacked out her name on the letters and envelopes leaving only "Miss L."

Processing Information

Processed by Melvin Carlson, Jr., 2007

William Canton’s Letters to Miss L.
Finding Aid
Finding aid prepared by Melvin Carlson, Jr. .
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (

Repository Details

Part of the Mortimer Rare Book Collection Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063