Thanks to a major grant from FNL (£20,000 from the John R Murray Fund) and generous support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Herschel Museum has acquired the manuscript draft of Caroline Herschel's memoirs.
The manuscript is on display at the Museum of Astronomy, which is part of the Bath Preservation Trust.
Caroline, and her brother William (1738-1822), who discovered the planet Uranus, were leading astronomers of the 18th and early 19th century, and Caroline was the first woman to be paid as a professional astronomer in the United Kingdom. Caroline and William Herschel played a pivotal role in the history of science in Georgian Britain and this manuscript provides us with a greater understanding of their lives.
The 57 pages of draft recollections in this manuscript were written around 1836-40 and provide content for chapters I and II in The Memoir and Correspondence of Caroline Herschel. This Memoir was published in London by John Murray in 1876, and edited by Margaret Herschel, wife of Caroline’s nephew John. Although the edited text of the manuscript version was published, much of the colourful material Caroline wrote was removed from the printed text and remains unpublished. There is something special about seeing the original words written in the author’s own hand. The corrections and additions show Caroline’s stream of consciousness, the musings of an older woman recalling the stories of her youth.
Images: Caroline Herschel Memoir Manuscript ©Herschel Museum of Astronomy, Bath Preservation Trust.