For the past six weeks I have been researching the Denton family collection at the Wellesley Historical Society. The collection is immense and so, unfortunately, I was not able to view all the documents related to William Denton in detail. That is a task that would take a significantly longer time commitment, because the Dentons kept seemingly every piece of paper and small object related to their lives: correspondence, diaries, artefacts, slides, business and legal documents and even posters and tickets from William Denton’s lectures.
I have had expected and unexpected finds while trying to create a fuller picture of Denton’s life. Among the documents I found were Alfred Deakin’s letters to William Denton (letters from Denton to Deakin are with the Papers of Alfred Deakin at the National Library of Australia), allowing me a clearer sense of their relationship and common interests. Of course, there may still be missing correspondence and, on top of that, their handwriting can be difficult to decode.
Read Researching at the Wellesley Historical Society
At my mid-candidature review, where I presented on my PhD progress, I was asked why I had chosen William Denton as the subject of my biographical poetry.
A decade ago, when I was collecting books on early parapsychology and psychical research (a hobby of mine at the time), I found William and Elizabeth Denton’s Nature’s Secrets. This is a UK version of the first volume of The Soul of Things, Denton's three-volume work on psychometry, though this version is special as it was “Edited with an introduction by a clergyman of the Church of England”.
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I recently received from the National Library of Australia electronic versions of the letters William Denton sent to Alfred Deakin. When I initially asked about the letters I was told that item 1/11 was missing though there seems to be two lost letters. The first letter 1/11 is absent or perhaps never existed as noted by the file image but item 1/15 is also does not have a document associated with it though it has not explicitly identified as being a lost file. It is not the first time that I have come across astray archives.
Late last year when I was attempting to find more information about the Melbourne Argus expedition in New Guinea on which Denton died I was told by a librarian at the State Library of Victoria that the whereabouts of the Argus administrative archive are unknown. So while copies of the newspaper have been digitised all other documents that the newspaper might have had, like correspondence, are lost or even destroyed.
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