Short Biography of Ernest Mehew


Ernest Mehew (1923 - 2011)

Ernest Mehew was a schoolboy at Huntingdon Grammar School when he first became interested in the work of Robert Louis Stevenson, and it was a passion that was to last throughout his life.

By 1950, when he was in his late 20s, he had made himself such an authority on Stevenson's manuscripts and handwriting that he could help Janet Adam Smith with her edition of Stevenson's poems. She introduced E.J. Mehew, now beginning his career as a civil servant in the Ministry of Food, to her publisher, Rupert Hart-Davis, who, recognizing his research talents, put him and his new bride, Joyce Wilson, to work on The Letters of Oscar Wilde.

In the 1960s he was asked by Yale University Press to become assistant editor on the Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson and took over as sole editor in 1968. Working only with his wife, Joyce, as his assistant, and never using a computer, he located, sorted, transcribed, dated, annotated and linked some 2,800 letters, the majority of which had never been published before. The eight volumes of the letters were published in 1994 to 1995, and so represented over a quarter of a century’s assiduous work on Mehew’s part.

As a result of his lifetime's dedication, Mehew was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Edinburgh University in 1998. The citation for that award said that, with no academic affiliation, Mehew 'has achieved … a contribution to literary studies which would be the envy of many a university-based academic, and has done so with a generosity to others and a self-effacing modesty which are the marks of a true scholar.'

Short Biography of Ernest Mehew