Robert William Chapman (scholar)

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Robert William Chapman, usually known in print as R. W. Chapman (5 October 1881 in Eskbank, Scotland – 20 April 1960 in Oxford) was a British scholar, book collector and editor of Samuel Johnson and Jane Austen.[1]


Chapman was the youngest of six children born to an Anglican clergyman, who died when he was three years old. He was educated at the High School of Dundee, St Andrews University and Oriel College, Oxford, where he graduated with a First in classics and humanities. He worked as assistant to the secretary of the Clarendon Press. In 1913 he married Katherine Marion Metcalfe, an English tutor at Somerville College. Chapman did military service in Salonika during World War I, managing to study the works of Johnson there and continue to write for the Times Literary Supplement.[1]

After the war Chapman would remain in Oxford until his death. In 1920 he succeeded Charles Cannan as secretary of the Clarendon Press. He played a part in producing the Oxford English Dictionary, combining editorial and administrative responsibilities at the press.[1]

In 1923 Chapman produced an edition of five novels of Jane Austen; further Austen miscellania were published separately in the 1920s and 1930s before being collected together as a sixth volume, Minor Works, of The Novels of Jane Austen. He also edited (1932) Austen's correspondence, though this involved him in some controversy with Austen's critics.[1]

After retirement from the Clarendon Press in 1943, Chapman worked on "what many consider his greatest accomplishment": a three-volume edition (1952) of Samuel Johnson's letters.[1]

In 1948, Chapman rejected the authenticity of the Rice portrait of Jane Austen based on costume evidence.[2]


  • Names, Designations and Appellations, 1946, SPE Tract No XLVII
  • The Portrait of a Scholar and Other Essays Written in Macedonia 1916-1918, London: Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press, 1920
  • (ed.) The Novels of Jane Austen: The Text Based on Collation of the Early Editions, 5 vols, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1923; revised, 1933
  • (ed.) Jane Austen's Letters to Her Sister Cassandra and Others, 2 vols, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1932; revised, 1952
  • (ed.) The Letters of Samuel Johnson: With Mrs Thrale's Genuine Letters to Him, 3 vols, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952
  • (rev. and enlarged) Annals of English literature, 1475-1950; the principal publications of each year, together with an alphabetical index of authors with their works, by J. C. Ghosh & E. G. Withycombe, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961


  1. ^ a b c d e Naiman, Sandra (1999), "R. W. Chapman", in Baker, William; Womack, Kenneth, Twentieth-Century British Book Collectors and Bibliographers, First Series, Dictionary of Literary Biography 201, Detroit: Gale Research, pp. 40–48, ISBN 0-7876-3072-1 
  2. ^ Art Daily News

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