Mary Eccles, Viscountess Eccles

Mary Morley Crapo Hyde Eccles, Viscountess Eccles (8 July 1912 26 August 2003) was a book collector and author. She was renowned for establishing one of the biggest private collections of 18th century literature with her first husband, Donald Hyde (1909-1966). This includes works from Samuel Johnson and James Boswell. She also created an Oscar Wilde Collection which was bequeathed to the British Library in 2003. Her second marriage (in 1984) was to the British peer, David Eccles, 1st Viscount Eccles, with whom she co-founded the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library in 1992.

Early life and education

Eccles was born Mary Morley Crapo in Detroit, Michigan, United States in 1912. She attended Vassar College in New York State where she became friends with novelist Mary McCarthy. She later attended Columbia University where she undertook her PhD in English literature. The dissertation from her doctorate was later developed into a book, entitled Playwriting for Elizabethans.[1]

Literary collections

The Hyde Room at Houghton Library, Harvard University

In 1939 she married Donald Hyde, a New York City lawyer. The couple bought Samuel Johnson's silver teapot in 1941 and threw a tea party in its honour. Over the next 25 years, they became avid collectors of Johnson's belongings, including hundreds of his letters, several of his diaries and a collection of his poems.

Mary Hyde — as she was then known—bought Four Oaks Farm in Somerville, New Jersey in 1943. Here they bought up surrounding land and added a library to the property, filling the house with their Samuel Johnson collection. Hyde also published The Thrales of Streatham Park in honour of Mrs Thrale who had previously collected many of Johnson's belongings. During the following years, Hyde became well acquainted with many influential figures, including business tycoons, politicians and English aristocrats. Among them was businessman Robert Borthwick Adam, from whom she purchased a portion of her collection.

Donald Hyde died in 1966. His wife later wrote The Impossible Friendship, a study of Mrs Thrale and James Boswell. She also wrote Bernard Shaw and Alfred Douglas: A Correspondence and developed an Oscar Wilde collection that was second in size only to that of the University of California. She donated this collection to the British Library to form the Lady Eccles Oscar Wilde Collection there. The collection relating to Samuel Johnson and his circle was bequeathed to Houghton Library at Harvard University.[2]

Eccles Centre

Mary Hyde married David Eccles, 1st Viscount Eccles in 1984, becoming The Right Honourable The Viscountess Eccles. They founded the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library in 1992 as Lord Eccles had previously been its Chairman.


Lady Eccles was made an Honorary Fellow of Samuel Johnson's college at Oxford, Pembroke College. She was also Benjamin Franklin Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She was a member of The Roxburghe Club, an exclusive society of bibliophiles, from 1985-2003.[3]


  1. Mary Viscountess Eccles (2003), The Telegraph, London, UK, viewed 4 June 2011,
  2. Adam Kirsch (2004). "The Hack as Genius: Dr. Samuel Johnson arrives at Harvard". Retrieved 15 November 2011.
  3. The Roxburghe Club (2011). "The Roxburghe Club". Retrieved 4 June 2011.

External links

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