Claude Prance (1906-2002) was born in Portsmouth, England, and was educated at the Philological School and St John’s College at Southsea. He joined the Midland Bank in 1923 and served at various branches in southern England. He enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1941 and saw service in North Africa and the Middle East. In 1945 he returned to the Midland Bank and held various managerial posts at its head office in London until his retirement in 1966. He and his wife then went to live on the Maltese island of Gozo. In 1980 they emigrated to Australia and settled in Canberra.
As a young man, Prance had a strong interest in English literature, particularly the literature of the early nineteenth century. He contributed essays and articles to various literary magazines in Britain and the United States and published a selection of them in his first book, Peppercorn Papers (1965). In retirement, he wrote several books including The Laughing Philosopher (1976), Companion to Charles Lamb (1983), Essays of a Book Collector (1989) and The Characters in the Novels of Thomas Love Peacock (1992).
Prance joined the Charles Lamb Society in 1936 and was vice-president for many years. He was an enthusiastic book collector, with a library of over 8000 volumes, and was a member of various book-collecting organisations. His collection was mainly focused on English literature from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, but he also collected books on British theatre, natural history and cricket.
Peppercorn Papers (1965)
The Laughing Philosopher (1976)
Companion to Charles Lamb (1983)
Essays of a Book Collector (1989)
The Library purchased portions of the library from Prance in 2000.
The Claude Prance Collection comprises 975 items. The largest and most significant group are books relating to the essayist and poet Charles Lamb (1775–1834) and his circle. There are also 250 books by or relating to the poet Edward Thomas (1878–1917), and a small number of titles on English natural history,belles lettres, book collecting and bookplates.
The Lamb Collection includes books by Charles Lamb and his contemporaries Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Clare, George Dyer, Leigh Hunt, Thomas Hood, Robert Southey, William Hone, Bernard Barton, William Hazlitt, Samuel Rogers, Thomas De Quincey and J.G. Lockhart. Of special note are a first edition of Lamb’s The Last Essays of Elia (1833), a second edition of Coleridge’s Poems (1797), with additional poems by Lamb, an annotated copy of George Dyer’s Poems (1801), Sara Coleridge’s Phantasmion (1837), a limited edition of Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-eater (1885) and a complete set of the London Magazine (1820–24).
The collection also includes several editions of poems and essays by Edward Thomas, several works published by the Beaumont Press, and works by Edmund Blunden, Walter de la Mare and Richard Garnett.
Lamb, Charles, The Last Essays of Elia (1833)
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, Poems (1797)
Dyer, George, Poems (1801)
Coleridge, Sara, Phantasmion (1837)
De Quincey, Thomas, Confessions of an English Opium-eater (1885)
London Magazine (1820–24)
Jackson, Philip, Claude Prance Collection Acquired by the National Library,Gateways, no. 49, February 2001.