Special Collections and Archives

Richard Austin Freeman papers

Borowitz Crime Manuscripts: Richard Austin Freeman correspondence, 1920-1941

Finding Aid

Prepared by Dean Keller; Revised by Athena Salaba, March 12, 1996
1 slim document case, .16 cubic foot, 11th floor


Scope and Content

The collection includes letters to Vincent Starrett discussing Freeman's work, publications, and his hope to become better known in America. There are also two letters to P.M. Stone, and a letter from Vincent Starrett to David Borowitz presenting Freeman's autograph letters.

The collection is arranged in chronological order.

The collection was donated by Albert and Helen Borowitz in 1995.


Biographical Note

Richard Austin Freeman was born on April 11, 1862, in London, England and died September 28 (or 30), 1943, in Gravesend, Kent, England. A physician, educator, and author, Freeman began his medical training at Middlesex Hospital at the age of eighteen. He joined a medical expedition to Ashanti and Bontuku in 1889, in which he served as physician, navigator and naturalist. Nine years later he published his expedition experiences in Travels and Life in Ashanti and Jaman (1898). Freeman created for his mystery novels Dr. John Evelyn Thorndyke, a character whose work epitomized the use of scientific methods to solve crimes. Thorndyke was introduced in The Red Thumb Mark (1907).

Freeman's scientific knowledge was reflected in his work, and especially in The Mystery of Angelica Frood (1924), and The Shadow of the Wolf (1925). In his stories he gives primary emphasis in the means of detection rather than the discovery of the criminal. He reveals the criminal before presenting the detective's investigation and solution (inverted stories). Among his works are his first novel Golden Pool (1905), John Thorndyke's Cases (1909), The Mystery of 31 New Inn (1912), The Penrose Mystery (1936), Mr. Polton Explains (1940), etc. He also published the biological-sociological study Social Decay and Regeneration (1921).


Box 1
Folder -- Contents

  1. 1920, 8 Dec.: Freeman, R[ichard] Austin, 1862-1943, Gravesend, [England]. To [Vincent] Starrett, 1886-1974.
    Lists his books which feature John Thorndyke; sends several books to him; says his book Social Decay & Regeneration will soon be published in America. Autograph Letter Signed. 2p., 22.7cm.
  2. 1921, 9 Mar.: Freeman, R[ichard] Austin, 1862-1943, Gravesend, [England]. To [Vincent] Starrett, 1886-1974.
    Thanks Starrett for sending his The Unique Hamlet; has just begun another; his Social Decay & Regeneration should be out in America very soon. Autograph Letter Signed. 2p., 16.3cm.
  3. 1922, 7 Jan.: Freeman, R[ichard] Austin, 1862-1943, Gravesend, [England]. To [Vincent] Starrett, 1886-1974.
    Comments on his latest book and periodical stories; is concerned about American copyright law; would like to become better known in America. Autograph Letter Signed. 2p., 22.7cm.
  4. 1922, 12 Aug.: Freeman, R[ichard] Austin, 1862-1943, Gravesend, [England]. To [Vincent] Starrett, 1886-1974.
    Comments upon his latest book and short stories; his work seems not to suit American taste. Autograph Letter Signed. 2p., 17.6cm.
  5. 1923, 11 Mar.: Freeman, R[ichard] Austin, 1862-1943, Gravesend, [England]. To [Vincent] Starrett, 1886-1974.
    Comments on his recent books; hopes the Thorndyke book may be published in America one day. Autograph Letter Signed. 1p., 25.1cm.
  6. 1923, 16 May: Freeman, R[ichard] Austin, 1862-1943, Gravesend, [England]. To [Vincent] Starrett, 1886-1974.
    Sends copy of his book of stories; has received a copy of The Wave and likes it; interested to see Starrett's detective stories. Autograph Letter Signed. 2p., 17.6cm.
  7. 1923, 10 Aug.: Freeman, R[ichard] Austin, 1862-1943, Gravesend, [England]. To Starrett, Vincent, 1886-1974.
    Introduces his friend Alfred deSauty, an artist and bookbinder, who is moving to Chicago. Autograph Letter Signed. 2p., 17.6cm.
  8. 1925, 1 Jan.: Freeman, R[ichard] Austin, 1862-1943, Gravesend, [England]. To Starrett, [Vincent], 1886-1974.
    Sends latest book; thanks for books Starrett sent him; glad to have met him on his trip to Europe; plans to dedicate a book to him. Autograph Letter Signed. 2p., 17.6cm.
  9. 1925, 2 Sept.: Freeman, R[ichard] Austin, 1862-1943, Gravesend, [England]. To Starrett, [Vincent], 1886-1974.
    Sends volume of stories dedicated to Starrett; regrets Starrett's publisher failed. Autograph Letter Signed. 2p., 17.6cm.
  10. 1925, 25 Oct.: Freeman, R[ichard] Austin, 1862-1943, Gravesend, [England]. To Starrett, Vincent, 1886-1974.
    Comments on Starrett's book of stories; sends his latest book. Autograph Letter Signed. 2p., 17.6cm.
  11. 1926, 21 Sept.: Freeman, R[ichard] Austin, 1862-1943, Gravesend, [England]. To Starrett, Vincent, 1866-1974.
    Sends his latest book; glad Starrett liked his last one; describes his method of writing a book; has manuscripts of all his books but has not decided how, or if, he will dispose of them; is moving to new house. Autograph Letter Signed. 2p., 22.6cm.
  12. 1926, 11 Oct.: Freeman, R[ichard] Austin, 1862-1943, Gravesend, [England]. To Starrett, Vincent, 1886-1974.
    Gives permission to include one of his stories in an anthology; does not read much fiction. Autograph Letter Signed. 2p., 17.6cm.
  13. 1927, 24 Aug.: Freeman, R[ichard] Austin, 1862-1943, Gravesend, [England]. To Starrett, Vincent, 1886-1974.
    His publishers are reprinting several of his early books and some are being sent to him. Autograph Letter Signed. 2p., 19.3cm.
  14. 1928, 25 Apr.: Freeman, R[ichard] Austin, 1862-1943, Gravesend, [England]. To Starrett, Vincent, 1886-1974.
    Comments on Starrett's writing; his agent has had some problem with a story for an anthology. Autograph Letter Signed. 2p., 17.7cm.
  15. 1928, 25 Sept.: Freeman, R[ichard] Austin, 1862-1943, Gravesend, [England]. To Starrett, Vincent, 1886-1974.
    Will send photograph as soon as a new one is taken; hopes Starrett's mystery novel will be published soon; back from holiday and must put away paints and get back to writing. Autograph Letter Signed. 2p., 17.7cm.
  16. 1930, 28 Sept.: Freeman, R[ichard] Austin. Gravesend, [England]. To [P.M.?] Stone.Thanks for article about his work, expresses hope that Stone's stories are published. [autograph letter, signed] 2 pp.
  17. Thanks for article about his work, expresses hope that Stone's stories are published. Autograph letter, Signed. 2 pp.
  18. 1941, 22 Jan.: Freeman, R[ichard] Austin, 1862-1943, Gravesend, [England]. To Stone, [P.M., Waltham, Mass.]
    Describes writing habits; approves selection of 3 novels for an omnibus; discusses his mystery of 31 New Inn; conditions in London. Typed Letter Signed. 2p., 22.6cm.
    Removed from SpecColl PR6011.R43M9 1912.
  19. 1961, 25 Oct.: [Starrett], Vincent. To Borowitz, Dave [David].
    Presents 15 autograph letters of R. Austin Freeman to him. Autograph Note Signed. 1p., 29.7cm.
    Accompanied by photocopies of the letters.