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Edward Joseph Dent (1876-1957) was Professor of Music in the University of Cambridge from 1926 to 1941, and a Fellow of King's College from 1902 to 1908 and again from 1926 until his death. In the course of a distinguished career, he published pioneering studies in English on Scarlatti, the Mozart operas, Busoni, and on the development of English Opera. Dent was also a founder, and from 1938 Honorary Life President, of the International Society for Contemporary Music.

During World War I, Dent, though without an official post in the University, was deeply involved in the teaching of music in Cambridge. It was at this time that he completed his translations of hitherto neglected Mozart operas, and the progress of this work, together with his research into the music of Purcell and that composer's contemporaries, is a theme common to many of the letters. Another theme is his deep interest in the history and topography of Italy, which had developed during extensive travels on the continent in the first decade of the century.

Professor Dent presented the letters now forming Add. MS 7973 to the University Library in 1943. The collection consists almost exclusively of letters received between 1914 and 1918, and there is much to suggest that the material was sorted and - to some extent - weeded by Dent himself. He endorsed several letters with identifications and comments, and also supplied concise if not entirely reliable biographical notes on most of the correspondents.

Dent had a wide acquaintance in musical and literary circles, and the list of correspondents includes established figures, such as Paul Dukas, E. M. Forster, Sir Hubert Parry, and Ralph Vaughan Williams, as well as promising younger men, among them Arthur Bliss, Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon, and the future Labour cabinet minister Hugh Dalton. Many careers were, of course, cut short; a high casualty rate among Dent's younger friends reflects all too clearly the dreadful losses suffered by all Cambridge colleges before the Armistice of November 1918.

Add. 7973 is open to all holders of full Library reader's tickets. A detailed catalogue is available in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Contact: John Wells (01223 333055;