SP - Sampson, John, - 1852-1995

The John Sampson Papers comprise correspondence, manuscripts and other items relating to Sampson's life and work, excepting his Romani and Gypsy studies, ca.1852-1940.

Main Creator: Sampson, John
Other Creators: Sampson, Jessie, Raleigh, Walter, Blake, William, Shakespeare, William, Yates, Dora
Archive level description: Sub-sub fonds
Physical Description:18 boxes and one volume containing genealogical information
Summary:The John Sampson Papers comprise correspondence, manuscripts and other items relating to Sampson's life and work, excepting his Romani and Gypsy studies, ca.1852-1940.
Reference Number:SP
Custodial History:John Sampson left all of his papers and letters to Dora Yates, although some personal papers were returned to the Sampson family. After Sampson's death his papers were retained by the University of Liverpool Library. SP8 contains materials relating to John Sampson and his wife Margaret Sampson, retained by their children Michael and Honor Sampson (later Matthew) and passed to Honor's daughter Sally Stephen. This material was arranged by Anthony Sampson, son of Michael Sampson, for use in his biography of John Sampson. SP8 was given to the University of Liverpool Library by Sampson's granddaughter, Sally Stephen, in July 2010.
Biographical/Administrative Information:

Dr John Sampson (1862-1931), Romani Scholar, was born in Schull, County Cork, Ireland. His father, a Cornish mining engineer, died in 1872 leaving little money for his Irish mother, Sarah Anne McDermott,and her four sons. At the age of 14 Sampson was forced to leave school and was apprenticed for seven years to Alexander MacGregor, a lithographer and engraver in Liverpool. His schooling had been brief, but he resolutely taught himself, reading widely. At 22 he set up his own small printing business which, for want of capital, failed. In 1892 he was accepted as the first full-time Librarian at University College, later University of Liverpool. On his arrival there he found gifted and inspiring friends, among them Sir Walter Raleigh and Kuno Meyer. John Sampson remained in the University for 36 years until his retirement in 1928.

In 1893, Sampson met his future wife, Jessie Margaret Sprunt, ten years his junior. In the face of opposition from her family, they married in secret on 21 April 1894. Their first son Michael was born on 12 January 1896, followed by Amyas (born 4 August 1899) and Honor (21 April 1905). Michael's son, Anthony Sampson (1926-2004), the author and journalist, wrote his grandfather's biography.

Philology was Sampson's passion and the Romani language was to be his obsession; he devoted much of his life to roaming amongst the gypsies and training himself in the phonetics, Sanskrit and comparative philology. In 1907 John Sampson and fellow gypsiologist David MacRitchie persuaded Robert Andrew Scott Macfie to revive the Gypsy Lore Society, which had been defunct for the previous 14 years. Sampson was involved in the Gypsy Lore Society from its very foundation in 1888 and became President in 1915-1916. In his will he directed that his death should be "attended by no religious ceremony of any kind whatsoever" and his funeral was carried out as he had requested with his ashes being scattered on Foel Goch to the sound of Gypsy music. His works include The dialect of the Gypsies of Wales: being the older form of British Romani preserved in the speech of the clan of Abram Wood (Oxford University Press, 1926) and A hundred Shelta sayings (Gypsy Lore Society, 1926).