Entries for December 1847

December 1st, 1847 (Wednesday)

The Journal1 was published today, accompanied by an admirable preface, in which Sewell boldly puts forward the whole question of fasting, and avows our determination to abide by the law of the Church, as a matter of law; declaring that “a private and secret conformity to a public command of the Church, in order to avoid obloquy and suspicion is revolting, degrading and treacherous.” He adds that “whatever is done at St Peter’s shall be done openly and honestly”, – “whatever are its faults and errors they shall not be cowardice, or sacrifice of truth to popularity.”

The object of the book is to let the world know what we are, and that we want £6000. Though no one can possibly take offence at any thing said, yet it must be inwardly galling to the Authorities at Stackallan. Indeed they are in a great fright for the moment it was announced in advertisement that the book was about to be published, – Cotton wrote to Sewell to send him a copy.

I should say also that the Preface contains the strongest vindication of oneself from the charge of austerity. When the attacks were made upon me in the Irish papers, I was beset by the most earnest entreaties of my nearest and dearest relations to expose my enemies and defend myself. But I always resisted them, hard as it is to oppose the voice of affection, because I would never plead before a self-constituted tribunal, nor bow my head to an iniquitous and flagitious press. Without a strong call I could not think of unfolding the wickedness of others, in order to clear up my own innocence, I said I was quite willing to leave my character in the hands of Providence, believing that He would set matters in their true light in His own good time; or if not, – that I hoped contentedly to endure reproach, ten thousand times easier to bear than what was laid upon our Lord and his Apostles. And so, now, a far more effective justification than ever I could have offered has been given to the world, – for it is furnished by a witness instead of by a principal; – and it will penetrate to quarters, which the Dublin Evening Mail can never reach, even in the form of waste paper.

Thanks be to Him, who “bringeth forth the righteousness” of them, who “commit their way unto Him,” – “as the noon-day.” Yet I care comparatively little for myself; but it is of infinite consequence that the false and mischievous impressions, which had found their way from Ireland, should be removed from those who had yielded to them; and the Head of this house be left free from charges of severity and asceticism. I cannot put down what Sewell tells me that people, who have been here, say of one, but I wish to be very thankful that the tide has turned, and is running fast the other way. All this smoothing of our way leads me to hope that “God is with us.”

1: William Sewell. Journal of a residence at the college of St. Columba in Ireland: With a preface. Oxford, 1847 Google Books

December 3rd, 1847 (Friday)

I had a letter from the Bishop, acknowledging in very kind terms the copy of the Service book, which I had sent him. I also hear that the President is much gratified. My mother too is rejoiced at the safe arrival of hers. The former were bound in purple morocco, – the last in white ditto, and magnificently finished.

December 4th, 1847 (Saturday)

Sewell sent out a Mr Smith, a scholar of Worcester, highly recommended by Mr Burgon, who is likely to offer himself for a fellowship; but he evidently won’t do. He has never been much in the Society of gentlemen, or, if so, has not availed himself of the privilege, as he might have done. He is so awkward and timid that boys would look on him as a relative of “King Log’s”.1

1: From Aesop’s fable “The frogs desiring a King“.

December 7th, 1847 (Tuesday)

A Dr Elliott, of Stratford, between London and Rumford, has been enquiring from Miss Howard about the College, with the intention of sending two sons, if satisfied about us. Mrs Elliott called upon Nugent Wade, and was so pleased with what she heard, that she came to-day, accompanied by a third son, of such stature and man-like appearance that it was almost impossible to believe that he was only sixteen. There came also, along with her, the Revd. Alfred Mason, a gentleman who wanted to see the College with some idea of offering himself for a fellowship. He seems sensible and gentlemanlike, but is not musical, which is a serious drawback, as we are in great want of a singing Priest.

Mrs Elliott was beyond measure charmed, and said, soon after arrival, that she hoped her two sons would be received. One of them, it appeared, was 15 years old, and so I announced that we took none after 14, without extraordinary testimonials. This was evidently a great disappointment, which was not a whit softened by all she saw and heard before her departure in the evening. As I led her to the fly, she asked what amount of recommendation we required, saying that “she could say that her boy was unexceptional,” and that he would be sadly disappointed if not allowed to come. It was too late to talk further of the matter, but I said that I would leave it to Sewell to settle, as she is to lunch at Exeter tomorrow.

Dr Harrington, the Principal of Brazenose, and Mrs Harrington, – and also Dr Cramer, Principal of New Inn Hall, and Sewell came out. The Heads much pleased. By the way, Sewell mentioned a story about Dr Bull, who is a Canon of Christ Church, and celebrated for his luxury and dinners. “I was sitting,” said he, “lately between Mrs Symons and Mrs Cardwell, who dosed me with Radley, and could talk of nothing else. Absolutely I heard that you dine without pudding!” “Do you come over,” said Sewell, “and we shall have a special pudding made for yourself, which you shall be at liberty to eat in a private room by yourself, if you like it.” The Dr is very good-humoured, and I believe will come.

We gave Mrs Elliott and her company some music in the evening, and all went away in raptures.

December 8th, 1847 (Wednesday)

Sewell saw Mrs Elliott in Oxford according to arrangement, and after much difficulty assented to her 15 year old son coming; but expressly said that if he were to turn out differently from our expectations after what Miss Howard has said, we shall send him home without scruple.

The Psalters have at last come from Printer and Binder. We have cancelled the Preface, and introduced a new title, with our own block. We hope to have the Choral service on Saturday. Monk has brought on the servitors surprisingly.

The following I cut out of a newspaper sent me by Richard Gibbings from Ireland.


The Queen – The People – And The Law!
Dublin, Tuesday 30th November
The Carlow Poor Law Union

We are not able to make room for the letter of Mr Ellis to the Editor of the Carlow Sentinel this day, but we shall not allow the subject to remain unknown to the readers of the Packet. When we reflect on the reformation brought about at the College of Stack-Allen – in expelling Puseyism from Ireland – by the powerful exertion of Mr Ellis, we cannot arrive at any othe conclusion than that he will be equally successful in exposing the secret actings and doings of some of his brethren Guardians of the Carlow Poor Law Union. In the Stack-Allan case Mr Ellis earned a notoriety which secured him the esteem of the clergy of the Irish branch of the Established Church, and his present exertions are likely to prove of great value in the administration of the poor law.

Poor, unhappy Ireland, to exalt such a man as Ellis to the dignity of hero. She expels her friends, and deifies her enemies, and then lays the blame of her miseries on England.

December 11th, 1847 (Saturday)

Sewell came out with Messrs Heathcote, Edwards Sewell, and Griffith, Fellows of New College. He has had a letter from Mr Hope, to say that he is so embarrassed by previous engagements that he cannot do anything for us. Also one from Mr Abraham, who tells him candidly that he and Mr Coleridge feel obliged to do what they can for St Columba’s, which they hear is on the verge of dissolution. Sewell has sent Mr Abraham the letter which he formerly wrote to Mr Hornby, giving a full statement of the grounds of his secession. Also a letter to Mr Hope, to say that Churchmen must come forward to help us.

The Journal is selling rapidly in London. May Providence dispose the hearts of the rich towards us!

We had choral service this evening for the first time. Boys (Servitors) chanted very well. No organ.

A Mr Paul (from Exeter) has been at the reopening of the Chapel at Eton, where he heard Coleridge, in a speech on the occasion, make honourable mention of this College, in connection with the advance of Collegiate education.

December 15th, 1847 (Wednesday)

A letter from Rev HW Tibbs, Curate of Aston, near Birmingham, making several inquiries before offering himself as a candidate for fellowship. Answered some of them, but told him he must come to the College, see and be seen, before he could be allowed to stand. Howard heard of him through a pupil of his. It seems that he has a bass voice, and chants in his own church; – a great recommendation.

Rev HW Tibbs did not come to Radley. By 1849 he had succeeded to his own vicarage at Oxton, near Southwell in Nottinghamshire. He had antiquarian leanings, and was a Fellow of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries.

December 16th, 1847 (Thursday)

A Mr Wood came from London with a son of his; – anxious to send two, – if satisfied with what he sees. Has read the Journal, and admires the system pursued at St Columba’s. Seems to have some predilection for 19th century education. Boy not particularly attractive, but he himself very much so.

December 17th, 1847 (Friday)

Sewell came out to breakfast with Mr McDougall, who is going out as a missionary to Sarawak. He had sailed, but was run down at sea, and had to put back. Curiously, he saw the Enmore towed up the river in a sad plight. Francis was to have joined her at Plymouth, but she was also run down. She sailed however on Sunday last. This is poor Francis’’s 35th birth-day. Mr McDougall told us a great deal about Mr Brooke. He ran away from six schools, and yet would shut himself up at home, and read mathematics and other things with great diligence. He would learn, but would not be taught. He will support Mr McDougall in establishing a college, etc, but the Mahometans are hard to work on; their only chance seems to lie with the Dyaks who are heathens.

Sewell had a talk with Mr Wood on the way to the lodge, and told him that he must distinctly understand that no boy was received without high recommendations. With great candour he acknowledged that his sons had been to a bad school, where it was evident that there was, at least, much vicious talk; for that the younger had been heard to use naughty words, though he did not understand them. Sewell gave him but little hopes of our taking them, which made him the more anxious that they should come. It was finally agreed that, if after consultation we determined to decline, we should write at once to say so; and that, on the other hand, if we get over our scruples, he is to let us know in a few days his own decision. Wrote to him in the evening to say that we would take his sons, on condition that on the first appearance of any thing seriously bad he would take them away without thinking that he was hardly used by the College. This annoyed him very much, but he has consented to send them on this condition, if he send them at all.

Sewell has had a letter from Mr Abraham to say that he cannot point out where we were wrong, unless it was in introducing the details of fasting into the Statutes; adding that Sewell was harsh to his first love. To this Sewell replied that the details had not been introduced into the Statutes, but that they were left to the discretion of the Warden and Fellows. (Surely Morton cannot have used his intimacy with Mr Abraham to give him a right view of the case). Then, as to being harsh, – that there were two parties with which he was concerned, – the Trustees, and the College; – that to Cotton he had spoken kindly, and implored him to give in no further to popular clamour, and all might yet be well. That to Morton and the rest he had been cool after their conduct to me, – but that on hearing he was trying to keep things on their former footing, he had written him a letter of thanks. Subsequently, indeed, on hearing all that had occurred, – that he had lost all confidence in him, – mentioning his behaviour while that intriguing party (Du Noyer, Gabbett, &c) were carrying on their underhand designs. This will certainly astonish Mr Abraham, who has a very high opinion of Morton.

Sewell has also had letters from Morton, Tripp and Todd, complaining of the violation of private confidence in publishing the Journal. To the two former (who, by the way, it seems have not seen the published work) he has written calling upon them to point out one place where confidence has been violated, which being done he will take the case into consideration. Todd he tells very plainly that of all men he has least cause to complain, for that he should remember that whatever Sewell may have said, there is a vast deal that he might have said which he has not said. I believe the fact to be that they are in a daily fright lest the real truth of the whole case should be divulged. How can men in their senses complain of such personalities as these: “- is an admirable man.” – “- chanted the service admirably.” King’s case, to be sure, is pretty graphically told, but the name is a -. Those who know him not, can never associate the real name with the thing; – and those who do, knew the facts before. I should not be surprised, however, if the Bishop of Meath and Dean Disney were to come down on Sewell, – but they can make no hand of the girievance. If the Stackallan people would but look reasonably on the matter, they would see that the Journal would serve rather than injure them; and that if it serves, they have got more than their merit; – if it injures, – they have got less. I should mention that Sewell told Tripp in his letter the reason of his very cold reception here on July 31st. I confess I am very anxious to see how all this will end.

Sewell has had a letter from a nobleman, who had formerly written to say that he would send his son, and from whom we had heard nothing since. This is an answer to one which Sewell, suspecting something wrong, wrote to him mentioning that the terms were to be raised to £100 a year after Christmas. His Lordship announces that he had placed his boy elsewhere, for that he was unable to place any confidence in a person who had left St Columba’s in haste and confusion, and in the middle of the night. How satisfactory to be able to pounce direct upon one of the many mischievous lies that are current about us, and to inform his lordship that they drove me away by announcing changes in the Statutes, to which I could not in conscience consent, and which one of them at least knew would drive me away; – that every thing was left in the most perfect order, especially the accounts, which were duly audited by an accountant from Dublin, and newly drawn out by my own hand with great labour and pains; – that I remained till the end of the term when the Statute of fasting was cancelled, and a new rule made, that every one might do in this matter as he pleased; – that I sat up the whole night, before I left, to complete the students’ bills and write to all their parents, – and that if I did go away at 10 minutes past 5 o’clock the next morning, it was to be saved the pain of parting with the boys. If his Lordship have any justice, not to say generosity, he must think the criminality to rest on other shoulders than mine.

December 21st, 1847 (Tuesday)

The boys and Fellows went away today, and I am left to take charge of the College, but there is so much to be done that I dare say I shall not mind being alone. Sewell remains for a day or two. He is writing to Lord John Thynne: who he thinks has been affected by rumours, to beg of him to give no credence to them, until he shall have asked Sewell for an account of the real facts. That he had intended asking his leave to mention to him, with a few other persons of influence and station, the whole history of the troubles at St Columba’s, in order that they might be able to give the negative to the false statements so common, – but that we were becoming so much firmer, and making our way so cheeringly, that at present he would not trouble him with any detailed statement. Sewell has told a few leading men in Oxford the whole story, – Heathcote, Barrow, and others; and it is most satisfactory to find that they all accord entirely with the course we have taken. I heard from him with great delight that when Keble was informed of what we were doing he was much pleased, and said that it was a fine thing that we had begun again after the apparent defeat in Ireland. I hope it is not presumptuous to look upon such approval as an external testimony that we are in the right way.1

Sewell has had a letter from Mr Smith of Worcester declining to stand for a fellowship, on the ground that after his unsatisfactory career in college he cannot ask us to elect him. His letter is very well written, and shows him to be a man of intelligence and high principle.

1: In 1847, John Keble held the living of Hursley in Hampshire, under the patronage of Sir William Heathcote, 5th Bart. Sir William had originally offered the living to Keble in 1829, upon the death of Ven. Gilbert Heathcote, Archdeacon of Gloucester. Archdeacon Heathcote was the father of William Beadon Heathcote, Fellow of New College, and Warden of Radley 1851-52, who was frequently called upon for advice by both Singleton and Sewell. See entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

December 23rd, 1847 (Thursday)

Sewell went into Oxford on his way home, and I went along with him to call on the President, who received us very courteously, and, as usual, talked a great deal. The subject was Dr Hampden and the vacant see, on which he displayed great acuteness, and the resources of a fine memory. He said that if objections were raised to his consecration, at the time of the ceremony, itself, Bishop Mountagne’s case was the only that he knew in point of English church history. Told me that he felt highly indebted to me for the Service Book, and only “wished he were more worthy of it”; to which I replied that “we counted his acceptance of it a real honour.” Met Dr Bloxam, the Vice-President at the gate, who was very glad to see us, and said that “he hoped to pay Radley another visit, – and another, if we would let him.” He was one of those who fell almost into despair when Newman seceded, and now seems to have got into spirits at the sight of the effort we are making.

Called on the Warden of New College, who was glad to see us, and said he hoped soon to pay his respects to me. This too is comfortable.

Got from the printer copies of a form to be sent to parents, as from the Bursar, giving terms, list of clothes, etc.

The desk and seat, which Margetts and his carvers have had for so long, has at last come out. It is uncommonly fine, and the work very elaborate, which indeed is its only fault. It is 18 feet long, with a desk at back for the fellows, and a seat in front for the first row of boys. The stanchions at each end are surmounted by very fine poppy heads, one of them a Pelican feeding her young, and the other presenting the various symbols of the Passion. The desk is supported by brackets and corbels of half length angels, with uplifted wings, and heads of great reverence and beauty. The back has three panels exquisitely pierced with flowing tracery of most graceful design. I suppose there is nothing to equal it in all England. Sewell had ordered six, but the cost is so enormous (£130 each) that we must defer these for the present, contenting ourselves with the stanchions and, if we can afford it, the remainder of the plain oak, (a most serious expense) which, as friends come forward to help us, we may get similarly carved. Two stalls also have been executed, which are very good, though from error in shape they are too uneasy. These are to be placed for the Warden and any visitor of distinction; (they are in one piece) and they reach exactly from the gangway up the Chapel to the south wall.

December 24th, 1847 (Friday) – Christmas Eve

Closed the College accounts for the year, and had the comfort of finding all come right, the receipts and disbursements extending from April to the end of December.

Let the Servitors go home for a fortnight, and gave them all (at Sewell’s suggestion) a Christmas box apiece, 5s; but made this condition that they should not buy eatables or drinkables, – and this recommendation, that they should devote some portion to the poor. Added a lecture about behaviour while away, especially charging them never to omit their private prayers. They are very good, very grateful, and therefore very happy. They are beginning to take quite a pride in their position, as the servants and choristers of the College. What a blessing it will be to themselves, their parents, to us, and even to Society at large, if we can contribute towards raising the tone of so neglected a class of people as servants are; and this, please God, we hope to do.

Was awoke in the middle of the night by the Radley bells ringing a long and joyous peal. It is usual, it seems, for the Vicar to give the ringers some roast beef on Christmas Eve and they in turn ring in the feast of the Nativity at midnight. I was delighted to be aroused to serious thoughts. I never heard of such a custom in Ireland.

December 25th, 1847 (Saturday) – Feast of the Nativity

As there was no communion today at Radley, – went into Abingdon for the first time. Such a Puritanical sermon! A rambling talk about “all sufficiency”, and a tirade against “masses, fastings, and purgatories.” This, I suppose, is the road to popularity: what else can such talk mean? What do the people of Abingdon know about Purgatory? Such preachers will pull up wheat along with the tares, though such preaching is neither good enough, nor bad enough, to pull up any thing, – however it may disturb the roots of principles.