August 28th, 1847 (Saturday)

August 28, 2009

Sewell and I went into Oxford to pay our respects to the President of Magdalen. The venerable gentleman received us in his study, which was filled with the most valuable books. He was dressed in his wig and full canonicals, and, though bent with age, got up to receive us. Nothing could be more cordial or courteous than his manner, and he expressed great satisfaction at my being introduced to him. What induced us to go was Hobhouse telling us that he had been in his company lately, and that he seemed to take great interest in the College. He asked some questions, and was much gratified at our account of our progress. Sewell told him that only for his sister (Mrs Sheppard) he would not have attempted the thing.

He talked incessantly: told us many interesting particulars about the dispute between Magdalen and the Town Clerk of Oxford, respecting their school; all throughout exhibiting great clearness of understanding and memory.1 Said that Miss Angela Burdett Coutts had called upon him 4 or 5 days before on her way to Nuneham, as he had been one of her father’s oldest friends. Mentioned what was of still higher interest to us, – that she had written to him about Sewell and gave us to understand that his answer was expressive of his high opinion. He also uttered some complimentary speeches about oneself, but owing to some indistinctness I missed part of what he said. Altogether, I was very much delighted with my visit.

While we were there, an American clergyman called at Exeter with a letter of introduction from Bishop Doane to Sewell, who went down to the Mitre,2 and asked him to come out in the fly, which he did. We found him unpolished and not much impressed, though he expressed wishes for our success. He used the expression “our country” oftener than was well-bred, but, upon the whole, I imagine was not an unfavourable specimen of his class.

Of the two chief Colleges (I believe Universities) in the States, ‘Harford’ and ‘Yale’, the former he said was in the hands of Socinians, and the latter of Independents. The account of the American Church was cheering, – but it appears that the State is very jealous of its prosperity, and that they have just the same difficulties there that the Statute of Mortmain imposes on us; they are obliged, like ourselves, to have recourse to the evasive intricacy of Trusts.3

1: Magdalen College School was founded in 1480 by William Waynflete as part of the foundation of Magdalen College. It occupies a site close to Magdalen College in central Oxford.
2: The Mitre Pub, a coaching inn situated on the High Street, Oxford. It still operates as a pub and hotel.
3: The Statute of Mortmain, established by King Edward I in 1279, was aimed at preventing land passing to the hands of immortal institutions, and thus out of the control and taxation system operated by the state. It was intended as a way of preventing more land passing into the control of the Church, ultimately controlled by Rome rather than by the English crown. It was relatively ineffective since there were a number of ways of evading it, particularly Trusts.

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