Mr De la Motte brought the designs which we set him about, – some of them most successful, – especially the Stancheon and Finial for each Cubicle, – and the upright for the boys benches, surmounted by a cluster of oak-leaves and acorns, with a serpent half-concealed, most appropriate and beautiful. Some of the others required improvement.

Had a long consultation with Mr Underwood about our buildings, and settled many points of difficulty. He has been absent and ill, and therefore done nothing as yet, but is now ready to proceed at once. We met Mr Pollen of Merton College in the street, who was delighted at the idea of the College, and mentioned that we had a good chance of the fittings up discarded in their Chapel, – for that the proposal had been some time back to burn them, not liking them to fall into secular hands.

Mr Hobhouse called on Sewell, and mentioned that the President of Magdalen had just been speaking to him about Radley and our scheme, – saying that it seemed well deserving of his sister’s attention, – but that he hoped to hear some more particulars from Sewell shortly. Sewell is to all upon him tomorrow, and explain the cause of his delay in drawing up the statement for him: – viz. the length and care it required, – and the necessity of having it printed, as mentioned earlier. It is now finished, so that it will be in his hands early next week. Sewell says he will ask permission for me to call on the Venerable Head.1

Sewell proposed to me this evening that instead of giving books as prizes to the boys, (which after all, I believe, no one reads, while they cost a great deal of money,) – we should have a magnificent blank book, in which the names of the successful candidates should be written with great ‘pomp and circumstance’. – and also a black one, for those who have been seriously idle, or misbehaved, during the preceding term. This ought clearly to be a very grim, horrid-looking affair: a register of evil cannot be black enough. We also thought of a superb book, for the names of those who, on quitting the College, had entitled themselves to the dignity of a place on its pages, by a course of previous virtue and good conduct. These are important thoughts.2

I forgot to mention in its proper place that I yesterday purchased a very finely carved cabinet, or Wardrobe, for the Warden’s room, from Mr Mallam, opposite Christ Church. By the way he has 4 small panels, exquisitely carved, which he picked up for Sewell. They were covered with paint, which he has managed to remove completely. All these things will tell wonderfully, not only in giving dignity to the College, but also in exalting the tastes of its members and Alumni. Sewell says that I must not pay for the Wardrobe, as it is being secured for official effect, Domus must be at the cost of it. While my sitting-room will be very handsome, I intend that my bedroom shall be very simple, so that the individual and the Functionary shall be separable ideas. The bedstead of iron, no curtains, – deal furniture, – no carpets, – but a strip or two, where I must stand, – neither luxury nor asceticism, but the manly comfort, of which I hope the Christian need not be ashamed.

I also bought a magnificent proof of Chalon’s picture of the Queen in her robes, which I got by accident at less than half-price. Also Strange’s print of Charles 1st in company with the Duke of Hamilton; and its match, Henrietta and her children. These are the best impressions, taken out of the book. Also another print of Charles, a Bust view, purchased in Paris by an Oxford dealer. All these will give a loyal air to my sitting room, and help to teach the boys to honour the Crown, and to pay especial reverence to it, when worn by a Martyr.

Ordered furniture for my bedroom, and same for Mrs Burky’s, only giving her wood for iron in the bedstead, and the luxury of a pretty chintz curtain, the only one among the members of the College. Also two sets for servants, to be ready at any time we may require them.


1: Martin Routh, who Sewell visited on the 22nd. At the time of writing he was 91, and had been President of Magdalen for over fifty years. Venerable indeed.

2: Two of these three books – one with silver binding and one with gold – survive at the college, though they did not begin to be used until 1855 and 1863 respectively. The “Black Book” was in active use, and is mentioned in the earliest letters from boys, but has since been lost. Internal college pages: the Silver Book; the Gold Book.

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Ten days or a fortnight ago we heard of a Clergyman, a Mr Fortescue, who had gone out with the Bishop of Colombo, to Ceylon, but who, finding, contrary to his expectation, that the Mission was not acting up to the spirit of the Church, resigned his office, returned home, and reimbursed the S.P.G.1 all the expenses which they had incurred on his account. From all the enquiries we made, we thought he would be likely to answer our purpose admirably, and probably make a good Sub-Warden, being in Priest’s orders, and 30 years of age. Mr Ley, Sub-rector of Exeter wrote to him, recommending him to apply for a Fellowship, but he wrote back word that he did not consider himself scholar enough, nor that he was sufficiently schooled in self-discipline. This day, however, Sewell heard from the Rector that he was a most excellent man, and a most desirable person for us, – so Mr Ley wrote again. I hope it may be with better success, as Sewell happened to dine in company today with 2 persons, who knew him, – Dr Cornish, whose assistant he had been in the care of a large school at … and a Mr Longmeade. Both of these gentlemen united in giving him a very high character.


1: The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.

Had a letter from Belleone, from Mrs Burky, to say that Anthony had given her notice to look out for another situation, as she was too expensive a servant. The poor woman wrote in great distress, begging me to look out for a situation for her. I wrote back word, that if she choose to be the Dame of an English St. Columba’s, I would take her, and her daughter, (who would be her own maid,) in a very short time. I am sure she will be overjoyed. How strange is that combination of events, which throws so unexpectedly into our hands the very person, who, in her capacity, would best suit us! One cannot but hope that it is a help of Providence, approving what we are about.

Sewell has been printing his Journal, and in sending it round to persons likely to send us money or boys, thought it best to accompany it with a letter rather than with a preface, as this would give it a more private air, and also attract more attention. It had, of course, to be lithographed, and this day a got a proof, which showed that the execution had been so wretched, that the printer was compelled to ask him to write it over again. This is very provoking, as it will not only cause him serious loss of time, and increase of labour, – but delay the circulation for a week. He has, however, made a few very decided improvements in it.

Sewell went to Dr Radcliffe this morning, who received him stiffly enough. The old gentleman seemed to have a thorough horror of anything approaching to a school; and not without some reason; for it appears that the last tenant of Radley Hall, was a Schoolmaster, whose boys, if not himself too, were chiefly dissenters, and caused the Vicar very much annoyance. It was evident to Sewell that he was under apprehensions for our Orthodoxy, as he dwelt upon the sufficiency of the Prayer-book and Articles, as if implying a fear of our going beyond them. Sewell, however, managed to pacify him, and left him much softened. I believe he has met with crosses in life, and this may account for his being somewhat σκνθρωπος.1

Sewell, James Edwards Sewell, his sisters, and I, got out to Radley, between Flying it and Walking it. The second-mentioned was much struck with the place, and thought it an admirable locality, and remarked that he felt no doubt that we should get the requisite funds, and that we must succeed. This is satisfactory, as he is a man of sound and clear judgement, very anxious for our success, but dispassionate and cool.

We made a change in the arrangement of the Rooms, abandoned that mentioned and reverting to the original one, so far as it affected the Wardens accommodation, whose bedroom would otherwise be unsatisfactory, the proposal being to take it off the Boys Study. This would bring him too near to them, so that he could hardly help overhearing their conversation. Besides, there would be no fireplace: not that the loss of a fire would be worth a thought, but that ventilation would be imperfect. The arrangement, then, (of the ground floor,) stands thus: – Common Room, – Second Common Room, in which to receive Visitors, – Prefects and diligent boys study, – Room for any boys that might have colds, or be otherwise too poorly to go out to School. The regular Infirmary is to be moved to the top of the House. Further, as our Dormitory is to be a chief, striking, feature of our system, and as the low rooms above stairs will never give it the character which is essential, and as we shall want these different rooms for fellows and other purposes, – we agreed not to demolish the partitions, but preserving them as they are, – to erect a Dormitory on a proper plan outside the House, only, of course, employing the upper storey until the new building shall be fit to occupy. We also determined to bring all our buildings to the front, as being more cheerful, and more easily accessible; and accordingly measured with my tape the different distances, so as to keep out of the way of the trees.

Edwards Sewell told us, on our way to Radley, that the Warden of his College (New College) had just mentioned that he had received the Report about Stackallan lately issued by the Trustees, with a request for his Subscription, and had enquired from Edwards Sewell why his brother and others had withdrawn. To this Edwards Sewell replied that it was owing to the College having abandoned certain principles to which it had been pledged. The Warden expressed considerable dissatisfaction at the tone of their remarks touching myself, and announced his intention of withdrawing his support. We afterwards heard that he had formally done so, and chiefly on this ground. The passage alluded to is this: ‘The great difficulties occasioned by the sudden and unexpected resignation of the late Warden and some of the Fellows, have now been happily overcome.’ This is not true, but it is unfeeling. They forced us out by changing the Statutes in the face of repeated pledges given, and received, to the contrary.

I walked back with Edwards Sewell. Agreed that in Ireland they will say that Sewell and I abandoned Stackallan in order to set up a scheme of our own in this country. Some people may add, – in spite and in rivalry. The story will bear its own refutations, which will be enough for those who care either for our characters, or the merits of the case: and what line others may take ought not to be of much concern. The fact is, – that the mass of mankind take no pains either to think or to speak fairly. We must not look to man for justice or comfort.


1: Apparently a very obscure term; a loose translation would perhaps be “sullen”.

Mr Henry Sewell came to Oxford bringing intelligence that there were no difficulties in the way of our getting speedy possession of our lease. Wrote, therefore, to Anthony to give him notice that I wanted my money. Also to my mother, letting her know what we were about. I am afraid she will be in a great fidget, and think I am going to be ruined. However, Sewell seems as anxious as I can be to relieve her of all groundless fear, so between us both, we may somewhat calm her mind.

Called upon Mr De la Motte, who had been in London, and done nothing about our affairs. We must have patience.

Sewell called upon Dr Radcliffe, but he was from home. We think it best to communicate our plan as soon as possible to our future Vicar.

I went to Sewell’s chambers and there began copying from the Exeter Statutes those parts which might suit our case. Presently Sewell came in, and told me that he had just been at Merton about their oak-fittings there; and had heard from Mr Hobhouse that, a very few years ago, a quantity of beautiful bosses, carved in oak and elm, which they had removed during the alterations in their Chapel, had been sold for 3 pence a piece to some man, who came from London for them. I cannot express how grieved and vexed we were. To think of such treasures having been almost within grasp, and hopelessly torn from it by a money-making creature, who cleared £10 by the transaction, – it is quite shocking.

A letter from the Bishop, to say that he will forward our design, and will consent to be our Visitor, if he approve of the Statutes; adding that he was not aware of there being one single exempt jurisdiction in the Diocese of Oxford. We are thus committed to the principle of the same individual being Ordinary and Visitor, but I believe that we cannot help it, as it is very desirable that we should give some definite proof of our being identified with the Church. We must have a Bishop, and the history of Stackallan shows that the Archbishop of Canterbury could not be depended on; and if we were to ask any one else but the Bishop of the Diocese, the principle would not be understood, and the air of the proceedings would be invidious. We must jealously guard a due independence of action in the College, by means of the Statutes. With a proper explanation of the Visitor’s functions, and a wholesome limitation of his powers, we may feel tolerably secure. However, Sewell and I are to have a serious talk over the matter today. It is quite clear that we must get the Statutes drawn up at once.

Sewell called upon Dr Routh, the President of Magdalen,1 about the application to Mrs Sheppard, and which the good lady had forwarded to her brother for his opinion. He received Sewell most cordially, asked many questions, and took a very warm interest in the undertaking. His age and infirmities made it extremely difficult for Sewell to convey all he wished about the College, but the President relieved him much by asking him for a statement in writing of the merits of the case. Sewell is going to have it printed, to save the venerable gentleman the labour of reading a small hand. It seems quite clear that something of consequence may, please Providence, result from this.


1: Martin Routh, who had been President of Magdalen since 1791, and at the time of Sewell’s meeting him was 91. He has an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. (Sophia Sheppard was his youngest sister, and would probably have been in her early seventies)

Sewell had a letter from Lord Charles Thynne, plainly implying that he would send us his only son, if satisfied on some points, which we have always held to be imperative. The prestige of our first boy coming of titled people is not to be despised.

Sewell wrote to the Bishop of Oxford, inclosing the letter alluded to before, which served to show his Lordship the real state of our feelings towards him, and the Episcopal body generally. It was cautious, not implying any prostration of ourselves at his feet, but simply exhibiting a dutiful spirit, and rather insinuating that we should be sorry to be the means of Sir George Bowyer’s losing his rights as Ordinary of Radley.

Despatched a very long letter to Mr Hardwicke at Rome; was glad to find that Sewell thought it just the sort of affair to be sent. It contained a minute account of what we were doing, which we knew would be very interesting to him, and I added the wish that he might yet be engaged in designing a fine Gothic College for us.

Saw at Herbert’s, the Upholsterer’s, a serge of excellent make, which when dyed of a good drab, or fawn, colour, would do admirably for curtains for the cubicles in the dormitory. It will be somewhat expensive, but then it has this important advantage, that it will not readily ignite, if carelessness or accident were to bring a candle into contact with it. We found also 2 or 3 very quiet patterns of carpets, very suitable for our sitting rooms.

Dined with Sewell and two of his sisters in the Bursary; amused them with an account of our adventures at Stackallan with boys, who affected to be sick when they were well, or sicker than nature made them. This led us to talk of the means by which boys actually do become fit subjects for the Infirmary, – and this naturally suggested all the delights of the Fruiterer, and the dainties of the Pastry-cook. I had always thought that it was our duty to check luxury and extravagance in this, as well as in every other way; and that we should teach them that we are not allowed by religion to eat and drink for the sake of mere enjoyment; and, consequently, that when they are furnished with an ample supply of the best food, all feasting upon supplemental delicacies was plainly self-indulgence, in fact, a form of gluttony. I mentioned this, but acknowledged that I had legalized the purchase of fruit at Stackallan, because I found the ‘sons of Zerniah too hard for me.’ Still I urged that the view one took was palpably founded on the Gospel, the grand oracle of education. Sewell put forward the strong point, that it placed the poorer boys in painful comparison with those that were more wealthy.

All this, however, was most distasteful argument to the ladies, who pleaded hard for the poor, oppressed, little fellows, but Sewell and I seemed deaf to eloquence, even though coming from female lips: – they were doomed to hear, perhaps, of such things as Confectioner’s shops, blushing apples, weeping tarts, jam exuding puffs, but neither to see, feel, nor taste, their glories. I must say that the production of the advocates so far bowed to their penetration, that they admitted that a perfect system must exclude all these costly, sickening, selfish, – I had almost added – dirty, indulgences. Why should not our system be perfect? At least, why should we not try to make it so? Why should we not teach our alumni, whose souls and bodies are in our keeping, that they must learn to curb their tendency to intemperance, just as we teach them to control all other passions, that endanger the health of both? Do we not place restraints upon a love of amusement, – upon a love of dress, – and upon other inordinate affections? And why not then upon a love of eating? And if so, are not the ‘irritamenta gulae’ to be kept at a distance from the frail disciples of discipline? Inebriety seems almost entirely to have absorbed the ill fame of its next of kin, – gluttony is scarcely thought to be a sin at all.

But if gluttony made people drunk as well as sick, they would soon confess its criminality. Yet the insensibility caused by drunkenness is neither the only, nor the first, nor the chief, part of its guilt, unless a man is to be considered comparatively innocent until he begins to reel. Why boys at school are to be visited with the severest punishment if discovered introducing fermented or distilled drinks, and at the same time permitted every liberty to overload their stomachs with all sorts of luscious, stimulating and unwholesome solids, – seems unintelligible, at least. The practical effect upon their minds will be plainly this, – Intoxication is a felony, greediness – a bare misdemeanour.

I am sure that Sewell and I are right. Middle courses are mostly wrong, in this case evidently so. If we tell the boys that food was given for our profit, scarcely at all for our pleasure, – that they are furnished with abundance for support, comfort, and (if it is to be insisted upon, for) enjoyment, – and that all beyond this becomes excess and extravagance, – that therefore we must prohibit all extraneous supplies, upon a principle of Christian obligation, they will understand the matter at once, and by being kept at a distance from temptation will soon acquiesce in our wisdom, or at least become contented with their lot. Thus we shall inure them to habits of self-command, and when they afterwards assume their several positions in life, they will be better able to comprehend St. Paul, when he condemns ‘banquettings, revellings, and such like.’ Let us have a Christian School, with the help of God, but for anything short of this neither Sewell nor I will raise a little finger.

Few after-dinner conversations have been more important than ours of this day. It is quite wonderful, almost appalling to think of the magnitude of the work we are about, and the effect of every decision we come to upon the welfare of hundreds, nay thousands. May God grant us a ‘spirit of wisdom, and counsel, and of the fear of the Lord.’

Sewell & Mr Underwood called. The expense of papering, painting, &c. at Radley will be £600. However, some of this can be deferred for the present. We agreed upon the dimensions & general plan of the chapel, which Mr Underwood is at once to reduce to shape, & submit the drawings to us without delay, so that no time may be lost.

Went to Exeter, where Sewell showed me a specimen of carved oak cornice, just executed and sent from Gloucester. It is a scroll wreathing round a straight, knotted, branch of a tree. It is quite new to me, & looks very well, and will do for our dining Hall, & many other purposes, though rather heavy, & not rich enough for the canopies in the Chapel. The price so moderate, that it is plainly our course to get what we want worked at once to our taste, rather than waste time in looking for old carvings, and waste money in repairing & putting them together.

Sewell found a letter from Lord Charles Thynne to say that he had heard from Lady John Thynne of our projecting a College & wanting to know all about it, as he had a boy of 9 years old, for whom he was anxious to find a suitable school. Also one from Tripp, from Stackallan, giving an account of the way in which the National Fast had been observed by the boys, who had abstained from dinner, & gone without butter for breakfast, in order to save for the poor. They subsequently made a large collection for the Offertory. All this is very satisfactory & is easily traceable (under God) to the firm stand that we made for the important principle, which lies at the bottom of it, and all similar sacrifices.


The National Fast, which Singleton noted on March 24th, was observed by the Church throughout England and Ireland as “a public fast and humiliation” for relief from the ongoing Irish famine.