[Singleton went to Ireland to help his brother fight for a Parliamentary seat in the General Election of 1847. The diary entries between June 12th and July 5th were written up retrospectively on his return, grouped under the general date and heading June 12th. For the purposes of this online publication they have been split up into their respective dates]

Here I cannot help setting down an incident which occurred after my return to England. On Sunday July 11th, Sewell and I were walking up and down the terrace walk, which he had got made, during my absence, at the south front of the house. The unfortunate martens, who had been dispossessed from their quiet retreats in the angles of the windows, had made fresh ones in the great projecting cornice traversing the top of the house. Near one of these which had been lately completed, sat a cock-sparrow, the picture of impudence. I knew very well by the airs he had put on him, and from an observation of the dishonest and burglarious principles of his species, that he had driven away the builders of the nest from their rightful property and their home.

I therefore said, – ‘Sewell, I can set no bounds to my indignation against that rogue of a bird up there. He would not take the trouble of making a nest for himself, but has secured a comfortable berth without labour, by sacrificing the helpless and innocent. It is the triumph of vulgar force against gentility and justice.’

To which Sewell replied, – ‘My dear Singleton, that sparrow must evidently be a Trustee.’

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Mr Cox, of the Bodleian, with his lady & son, drank tea with us; much struck and pleased. Went on the leads with them, where was a pigeon which seemed to have met with some accident. Next morning it had made its way into the Dame’s room, where it soon domesticated itself & became not only tame but bold to severity. A ‘columba’ taking refuge with us we thought a good omen as well as a curious fact, and therefore were not a little annoyed to find that it had disappeared a few days afterwards. However, were much relieved by the discovery that it had been carried off by some man or other, who had seen it on a paling about the park, & given it to a woman at Abingdon. As yet we have not recovered it; – &, to say the truth our title is a very questionable one, for people will be slow to recognize the argument from suitableness.

Subsequently a kitten (not a particular beauty) made its appearance. The owner was discovered & it was sent home, but returned the next day, & seems likely to remain.

Found all well, and the chapel and house advanced satisfactorily. My room handsomely set out with fine, old fashioned chairs, two escritoires in beautiful marqueterie, the octagon table which I purchased at Wright’s, one of the handsome altar chairs, (which we do not intend to place at the altar, as sedilia appear to be the only legitimate provision of that kind) a “prie-dieu” well carved, and (of course) my own study table and chair, which I brought from Stackallan. I have a large Turkey carpet, for Sewell & I quite agree that they are much the cheapest in the end, while they always look much more quiet and collegiate than any other kind; – besides it being next to impossible to get a Brussels or Kidderminster without an objectionable pattern, or some admixture of colours to be reprobated by good taste. The book-case that Johnson made is an excellent piece of work, and really ornamental.

Sewell has put over the chimney-piece a fine carving, in solid walnut and of large size, of the four symbols of the Evangelists, & “Salvator Mundi” in the centre. Also on the walls the four heads of Great Painters in crayons, which we got from Falcke. The woodwork is painted oak, almost black, and much darker than I like. Still the room is really very imposing. It is entered by an arched passage in the wall, which contains the stone stair-case. It (the passage) is above six feet in length, & is painted of the same grim colour, so I am sure it will be an object of horror, a sort of dread Styx, to the unhappy little creatures which will have to pass it in the suspense of the judgement which awaits them beyond. I have proposed that it should be called the “Locus Paenitetiae.”

My bedroom has a bedstead which was got from Hopson at Gloucester, on which he avers that Charles 1st once slept. Whatever may be the value of the tradition I have put a bit of carpet on the three sides, and at each side of the head an old patterned chair with seven crowns in different parts of the carving. Besides, I have hung upon the wall over the chairs the two engraved busts of the king. Over the chimney piece is the proof of Chalon’s portrait of the Queen, & in other parts, Strange’s two prints. All of these I had designed (as before mentioned) for my sitting-room, but this being more handsomely embellished, – I have now the honour to sleep, instead of to sit, in a right Royal atmosphere. All the bedsteads in the house, except the Dame’s, are of iron; – but even if I had no fancy to conform to this usage, I think I should share the prejudices of Lady Margaret Bellinden, in Old mortality, and no more allow the bedstead, “in which his most sacred Majesty” “lay”, “to be pressed by a less dignified weight,” than she would her turkey Morocco chair.1 Indeed the article is not the most convenient one in the world for the purpose, being very low, very rickety, and very rude. No doubt it was very fine in its day.

I was glad to find that Sewell had approved of my ordering from Mears (while I was at Kingstown), two more bells, to chime for chapel, ending on the Great Bell. They are to be A & B, a 5th & 6th to the D; & will weigh about 8 & 10 cwt. Mears will wait till next year to be paid for them.

Found that several things had arrived which Sewell had purchased. Amongst others, 60 yards of the most magnificent brocade of silk and gold, which came from the Queen of Portugal’s Chapel at Belem. (Belem is a fortress on an island at the mouth of the Tagus, whither the Royal family can retire in circumstances of great peril.) This will do for our cushions, & perhaps curtains for the Warden’s & Sub-Warden’s stalls. It was only a guinea a yard, which is the price of good velvet, & to which it is infinitely superior. Also a Thibet [Tibet] carpet, made of the material of which cashmere shawls are composed. The manufactory of this kind of carpet Sir Harford Brydges told Sewell had long been extinct. It is said that there are only three such in England; one bought by George 4th for £200; another in the possession of some nobleman; and this, which cost £30. It is intended for a ‘pede-cloth’. Also a very fine iron chest with a very elaborate lock; and three ancient locks for the Chapel doors. Also some fine examples of old stained glass, including three lights, 8 ft x 1.7 in., representing he figure of SS Peter, Paul & James. These were all that remained of twelve, which Sewell had seen 2 or 3 years ago. They came from Cologne, and cost £14 apiece, which is a very low price, as they are magnificent, & superior to anything in Oxford. Other articles were purchased & arrived while I was away, – such as pictures, carvings, etc.

When Prince Albert visited Oxford, along with the British Association, he was entertained by the Rector of Exeter, who is his private chaplain. On this occasion Sewell lent our furniture & plate, which the Prince admired very much. He sat in the Chair, which is appropriated to the Warden in the Bursary.


1: Old mortality by Sir Walter Scott. First published 1819

Singleton went to Ireland to help his brother fight for a Parliamentary seat in the General Election of 1847. The diary entries between 12th June and 5th July were written up retrospectively on his return, grouped under the general date and heading June 12th. For the purposes of this online publication they have been split up into their respective dates

On leaving Ireland I brought with me a pair of handsome old silver candlesticks, a present from K. to the College, and a dinner drinking cup from F.; both of which pleased Sewell very much. Returned by the Isle of Man, and spent a day with Allen Cliff at Hampton Lacy, reaching the College in the evening of July 5th.

Reached Kingstown, and found my mother there in good health. Went to Mr Telford, whose premises were full of the elements of the organ, the wood-work of which had gone night to empty them. Settled with him, during my stay in Ireland, to introduce some changes and several additions, so that now it will be as near perfect as need be. He still hopes to have it ready by the 1st of November, though some of the pedal pipes may have to be omitted for the present. Mr de la Motte’s plan of the front was so full of blunders, that he got a young artist in Dublin, a Mr Price, to draw one out, and certainly he has produced something far superior to it. However, so erroneous was the former that Mr Price (who was obliged to follow it to a great extent) is now employed upon a fresh one. Just before I left Ireland, I settled upon the final plan and details of the front. The centre pipe will be 20 feet long, (including the leg,) and will be made of pure tin without alloy, and look like silver. We anticipate a very fine tone from this metal, – but these large pipes will cost a great deal of money. They are usually now made of zinc, and therefore light, and cheap. But zinc is an ugly metal, and we will not have any gilding: so we are driven to tin and expense. Tin is now £120 a ton.

I found the Irish newspapers devoted to our injury. The Meath Herald on the authority of the Church and State Gazette assumed that the College of St Columba was forthwith to be removed to the more genial atmosphere of Oxford, and therefore thought fit to rejoice. Saunders News-Letter copied the triumphs of the Meath Herald into its columns, and in a day or two announced ‘on authority’ that ‘Mr Singleton was not its Warden and that it had no connection whatsoever with Mr Sewell, or with his plans, whatever they may be.’ How grateful ‘authority’ is to those who devoted themselves, body, mind and purse to found it!

Here I cannot help setting down an incident which occurred after my return to England. On Sunday July 11th, Sewell and I were walking up and down the terrace walk, which he had got made, during my absence, at the south front of the house. The unfortunate martens, who had been dispossessed from their quiet retreats in the angles of the Windows, had made fresh ones in the great projecting Cornice traversing the top of the house. Near one of these which had been lately completed, sat a cock-sparrow, the picture of impudence. I knew very well by the airs he had put on him, and from an observation of the dishonest and burglarious principles of his species, that he had driven away the builders of the nest from their rightful property and their home. I therefore said, – ‘Sewell, I can set no bounds to my indignation against that rogue of a bird up there. He would not take the trouble of making a nest for himself, but has secured a comfortable berth without labour, by sacrificing the helpless and innocent. It is the triumph of vulgar force against gentility and justice.’ To which Sewell replied, – ‘My dear Singleton, that sparrow must evidently be a Trustee.’

To return. When the Meath Herald found it was misinformed, it sincerely lamented that the obnoxious College was not to be removed to England, for that, though Messrs Sewell and Singleton had nothing to do with it, they had no confidence in such a Puseyite place. This was the sense of their remarks, so that, as we said from the very first, their abandonment of their principles at Stackallan only had the effect of cooling or alienating their friends, without the softening or gaining over one enemy.

While at Kingstown, Sewell sent me a copy of an admirable letter that he had written to the Archbishop of Armagh, proving by reference to documents and fact, that I could not have actetd otherwise than I had done about the discipline of fasting, and that it was notorious and past dispute that I had always relaxed, rather than pressed, the Founders’ Rule on the Subject. To this His Grace subsequently replied, without the smallest effort to disprove or weaken what had been urged, that ‘the opinion which he expressed in his former letter remained unaltered.’ Surely this is hard usage.

I met Dr Elrington one day by accident in Grant & Bolton’s shop. I immediately went up to him and we were quite friendly. I afterwards called at his house, but he was examining in Trinity College. However I sat some time with his Sister, Miss Elrington. I was at St Patrick’s one Sunday afternoon, and Dr Todd preached. I could not bear to turn my face towards him, so I heard but saw him not. On another occasion I was at Grant & Bolton’s, when Gabbett came in, but of him I would take no notice. He was one of the main promoter’s of St Columba’s ruin, just as sister ‘Flavie’ was of that of Port Royal. I believe, however, that he and all his co-partners were extremely sorry for what they had done, but if the sorrow were of a right sort, he would have repaired the damage caused by a public defamation of the College and its officers, – by an equally public acknowledgement of his error and sin. This he has never done; therefore I cannot make light of such wicked behaviour by amity, thought I heartily forgive him for his bad treatment of oneself.

Received a letter from the Sub-warden to say that on the 10th, immediately after my leaving, Mr Ratcliffe, the Vicar, called upon me. I understand he is softened towards us. The next Sunday, by Sewell’s directions, (it being Holy Communion) the Sub-warden placed upon the offertory plate £5, rolled in a small parcel, on which was written, ‘- From the Warden and Fellows of S Peter’s College for the poor of Radley.’ This will surely show him that we have no design of disturbing his Parochial position, or of embarrassing him in any way with his people.

Soon afterwards got a note from Sewell, saying that we were very likely to have a formal application for a Fellowship from a Mr Jones of Queen’s. He bears a very high character in every way, and is an excellent classic, having taken a 2nd Class, and got the Ireland Scholarship. This is very satisfactory as it shows (what indeed we fully expected) that men of high attainments will be ready to devote themselves to the work.

On leaving Ireland I brought with me a pair of handsome old silver candlesticks, a present from K. to the College, and a dinner drinking cup from F.; both of which pleased Sewell very much. Returned by the Isle of Man, and spent a day with Allen Cliff at Hampton Lacy, reaching the College in the evening of July 5th.