The last pair of Principals was got up in safety, for which we must be very thankful, as the raising of these heavy timbers is attended with danger, especially as the scaffolding appears to us to be on the verge of insecurity. The workmen have erected a small spar on one of the highest poles, from the top of which may now be seen floating in the breezes a red rag, which seems to have been intended for a less noble purpose.

Johnson is in the greatest glee. His spirits are not a little raised by Sewell telling him that, as the building is taking more time apparently than was anticipated, we shall see that he shall not lose his fair remuneration by a rigid adherence to estimate. He says that he never met with such kindness in all his life as since he has been in our employment. He deserves it, for nothing can exceed his zeal and honesty.

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August 30th, 1847 (Monday)

August 30, 2009

Having seen Mr Grimaldi (Mr Bowyer’s solicitor) in Church yesterday, and understood that he was stopping at the Vicarage, Sewell and I called. He seems a pleasing, gentlemanlike person. We must clearly cultivate friendly relations with him, which he seems well-disposed to reciprocate.

When we were waiting at the door we heard the Vicar’s voice, and just as we went in, the foolish man popped out. What on earth he has to be afraid of I am sure I can’t imagine. However, he returned, and after some little conversation, complained, in no conciliating language of four of the workmen having taken lodgings in the house of a young, unmarried woman, close to the Vicarage, – who had taken to the unlicensed sale of beer, – and through whose chamber they were obliged to pass at night to get to their own. Moreover that these fellows were accustomed to sit up at night playing at cards. We said that it was a bad case, and should be inquired into.

I am a little afraid that he will make it a ‘casus belli’,1 unless he be wholly gratified. On mentioning it to Johnson, he said that the four men in question were painters of bad character, whom he had discharged, and that their successors were carpenters whom he had in constant employment, and knew to be most respectable men, – and incapable of any impropriety complained of or suspected. This we must communicate to Mr Ratcliffe.


1: “reason for war”

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.

A most kind and cheering letter from Mr Markland, to whom Sewell had written to make known our necessities and the news about the Bishop. He will doubtless, please God, collect no inconsiderable sum for us. We want not wealth, nor anything which would create a feeling of independence or self-trust. We wish only for enough to place us above the apprehension of a failure of funds, a feeling which would wholly unfit us for our duties. I’m sure we have good reason to trust a good Providence, which has not forsaken us hitherto.

Sewell told Johnson on Monday that the Bishop was our Visitor. He laughed with hearty delight, for he said that people had told him that the Bishop would never sanction our Statutes.

Finished the tables of times and subjects for the classes, at least for the 5th, 4th, 3rd, and 2nd forms (as Howard wishes them to be called) for I have not as yet provided for the Abcdarians.1

It is rather vexatious that we have 3 forms although only 3 boys.

The hours are different from those at Stackallan, and, as yet, we think an improvement upon them, as we have got rid of quarters of hours, dine earlier; each boy has music every day instead of every other day, (the Lecture being somewhat shorter, -) and spends ¾ of an hour every evening on Latin or Greek composition. We have also arranged to give them more time together, so that they can play a good game of cricket.

6 o’clock – rise
6 ½ to 8 – school
8 – breakfast
9 – chapel
¼ 10 to 12 – school
12 to 2 – play
2 – dinner
3 ½ to 6 – school
6 – chapel, & tea afterwards
7 ¼ to 9 – music and composition
9 – bed

This plan has also the additional advantage of getting rid of luncheons, which cause some trouble and stuffing. However, it is hard to say how things will answer till they are tried. Tomorrow we shall put the plan into practice.

Clutterbuck is likely to give us great trouble; he is evidently the first candidate for the cane; indeed, Sewell says he will be whipped before the end of the week.


1: ie. the reception class or 1st year, those still learning the alphabet ABC

August 23rd, 1847 (Monday)

August 23, 2009

Held our first College Meeting in the Bursary. Sewell read the Statutes which seemed to give the highest satisfaction to every one.

We are now a regular College with Founder, Statutes and Visitor.

Sewell went into Oxford, and in the evening came out in a fly, in company with St. Chrysostom, or, as accurate people would say, a fine copy of his works. This he brought on the strength of a letter from the Bishop, announcing his acceptance of the Visitorship. He would have written before only that he expected to see Sewell at Cuddesden.1 He says that he is not yet convinced, but that as the notion of placing the consciences of the Fellows under the control of the Warden is strongly repudiated, the difference between him and us is not sufficient to justify his withholding any aid that he might be able to give us in our present undertaking. Certainly this is good news, for which we ought to be very thankful.

Thus strengthened, Sewell will write at once to several people for money. All in high spirits.


1: The palace of the Bishops of Oxford was located at Cuddesden (alternatively Cuddesdon) in the village of Bullingdon, Oxfordshire. In 1854 Samuel Wilberforce established a theological college, now Ripon College Cuddesdon, next to the palace.

August 20th, 1847 (Friday)

August 20, 2009

Sewell returned after a fortnight’s absence at the Isle of Wight and elsewhere. He was very poorly, but improved greatly towards evening, so that I hope a few days will set him up again.

The Revd. Henry Clutterbuck brought his nephew Alexander as a student.

Sewell and I had a walk together in the grounds talking over matters. We agreed that the continued silence of the Bishop, after his last letter, was beginning to be serious, and we feared that fresh influence was bring used to deter him him from sanctioning us. Sewell said that he should not care if he were to decline the Visitorship, but I confess I think his refusal would throw us back by requiring explanation.

Saw with delight the first pair of ‘principals’ gradually raised to their position on the roof. In the afternoon the second pair were elevated nearly to adjustment, and after being tied with two stout ropes to prevent its falling to the side to which it slightly leaned, two men got up on a ladder to its upper part to detach the tackling, which when done, down came the whole thing with the ladder and carpenters to the scaffolding.

The Sub-Warden and I were at the west end looking on, and I thought that scaffolding, men and all would have been precipitated to the earth. But the principals bounded on the scaffolding, and went no further. Had the scaffolding given way, seven men must have been killed. As it was, I thought the two would have fallen through the spaces between the boards, and met their fate below; but not the slightest injury was done to any body or any thing, except that two poles were broken. May God make us thankful for his mercies, and continue to watch over us!

Went into Oxford to call upon the Vicar, who was very stiff and cold. However, I insisted upon shaking hands with him, and he became tolerably communicative. Perhaps he is never over civil to any body. At all events, I am resolved to be civil and respectful to him.

This day having been fixed for our opening, two boys arrived: 1st, George Melhuish, son of a Gentleman in the neighbourhood of London, & a late pupil of the Sub-Warden’s; – and S.H. Reynolds, son of a gentleman at Stoke-Newington.

Gibbings came with a friend of his, a relative of his Rector’s wife, (a Mr Forbes) & dined. He was determined to prevent today, if he could get someone to take evensong for him. He told me that Mackarness had told him that the Vicar of Radley had written to the Rector of Stackallan for my character & Monk’s. A pretty black couple we must be in his eyes! After one’s known connection with many of the leading men at Oxford, Mr Ratcliffe had done better to write nothing. We shall, however, go on quietly, treating him & his office with the same respect that we did the Dean of Emly, & if he is determined to be hostile, the fault, we hope, shall be wholly his. At all events, he is person of no weight whatever; though he, like everybody else, can do mischief if he please.

Richard Gibbings sent the paper, out of which I cut the extract opposite. As the editor of the Evening Packet was very violent against St Columba’s & myself, I suppose, had he read his correspondent’s letter, he would have had some scruple in putting it in. It was suggested to me by F. that Dr Hudson was the author, but I think he would scarcely have used the term “monastic”.