Mr Edward Howard came to reside. He seems a very nice person, well informed, a good scholar, good musician, & an admirable draughtsman. He brought with him one of his father’s pictures, a present from the painter to the College. Its subject is, – “Thetis dipping Achilles into the Styx”, and it is beautifully coloured. It was accompanied by a kind note to Sewell.

Wrote to Mr Underwood a strong letter, soliciting leave to cut away the great wooden cills at the entrances to the chapel, but strengthening the section by strong connecting bands of iron. By this means we can add considerably to the height inside, & have no more than three steps inside. This plan was discussed before, but rejected, I scarcely know why; I believe from a predilection for low walls. Now low walls with a good roof are very becoming, but high walls are more so; and certainly, when one has walls of a fair height, to go and fill them up to make them low seems a strange proceeding. Sewell was away at Isle of Wight, but I felt sure that anything which I strongly wished he would not oppose. Mr Underwood replied that “he saw no objection whatever to cutting away the cills”, nor had any “fear of carrying into effect my wishes as to the height on the inside”. This gave us all great pleasure, and quite delighted Mr Johnson.

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August 13th, 1847 (Friday)

August 13, 2009

William Hiram Harris, one of the servitors having exhibited evident symptoms of general delicacy of constitution, which were confirmed by his own account of himself since infancy, & on which plea he tried to excuse offensive habits, I had written to Mr Hobhouse to acquaint his mother, & to induce her quietly to take him away. She accordingly came today, – was very reluctant, but very civil, and as I was inexorable, took her son back with her.

We were very glad to get rid of him, for besides his being quite useless in the house, he was a very great liar.

I immediately wrote to Mr Austis of Kidlington, who had a boy whom Sewell had engaged to take while I was in Ireland. The youth’s name is Joseph Capell, & he came a few days afterwards.

Mr Dean, of All Souls, called; very anxious to see Sewell, who had gone to London and the Isle of Wight. Said that he had heard of four persons who were most likely to send their sons. Lady Catherine Clarke very desirous to get her boy admitted if we would take them as early as 7 years old. I did not see him, Mr Dean, as I was in Oxford. He says that the inquiries about us are most numerous.

They are cutting the wheat everywhere in this neighbourhood. I never saw any thing so magnificent as the crop. Deo Gratias

A letter from Mr Jones, civil, but delighted to avail himself of the liberty Sewell had given him to retreat from the position which he had taken. He has not behaved well. He was anxious to become a Fellow, and then evidently hunted about for an excuse to recede. Love, like money, often gets people into a mess.

A Mr Badcock came to offer himself as butler. He had made inquiries of Sewell while I was in Ireland, but declined the place, not feeling himself up to it. Hewlitt however urged him, & promised to come over & set him in the right way of cleaning plate, etc, & as we had a high character of him, & he seemed determined to throw himself earnestly into the duties of his situation, we determined to try him: so he is to come on the 16th.

Got into its frame on the top of the house a fine bell, weighing 3 cwt, 1 qr, 3 lb. It is to ring for school and meals, and will be heard all over the park and neighbourhood, as well as over the house. The tone is beautiful. It is a loan from me.1

The Bishop returned the statutes with a letter in which occurs the following passage: “I have now, I believe, thoroughly considered them, & upon the whole cannot express too strongly my hearty concurrence in their tone. They seem to me to embody the principles upon which Christian education ought to be conducted.” This is high praise. However, to some points in them he made objection. He wanted the Warden to be “presented to the Visitor to be admitted.” To this we have assented, taking care that he shall have nothing to do with his appointment; – that the Warden shall wait upon the Visitor after his taking possession of office.

He thinks that “all parallels & the rule of justice ought to give an appeal to the Visitor” in case of the removal of a Fellow. This was declined, on the ground that it would be impossible judicially to prove a number of facts, that would be required to establish the want of qualification in a Fellow, & yet that the Visitor must proceed in a judicial way. Further, – that the Warden’s failing in a case of that kind would destroy his authority in the school; – and lastly – that the parallelism lay with the statute, & not the other way, for that the Heads of Colleges have the appointment & dismissal of the Tutors absolutely in their own hands, – & our Fellows are necessarily Tutors.

By the statutes, the appointment of the Officers is to take place on St Columba’s day. In this the Bishop says: “considering the Lord Primate’s feeling, I should prefer omitting the reference to St Columba.” We consented, expressing great regret that kindly feeling seemed to be repudiated.

There were one or two other points of minor moment, in which his wishes were attended to. But that to which he most objected was the statute “de jejuniis”; & this I all along foresaw that he would do. He takes much the same view as the Primate & Trustees,2 denying fasting to be a matter of “church obedience.” The way in which he supports this view is not extraordinary. He says that “certain observances are rather an infringement of the perfect law of love than its perfection. That consequently the Church would gradually relax rules in favour of ends, & that in such a state of things the ends would be, & the old rules would not be, imperatively binding on her faithful children. In such a time I believe our lot to be cast” … “I believe therefore that the matter of fasting is a point of Christian liberty.” All this appears to be simple Antinomianism. What is to prevent this argument from being applied to get rid of prayer, the sacraments, & the creed? He acknowledges the law, but says each man may dispense with it, if he thinks fit.

However, he adds, – “I do not require your statutes to express my view of doctrine, though I regret that they should express the opposite”: and afterwards, – “in naming them” (the points of moment) “I desire rather to promote the perpetuity of your plans than to make absolute conditions as to acting as your Visitor.” And again, – “About Tuesday August 10th I could name a day for the pleasure of being introduced to your Warden & Fellows.” From this it appears that he will not further resist us, but will be Visitor.

His whole conduct has been from the beginning most kind. We really are sorry that we cannot concede to him all he asks, but it is impossible. The question is plainly between law and license, peace & confusion, – in fact, the very one we contended about in Ireland. In reply, Sewell expressed a willingness to leave out our view of the obligation of fasting since it did not square with his, & proposed to substitute this: “Et speciatim omnes jejunii dies in liturgia Anglicana nominati, non minus quam festi dies, publice et visibiliter observantur.” He believed it “would be impossible to admit of a dispensation from a law without the intervention of some authority external to the mind which is subject to the law”, – and that authority would be best reposed in the hands of the Warden. He wished it to “be considered as leaving the whole question beyond the walls of the College untouched”, and the statute “as a personal stipulation”, a “peculiar opinion”, “an idiosyncrasy which might be indulged as not, at the least, a violation of the law of the Church;” – adding “that no earthly inducement would lead him to undertake the creation of a College for education, in which the public, uniform, observance of the Fasts of the Church, on the part of the Warden and Fellows, was not an essential condition.”


1: It is still in place in the Clock Tower in 2009
2: of St Columba’s

Four Irishmen came up to the house, and one of them asked the Sub-Warden whether Mass was to be celebrated here today. He replied that “We were members of the Church of England, and that he was not aware of any Romish place of worship in the neighbourhood.” The men were very civil, appearing to be harvest-people. A notion has got abroad that we are absolute Papists. Mrs Burky heard this roundly stated in Abingdon, and when she asked what could put such a notion into people’s heads, the answer was; – “because you are building a Chapel.” The next step will be to say we are Papists because we say our prayers.

Subsequently some ladies came to see the College, & were shown over it at Mr William Bowyer’s request. When they were in the room where we have the daily service they said to Mrs Burky’s daughter; – “Will you allow us to ask is this really a Roman Catholic College?” The reply was, – taking them to the Prayer Book lying on the table and exhibiting the title-page. The answer was a good one, but I doubt its being convincing. Some people will believe a lie.

Mr Johnson says the impression is general, owing, I dare say, to the Oxford Chronicle. Mr Robinson, one of the partners in the “Old Bank” at Oxford was lamenting the other day to some one in the train that “Radley had fallen into the hands of the Roman Catholics.”