Balliol in Europe, Europe in Balliol

This post is a digital version of Balliol’s exhibition from spring 2019. Entitled ‘Balliol in Europe, Europe in Balliol’, it examined the relationship between Balliol College and the continent over the College’s seven centuries.

Introduction

This exhibition is about Balliol’s relationship with Europe. Balliol’s own foundation is essentially European. The College’s founder, John de Balliol, came from a French family, enriched by French lands. The very fabric of the College incorporated European materials. European students, from kings to refugees, have made it their home for centuries. Balliol graduates have travelled the Continent as tourists, diplomats and ambassadors, and shaped foreign policy at home. Balliol members and their families lived through and influenced significant European events and movements. Perhaps even more fundamentally, the movement of people, ideas, and materials has been crucial throughout Balliol’s history.  This exhibition therefore explores how ideas about, of and from Europe have shaped not only the College’s history, but its Historic Collections, from  medieval manuscripts commissioned in Europe by an English bishop, and anti-Protestant propaganda smuggled in from abroad, to maps, drawings and diplomatic communiques.  We’ll look at how the collections embody the curiosity, sense of duty, tension, strife, and collaboration that have exemplified Balliol’s ever-changing relationship with Europe—and  ever-changing ideas of what Europe is and what it means to be European.

European Roots: ‘The Ancient Castle of the Family of Balliol’

1.Balliol Castle

The Balliol family possessed extensive lands in England and France. They originated in Picardy, taking their name from Bailleul-en-Vimeu. No superstructure of the original castle survives, but earthworks may still be seen in the woods of a nearby estate. The College participated in an expedition to survey and study the site in 1923-1925.

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European Fabric: Balliol in 1675, by David Loggan

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Shortly after this engraving was published, the College embarked on a major improvement project for its Chapel. A fundraising appeal attracted about £250 from Old Members. The  College Benefactions Book shows that this helped pay for a new ceiling of oak imported from Flanders, with painted beams.

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European Students: The Kings of Norway at Balliol

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Portrait of HM King Olav V, by Jan Thomas Njerve, 1981. Balliol Portrait No. 105

Balliol has attracted foreign students for centuries, promoting the international exchange of ideas and fostering enduring links of friendship and shared identity worldwide. The relationship between Balliol and the royal house of Norway is unique, having endured for nearly a century. King Haakon wished his son, Crown Prince Olav, to attend Balliol in the 1920s. The King admired Balliol’s ‘reputation as a working college … because there must be a very definite understanding that the Prince is being sent to an English University to work’. Haakon was aware of Balliol’s left-leaning reputation, admitting that ‘perhaps the boys got very socialistic ideas there’, but even the election of the Labour-supporting A.D. Lindsay as Master did not deter the King. For his part, Prince Olav came to hold Lindsay in high regard. The Prince, later HM King Olav V, resided at Balliol 1924-1926, becoming an Honorary Fellow in 1937. Olav’s son, now HM King Harald V of Norway, followed in his father’s footsteps, attending Balliol 1960-1962, and becoming an Honorary Fellow in 1983.

Ideas of Europe: ‘It Begins with a Myth’

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Engraving of Europa astride the bull, from Ovid’s Metamorphosis Englished by George Sandys

In Greek mythology, Europa was the daughter of the King of Tyre, a city in modern day Lebanon. She was abducted by the god Zeus in the form of a bull, and carried off to Crete where she bore him three children on the continent which bears her name. To what exactly she lent her name has changed a lot throughout history. For the ancient Greeks, Europe denoted Hellas, the lands around the Aegean Sea. Under the Romans the name was given to a province in Thrace,  incorporating parts of modern Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria. For the Greeks and their Roman successors, ‘Europeans’ were the peoples of the Mediterranean. The people to the north were considered barbarians, brave but unthinking. Those in Asia were deemed intellectually equal but subject to despotic leaders. These ideas had a profound influence on visions of the continent into the modern period.

George Sandys. Ovid’s Metamorphosis Englished. London, 1640.

Europa’s abduction is recounted by Roman poet Ovid in Book II of the Metamorphoses, an epic poem chronicling the history of the world from creation to the death of Julius Caesar. George Sandys’ loose English translation was originally published in 1626. Balliol’s copy is a later, more elaborate edition which includes the engravings of Francis Cleyn and Salomon Savery, and Sandys’ extensive commentaries and anecdotes, expressing his concerns about the growing friction between King Charles I and Parliament.

Sandys had previously made his name with his influential travelogue, A Relation of a Journey Begun an. Dom. 1610 (1615), recounting the author’s adventures through Europe into the Levant. After passing through Europe, he describes his arrival in Constantinople where he was impressed by the moderate and tolerant nature of the Ottomans. In his description of the Ottoman Empire, Sandys makes one of the first references to coffee in English. Diarist John Evelyn (Balliol 1637) claimed coffee was introduced to England by the Cretan refugee Nicolas Konopios (Balliol c.1639): ‘He was the first I saw ever drink Coffè, which custom came not into England til 30 years later.’

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Somerset de Chair. The Impending Storm. London, 1930. 

Europa is commonly used as a symbol of victimhood, particularly for satirical effect. The illustration on the cover of Balliol alumnus Somerset De Chair’s book shows an uncertain Europa who has just realised her God-bull has turned out to be a rubber cow. The cow in question is the League of Nations, an organisation created after the First World War to resolve international disputes. Its failure to fulfil these pacifist aims is one of the many contemporary political problems discussed by  de Chair in his book The Impending Storm, which anticipated the Second World War nine years before its outbreak. De Chair demonstrated his prescience again in Divided Europe, published a year later, which predicted the Communist takeover of Eastern Europe.

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From Victim to Queen

Sebastian Munster. Cosmographia. Basel, 1572.

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Munster’s map of Europe is closer to our conception of the continent than that of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Yet there are striking differences: it is orientated south and much of the north seems to be missing.  The Cosmographia is a six-volume encyclopaedia of European knowledge, first published in Germany in 1544 during the reign of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. The map of Europe shows Spain at the head and Bohemia at the centre, both ruled by Charles. Balliol’s copy is a Latin edition from 1572 and was donated by John Malet (Balliol 1588).

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The boundaries of Charles V’s empire extended across the ocean to the Americas. For Europeans this consolidated their belief in the continent’s exceptionalism, and was embodied in the Europa Regina. a map first printed in 1537 which reconfigured Europe as queen. It appeared in all copies of the Cosmographia after 1588. It depicts Europa with the Habsburg orb and crown looking down on Asia at her feet. Surrounded by water in an allusion to Zeus’ consort Europa, she connects the rise of 16th-century Europe to her roots in classical antiquity.

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Ideas of Europe: Christendom

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What remained of the cultural networks created by the Roman Empire were maintained by the Christian Church after the imperial retreat from Western Europe. Spiritual primacy over the Empire had been granted to the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) in the 5th century after the Empire’s conversion to Christianity in the 4th century. Later re-alignments of power, however, caused the Papacy to seek protection against the Lombard kingdoms from the Empire’s Frankish successor state in the north, rather than its continuation, the Byzantine Empire, controlled from Constantinople (Istanbul). This led to a schism between the Catholic and Orthodox churches. The Pope claimed spiritual authority over much of Central and Western Europe and this crystallized in the notion of a shared ‘Christendom’.

The rapid expansion and continuing dominance of Islamic powers around much of the Mediterranean from the 7th to 18th centuries, weakening and eventually eliminating the Byzantines, further consolidated this identification. The idea of Europe as ‘Christendom’ formed the backdrop to the foundation and early history of Balliol, and would have shaped much of its intellectual life.

Vulgate Bible. 13th Century. Opening to Genesis with illumination depicting the Creation of the World

If one text underlay the unity of Christianity in Europe it was the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Bible made by Saint Jerome in the 4th century. It quickly became the standard Latin Bible, and its ubiquity is demonstrated by the existence of numerous copies in Balliol’s collections, dating from several different centuries. There are three medieval copies amongst the manuscripts, and several printed versions. The  image on the right is from the beginning of Genesis and shows a schematic illumination of the creation story and the ultimate redemption of the world through Christ’s suffering. It dates to the 13th century but later versions include one of the College’s earliest printed books of 1481, and a version authorised by the Catholic Church from 1650.

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‘We Went Out Full … But Return Empty’

Thomas Fuller. The Historie of the Holy Warre. 4th edition. London, 1651.

Christendom_Holy WarreThe frontispiece to the first modern history of the crusades could be read as a diagram of the embattled mindset of European Christendom which persisted into the 17th century. It shows the armies of ‘Europe’, ‘promiscuously blended’ in terms of language, class and nation, marching to Jerusalem only to be scattered and dismembered by ‘the Angel, Turk and Death’. The two purses at the head of the image indicate a process of depletion, perhaps spiritual as well as economic. The ultimate failure of the crusades and the continued strength of Islam under the Ottomans from the 15th century are portrayed as a continuum of divine judgement up to the time of publication. Balliol’s copy was part of the fourth edition in twelve years. It has been part of the College’s collections since at least the 18th century.

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John Holwell. Catastrophe Mundi, or, Europe’s Many Mutations until the Year 1701. London, 1682.

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In these apocalyptic predictions of the late 17th century, Europe is still being viewed through the prism of Christendom and its trials mapped onto a Christian eschatology. The Ottomans are predicted to continue their inexorable rise. The Sultan’s armies will sweep through Europe deposing the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope, laying the ground for a ‘Great Conqueror’ who will unite the world and convert the heathen. In fact, the 1683-1699 war between the Turks and the Austrians ended in defeat for the former, with significant losses of territory in Europe, anticipating their decline as a major power.

John Holwell was a respected practical mathematician with expertise as a surveyor, working for John Ogilby on his pioneering road atlas, and maintaining the friendship of Edward Halley. But he also had a double life as an astrologer with a penchant for controversial prognostications. His end is shrouded in legend, involving the drinking of poisoned coffee whilst surveying in America.

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Ideas of Europe: Nationalism

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The emergence of various nation states in the early modern period might have been expected to work against the notion of a European identity. Romantic nationalism from the 18th century onwards claimed roots in local, tribal identities as opposed to classical civilization, and in various folkloric traditions with pagan overtones as opposed to Christian culture. In practice, however, the collections of folk tales and rediscovered (or reconstructed) national epics often had a popularity that spread far beyond their countries of origin. The resulting national awareness bred a pan-European milieu emphasising national and individual self-determination. Fittingly for a College with connections to Scotland two key works anticipating Scottish romanticism are to be found in Balliol’s collections.

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Famiano Strada. De Bello Belgico. Rome, 1640. Engraved title page with map shaped as the Belgic Lion.

The origins of the idea of the nation state seem to have emerged during the 17th century in Europe as a result of the diplomatic settlements reached following the devastation caused by the dynastic and religious wars of the period. Holland emerged from its conflicts with the Catholic Habsburgs as an independent confederal republic with a flourishing mercantile economy, and a consciousness of a nation bound together by symbols such as the heraldic lion.

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Fingal, an Ancient Epic poem, in Six Books. London, 1762.

Ossian-openingThe aged bard, Ossian, sits centre-stage voicing tragic tales on a rock set in a melancholic wilderness of blasted trees. Tucked between this vignette and the title is the name of the translator, James MacPherson. He re-packaged tales he’d heard in Gaelic as a Scottish farmer’s son as a lost epic poem. It wasn’t long, however, before there were suspicions regarding its authenticity, with claims that the entire thing was MacPherson’s own fabrication. On the continent, where such sensitivities were a distant concern, the poem was received enthusiastically. It became a major influence on European romanticism, inspiring the composition of other national epics from folkloric collections such as the Finnish Kalevala, and works in other media, notably Mendlessohn’s Hebrides, or Fingal’s Cave, Overture.

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Robert Burns. Poems Chiefly in a Scottish Dialect. Kilmarnock, 1786.

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Whilst MacPherson’s Ossian poems drew upon a lost Gaelic past to express a sense of Scottishness, later in the century another farmer’s son drew on lowland Scots dialect and folklore to produce some of the most celebrated poems penned in Scotland. Robbie Burns had this, his first volume of verse, printed locally in Kilmarnock in order to fund his passage to a job as an overseer of slaves on a Jamaican sugar plantation. His bags were all packed when the immediate success of the volume saw him throw over his plans, borrow a pony and ride to Edinburgh to embark on a career of literary celebrity. Burns and his works went on to become Scottish cultural icons, and a continuing focus for Scottish national identity. In spite of the fact that he wrote in English as well, his use of the Scots dialect was seen to represent the authentic voice of a people.

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Mapping a Continent

Blaeu Atlas - Europe

Willem Blaeu. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. Amsterdam, 1635. Map of Europe, with the costumes of the different nations and depictions of key cities in the borders.

In the latter half of the 16th century Abraham Ortelius initiated a revolution in map-making, publishing the first atlas, in Antwerp. By the early 17th century the focus of this flowering of cartography in the Low Countries had shifted to Amsterdam. This had emerged as the chief city in the newly independent Dutch Republic and the centre of an increasingly global maritime trading empire. In the 1630s map production in Amsterdam was powered by the ongoing competition between two publishers, each attempting to outdo the other in the coverage, quality and splendour of their atlases. On the one hand were the Hondius dynasty, who had re-established Mercator’s reputation by re-publishing his atlas. On the other were the Blaeu family whose atlas of 1635 is displayed here. This competition eventually culminated with the publication of the Blaeu’s Atlas Maior in 11 volumes, printing of which began in 1662, and which was the largest and most expensive book produced in the 17th century.

Around the borders of Europe contemporary costumes for each nation are displayed. A modern viewer is hard-pressed to see much difference between them, except for the odd item of headgear, but the vignettes demonstrate an increasing awareness of regional characteristics and differences in culture, making them simultaneously exotic and familiar.

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Networks of Books: William Gray’s Manuscript Collection

Balliol College has one man to thank for more than half of its surviving medieval library: William Gray, who gave or bequeathed nearly two hundred manuscripts by the time he died in 1478. The younger son of an aristocratic family from Northumberland, Gray was wealthy, intellectual and  cosmopolitan. He led a distinguished diplomatic and clerical career, including becoming Bishop of Ely. He came up to Balliol around 1431, A decade later he travelled to the University of Cologne, and then Italy to pursue humanistic studies. Renaissance humanism, the study of classical antiquity, was itself a European movement, spreading outwards from Italy in the 14th-16th centuries. Gray brought two other Balliol fellows on his travels, and commissioned multiple books in philosophy, theology, and other subjects along the way. We know this from the memoir of a Florentine bookseller called Vespasiano, and from the books themselves.

Domenico Bandini of Arezzo. Fons Memorabilia Universi. Cologne, c 1445.

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This is one of six volumes of an encyclopaedia made for William Gray during  his travels. It reflects the international collaboration that characterised both scholarship and bookmaking in the later middle ages. Its author was an Italian humanist, it was commissioned by an Englishman, and copied in Cologne, Germany by Dutch scribes. The scribes and illuminators display an international range of influences: Dutch, Italian, English, even Spanish. There are over one hundred small pen-drawings in the margins of the volume, representing persons, allegorical figures, or incidents mentioned in the text. The drawing at the base of the page on the right side shows Venice, a centre for humanism.

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English book, European scribe

Thomas Docking. Commentary on Deuteronomy. Oxford, c 1442.

MS28_006This book was probably written to    order for Gray while he was still in   Oxford, just before he left for Cologne. Docking was a Franciscan friar and theologian writing in Oxford in the 13th century. His work was enjoying a revival when Gray commissioned this manuscript, but was uncommon outside of England. Indeed, some of the decoration, like the blue and red capitals and flourishes, was probably done by an English illuminator. However, it was signed by a Dutch scribe, Tielman    Reynerszoon of                  Geertruidenberg in North Brabant. It is possible that Tielman accompanied Gray from Oxford to Cologne and finished some other     volumes there.

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Bookmaking and European Networks

As we saw with William Gray’s library, medieval books in England commonly boasted international origins and features. They were often commissioned from European workshops, while those manufactured in England used imported materials and the work immigrant scribes and artists who contributed the styles of their own countries.

Even the spread of papermaking technology and, later, printing moved westward across the Continent, the latter reaching England about twenty years after Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press in Germany in the 1450s. William Caxton, like William Gray, spent time in Cologne, where he learned the art of printing. Later, when he was a merchant living in the Low Countries, Caxton honed in on the commercial potential of printing technology and brought it back to England with him, setting up shop in Westminster.

The first book printed in England

Single leaf of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Printed by William Caxton.      Westminster, 1477.

This first edition of this most English of books is printed on paper in a type probably cut Case7_Chaucerand supplied from Louvain, Belgium, by Johann Veldener. Caxton worked with Veldener during his stay in Flanders. The typeface, called bastarda, is a later version of that originally used by Gutenberg. Space has been left for initials (larger decorated letters introducing important sections of text), which a client could have hand-painted to order. This book did not belong to William Gray, but he and other 15th-century Balliol Fellows did donate some incunables (books printed before 1501) to the Library, a few of which are still here today. Almost all of these have European provenance.

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Printing, Propaganda, and Reformation: A Social Network for Extremists?

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The Protestant Reformation, too, was a pan-European movement which evolved in different ways in each country. European towns provided refuge for English Protestants and Catholics (depending upon who was on the throne at the time), and the continent’s printing presses enabled the spread of propaganda. Banned books were smuggled back to England, providing edification and comfort to co-religionists. This was an extraordinarily dangerous undertaking, since being discovered in possession of forbidden texts meant arrest and frequently execution. Sometimes propaganda went beyond the circulation of heretical ideas or anti-Protestant polemic to directly attack the monarch, and even encourage their overthrow.

‘Dr Slander’: An Oxford Catholic in Exile

Nicholas Sander. De Origine ac Progressu Schismatis Anglicani (Of the Origin and Progression of the English Schism). Rheims, 1585.

Nicholas Sander, from a Surrey Catholic family, graduated from New College, Oxford in 1551. On the accession of Queen Elizabeth I, he fled to Rome, where he was ordained a priest. A few years later, he had settled with other Catholics in Louvain, the very city where William Caxton’s associate, Veldener, had held his printing business.

From abroad, Sander used his connections with leading Catholic churchmen to attempt to persuade European leaders to depose Elizabeth. He even participated in a failed papal invasion of Ireland, where he ultimately died of starvation. Somehow he also found the time to write this Catholic version of the history of the Reformation, intended as a     counterpoint to the more famous Book of Martyrs by John Foxe. Highly critical of Elizabeth and her parents, it is the source for rumours that Anne Boleyn was disfigured by a sixth finger.

This version of the Schismatis Anglicani was published posthumously during Elizabeth’s reign by Jean de Foigny, printer to the Cardinal of Guise, who also printed favourable propaganda about Elizabeth’s rival, Mary Queen of Scots.

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Balliol’s Reformation

Balliol’s most famous medieval Master was John Wyclif, the early reformer whose followers, the Lollards, were persecuted as heretics. Yet by the 16th century the College was notorious for its Catholic leanings. It was the only corporate body to add a reservation to its acknowledgement of Henry VIII’s supremacy over the Pope. James Brookes, Balliol’s Master during the reign of Queen Mary, presided over the persecution of the Oxford Martyrs.

During Elizabeth’s reign, several Balliol men fled to the Continent, trained as Jesuits and returned as Catholic missionaries, only to be arrested and even martyred. Robert Persons, a Balliol Fellow forced to resign for his beliefs, returned from Europe a Jesuit and printed Catholic propaganda—including Nicholas Sander’s De Schismate Anglicano—illegally. He may have been active at Holywell Manor (now Balliol’s graduate centre), where the Catholic Napier family was known to harbour priests.

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The former Broad St gate to Balliol College rumoured to retain scorch marks from the burning of the Protestant martyrs. It now resides in the Library Passage.

Amongst the most infamous executions of Bloody Mary’s reign were the burnings of Bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley in 1555 and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in 1556. The sentences were carried out in Broad Street (‘in the town ditch’) just outside Balliol’s main gates, and legend has it that scorch marks are still visible on the doors today.

By the 1580s, Balliol’s Catholic tendencies had subsided. The College’s original 13th-century charter derived its authority from the Church. Balliol’s leadership sought to put things right with the Queen by soliciting a royal charter, establishing the College anew with her as Foundress. You can see this charter on the north wall of the nave in the Historic Collection Centre in St Cross Church.

 

The Oxford Martyrs

John Foxe. Acts and Monuments, better known as the Book of Martyrs.             London, 1576.

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John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is the famous Protestant history and martyrology that inspired Nicholas Sander to write his Catholic counterpoint. Foxe charts the history of the persecution of Protestants under Catholic regimes in gruesome detail. The woodcut in the image above shows Archbishop Cranmer thrusting his hand into the fire. Interestingly, elsewhere in the volume there is noticeable defacement to illustrations of the Oxford Martyrs and of Henry VIII with his feet on the Pope, suggesting this copy may have been read by a disgruntled Catholic.

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Travel in Europe

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In his diary from 1702, Balliol Fellow Jeremiah Milles records reading works on geography, history and science, while for light relief he enjoyed travellers’ tales. At that time the Library already counted among its collection many notable works of travel literature, such as George Sandys’ A Relation of a Journey Begun an. Dom. 1610 and Thomas Coryat’s Crudities. Filled with descriptions of cities, local history and customs these works helped to popularise the idea of European travel, and encouraged interest in a Grand Tour, a custom which saw wealthy young men travel through European cities as an educational rite of passage. This had a profound influence on Britain’s cultural, political, social and artistic evolution. Several Balliol alumni partook, including John Evelyn (Balliol 1637) whose diary records his visit to Provence to see Roman ruins, and his year spent studying anatomy in Padua.

Thomas Coryat. Coryat’s Crudities. 1611.

Case9_CoryatThe Crudities is an exhaustive account of Thomas Coryat’s 1,900 mile journey across Europe in 1608, much of which he made on foot. A mixture of anecdotes and observations on local customs, history and architecture, among other things the Crudities introduced the fork to English readers.  The self-deprecating title probably refers to the glut of travel books on the market at the time, described scathingly by a contemporary writer as ‘unseasoned crudities’, dull and void of knowledge. The self-deprecation is reflected in the mock-heroic vignettes on the title page: we see Coryat being seasick on the boat from Calais to Dover; he is pelted with eggs by a Venetian Courtesan while he escapes in a Gondola; and he narrowly escapes attack after stealing grapes from a vineyard in Germany. We also see his well-worn, lice-ridden travelling outfit, and in the centre the allegorical Germania vomits on the author’s portrait.

Balliol’s copy of Coryat’s Crudities was donated by Henry Jeffereys who also gave the College a copy of Shakespeare’s Second Folio in 1656.

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‘If I Have Seen Further …’ : Scientific Networks

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The 16th century was a time when the strange ideas of an astronomer living on the Baltic coast could spread across Europe to the shores of the Mediterranean and cause a major upset in Rome. A whole set of intellectual and linguistic networks allowed the ready transmission of thoughts between scientists in different locations, enabling them to share facets of knowledge about the physical world. Latin remained an intellectual lingua franca, allowing thinkers to speak across borders. Most scientific works appeared in the language until the later 17th century, when Sir Isaac Newton was amongst the last to use it in print. Printing itself enabled the dissemination of multiple copies of the same text across the continent. During the 17th century learned societies formed to promote the systematisation of scientific approaches. Such widespread communication led not only to collaboration, but also to conflict in the process of discovery.

Isaac Newton. Analysis per Quantitatum Series, Fluxiones, ac Differentias. London, 1711.

Newton-openingAlthough not mentioned by name anywhere in Newton’s volume, it is stalked by the spirit of the German scientist and polymath, Gottfried Leibniz. Newton and Leibniz had been in dispute over which of them had invented calculus for a decade. Leibniz had been publishing on it since 1684, although he claimed that he’d had the initial insight in 1673. Newton began publishing using his notation in 1693. Both men were aware of the other’s work but their relations remained cordial until an allegation that Leibniz had plagiarised Newton surfaced in 1699, and anonymous reviews (probably by Leibniz) of Newton’s work in 1704 made the reverse claim.

With this volume Newton made his case for priority, including in it a tract on infinite series he had written in 1669, and which he had shown to others, notably the mathematician John Collins. At the time Newton had refused to publish, but Collins circulated the tract in manuscript. It is possible that Leibniz had seen a copy through Collins during a visit to London in the 1670s when he demonstrated a calculating machine that encouraged the Royal Society to make him an external member, but Leibniz refuted this. The ‘Priority Dispute’ rumbled on into the 18th century and demonstrates the self-regulation and co-ordination of scientific networks across Europe through learned forums, such as the Royal Society.

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Newtonian Astronomy, Ancient Wisdom

David Gregory. ‘Part of a Letter from Dr. David Gregory to Dr. Sloane, Dated Oxford, October 12. 1699. Containing His Observations of the Eclipse of the Sun on the 13th of September Last’, from vol. 21 of The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. London, 1699.

An early admirer of Newton, to whom he submitted his first publication, David Gregory started his career in Marischal College in Aberdeen. From there he moved to Edinburgh, then finished his education at Leiden before roving through Rotterdam and Paris, and eventually ending up in London. As Professor of Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh he became known as the first teacher to incorporate Newtonian theory into his public lectures. He also wrote effusive praise of Newton’s Principia on its publication in 1684.

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Balliol in Europe: Diplomacy

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Balliol counts among its alumni many diplomats, several of whom left their papers to the College, including Louis du Pan Mallet, ambassador to Turkey at the outbreak of the First World War, and the diplomat and diarist Harold Nicolson, as well as the Morier family.

TS copy of letter from RBD Morier to M E Duff, St Petersburg, 31 December 1888. 

Sir Robert Burnett David Morier (1826-1893) was up at Balliol in the 1840s and spent his diplomatic career in Europe, becoming Ambassador at Madrid and St Petersburg. In a letter to a Balliol contemporary Morier addresses ‘the great 25 year duel between Bismarck and me’. At the root of their feud lay a fundamental ideological opposition: their respective conceptions of Europe as a political entity. Morier’s views were representative of the liberal elite of the 19th century. His ‘outlook was as much European as English… [he] was at home in almost any continental country’, says his biographer Agatha Ramm (1973, p.5). Conversely, Bismarck was associated with an assertive Prussianism characterised by militarism and discipline.

Their antipathy towards each other came to a head when the German press falsely accused Morier of sending Prussian military secrets to the French during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Morier published correspondence that conclusively established his innocence. He gives his opinion of the matter in his letters.

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Albanian/Turkish/Greek sketchbooks. 

EPSON scanner imageRBD Morier came from a long and distinguished line of diplomats, including his father David, and uncles John Philip (Jack) and James Justinian, whose letters, journals and drawings from their journeys in the Ottoman Empire are also included in the Morier Family Papers. The sketchbooks displayed in the exhibition date to 1804-1806, when Jack, the eldest Morier brother, was joined by younger brother David on a diplomatic mission into the Ottoman Empire’s European territories. At the time, the Ottoman Empire extended well to the north of Greece, where Jack was sent by the Foreign Office to persuade the Ottoman-ruled Greeks and Albanians not to sympathise with the French. The British Government feared a French invasion in the wake of Bonaparte’s occupation of Egypt in 1798, in which conflict the British had intervened.

Jack and David spent two years travelling the area. Their sketchbooks, letters and dispatches betray the imperialist and orientalist perspective of the age, displaying at the same time both a fascination and a denigration of the culture and country ‘that seems strange and barbarous’.

Balliol Personal Papers. Morier Family Papers. N. Manuscript Volumes. N3.2

Balliol in Europe: The Chalet

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The Châlet des Mélèzes, or Chalet des Anglais, as it became known, is an Alpine retreat near Saint-Gervais, France, once owned by legendary Balliol Fellow, Francis Fortescue ‘Sligger’ Urquhart, 1868-1934. Beginning in 1891, Urquhart took parties of students from across the University to the Chalet in the Long Vacations to read, walk and play sports. After his death, the Chalet was bequeathed to his friend, Balliol Fellow Sir R. A. B. Mynors, and is now held in trust. The tradition to holiday in Europe has continued ever since, securing the French Alps in the memories of generations of Balliol students.

The Chalet Book 1891-1908.

The Chalet Books provide us with an excellent record of the parties, containing the autographs of the guests, accounts of their hikes, dinners and activities, and a great number of photographs. The first volume in the series gives the details of the hikes taken in 1898. Also included is a poem sent to Urquhart, which conveys the affection he inspired among his students.

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Balliol Personal Papers. Chalet Papers. I. 1. 1. 1

Letter from Meredith Starr giving an account of using the Chalet during the Second World War.

The Chalet’s position in the Alps made it a perfect hideaway for an escaped British soldier in the Second World War. A letter from Meredith Starr recounts his journey evading German forces in Italy and subsequently France where towards the end of the period, he was advised to use the Chalet for five weeks.

In his letter to the Chalet’s owner after the event he writes:

‘I hope you will forgive us for trespassing on your property! I was one of 3 out of 37 English & American subjects who escaped being caught by the Germans… though we had several narrow escapes.’

Balliol Personal Papers. Chalet Papers. III/1/1

‘The Perfect Chalet-ite’

Perfect Chalet-ite

 

A little pamphlet from around 1934 provided a humorous guide to life at the Chalet, rules of conduct, how to get there, its history and details of some walks on the Prarion.

Balliol Personal Papers. Chalet papers. IV/2/2

Strained Relations: The First World War

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When war came to Europe in 1914, it touched the lives of all of Europe’s inhabitants. Members of Balliol were no exception. Balliol had always attracted an international membership and the College sent men to both sides of the conflict.

Minute Book of the Hanover Club. May 1911-April 1913. 

MinutebookThe Hanover Club was a University society with many prominent Balliol members, which aimed to ‘promote the course of good-feeling between Germany & England, by giving Englishmen and Germans in the university opportunities of meeting and discussing topics of interest & importance to both nations’. Their minute book describes the debates during the meetings, which were generally of a political nature. It shows members’ awareness of impending war. A particularly prophetic motion was tabled for debate on 27 February 1912: ‘That under the present situation of European politics a rapprochement between England and Germany is an unrealistic ideal’. The motion was carried by seven to six.

Balliol Archives. Societies. 1

The College War Memorial Book. Oxford, 1924.

In addition to the war memorials found in the Chapel Passage on Balliol’s main site and on the south wall in St Cross Church, a two-volume set was produced by the College in 1924 to commemorate the Balliol casualties. It contains an account and photograph of each, together with selections of their verse, musical notation and sketches. It includes an entry for Raymond Asquith, the Prime Minister’s son, who died at the Battle of the Somme; though none for the German Chancellor’s son Friedrich von Bethman Hollweg (Balliol 1908) who was also killed in action.

Balliol Library. 88 d 13/12 and 88 d 13/13

The Club at War: War Edition of the Balliol Club Magazine. No. 4. Oxford, May 1917 and No. 8, May 1918.

War_CLub at warAnother Balliol club to be shaken by the impact of the War was the Balliol Boys’ Club. Formed in early 1907 as a result of changing attitudes towards social responsibility and widening access to education, it was run by undergraduates for local working class boys. Based in the underprivileged area of St Ebbe’s, it offered the boys activities such as boxing, football and camping. It remained open during the course of the War, though its numbers were much reduced. The Club also played an important role in the wartime experience of many of its Old Members, of whom 250 in total saw active service. The Club’s trench magazine was devised as a way for Old Members to keep in touch with one another. It circulated from 1916 to 1919 and mostly comprises brief letters.War_Blub photo

The Boys’ Club War Memorial board is on the south wall of Balliol Historic Collection Centre in St Cross Church, listing the members who fell, Oxford boys and Balliol men together.

Balliol Archives. The Balliol Boys’ Club. 4bii

 

Rhodes Scholar and Member of the German Resistance: Adam von Trott zu Solz (1909-1944)

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A German aristocrat, Adam von Trott came to Balliol in 1931 as one of the first German Rhodes Scholars since the First World War, attracted by Balliol’s already-famous Politics, Philosophy and Economics degree. Von Trott was politically active during his time in Oxford, joining the Labour Society and the Jowett Society. Many Germans studied at Oxford between the two World Wars, but von Trott’s participation in the failed July Plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler earned him an inscription on Balliol’s War Memorial and an international legacy still felt today. This was not always the case in his own time. As a patriot who loved his country but detested Hitler, he was frustrated by the tendency of his English friends to equate Germans with Nazis.

IMG_20190429_140329After leaving Oxford, von Trott returned to Germany to complete his legal training – and clandestinely seek allies in the resistance to Hitler’s regime. He even met with the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, in 1939. Unable to mention the plot to overthrow the dictator, he was suspected of working for the Nazis. In 1940 von Trott stepped up his role in the resistance movement, guided by his vision of European cooperation. He exploited his position in the German Foreign Office, making journeys to Switzerland, Sweden, the Low Countries and Turkey. On 20 July 1944 a bomb exploded next to Hitler. Believing Hitler dead, von Trott said to a colleague, ‘I won’t have to sign under that horrible greeting any more’.

Letter from Adam von Trott to Diana Hubback, February 1933. 

Von Trott wrote to his friend Diana Hubback after reading in a newspaper in the Balliol Junior Common Room that Hitler had become Chancellor. Unlike some German students in Oxford, von Trott expressed his disgust at Hitler’s rise to power, resolving not to join the Nazi party unless it became necessary to do so to resist from within. Von Trott wondered if revolution would break out, foreshadowing his later vision of radical social reform in post-war Europe.

Over 700 letters between von Trott and Hubback survive. They discuss everything from social engagements and academic progress to their most personal feelings. They also  comment on the situation in Europe in the 1930s, and the rising tensions between Germany and the United Kingdom, which von Trott feared would ‘estrange my few friends’ in England. Von Trott and his friends often used code when discussing political subjects, to evade German censorship.

Balliol Personal Papers. Von Trott Papers. I.iii.T36

Trial, Execution and Legacy

Adam von Trott commemorative service, 2013.

Adam von Trott was arrested a few days after the failed conspiracy to kill Hitler. At the trial the judge dubbed him a ‘spineless intellectual’ on account of his years at Oxford and his travels around the globe. Von Trott was hanged in Berlin on 26 August 1944.

In the post-war years, von Trott and his fellow conspirators were portrayed as Nazis in the press. His Balliol friend, David Astor, devoted himself to refuting this. Von Trott’s name can now be found inscribed on the plaque outside Balliol College Chapel alongside other members who lost their lives in the Second World War. The addition of five German names was not without controversy, but in the end their shared identity as Balliol men transcended war.

In 2013, the 80th anniversary of Hitler’s rise to power, a seminar on British-German         relations in the European context, organized by the Adam von Trott Memorial Fund at Mansfield College, was followed by a commemorative service in Balliol Chapel.

Europe in Balliol: Refugee Scholars

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Conceived as a College for poor scholars, Balliol has offered support throughout its long history to students of limited means. In the 20th century this was extended to systematically provide refuge to those who, for whatever reason, could not study in their home country. Begun as a personal campaign by the Master to help out a friend, the Refugee Scholarship programme was revived at the request of the College’s students and continues to this day.

Albrecht Mendelssohn Bartholdy

In October 1933 the Nazi government dismissed Jewish academic Albrecht Mendelssohn Bartholdy from his chair of International Law at the University of Hamburg. His close friend Balliol Master Alexander Dunlop Lindsay secured funding from the College and benefactors for a three-year fellowship for Bartholdy, which lasted from 1934 until his untimely death in 1936. By all accounts Albrecht, who was the grandson of composer Felix Mendelssohn, was a most gregarious man. Professor Hugo Wach presented Balliol College with a manuscript memoir of his friend in 1937. Its description is included in the catalogue of Balliol’s manuscripts written by R. A. B. Mynors, a Fellow of Balliol at the same time as Mendelssohn Bartholdy. The record is brief but stands out for its personal embellishment. refugees_abm_mynors.jpg

Balliol Manuscripts. Ms 425

Hungarian Refugees

The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was a nationwide uprising against the Soviet-led government that left 200,000 people as refugees. In Oxford, students were the first to take the initiative to provide relief, establishing two chairitable funds. The Balliol Fund was set up to provide general aid to those affected by fighting. With £20 worth of medicines that they had funded themselves, Robert Oakeshott (Balliol 1953) and Ian Rankin of Christ Church College left Oxford on 25 October and made their way to refugee camps in Hungary. A little after, the student committees throughout Oxford University established the Refugee Scholarship Fund to allow Hungarian students to continue their studies at English universities.

The Refugee Scholarship was continued at the request of the students. The JCR committee meeting minutes record the formation of a refugee sub-committee whose role was to bring forward candidates and to collect funds via a student levy. The Fellows of the College covered the candidates’ tuition and lodging. In the intervening 58 years this collaboration between students and senior members of Balliol has provided support to refugee scholars from South Africa, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Greece, Tibet and Syria.

Balliol Archives. JCR. Accounts & Minutes

In, Out, Shake it all About: Britain & the European Union

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After the devastation of 1939-1945, leaders across the continent looked for ways to work together and avoid a resurgence of the extreme nationalism that had led to war. Winston Churchill was the first to moot the notion of a ‘Council of Europe’ and this body was inaugurated in 1949. The Council focuses mainly on ethical and legal issues administering such bodies as the European Court of Human Rights. In the 1950s a group of six states pushed towards a closer union focused on economics and trade, forming the European Economic Community in 1957 at the Treaty of Rome. This organisation continued to add new members, including Britain in 1973, and re-founded itself as the European Union at the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993. Britain has never seemed at ease in the Union and in 2016 a referendum result registered a desire to leave. The terms of this exit continue to be negotiated.

Alumni from Balliol have been prominent at key junctures in this fraught membership, from its beginnings under the premierships of Harold Macmillan (Balliol 1912) and Ted Heath (Balliol 1935), to negotiating Britain’s exit under Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Balliol 1983).

We have lost everything …’: Harold Macmillan and Britain’s First Application

Photograph of Harold Macmillan being presented with his portrait in Balliol Hall, January 1963

At the start of the final year of his incumbency, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan attended a dinner in Balliol to receive the portrait that now hangs in the Hall. 1963 opened badly for the PM with news that Britain’s first application for entry into the EEC had been rejected, due to the veto of President De Gaulle of France. Britain, the President felt, was not European enough and might act as a Trojan horse, allowing the Americans to disrupt the community. Although he was by no means overly enthusiastic about the prospect of entry, worrying about its impact on the UK’s agriculture and relations with the Commonwealth, Macmillan was deeply disappointed, feeling that America might sideline Britain for the Europeans.

1963, however, had more to throw at him: the firing of a third of his cabinet in the Night of the Long Knives, the Profumo affair, and a prostate problem which led to his premature resignation as Prime Minister in October. Whether his trip to Oxford was a welcome respite amongst all this is difficult to say. Macmillan had been one of the few survivors of the generation whose education was cut short by service in the First World War, and, although he retained fond memories of the era, found returning to a ‘city of ghosts’ difficult.

Balliol Archives. PHOT. 8

Ode to Joy: Ted Heath and Britain’s Entry to the EEC

Ten years after its first application failed, Britain was admitted into the EEC. In May 1971 President Pompidou had renounced De Gaulle’s veto. In October the House of Commons had approved the proposed membership. That night the Conservative Prime Minister, Ted Heath, who had made entry a priority of his tenure, returned to Downing Street and played Bach on the clavichord to his intimate circle.

Where Macmillan had had his time at Oxford cut short, Heath had had his extended to four years after he secured the organ scholarship at Balliol. The son of a builder and a parlour maid from Broadstairs, this funding was no small matter and allowed Heath to settle more fully into Oxford life, joining societies and buying books and records. The former included musical and dramatic societies, and those of all the main parties. Heath was also able to travel during his vacations and his experiences left him with a dislike of fascism and extreme nationalism: on one trip he inadvertently ended up attending one of the Nuremberg rallies and shaking hands with Himmler, on another he narrowly escaped a bloody assault on Republican Spaniards by Franco’s forces.

European Competition

Entry form for the Third Millenium Games

During the course of 1992 while the Maastricht Treaty was being signed and the EU was born from the EEC, a competition was held to ascertain the most knowledgeable students in Europe. Described as a Knowledge Olympiad, the Third Millennium Games saw teams from universities across the continent compete for the title. The competition used a computer simulation that engaged the teams in running a European business. A team from Balliol College emerged as the winners, although there was some consternation in the press that it didn’t contain any British members, and that the student judged the most knowledgeable over all, Frederick Paul (Balliol 1991), was a German PPE student hailing from Nuremberg.

Balliol Archives. MISC 164

‘Stealing Brexit’: Boris Johnson and the EU Referendum

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On the 23rd June 2016 the population of the United Kingdom voted in a referendum on continued membership of the EU. 52% expressed a preference to leave, 48% to remain. Whilst the result was non-binding the Conservative Party had expressed a commitment to implement the decision, although this came at the cost of losing the incumbent Prime Minister, David Cameron.

Amongst those who looked set to benefit most from the outcome was the colourful ex-mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who had returned to Parliament to become a leading figure in the ‘Brexit’ campaign. He might reasonably have expected to become PM if, a few days later, one of his key backers, Michael Gove, had not unexpectedly withdrawn his support and launched his own leadership bid. Although later appointed Foreign Secretary by Theresa May, Johnson resigned over the terms of the deal she had negotiated with the EU. After May resigned in May 2019, Johnson was appointed Prime Minister and in December 2019 he led the Conservatives to their biggest election win in over thirty years.

Johnson came to Balliol via Eton and was not entirely comfortable with the left-wing milieu in Balliol JCR, tending not to broadcast his political views inside the College. He was less inhibited in the broader University, joining the notorious, and exclusive, drinking society, the Bullingdon Club. Like Heath before him, he became President of the Oxford Union. He also edited the satirical Oxford paper The Tributary. Within Balliol he played for the Balliol Rugby XV and was President of the Arnold & Brackenbury Society, a comedic debating club.

 

From cardiology to imperial mythology: a selection inspired by graduate research

What do cardiology, the Armenian language, early saints’ lives and Matthew Arnold have in common? They are some of the current research topics which Balliol’s graduates challenged library staff to find in the collections in advance of their visit to our Historic Collections Centre last week.

Here are some of the research topics with the material that staff picked to match. It’s an amazing selection.

 

Research interest:

The Middle East and British imperial rule

Sketch of 'A Persian woman of low rank & her children'

Sketches made in Persia, 1809-1815, by James Justinian Morier, diplomat and novelist. Balliol preserves the letters and papers of five generations of James’ family of traders and diplomats in the Middle East.

[Morier Papers N3.4]

Page from a letter to Louis du Pan Mallet from Blanche Ovey, dated Athens, 19 November 1914.

‘I wish I could tell you half the thrilling things that happened after you left…’

Letter to Louis du Pan Mallet, British Ambassador at Constantinople (1913-1914) from Blanche Ovey, wife of William Ovey, member of Embassy staff in Constantinople, dated Athens, 19 November 1914. It describes the departure of Embassy staff and British subjects from Constantinople after the outbreak of World War I. Ovey makes frequent reference to Henry Morgenthau, the American Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and Talaat Pasha, Ottoman Minister of Finance at the time.

[Mallet Papers IV 11.10]

 

Research interest:

Cardiology or cardiovascular medicine

Engraved plate (table 1) showing diagrams of the heart

Richard Lower’s Tractatus de Corde, London, 1669, is an extension of William Harvey’s ground breaking work on blood circulation, De Motu Cordis [Balliol’s copy: 820 c 12]. Lower was part of an Oxford based group performing laboratory experiments during the interregnum. His work included the first successful blood transfusion, between two dogs. His book also documents his observation of the differences in colour between arterial and venous blood and his hypothesis that this was due to its interaction with air supplied by the lungs.

[820 b 15]

 

Research interest:

Saints’ lives 600-1100 

Detail from title page of Arch b 7 4 showing woodcut images of saints

This book of saints’ lives was originally written by 14th-century Venetian, Petrus de Natalibus. This early printed version was made in Paris in 1514, less than 100 years after the birth of European printing. It is highly illustrated with woodcuts some of which have been reused many times for different saints, others, like the martyrdom of Saint Agatha, were less transferable.

Final page and end papers of Arch b 7 4 showing graffiti and recycled printed waste

The final pages reveal contemporary graffiti and a page from an older book recycled by the binder to make the end papers.

[Arch B 7 4]

 

Research interest:

Matthew Arnold (Balliol 1841) & Arnold Toynbee (Balliol 1875)

Letter from Arnold Toynbee to his nurse from Margate, 31 October 1876

This collection of letters from Arnold Toynbee to his family include quite a few to his childhood nurse Mrs Sheppard. The one on display is from a trip Toynbee made to Margate. It was donated by Arnold’s niece Margaret Toynbee in 1982. Arnold Toynbee was a social reformer and political economist who was committed to improving working class conditions. After gaining his MA he stayed on at Balliol as lecturer in Economic history from 1878-1882. Although only 30 when he died, Toynbee’s liberal reformist ideas inspired many others. Toynbee Hall, the site of the first university settlement which encouraged closer relations between the working classes and those educated at the universities, was named in his honour and still stands at Whitechapel in London.

[Toynbee Papers 1]

Page from an exercise book belonging to the Arnold family

This Brown leather-covered notebook stamped in gilt on front cover, “Rugby School. Fifth Form. 1837”, begins with a Latin prose essay for which 14-year-old Matthew Arnold won first prize at Rugby school in 1837. A few pages in, however, it erupts into a visual feast of fairy tales and domestic scenes of games and dancing. The drawings were contributed mostly by Matthew’s sister Frances and his daughter Eleanor from 1846-1879. On display is a riddle accompanied by a helpful visual aid, and a joke: Why is an ironmonger the most likely person to make the alphabet quarrel? Because he can make A pokeR & shoveL.

Balliol’s Historic Collection Centre houses the personal papers of many of the Arnold Family including Matthew’s brother Tom and his niece the celebrated author and social reformer Mary Augusts Ward.

[Arnold Family Papers. Wode 1.I.3]

 

Research interest:

Medical imaging, ultrasound, inspection of the human body

Engraving showing a tumour in the stomach

A Series of Engravings, Accompanied with Explanations, which are Intended to Illustrate the Morbid Anatomy, London, 1812 is considered the first systematic study of pathology. It is illustrated with detailed engravings of problems inside the body. An inscription in the front of the book explains that the author, Matthew Ballie (Balliol 1779) gave ‘the whole of his most valuable collection of Anatomical Preparations to the College, and £600 for the preservation of the same; and this too, (after the example of the illustrious Harvey) in his life time’.  The Anatomical Preparations were passed on to another institution but Ballie’s portrait still hangs in Balliol’s Library Reading Room.

[615 e 11]

 

Research interest:

Biochemistry and/or cancer

Engraving of an operation to remove cancer

A Compleat Treatise of Preternatural Tumours by John Browne, London, 1678, depicts early modern operations to remove cancers. The author was surgeon-in-ordinary to Charles II and a surgeon at St Thomas’s Hospital in London.

[300 i 11 (1)]

 

Research interest:

Imperial and colonial narrative building (histories, philosophies, mythologies)

Title page and engraved portrait of Tipu Sultan

A View of the Origin and Conduct of the War with Tippoo Sultaun by Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Beatson, late Aide-de-Camp to the Marquis Wellesley, London, 1800. Tipu Sultan, known as the Tiger of Mysore, clashed with the British East India Company. A series of wars ended in his death whilst defending his fort of Seringapatam in May 1799. This contemporary narrative, written by a soldier on the winning side, looks like it has been rushed through the printing press with the text askew in places.

[2050 c 1]

 

Research interest:

Armenian language manuscripts or early printed books

A handwritten Armenian compilation of prayers and teachings, the Treasury of Truth. The binding, complete with metal clasps to hold they book shut, looks early modern but this manuscript is nineteenth-century.

[MS 375]

arch-c-10-10-p1-1

An early printed Psalms of David in Armenian that belonged to a 17th-century Fellow of Balliol, Nicholas Crouch. We catalogued the rest of Crouch’s library during a Wellcome Trust funded project in 2016-17 but staff did not have the language specialism to catalogue this. We still don’t know exactly when or where it was printed.

[Arch c 10 10]

 

Research interest:

Woman Philosophers (Mary Astell & Catharine Macaulay) in 17th and 18th century Britain and the relationship between moral and political philosophy

Title page for An Impartial Enquiry into the Causes of Rebellion and Civil War in the Kingdom, London, 1704

An Impartial Enquiry into the Causes of Rebellion and Civil War in this Kingdom: In an Examination of Dr. Kennett’s Eermon, Jan. 31. 1703/4. And Vindication of the Royal Martyr by Mary Astell, London, 1704, deplores the execution of Charles I. As a Tory, Astell believed in the necessity of a citizen’s absolute obedience to a monarch.

[905 i 10 (9)]

Title page of Observations on the Reflections of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke on the Revolution in France, London, 1790

Observations on the Reflections of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke, on the Revolution in France: in a letter to the Right Hon. the Earl of Stanhope by Catharine Macaulay, London, 1790 is an impassioned republican response to Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. This publication gave rise to a correspondence and mutual admiration with Mary Wollstonecraft and in Balliol’s volume, Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Men is bound next to Macaulay’s work.

[60 h 19 (01)]

 

Research interest:

Infections, microbiology, penicillin

Illustration from Anatomia seu Interiora Rerum

Anatomia seu Interiora Rerum : cum animatarum tum inanimatarum, ope & beneficio exquisitissimorum microscopiorum detecta… by Antonio à Leeuwenhoek, Paris, 1687. The largely self-taught author was a pioneer of microbiology. He used single-lensed microscopes of his own design to experiment with microbes, which he originally referred to as ‘animacules’ or tiny animals. He was also the first to document microscopic observations of muscles fibres, bacteria, spermatozoa, red blood cells and blood flow in capillaries.

[825 d 10]

 

Research interest:

Electrical power grids (specifically power electronic converters, power management, DC microgrids, solar power)

Folding plate with diagram to help sailors determine latitude

De Magnete by William Gilbert, London, 1600, coined the word electricitas (derived from the Greek word for amber) and expanded the range of electric and electrostatic experiments.

[470 d 14]

New Exhibition and Catalogue: Dervorguilla & Daughters: 750 Years of Women at Balliol

We are pleased to announce our Michaelmas 2019 exhibition and catalogue celebrating the 40th anniversary of the admission of women students to Balliol.

This exhibition delves into Balliol’s historic collections to illuminate the fundamental contribution of women to the College’s history.

The first female students matriculated at Balliol in 1979, but a very much longer history of women’s influence and agency at Balliol can be found in the College Archives. Beginning with the College’s joint founder, Dervorguilla of Galloway, who gave Balliol its Statutes in 1282, this exhibition tells the stories of the benefactors, educationalists, reformers, wives, writers, domestic staff, sisters and friends who over seven and a half centuries helped to shape the College we know today.

The exhibition will be open to the public during Oxford Open Doors on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 September 2019. The Library’s Exhibition and Outreach page has details of more opening times.

The exhibition catalogue is available as a PDF or in hard copy (£5, contact the Library to order).

The exhibition will also be open to Balliol alumnae attending Balliol Women: 40 Years On, on Sunday 29 September, 10.30am-12.00pm. All event attendees will receive a free copy of the catalogue.

 

BFFs: Balliol friends forever

It is tempting to conflate a writer’s personality and the work they produce, but this can give us an incomplete picture of who they really were. The great literary scholar Andrew Cecil Bradley (Balliol 1868) is best remembered for Shakespearean Tragedy, a work of ‘high seriousness’ that profoundly influenced 20th century Shakespearean criticism; but the Oxford poetry professor also had a playful side. In the poem ‘Were I but fat’, Bradley expounds on the many benefits of portliness: ‘Were I but fat, I should not freeze … Wives should be mine, and properties’.

Were I but fat - ACB
©Royal Holloway, University of London

The possibly unpublished poem was Bradley’s contribution to a friendship book recently acquired by Balliol Library as part of its continuing effort to collect the intellectual history of the College. It was compiled by Balliol alumnus, poet and clergyman Henry Charles Beeching (Balliol 1878) between 1889 and 1899, with two final pieces contributed in 1939. Friendship books, or liber amicorum, are personal albums to which the owner’s friends and loved ones contribute verses, drawings, photographs and personal inscriptions.

Bradley had been Beeching’s tutor when he was an undergraduate in Balliol from 1878-1881, and from the inclusion of the poem in the friendship book we might infer the two were quite close. Balliol at the time was under the Mastership of Benjamin Jowett who emphasised academic brilliance but also encouraged more informal and close relationships between tutors and students.

Congenial though the environment was, superiors were still to be respected. While Beeching was an undergraduate he contributed to the Masque of B-ll—l, a booklet of verse that poked fun at the students and Fellows of the College. Perhaps tame by our standards, it was quickly suppressed although a few copies remained in circulation. It was later published in 1939 by Basil Blackwell as Balliol Rhymes [Balliol Library, 68 e 33]. The most famous verse portrays Jowett as a pompous know-it-all and is attributed to Henry Charles Beeching:

‘First come I.
My name is J-W-TT.
There’s no knowledge but I know it.
I am Master of this College,
What I don’t know isn’t knowledge.’

Lucius Smith - Music - p1

One of the most visually arresting contributions to Beeching’s friendship book is Lucius Smith’s wonderful musical notation. Smith, a contemporary of Beeching’s at Balliol, was immortalised in the Masque as ‘Lucy …the Archbiaconate’ , particularly apt considering that he went on to become the inaugural Bishop of Knaresborough. The author of that verse and many more in the Masque was poet J W Mackail. Mackail and Beeching were part of a literary circle at Balliol that also included J B B Nichols and the three friends later collaborated on two published volumes of poetry. Both Mackail and Nichols contributed poems to the friendship book. In ‘Winter is over’, an unpublished poem dated 1889, Mackail describes the end of winter and spring’s return: ‘poppies & great white daisies in the dew/ morning by morning are uncurled anew’. Nichol’s ‘Pastel’ was later published in Love’s Looking Glass, one of the collections on which the three friends collaborated. Beeching’s own poem, ‘The robin in January’, which also features in Love’s Looking Glass is included here under the title ‘Hey robin, jolly robin’.

Beeching_Mackail_Nichols
From the left: J B B Nichols, J W Mackail and Henry Charles Beeching c1882

Other contributions speak further to the circles in which Beeching moved, and include poems by poet laureate, Robert Bridges whose niece, Mary, married Beeching in 1890, as well as writer and social reformer Annie Matheson. Matheson wrote one of the first biographies of Florence Nightingale, a close friend of Benjamin Jowett’s to whom, rumour has it, he proposed unsuccessfully.

Many of the contributions are initialled rather than signed and so we can only guess at their origin. Beeching’s daughter Helen Fanning speculated on the identities of the unknown authors were and her guesses are slipped into the front of the book. Others remain tantalisingly unknown to us including the contributor of a piece in Hebrew.

Hebrew

A detailed record for Beeching’s friendship book is available on the Balliol College Archives website.

Friendship books may have been in their heyday in the 16th and 17th centuries, when they functioned in a similar way to social networks today, but they continue to be revived and re-imagined in the virtual world such as this 21st century incarnation, produced by graffiti artists in LA and inspired by rare books.

 

Treasure under a desert sun

Nicola Freegard shares her research in Balliol’s Historic Collections and the remarkable story of the gift that she gave to the College in return:

The annual car enthusiasts’ yard sale was an unexpected stop for me that winter day in 2015.  Set up outside on the pavement around the Shriner Temple, just a few hundred yards from my home in Tucson, Arizona, lay a collection of old army jeeps, 50’s cars, bumpers and unrecognizable pieces of car parts and road signs for avid collectors.  Under the cover of a torn tarp, shadowing a warm winter desert sun, I came across a small, brown leather-bound book laying hidden in a plastic crate of car parts.  Excited by my find, I flipped the book open and saw the brown ink of verse fall across a page, and quickly closed it. Instinctively, I rushed enthusiastically to purchase it when the seller said his asking price was $5.00, and the only information I got from him was, “That one’s old.”  I tucked it in my handbag and hurried home.

Back in my writing studio, I cautiously opened the book and began to read.  The pages were clearly legible and unfaded, lightly yellowed with age and filled with a beautiful, cursive handwriting, permeated with the dusky aroma of another time. At the top of the inner first page was the handwritten year 1797, and a name: ‘Fanny Merivale’.  The first entry was a poem – “The Exile” – and the entry dated March 1797. The notebook contained around 80 pages of poetry and verse.  Some original, some (as I later discovered) by the writer’s brother, John Hermann Merivale, and some by Robert Burns, Lord Byron and other popular poets of the day. The authors of some still remain mysterious.  Over the coming months, I would spend hours researching through ancestry sites to find any information I could that would help me understand who Fanny Merivale was and why this journal was in Tucson.

After an extensive google search, I stumbled upon the digitized materials of Balliol College Library which mentioned her name in a ‘Family Memorial’.   This book, documented by several generations, covered her ancestry through her grandparents, parents, her siblings and then her nephew and niece.  I read it hungrily from cover to cover, learning about the family secrets, hardships and celebrations, and fascinated by the vivid descriptions of a warm and loving young Frances (Fanny).  I was now led deep into a story of a family that intrigued me. I found myself impossibly entwined because, as I dug further, I discovered we held some blurred connections which gave cause to wonder –  had Fanny been reaching out that day to me, to pull her from the box of car parts?

Being British born and having emigrated to the United States in the early 1980’s myself, I was also drawn into the provenance of the book and how it had arrived, in a box of discarded items, in this small Arizona city.  Every friend I told the story to, had asked me, “But how did it get to Tucson?”  I was not able to reach out to the man who had sold it to me at the yard sale, and I felt some guilt because I had not done my due diligence in asking more questions.  I had to dig deeper.

My curiosity only grew when I learned Fanny had lived just a few streets away from my father’s house in Highgate, London; albeit 230 years earlier.  Her nephew had attended the very same small school, in Hertfordshire, that my father and brother had attended, when it had made its transition from the East India Company College to the public school that is now known as Haileybury. Her nephew had walked the same cloisters as they.  Her mother was a German who had moved to England, as was mine.  Frances had spent holidays in Hastings, East Sussex (then the hot new tourist destination for Londoners looking for some fresh sea air) where my mother also had been living for the past 40 years.   There were enough parallels to get my attention and lead me to pursue the idea of unravelling Frances Merivale’s story, with a creative purpose of seeking out a motive for either a book or screenplay treatment. Perhaps, had I found this notebook in a market stall in England, I would have been less surprised by our comparative connections; but it was undeniably remarkable that my fellow countrywoman had appeared in Tucson two centuries later, echoing similarities of my own family story.

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‘Sonnet by Miss Hole — 1793’ – one of several poems attributed to female authors in Frances Merivale’s commonplace book.

In 2016 I wrote to an email address on the Balliol College Library website to discuss this notebook.  The curator responded with interest.  Subsequently, on my next visit to London, I made the journey to Oxford with my then 14-year-old son to take the notebook to the curator for review, and to confirm that it was authentic, and not my imagination playing tricks.  The added experience of sharing the history of Balliol College and Oxford’s libraries with my son was worth the long journey.   This small purchase led us to stand in front of an impressive exhibition, on display at the Bodleian, of the original Magna Carta, as well as first and second edition William Shakespeare publications, making it a memory which is now etched into our own collective family experience.  My son put down his phone.  He took notice of the grand scheme of things, and as a parent, it felt like an event of immense value.   Even he, with his American teenage attitude, was impressed by this experience.  It was the moment when it occurred to me that this was the best $5.00 I’d ever spent!

Over the following two years, my research continued whenever possible.  The curator at Balliol confirmed the common notebook’s authenticity, inspiring further reading through a multitude of digitized documents. I was led through the tranquil life of Frances Merivale’s childhood in Devon, when she had started the notebook, to its final entry of verse in July 1816, entitled “Lines on the Splendid Funeral of R. B. Sheridan”. This was penned shortly after her sister’s own death, which was, by accounts, a tragic and life changing loss to Frances, throwing her into deep depression.  It was this that sparked the family’s need to help her move on, and after introductions, she was proposed to by a young man who was recently widowed, John Lewis Mallet.    There was record of an etching completed by Frances (a competent art student) held in archive at the Tate Gallery.  Reading further of her brother’s close friendship with Lord Byron at Cambridge, her family life, and her eventual marriage to John Lewis, son of the renowned French political journalist of the time, Jacques Mallet du Pan, I was compelled to continue.

Through those digitized files held in Balliol’s Historic Collections, I was able to research her childhood home, discovering portraits of her father, husband and family members (although sadly, I have not yet found a portrait of Frances).  I read in detail about her tranquil life before marriage, then about the move to her first married home in Russell Square, where she wrote descriptively of the fields that surrounded them when they first moved in – now hard to imagine; I learned of the subsequent and final home she shared with her husband for the last half of her life, not far from Windmill Hill.

She was raised into a society filled with art and poetry, like many young women of her day, yet she was surrounded with some of the most eminent creatives of her era, and the influence of that was deeply evident.   As a writer in research, I was driven to find something more than her quiet life in Exeter, and her painting excursions along the muddy banks of the River Exe.  Her young adult life was tranquil and full of love for her family.  However, I did not want to recreate Little Women.  Frances’ life was a period piece captured with both charm and comfort.

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Frances Merivale’s commonplace book includes poems by famous writers such as Robert Burns.

This past summer, I took a leap of faith and funded a trip specifically with the purpose of going deeper.  Research required I go to Balliol’s Historic Collections in St Cross Church in person.  With the help of the library staff, I spent a focused week pouring over the sections of the Mallet family archives that related to Frances and John Lewis Mallet in person.  Not really knowing what to expect or find, I was treasure hunting again, reading many letters (mostly scribed in French in very tiny spidery penmanship).  A few days in, among the boxes of letters and transcripts, lay the autobiography of the story that captured me.

Frances had led me here to her husband, John Lewis Mallet, who in later life served as a rising star of the Whig party and a respectable civil servant of colonial Britain.  Mallet had published an autobiographical book specifically for his family’s own reading and sense of their place in history, outlining a compelling story of his life as a young man, at the beginning of violent change in his then home town of Paris, in 1792. Here he stood alongside his father, Jacques Mallet du Pan, who, under strict instruction from Napoleon, was to be executed or exiled from France in response to the publication of du Pan’s liberal published journal criticizing the Revolution. The Revolutionary Tribunal at the Bastion in 1794 was the turning point for John Lewis (then John Louis) and his father, whose friends included Voltaire, among other influential philosophers. In du Pan’s own words: “Like Saturn, the Revolution devours its children.”  Father and son fled Paris on foot in the dark of night, leaving family and friends, in the hopes that they could seek refuge within Switzerland, the birthplace of Jacques Mallet du Pan, with a loose plan to reunite with loved ones later.  Without a firm destination, John Louis recounts his story as a young man finding his place in an upturned world, with a tough journey of self-discovery, but also of his passage towards a new life in a vastly changing Europe.

Because of Balliol’s Library resources, an intimate world opened wide, and travels to locations I was compelled to experience through his eyes:  Geneva, Switzerland, Northern Italy, Paris, France as well as my home town of London.  The depth of my subjects’ own words, the descriptions of the times and textures of the characters surrounding them, breathed life into this valuable history lesson, and insight into the suffering that occurred through the rise of nationalism. He eloquently revealed how the Revolution unfurled a particular cruelty among the nobles and working class of Europe. These documents have provided me with a complex foundation for the story that I became inspired to tell by this research. My work is still in process as I write this, and I anticipate its first draft completion in the coming year.

Balliol’s Historic Collections have provided me the luxury to delve into a deeply personal creative experience and uncover a moving historical personal story of courage and strength in a time of far reaching social and political upheaval.   Without such archives, I have no doubt I would have held onto Frances Merivale’s common place book, and it would have remained in my own library, another remnant of an unknown and disconnected past collecting dust. Because it sparked curiosity, it has given so much in return.   I am still working on the ‘How did it get to Tucson?’ part, and that may end up revealing itself soon.  I’ve learned that several of the Mallet family future generations also emigrated to the United States in the late nineteenth century.  Another parallel I could not brush off.  I will continue to follow this lead as I work on the next chapters.

I had no plan to become a savant of the Mallet family when I started this journey.  It’s the fourth year into the project, and now the Mallets have become a part of my everyday life –  a reminder that their history is entwined in our present; that the common experience of social upheaval set 200 years earlier is not much different than the current political climate.   They are now familiar friends from another time; discovered through a notebook found in a box of car parts under the desert sun.  This commonplace book now resides in the care of Balliol’s Historic Collections, digitized to share, where it will remain in safe keeping with the remnants of Frances’ letters and the volumes of work of the Mallets family archives. Now I am telling their story.

We are grateful to Nicola Freegard for her discovery and subsequent gift. Frances Merivale’s commonplace book is now Manuscript 477 in Balliol’s Historic Collections. It has been fully conserved and digitised by the Oxford Conservation Consortium, with a view to making the images available online in future.

 

 

“Benjamin Jowett came to see me. Disastrous!”

On Valentine’s Day we ask: did Balliol’s most influential Master propose marriage to Florence Nightingale?

Tradition has it that Benjamin Jowett (Master of Balliol College 1870-1893) proposed to—and was rejected by—Florence Nightingale in their younger years.

The source for this tale of unrequited love is the memoir of Cornelia Sorabji, the first woman to study law at Oxford, and India’s first female barrister. She was mentored by Jowett, who introduced her to Florence Nightingale, by now a “little old lady with rosy cheeks and a frilled nightcap”. When Cornelia lunched with Jowett after she had visited “the Lady with the Lamp”, he pointed to a picture on his wall, depicting a young Nightingale. “When she was like that, I asked her to marry me”, he revealed to Cornelia.

Later, Sorabji saw an entry in one of Nightingale’s old diaries, which may corroborate this episode: “Benjamin Jowett came to see me.  Disastrous!”

Sadly, that diary no longer survives, and Jowett, for his part, arranged for his most personal correspondence to be burned.  As a result, scholars debate whether the proposal actually took place.

What is clear from the over 700 surviving letters written by Jowett to Nightingale, preserved at Balliol College’s Historic Collections Centre, is that the two remained very close friends.  They corresponded and visited with one another until Jowett’s death in 1893, conversing on topics as diverse as religion, promising students, international affairs, Poor Law reform, and their own families, health, and personal feelings.

Further Reading:

Dear Miss Nightingale : a selection of Benjamin Jowett’s letters to Florence Nightingale 1860-1893, edited by Vincent Quinn and John Prest. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987.

India calling : the memories of Cornelia Sorabji, India’s first woman barrister. New Delhi; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

List of the letters from Benjamin Jowett to Florence Nightingale in the Jowett Papers, Balliol College Historic Collections Centre.

Balliol Writers of the First World War

To mark the centenary of the end of the First World War on 11 November 2018, Balliol Library created a display, drawn from across our Historic Collections, to commemorate the lives of Balliol members who took part in the Great War.

Over the course of four years, 900 members of College saw active service, 200 of whom were killed and a further 200 wounded.[1]

The novelist John Buchan, in his memoir Memory Hold-the-Door[2] characterised the Balliol generation which ‘flourished on the eve of the War’ as ‘a brilliant group’. We count among them poets, scholars, artists, musicians, journalists and statesmen. Their works, in such forms as poetry, drawings, reportage and letters, represent an important part of the Library’s collections and the College’s history.

The College War Memorial Book. Oxford, 1924 (Balliol Shelfmark: 88 d 13/10 and 88 d 13/11)

In addition to the War Memorial in the Chapel Passage, a two-volume book was produced by the College in 1924 to commemorate the Balliol members who died in the War. It contains an account and photograph of each, together with selections of their verse, musical notation and sketches. Among them are the poetry and sketches of Gerald Caldwell Siordet (1885–1917) who studied at Balliol from 1904–1909 and was killed near Kut, 9 February 1917. Balliol Library holds in its collection two editions of his work, which include the poems ‘Autumn 1914’ (first published in The Times, 13 November 1914) and ‘To the Dead’ (first published in The Times, 30 November 1915). The College War Memorial Book has been digitised and is available to view in full on our Flickr site.

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The Minute Book of the Hanover Club. May 1911 — April 1913 (Institutional archives: Societies. 1.)

The Hanover Club was a University society in which many Balliol members were prominent, which aimed to ‘promote the course of good-feeling between Germany & England, by giving Englishmen and Germans in the university opportunities of meeting and discussing topics of interest & importance to both nations’ [p.1]. On the page shown we see a prophetic motion tabled for debate on 27 February 1912: ‘That under the present situation of European politics a rapprochement between England and Germany is an unrealistic ideal’. The motion was carried by 7 to 6.

Minutebook

Julian Grenfell: His Life and the Times of his Death by Nicholas Mosley. London, 1976 (Balliol Shelfmark: 81 e 25/2)

Pages from a Family Journal, 1888-1915 edited by Ethel Desborough. Eton, 1916 (Balliol Shelfmark: 81 e 25/1)

Into Battle by Julian Grenfell

The naked earth is warm with Spring,
And with green grass and bursting trees
Leans to the sun’s gaze glorying,
And quivers in the sunny breeze;

And life is Colour and Warmth and Light,
And a striving evermore for these;
And he is dead who will not fight,
And who dies fighting has increase.

The fighting man shall from the sun
Take warmth, and life from glowing earth;
Speed with the light-foot winds to run,
And with the trees to newer birth;
And find, when fighting shall be done,
Great rest, and fulness after dearth.

All the bright company of Heaven
Hold him in their bright comradeship,
The Dog-Star, and the Sisters Seven,
Orion’s belt and sworded hip.

The woodland trees that stand together,
They stand to him each one a friend;
They gently speak in the windy weather;
They guide to valley and ridge’s end.

The kestrel hovering by day,
And the little owls that call by night,
Bid him be swift and keen as they,
As keen of ear, as swift of sight.

The blackbird sings to him “Brother, brother,
If this be the last song you shall sing.
Sing well, for you may not sing another;
Brother, sing.”

In dreary doubtful waiting hours,
Before the brazen frenzy starts,
The horses show him nobler powers;
O patient eyes, courageous hearts!

And when the burning moment breaks,
And all things else are out of mind,
And only Joy-of-Battle takes
Him by the throat and makes him blind,

Through joy and blindness he shall know,
Not caring much to know, that still
Nor lead nor steel shall reach him, so
That it be not the Destined Will.

The thundering line of battle stands,
And in the air Death moans and sings;
But Day shall clasp him with strong hands,
And Night shall fold him in soft wings.

Julian Grenfell’s (1888–1915, Balliol from 1906–1910) poem Into Battle features in a great many collections of WWI poetry. It was composed in April 1915 and published in The Times, 28 May 1915 (the same day his death-notice appeared in the paper). Indeed, many of the poems written by Balliol authors were first published in newspapers and biographies, written as they were by young men at the beginning of their careers. The original printing of the poem in The Times is available for Oxford University members to view via the University’s subscription to the Times Digital Archive. Also exhibited were: Julian Grenfell: His Life and the Times of his Death by Nicholas Mosley, and Pages from a Family Journal, 1888-1915 edited by Ethel Desborough, both from the Balliol Biographies Collection, which paint a picture of his time in College and at War.

Patrick Shaw-Stewart by Ronald Knox. London, 1920 (Balliol Shelfmark: 81 f 1a)

Achilles in the Trenches by Patrick Shaw-Stewart

I saw a man this morning
Who did not wish to die:
I ask, and cannot answer,
If otherwise wish I.

Fair broke the day this morning
Against the Dardanelles;
The breeze blew soft, the morn’s cheeks
Were cold as cold sea-shells.

But other shells are waiting
Across the Aegean sea,
Shrapnel and high explosive,
Shells and hells for me.

O hell of ships and cities,
Hell of men like me,
Fatal second Helen,
Why must I follow thee?

Achilles came to Troyland
And I to Chersonese:
He turned from wrath to battle,
And I from three days’ peace.

Was it so hard, Achilles,
So very hard to die?
Thou knowest and I know not—
So much the happier I.

I will go back this morning
From Imbros over the sea;
Stand in the trench, Achilles,
Flame-capped, and shout for me.

Patrick Shaw-Stewart (1888 –1917) studied at Balliol from 1907–1910.The first stanza of his poem Achilles in the Trenches (I saw a man this morning) has become a particularly resonant example of First World War writing and the poem has placed him in the canon of First World War poets, together with his friend and fellow Balliol alumnus, Julian Grenfell. It was composed on a blank page in his copy of A E Housman’s A Shropshire Lad (July 1915) and published for the first time in Patrick Shaw-Stewart (1920) by Ronald Knox, who was another of his Balliol contemporaries. The book, the first edition of which is in the Library’s collection, is chiefly a compilation of letters by Shaw-Stewart to his family and friends, detailing his observations of war, as well as his life and friends at Balliol.

The Diary of a Dead Officer: Being the Posthumous Papers of Arthur Graeme West. London, 1919 (Balliol Shelfmark: 81 f 6/3)

The Diary of a Dead Officer: Linocuts, Text Selection and Afterword by John Abell. Llandogo, 2014 (Balliol Shelfmark: 81 f 6/3a)

Arthur Graeme West (1891–1917) studied at Balliol from 1910–1914. He is particularly known for the posthumously published book, The Diary of a Dead Officer (1919), which consists of an introduction by the editor, Cyril Joad, extracts from West’s 1915–17 diary, and a handful of essays and poems. Poems like God, how I hate you, whose ‘prevailing mood is bitter, satirical’[3] provide a sharp contrast to works like Grenfell’s Into Battle seen earlier: ‘a paean celebrating the sensations and joys of the soldier about to enter combat’.[4] West’s pacifism has been further interpreted by the artist John Abell in a modern special edition with linocuts, numbered and signed by the artist. A copy was recently purchased by the Library as part of our continuing commitment to collect and make accessible the intellectual heritage of the College.

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Linocut images by John Abell from Arthur Graeme West’s The Diary of a Dead Officer published by The Old Stile Press www.oldstilepress.com. Reproduced with their kind permission.

A Scholar’s Letters from the Front by Stephen Henry Hewett. London, 1918 (Balliol Shelfmark: 81 f 8)

The title of this work serves as a reminder of how recently some of these writers had left their academic lives at Balliol. Stephen Henry Philip Hewett (1893–1916) studied at Balliol from 1911–1914 and was then commissioned part-way into his fourth year. Balliol remains a strong presence in his letters, particularly in those addressed to the Tutors and friends he made here, such as the legendary Dean F. F. ‘Sligger’ Urquhart, who also wrote the foreword to the book, in which he remembers Hewett as a talented man of independent thought and creativity. He was reported missing and killed near High Wood, July 22, 1916.

Charles Lister: Letters and Recollections with a Memoir by his Father, Lord Ribblesdale. London, 1917 (Balliol Shelfmark: 81 e 27)

Charles Lister (1887-1915) studied at Balliol from 1906-1909 and was part of the circle including Shaw-Stewart and Grenfell. At Balliol he was known for ‘his generous enthusiasms, his reckless fun, his nervous breeziness of manner, his embarrassing conviction that every second person he met was a “good chap”, his bewildering organisations, his despairing jeremiads, his inexhaustible vitality’[5], the product of some of which resulted in him being rusticated.[6] Aside from this though, he was known for his practical Socialism during his time in Oxford: founding the Oxford branch of the Fabian Society and supporting a strike by women at the Clarendon Press. The exhibition included a volume of his letters and remembrances by others, published in 1917, now held in the Balliol Biographies Collection.

 

Disenchantment by C. E. Montague. London, 1968 (first published 1922) (Balliol Shelfmark: 1 f 31/3)

The Attack and Other Papers by R H Tawney. London, 1953 (Balliol Shelfmark: 81 e 16/3A)

The documents in this display convey a variety of sentiments towards the war, from enthusiasm to stoicism to dissension. Charles Edward Montague (1867–1928), journalist, novelist and essayist, studied at Balliol from 1885–1889. Montague was opposed to the First World War prior to its commencement. Once it started, however, he came to believe that it was right to support the war effort in the hope of a swift resolution. In 1914, Montague was 47, which was well over the age for enlistment. Yet in order to enlist, he dyed his white hair black to fool the Army into accepting him. The essay collection Disenchantment (1922), the 1968 edition of which is displayed here, was one of the first prose works to strongly criticise the manner in which the First World War was fought. A pivotal text in the development of literature concerning the War, it criticises the British press’ coverage of the war, and the conduct of British generals.

R H Tawney (1880-1962), historian and political thinker, who matriculated to Balliol in 1899 and was elected to a Balliol Fellowship in 1918, was another voice to raise objections to the War. In an essay entitled ‘Some Reflections of a Soldier’ first published in 1916 in The Nation and later reprinted in his book The Attack, a copy of which was in the exhibition, he debunked the myth of the glorified soldier which had been popularised in the press.

 

The Souvenir ‘A’ Coy, No. 6 Officers’ Cadet Battalion, Balliol College, Oxford, 1917-1918 (Balliol Shelfmark: 1 d 11)

Record of ‘A’ Company No. 6 Officers’ Cadet Battalion

souvenir

Although the numbers of students at Balliol were greatly reduced in the War years, the College was far from empty. Between 1914-1918 around 3,000 members of the armed forces passed through, quartered here or on short training courses

The Balliol Authors Collection holds two numbers of The Souvenir, a journal produced by ‘A’ Company No. 6 Officers’ Cadet Battalion. While none of the officer cadets who resided and trained at Balliol during WWI matriculated into the college, these journals – which contain poetry, visual caricatures and illustrations, anecdotes, articles and group photographs conjure a real sense of College life in the First World War, a unique period during which a small body of Fellows and students would have been rubbing shoulders with the soldiery.

Also displayed was a record of ‘A’ Company No. 6 Officers’ Cadet Battalion, which contains invaluable details concerning the officers’ training regimes, accommodation, mealtimes, chapel services etc. while they resided and trained at the College. You can find more images from ‘The Souvenir’ on our Flickr pages.

No Patched-Up Peace by Herbert Henry Asquith (Privately printed, Ely, 1916) (Balliol Shelfmark: 1 a 5)

The Volunteer and Other Poems by Herbert Dixon Asquith (London, 1917) (Balliol Shelfmark: 1 b 174)

Herbert Henry Asquith (1852–1928), British Prime Minister 1908-1916, studied at Balliol from 1870–1874, and was a Fellow at the College from 1874–1882. In August 1914, Asquith took the United Kingdom into the First World War, but resigned amid political conflict in December 1916, and was succeeded by his War Secretary, David Lloyd George. Various speeches and writings presented to Balliol College Library can be found in the Balliol Authors Collection such as No Patched-Up Peace, a reproduction of a speech given in the House of Commons in October 1916 in which he states a resolve to see through stated policies.

H H Asquith’s son, Herbert Dixon Asquith (1881–1947), a poet and novelist, also studied at Balliol from 1900–1904. Asquith was greatly affected by his service with the Royal Artillery in World War One, as can be inferred from his powerful war poetry and fiction such as The Volunteer, the second edition of which was on display.

Herbert Dixon survived the War, but his older brother, Raymond Asquith, was killed at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

 

Wheels, 1919 edited by Edith Sitwell, Osbert Sitwell and Sacheverell Sitwell (Oxford, 1919) (Balliol Shelfmark: 1 b 165/31)

Another important piece of WWI literature with a Balliol connection is the 1919 edition of the modernist poetry anthology, Wheels. It is in this issue that several of Wilfred Owen’s poems were published together for the first time, having been requested by the editors several months before. In the time between request and publication, Owen was killed in action, a week before the Armistice was signed[7]. The issue is dedicated to his memory. Owen himself did not attend a university, but the editor and writer Sacheverell Sitwell (1897-1988) was up at Balliol in Hilary and Trinity terms 1919 and the Library holds a collection of his works, including an exciting recent donation by the family of Sitwell scholar Gordon W. Bennett, to be catalogued by the Library in a project next year.

Strange Meeting by Wilfred Owen

It seemed that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which Titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands, as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall.
With a thousand fears that vision’s face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
“Strange friend,” I said, “here is no cause to mourn.”
“None,” said that other, “save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something had been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled,
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress.
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery,
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery;
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.
I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark: for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now. . . .”

 

Items in this display have been drawn primarily from two rich Library collections: The Balliol Biographies Collection (housed at the Historic Collections Centre at St Cross Church) and the Balliol Authors’ Collection (housed in the Library Stack at Broad Street), as well as the College’s institutional archive and main collections.

For more photographs and information on Balliol in the War, see also our Flickr album. Please contact the Library if you would like to consult any of this material further.

Text by Lauren Dolman (Assistant Librarian) and Alexander Blaney (3rd year, English Language and Literature).

References

Poems by Julian Grenfell, Patrick Shaw-Stewart and Wilfred Owen: Public Domain

[1] John Jones, Balliol College: A History, 2nd ed. revised (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 247.

[2] John Buchan, Memory Hold-the-Door (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1941), 52.

[3] I. M. Parsons (ed.), Men who March Away: Poems of the First World War (London: Chatto & Windus, 1968), 20.

[4] John H. Johnston, English Poetry of the First World War: A Study in the Evolution of Lyric and Narrative Form (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1964), 38.

[5] Ronald Knox, Patrick Shaw-Stewart (London: William Collins Sons & Co, 1920), 41.

[6] John Jones, Balliol College: A History, 2nd ed. revised (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 231.

[7] “Poems of Wilfred Owen, published in Wheels,” British Library, accessed November 8, 2018, https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/~/link.aspx?_id=FFB06D8190B34E8EAC588E65C3C7B02B&_z=z