– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.


Annual Record – MS 116

Balliol MS 116 f68r (detail)

Further details about the illustration in the Archivist’s report, Annual Record 2017:

The manuscript of which this illuminated initial is part is Balliol MS 116, a 13th century copy of Eustratius’ In Ethica, a Greek commentary on Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics whose translation into Latin was an important later work of  Robert Grosseteste (c.1170–1253), the prominent and prolific scientist, theologian, and bishop of Lincoln. While teaching at Oxford 1225-1231, Grosseteste became rector of the parish of Abbotsley in Huntingdonshire (now in Cambridgeshire). A century later, the young Balliol College acquired the advowson of this parish, which it still holds.

In this illustration on folio 68 recto (detail) showing unusual relevance to the adjacent text, two tiny winged grotesques converse inside a foliate initial D at the beginning of Book IV, ‘Dicamus autem deinceps de liberalitate’ (‘Moreover, let us speak next of generosity.’) The illumination measures 30 x 30 mm (just over an inch square) as enclosed by the blue square border. More images of this manuscript can be viewed online.

The original will be on display during the Michaelmas exhibition of Balliol’s medieval manuscripts at St Cross.

MS116-f068raBalliol MS 116 f.68r, full page, measuring 225 x 340 mm, close to the modern A4 (210 by 297 mm) or North American 8 1/2 x 11″.

More about each of Balliol’s medieval manuscript books

RAB Mynors’ catalogue of the manuscripts

Explore images from across Balliol’s archives and manuscript collections

OAC meeting

Oxford/Cambridge/City of London Archivists’ Meeting

4th July 2017, St. John’s College, Oxford

Five Centuries of Oxford College Architecture

10.30     Arrive; coffee

11.00     Session 1

Chair: Michael Riordan

Julian Reid (Corpus/Merton), ‘The best-laid plans: designing a Tudor college’

Robin Darwall-Smith (All Souls/Jesus/Univ.), ‘Benefactions, fund-raising, Civil War and
Commonwealth: University College tries to build a quadrangle’

12.00     Tour of St. John’s College

1.00        Sandwich lunch

2.00        Session 2

Chair: Robin Darwall-Smith

Judith Curthoys (Christ Church), ‘The great rebuilding: Christ Church ups its game’

Oliver Mahony (LMH/St Hilda’s) and Anne Manuel (Somerville), ‘The “Wrennaissance” – colleges for women at Oxford’

3.00        Tea

3.30        Session 3

Chair: Judith Curthoys

Richard Allen (St. Peter’s), ‘St Peter’s Unbuilt’

Michael Riordan (Queen’s/St. John’s), ‘The Beehive: conservatism and radicalism in post-war St. John’s’

4.30        Closing remarks

Chair: Anna Sander

5.00        Formal finish, followed by informal adjournment to the Lamb & Flag

* * *

Closing remarks

Thanks to Mike for organising an excellent day, St John’s College for generously hosting us, the speakers who among them represent 12 colleges as present employers and even more in their previous experience, and our visitors from London and the Other Place.

I was asked to mention themes connecting the papers throughout the day – there have been plenty, and several have already been noted by the speakers. We’ve been taken all over Oxford and through the ages from C16-21, from cockloft to cellar by way of the piano nobile, through all levels of architecture and college society. We’ve seen a gamut of budgets, ambitions, intentions and degrees of success. There have been contrasts between monastic and secular foundations, and those built for men and women. There have been considerable insights into the history of fundraising – and coping with benefactions.  We have heard about new buildings on old premises, old buildings repurposed, ancient buildings hidden behind modern faces, and old buildings swept away altogether to make way for new ones. And some that have remained only dreamed-of spires.

I have particularly appreciated the unusually wide range of record formats we’ve seen today from all periods: accounts, plans, sketches, drawings, architectural models, letters, minutes, stained glass, photographs, receipts, stone carvings, woodwork, sculpture and skeletons. And of course, in many cases the buildings themselves.

Through every college’s history of wizard wheezes and financial flops, I think the day showed that across time and despite wide differences in other factors, the main influences on college building projects have been politics internal and external, money and the lack of it, and perhaps most of all, personalities.

termly report Trinity Term 2017

TT17 Week 6 HT (June) Library Committee

Archivist’s report

This paper reports on the Archivist’s work February – April 2017.

A) Enquiries, researchers & visitors


  • Enquiries: 62
  • Unique users: 8
  • Seats occupied: 15
  • Collections consulted:  medieval mss, George Malcolm, David Urquhart, Persian & Turkish mss, Jenkyns papers, college records
  • Visitors (non-research): 60+


  • Enquiries: 92
  • Unique users: 12
  • Seats occupied: 12
  • Collections consulted: medieval mss (4), Greene-Reid papers, Persian & Arabic mss, Malcolm, Morier Family and RBD Morier archives, Monckton papers, college records (2)
  • Visitors (non-research): ca40


  • Enquiries: 60
  • Unique users: 4
  • Seats occupied: 7
  • Collections consulted: oriental MSS (2), western medieval mss, college records
  • Visitors (non-research): 55+

Period totals/2017 running totals


  • Enquiries: 214/298
  • Unique users: 24/32
  • Seats occupied: 34/43
  • Visitors (non-research) 155+ / Ca 160

* * *

A handful of research topics, by researchers in person and remote enquirers, from the reporting period:

‘I research horizontal tree diagrams in the margins of manuscripts of the Lombard’s Sentences, among others. I want to see if these copies have some interesting marginalia, and if there are to note the folio numbers and perhaps take pictures or order images. I am interested especially the one that perhaps contains Rufus’ notes. The other volume is to satisfy my interest in the indexing procedure of the tabulae.’

‘ I am researching the London property market at the time of the Great Fire of 1666 – and I am finding out about College property holdings in the Square Mile. I have published on various aspects of the City of London in the 17th and 18th centuries. ‘



‘I am currently preparing the publication of my PhD thesis on the mise en page and the illustrations in medieval manuscripts containing Aristotelian treatises, to be published by Böhlau Verlag, Cologne, Germany, later this year. I would love to include some illustrations of MS 253, a particularly densely glossed manuscript of Aristotle’s logical treatises and contains some very original depictions of teaching scenes. On your wonderful website, I found photos of excellent quality, and I would like to ask for permission to publish them in my thesis.’

  1. B) Arrangement & description and collection care

John Jones’ lists of papers of Julian Miller (Balliol 1957) and Arthur Hugh Sidgwick (Balliol 1903), both listed for the first time, are now online.

In response to specific external enquiries, I have checked, ordered and numbered several files of the David Urquhart and Morier Family archives, and added item-level descriptions for all items to the online catalogues (files run to 50+ items). It is unfortunate that the physical items were not numbered when the papers were catalogued in the 1990s.

Conservation: Housing of all the manuscript books is now complete, with many thanks to OCC and PADS. There are still some old boxes that need replacing, but this is not urgent, and can be done in tandem with planned conservation of those individual manuscripts. Treatment of several manuscripts, notably MS 354 (Richard Hill’s commonplace book of ca 1510), continues in preparation for September’s exhibition.

C) Engagement

Social media

• Facebook: 937 Likes. Weekly updates, links to blog posts, notices of events, etc.

• Twitter: 1900 total Tweets, 1494 followers

• Blog: 17 new posts including several school group activities

Image management

• Oxfile (OUCS)– used 32 times Feb-Apr, total 290 times, to send images, externally and within college, across archival collections.

• Images created: 8000+.

  • Browning draft/printer’s proofs volumes (MSS 387-392) have been photographed in full
  • Images of all 10 volumes of Clark’s annual lists of Balliol members 1520-1822 are online – a key college history/family history/biographical research resource.

Outreach & Events:

• Antechapel displays and ‘Document in Focus’ features in Broad St Library, prepared by Anna, continue


  • • medieval mss display by Anna continued & taken down
  • • George Malcolm centenary exhibition by Giles Dawson opened
  • • Unlocking Archives talk by Monica Kendall on 18th century letters, Jane Austen and social history
  • • Unlocking Archives talk by Giles Dawson on George Malcolm’s centenary


  • • George Malcolm centenary exhibition continued, and taken down
  • • Unlocking Archives talk by Lucy Kelsall on the cataloguing side of the Reconstructing Nicholas Crouch project
  • • Library staff lead Into University group visit at St Cross
  • • display of newly acquired Jowett letters for Jowett Society launch event in Broad Street.


  • • temporary Prof Les Woods memorial exhibition by Jo Ashbourn open, and taken down
  • • Les Woods memorial event at St Cross
  • • Anna & Gabrielle present hands-on special collections
  • handling training workshop for Balliol English & History students
  • • Anna with colleagues staffing college archivists’ table at undergraduate History Thesis Fair

D) Future events

Summer schedule so far:

  • • Watford Girls’ Grammar school groups for a manuscripts activity (repeat visit)
  • • Wolvercote Local History Society, theme tbc by them (Old Member contact) [postponed]
  • • Bodleian archives & mss trainees for a careers talk (repeat visit)
  • • Oxford Research & Innovation Support Conference delegates for a general tour (recommended)
  • • Open Doors: St Cross will be open for Oxford Open Doors, weekend of 9-10 September, 12-4pm both days.

This will be the 7th year that Balliol has opened St Cross to the public for Open Doors, and hundreds of people keep coming! I hope the medieval mss exhibition, which will be launched for this open weekend and then continue throughout MT17, will be an extra draw this year.





F) CPD/training/staff

Anna CPD:

  • • attended meetings of the Management Committee of the Oxford Conservation Consortium in February and April
  • • attended Gerald Aylmer Seminar 2017 (London, IHR): ‘Strongroom to Seminar: archives and teaching in higher education’ (February)
  • • attended Teaching the Codex II colloquium on the pedagogy of palaeography and codicology (May)

We note with sadness the death of Prof Elliott Horowitz z”l (Oliver Smithies Visiting Fellow 2014-15) in March 2017. He had completed the beautiful and successful Hebraica & Judaica exhibition at St Cross in Michaelmas 2016, culminating in a day of fascinating talks by Oxford experts in November.


– Anna Sander, TT 2017 (June)

Trinity Term on facebook

I post brief monthly statistics here, but for readers who just can’t get enough archives news, there’s a weekly update on Facebook as well. Here’s the roundup for Trinity Term:

We’re now on Summer Time. This week in the archives: researchers for medieval manuscripts, Monckton archive, college records, Oriental manuscripts, incunabula. The Malcolm exhibition has closed. I’m looking forward to a first visit to Lincoln College’s archives. It’s the last week of March, so I’ll be rounding up the month’s enquiries and other statistics for the usual report on the blog.
The important Oxbridge news this week: the Boat Race! Congratulations to the Cambridge women and Oxford men – both the Cambridge Women’s Blue boat and Blondie (Cambridge women’s reserve boat) won, as did the Oxford Men’s Blue boat and Isis (Oxford men’s reserve boat). The Lightweight races took place at Henley earlier in the week; Cambridge-heavy results at http://henleyboatraces.com/…/henley-boat-races-2017-results….

This week in the archives: more sensors installed in the big repositories, to give us a better picture of the climatic conditions via the BMS. Otherwise an unusually quiet week (so far) for researchers and visitors, so I will be putting together and mounting a new display for the antechapel, taking and processing photos for reprographics orders, creating a monthly report, writing up some new Documents in Focus sheets for the college library next term, planning a couple of upcoming displays for college events… oh and I might just get some cataloguing done.

The archives will be closed Wednesday 12 April – Monday 17 April incl. I will be back on Tuesday 18 April – Week 0 of Trinity Term.
Normal service has resumed – week 0 of Trinity Term. Just readers for medieval mss and early printed books, so while it’s still quiet in the search room, I’m preparing for the Les Woods memorial display next week, a workshop for students on correct handling of fragile materials, a visit by parishioners from a Balliol living, the history thesis fair, and a number of other entirely unrelated things coming up. And expecting enquiry no. 300 any day now.
Trinity Term! TT1 in the archives: researchers looking at (and photographing) medieval manuscripts, history thesis fair at Exam Schools, preparing for a visit by parishioners of a College living and for a joint presentation on correct handling of special collections material.

Temporary exhibition this week: Prof. Leslie Colin Woods (1922-2007), Tutorial Fellow of Balliol in Engineering Science 1960-70, Professor of Mathematics and Professorial Fellow of Balliol 1970-90, Emeritus Fellow 1991-2007.

Exhibition curator Dr Joanna Ashbourn draws from the Les Woods Archive at Balliol College to illustrate aspects of Prof Woods’ personal life, his experience as a World War II fighter pilot, and his long and varied academic career.

Open to the public Tues-Fri 25-28 April 2017, 2.30-5pm
Balliol Historic Collections Centre, St Cross Church, Manor Rd. OX1 3UH (ring the buzzer on the side of the notice board).
Questions? archivist[at]balliol.ox.ac.uk
May Day in Oxford to start Trinity Term week 2. This week in the archives, researchers for college records and medieval manuscripts, a workshop for students on handling special collections materials safely, and a new chiller pump for the repository air conditioning system. April statistics coming soon…

TT3! This week in the archives: no readers booked (yet), so it’s time to catch up on accessioning, cataloguing, enquiries, termly report for Library Committee, September exhibition text, productions & returns, (re)boxing, antechapel displays, Documents in Focus for the library, manuscript photography… funny, I don’t think I’ll fit in that thumb-twiddling session after all!
Trinity Term Week 4: this week in the archives, researchers for college records and Jowett Papers; several visitors, and Material Evidence in Incunabula group cataloguing continues. April’s brief report is up on the blog and I’m continuing several of the things I started last week.
Trinity Term week 5: this week in the archives, again quiet on the researcher front, which is good as there’s been a spate of internal admin enquiries. A long-running printer ink saga is over, so there’s a new display in the antechapel. Approaching both the end of the month and termly Library Committee, so collating and writing of stats and reports on the menu this week as well.

Reminder of Unlocking Archives talk: this Wednesday (24th) at 1pm, Nikki Tomkins of the Oxford Conservation Consortium will speak about her work for Balliol this past year, repairing early printed books as part of the Reconstructing Nicholas Crouch cataloguing and conservation project. A preview is available via her blog posts:https://balliollibrary.wordpress.com/tag/nikki-tomkins/
Trinity Term week 6: a ‘quiet’ week in the archives, which means getting lots of work done! Congratulations to Balliol M1 and M4, who both got blades in last week’s Eights – apparently M1’s first non-Headship blades ever. If the previous sentence is in Martian for you, now you know why 10 years ago I got in a boat and rowed with Balliol’s second women’s boat for a year. Or rather, mostly went to the gym and the tank, because the river levels were horrendous, but the sun did come out for us during Eights week. Have a look at https://twitter.com/balliolrowing/with_replies Never row 😉
TT7. This week in the archives: a 4 day week for me. More unglamorous but essential behind the scenes maintenance tasks this week while the researcher schedule remains quiet. Enquiries, however, are far from quiet – May stats will be appearing on the blog this week. On Friday I’m looking forward to working with a school group, looking at manuscript books, letters and other items written in different languages and scripts.
TT8, the last week of the academic year, at least for most undergraduates: this week in the archives, the postponed Library Committee meeting, a visit from a local history society, and an archivists’ meeting about the Archives Hub, which we are on:
https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb3107-balliolarchive A new antechapel display will go up in Broad Street this week and the promised May stats will be on the blog along with a summary of last week’s school visit and activity.
TT9: some students are still sitting exams, but for most the strife is over for better or worse, the weather is beautiful, and the rolling green hills of the Long Vac are appearing on the horizon. ‘Vacation’ in the archives, of course, generally means lots of visiting researchers! None this week, though, so catching up continues, focusing particularly on describing and adding new accessions into their permanent series and editing of small collection descriptions for uploading to the website and – pending new Editor login details – to the Archives Hub. Expecting enquiry #400 of 2017 any day.

monthly report May 2017

A few numbers about archives & manuscripts activity during May:

  • Number of enquiries: 60 (again)
  • Running total for 2017: 358
  • Number of researchers in person (unique users): 5
  • Number of person-days in the reading room: 7
  • Collections consulted: oriental mss, medieval mss, Jowett papers
  • No of non-research visitors: ca 20
  • Interesting events & activities: Anna & Gabrielle present hands-on special collections handling training workshop for Balliol English & History students; Unlocking Archives talk by Nikki Tomkins (OCC) on conserving Nicholas Crouch books for Wellcome project

Some of the external (non-college) enquiry topics received in May:

  • Request to visit the church & information re memorials
  • C15 members of College
  • C17 members of New Inn Hall, later absorbed by Balliol
  • C19-20 pre-admission student orientation/training/preparation
  • Balliol heraldry
  • Balliol’s role in the early development of the WEA and Continuing Education in Oxford
  • Local and church history: St Lawrence Jewry, London
  • Balliol during and following WW1
  • JRR Tolkien material at Balliol
  • Biographical research on
    • diarist & writer John Evelyn (Balliol 1637)
    • physician and diplomat Sir John Finch (Balliol 1642)
    • scholar and educator John White (Balliol Hilary Term 1858)
    • college historian Frances de Paravicini, wife of Francis de Paravicini (Fellow of Balliol 1862)
    • AL Smith (Balliol 1869)
    • Shyamji Krishna Varma (also Krishnavarma, Balliol HT 1879)
    • politician, countryman, and author Edward Grey, Viscount Grey of Fallodon (Balliol 1880)
    • historian and Fellow of Balliol Francis Urquhart (Balliol 1890)
    • RW Fletcher (Balliol 1910)
    • WW1 poet Stephen Hewett (Balliol 1911)
    • writer Aldous Huxley (Balliol 1913)
    • solicitor JS Hickey (Balliol 1914)
    • barrister LM Caulfeild-Stoker (Balliol 1930)
    • first president of Botswana Sir Seretse Khama (Balliol 1945)

‘My dear Margaret’ – letters from Benjamin Jowett


Three letters from Benjamin Jowett to Margot Asquith

Balliol College wishes to thank Sir Adam Ridley (Balliol 1961) for the recent gift of three fascinating letters from Benjamin Jowett to Margot Tennant, later Asquith, from a family collection. They are now part of Balliol’s extensive Jowett archive.

Sir Adam writes of their provenance: ‘[The letters] come from a scrap book started by Margot in 1890, into which she stuck letters or other fragments and souvenirs from people of interest and distinction. These include Gladstone, Tennyson, Balfour, Milner, Harcourt, Lord Salisbury, Hicks Beach, Sir John Fisher, Woodrow Wilson…  After Margot’s death the scrapbook appears to have gone to her step-daughter, Lady Violet  Bonham-Carter (m Maurice Bonham-Carter, Balliol 1899); and thence to Lady Violet’s sons, Mark (Balliol 1940) and Raymond, in whose custody it remains.’

Only of the three carries a full date: 29 November 1892. Another is dated 8 October, and from internal evidence mentioning the recent death of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the Poet Laureate (6 October 1892), we can gather that it was also written in 1892. The other is undated, but from the subjects mentioned we may guess that it also dates from the autumn of 1892.

At this point Margot Tennant is 28, a brilliant (bordering on notorious) intellectual socialite at the centre of the ‘Souls’, and still a year and a half away from her eventual marriage to HH Asquith – a Balliol man from the early years of Jowett’s Mastership, and later the first Balliolensis to become Prime Minister. Benjamin Jowett, by contrast, is 75, at the end of an impressive academic and administrative career, in declining physical strength and intellectual power, and with just a year to live. However, he is still writing his own letters, and his interest in young people’s progress and the current issues of the day is as keen as ever. The contrast in their outlooks on life, and particularly his concern for her social and intellectual wellbeing, are marked in these letters, as in others published in her autobiography and his Life and Letters. Footnotes on all the people and events mentioned would occupy more space than the letters, but particularly noteworthy are Jowett’s remarks on the death and legacy of Tennyson, current politicians including Gladstone and Balfour, and political issues from Bimetallism to Fabianism, by way of disestablishmentarianism.

Sir Adam notes, ‘One interesting theme in Jowett’s letters is how keen he was to persuade her to write. Her diaries were remarkable, whether for their frankness, indiscretion, or shafts of insight expressed in uninhibited, mordant or witty language.’

How did these two very different people strike up such a long lasting, wide-ranging and evidently affectionate correspondence? Certainly Margot’s own social circle included many of Jowett’s former students, but according to her autobiography, she literally fell at his feet one day in 1887 or -8, when they were both visiting Gosford House in East Lothian, seat of the Earls of Wemyss and March. She writes, ‘When I met the Master in 1887, I was young and he was old; but, whether from insolence or insight,       >>>

I never felt this difference… Jowett was younger than half the young people I know now and we understood each other perfectly.’ In fact they must have met earlier, as the first of BJ’s letters to Margot published in Abbott & Campbell’s Life and Letters of Benjamin Jowett is dated August 1886. More research remains for future biographers…

– Anna Sander


An archivist’s note about transcriptions

Jowett’s letters are always an exercise in palaeography – although he has a highly characteristic ductus (the distinctive and easily recognisable ‘look’ of his handwriting), many particular letter forms and some recurring abbreviations, he is not entirely consistent and does sometimes simply fail to include letters, particularly at the ends of words.

When creating a word-for-word transcript, we first number the pages and lines of text per page. Writing the first draft of a transcript to fill such a form line by line should prevent missing out or repeating words or lines, will make it practical to skip difficult passages for now and concentrate on the ones that can be completed quickly, and will facilitate proof-reading and correction later. Sometimes when we ‘have our eye in’ we can easily read several lines at a time; but then there will be a word or two that seem entirely illegible. On a first pass, we may leave a blank with the right number of letters – or at least relative length. Often context will help, but not always. After exhausting context clues, we compare the form of each letter, or clusters of letters, to similar ones above and below. We may have to make a list of possibilities for each letter or cluster and try the combinations. Thanks to email and digital photography, the college archivists, all of whom work alone, can easily share the last difficult bits of a transcription to discuss with each other. This is immensely helpful to all of us and usually results in a solution. Have a look at the enlarged facsimiles provided and see how your reading compares, and what you can make of the remaining blanks!

Transcription conventions vary and should be adapted for consistency and clarity. If I see that Jowett has in fact written ‘vey diffent’ and there are simply no marks on the page representing the rest of the letters he doubtless would have used to spell ‘very different’, should I: 1) create a ‘diplomatic edition’ reproducing only the letters that actually appear, ‘vey diffent’; 2) indicate the missing letters in square brackets despite Jowett’s lack of abbreviation marks, ‘ve[r]y diff[er]ent’ ; or 3) exercise editorial control and silently correct to what was probably meant, ‘very different’? What the writer ‘meant to say’ is rarely so clear as in this example, and the transcriber’s solution will not be the same for all situations.

Letter A – 8 October 1892

p.1 line 1                       Ball. Coll.

  1. Oct 8 [1892]
  2. My dear Margaret
  3. I send back the first volume
  4. of Plato which has been delayed
  5. because I wanted to send with it
  6. a printed list of extracts for Plato
  7. for general readers. The list has
  8. not yet been completed + revised
  9. (though it is nothing only a few
  10. pages) – you shall have a copy
  11. when it comes from the printers. It is
  12. not published, but only an invitation
  13. to a few friends to have a taste
  14. of the good things which he provides.
  15. So we have lost Tennyson – and
  16. this age of literature closes in
  17. darkness. I was with him about a

p.2 line 1. fortnight ago. He was suffering a good

  1. deal from neuralgia, but we none of
  2. us supposed that the end was so near.
  3. He took leave of me very affectionately as
  4. ‘his old friend’: I have known him I
  5. think about 35 years and during that
  6. time must have visited him more
  7. than 50 times. I shall be delighted
  8. to talk to you about him when we
  9. meet. Read the ‘in memoriam’ again, +
  10. let us think sometimes of friends who
  11. are gone. Of whom we both of us have
  12. many who are near + dear to us.
  13. Are you struggling to write, and
  14. what progress do you make and what
  15. subject or subjects have you in mind?
  16. I would not advise you to attempt a
  17. big book at first, but rather try
  18. the strength of your wings in a series
  19. of tales like the scenes in Clerical life.
  20. You have never sent me the journal of
  21. which you have written. Do not lose

p.3 line 1. the opportunity of gathering together every scrap

  1. about Gladstone. It will be very interesting
  2. twenty years hence – The insights which reporters
  3. for newspapers are able to give is very different
  4. from that which an observing person who has
  5. seen a man nearer has of him.
  6. I am always pleased to hear from
  7. you if you have time to write to me +
  8. + to tell me your ideas about things. I
  9. have been hearing a good deal about the
  10. working man lately. He seems to be rather
  11. a terrible personage and a considerable
  12. political power. If he goes on at the rate
  13. which he has been doing during the last
  14. five years he will swallow us all up,
  15. or at least a considerable part of us:
  16. he will expand the union, disestablish
  17. the church, make the poor much richer
  18. than they are and the rich much poorer,
  19. alas! and will give every body a good
  20. deal of what properly belongs to others.
  21. Meanwhile it is not quite certain how far
  22. he will hold together, or whether the
  23. rich above him + the poor who are below
  24. him + for whom he does not greatly care

p.4 line 1. may not be too much for him. I am told

  1. that the most remarkable of the working men
  2. are Tom Man[n] John Barnes Ben Tillett
  3. (who has a voice that can speak to ten thousand
  4. men). There are also Hyndman who is a Stock
  5. broker and ?Champion formerly an officer in the
  6. guards. – these are the leaders – a little shilling
  7. book called Fabian Essays is worth reading
  8. as showing the ideas which are floating in
  9. the air – the politics of the future –
  10. and are at least as important as the ideas of
  11. Church Congresses.
  12. I am afraid that young ladies are
  13. getting rather naughty in these latter days.
  14. Did you read what Lady Frederick Cavendish
  15. said about them at the Church Congress?
  16. My secretary is waiting for me to
  17. begin + I must not detain him any
  18. longer. And so my dear Margaret
  19. thank you much for your kindness +
  20. affection to me. I remain
  21. Ever yours
  22. B. Jowett

Letter B – undated

p.1. line 1.                    Headington

  1. nr Oxford
  2. My dear Margaret
  3. It was very pleasant to
  4. me to get your note this
  5. morning at this place where I
  6. am staying about 2 miles from
  7. Oxford looking down upon its spires.
  8. Mr Abbott has lent me his
  9. house + I am here with Fletcher who
  10. you may remember, who is a very
  11. good companion + grows surprisingly
  12. in ability
  13. I am greatly touched by your
  14. affection for me. Nevertheless
  15. to use a phrase of Dr Johnson’s
  16. “I should become a very complete
  17. rascal”, if I believed all the kind

p.2 line 1. things which you say of me. But I

  1. quite agree that the two last Oxford
  2. parties were very pleasant, but that
  3. was due to the guests + to one of
  4. them in particular.
  5. I am glad that you keep friends
  6. with Mr Balfour. His friendship is
  7. a real honour, enough to turn any
  8. young lady’s head. I have always been
  9. of opinion that there may be friendship
  10. of a noble sort between men + women
  11. provided that, if possible, they are
  12. formed without consideration of marriage
  13. + there is no weakness or self indulgence
  14. in them; + that they are such that
  15. the world (for we must take some
  16. cognizance of the world) respects them.
  17. It requires a strong head + a great
  18. deal of self-control to carry them
  19. out. But I am not certain whether
  20. these exceptional qualities are to be
  21. found in youth.

p.3 line 1. Now about writing: I shall be delighted

  1. to help you, if you think that I
  2. can. I should like [you] to keep some record
  3. of what such men as Mr Balfour
  4. or Mr Gladstone or Lord Rosebery
  5. say – (not of course to be seen by any
  6. one but yourself.) To do this you
  7. must get to understand the politics
  8. of the day – Greville’s Memoirs are
  9. a good model for this, because
  10. he gives the gradual growth of his
  11. judgment from day to day, which he
  12. often alters as he knows more of persons.
  13. The Court is worth studying too as
  14. well as Politics if there is the
  15. opportunity of doing so. In England
  16. it is very powerful and hardly at all
  17. shorn of its greatness. Then as
  18. to writing stories I should read over
  19. Scenes in Clerical life, + some of
  20. Mrs Gaskell’s stories like Cranford +
  21. read also the Vicar of Wakefield
  22. + Miss Austen + see whether it is
  23. anything of this sort which you

p.4 line 1. are disposed to write; if possible ‘tap’ a

  1. new subject + tell people what they
  2.           all know but have never seen in a
  3. book: your tales should be unlike
  4. a French Novel or an American
  5. novel for different reasons. Read
  6. ‘with avidity’ all the best biographers
  7. which you can lay hold of – there
  8. is no better preparation for writing
  9. fiction – and write a book which will
  10. do some good in this sceptical +
  11. sensual age which will restore men
  12. to their better selves + give them
  13. confidence in goodness + respect for truth
  14. of all kinds – But I only wish to suggest
  15. possibilities to you + not to set[17]you a task.
  16. Will you send me + allow me to read
  17. some part of your Diary from time to time
  18. You have never explained to me the
  19. meaning of ‘Souls’- A lady tells me that they
  20. are a religious order of which you are the
  21. foundress. But I suppose that this is a free
  22. –mason’s secret. They are said to be the
  23. descendants of ‘Montagu’. I remain
  24. My dear Margaret
  25. Ever yours affectionately B Jowett

Letter C – 29 November 1892

p.1 line 1.            Balliol College

  1. Nov 29, 1892
  2. My dear Margaret,
  3. It gives me great
  4. pleasure to hear that the Bazaar
  5. has be[e]n such a success. I
  6. suppose that you cheated a good deal
  7. but then
  8. the pleasure ____ is quite as great
  9. of being cheated as to cheat.
  10. and then as famous authors tell us
  11. the end always justifies the means
  12. – I shall value your portrait
  13. I intend to hang it up in the small
  14. gallery of distinguished friends. I like
  15. Mrs Grenfell very much, but I do
  16. not believe that she is better than
  17. you, and I have not known her
  18. half as long : ( We are quite old

p.2  line 1. friends by this time; and I always wonder

  1. that you don’t get tired of me. You
  2. who are a bright young lady of fashion
  3. and I who am going the way down-
  4. –ward in life and am not far from
  5. the end.
  6. You are right in saying that I
  7. like you best when you are serious. I
  8. doubt whether you have yet quite discovered
  9. the way of mixing life in its true
  10. proportions. Do you sometimes feel yourself
  11. fired with the desire of living for others
  12. _ ____ far above fashion + splendor
  13. + great houses. Let us give to God
  14. our youth if possible – If I were the
  15. confessor of any one I would say to them
  16. Do all the good you can among the rich
  17. first, and afterwards among the poor; use
  18. all the faculties of your mind + all your
  19. experience of the world in the effort; I

[p.1 crossed lines – end of letter]

  1. Will you send me anything that you can possibly scrape together in
  2. recollection about Lord Tennyson? Hallam has asked me to send him
  3. something. (Private). Ever yours affectionately
  4. B Jowett

p.3 line 1. do ___ ?be found out.

  1. I know Dr Caird + his wife a
  2. little + his brother Edward Caird the
  3. Professor very well – The latter is one of
  4. my oldest friends + pupils – They are
  5. excellent men + have greater influence in
  6. Scotland than perhaps any two other men.
  7. Dr Caird is an admirable preacher –
  8. but I suspect that he has a little impaired
  9. his preaching of philosophy for which he is
  10. not equally suited
  11. You asked whether I thought that
  12. the Church should be disestablished. I
  13. rather find myself going in that direction.
  14. But disestablishment ought to be accompanied
  15. by disendowment, with a _____ clause for
  16. vested interests. It is a very difficult subject
  17. + the change except in Wales + perhaps
  18. in Scotland is not likely to be carried
  19. out in the next twenty years. The
  20. English Church has so little regard for

[crossed lines]

  1. Do you ever read Plato: I send you two copies
  2. of a list of passages for general readers. Put them
  3. into your copy.

p.4 line 1. truth – that is my quarrel with it, ____

  1. it has also so much to do with preferment
  2. ‘getting on’ that it is ?more unlike perhaps
  3.        the ^ ____ ____ religious body to the ideal society
  1. on the other hand I am sensible of the
  2. desirableness of having a gentleman in
  3. every parish: that has a great deal to do
  4. with the well being of English society
  5. and yet the ‘gentleman’ not having a wife
  6. + family is too apt to turn into a mere
  7. priest
  8. I am afraid that our friend Mr Balfour
  9. is getting rather into a scrape about
  10. Bimetallism. Do you take any interest in that
  11. question? Ask Sir C Tennant about it.
  12. Gladstone calls it rubbish – To me it
  13. appears to be chiefly a scheme for making
  14. ‘money cheap’ a thing which I abhor –
  15. I observed that in his speech Mr Balfour
  16. said nothing about the original proportion which
  17. gold + silver were to bear to each other at
  18. the first start off – that appears to be
  19. the most important point of all.

[see crossed lines at end of p.1 for end of letter]

Transcript of a letter from Margot Tennant to Benjamin Jowett, also produced for the exhibition. In this case the transcription is written out in ordinary lines without numbers, to make it more natural to read; however, the page divisions are reflected by paragraph sections.

Balliol College, Jowett Papers IIC.1.11

The Glen, Innerleithen, NB

Oc. 26. [18]91

Dearest Mr Jowett

It is too nice of you to bother to write to me when you must have such a lot of things to do + think about + when you are so gravely ill.

I am glad you do not think me frivolous. I do not ask any one to know how much I try to be good + intelligent to fill my life with energy + interests. I shall never never

forget all you have done for me. I am always writing either in books or people + altho’ I do not jump into print I daresay in time I may. You won’t forget to give me your Plato will you. Do not think me selfish

+ write please my name or yours or something in it. Any of your books or sermons I should value beyond all words just to have by my bedside + always to feel you leave some touch of your self and your work near to help me.

Ever your own true loving Margot


Unlocking Archives TT17

Wednesday 24 May (5th), 1-2pm at St Cross: Nikki Tomkins, OCC conservator, will give an illustrated talk in the Unlocking Archives series about her work for Balliol this past year, repairing early printed books as part of the Reconstructing Nicholas Crouch cataloguing and conservation project. A preview is available via her blog posts:

More about the Wellcome Trust – funded Crouch project:

All welcome! These talks are open to the public. Feel free to bring your lunch. There will be time for questions and discussion after the talk, and an opportunity to take a closer look at some of the Balliol special collections material discussed.

Unlocking Archives, now in its 5th year, is an interdisciplinary graduate seminar series of illustrated lunchtime talks about current research in Balliol College’s historic collections: archives, manuscripts and early printed books, and the connections between them.

Talks take place at 1pm in Balliol’s Historic Collections Centre in St Cross Church, Holywell. St Cross is next door to Holywell Manor and across the road from the English & Law faculties on Manor Road; see ‘Finding Us’.

Questions? anna.sander [at] balliol.ox.ac.uk.