Item 114 - Copy letter from Henry Sidgwick to Baron Friedrich von Hügel.

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Add. MS c/101/114


Copy letter from Henry Sidgwick to Baron Friedrich von Hügel.


  • 8 Aug 1891 (Creation)

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Henry Sidgwick was born in Skipton, Yorkshire in 1838, the son of the Revd William Sidgwick, headmaster of Skipton Grammar School, and Mary Crofts. He attended Rugby School, where his cousin, the future Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward White Benson was a master. Thence he entered Trinity in 1855 where he was elected to a scholarship in 1855. He gained University honours by becoming Bell Scholar in 1856 and Craven Scholar in 1857. In 1859 he was 33rd Wrangler, Senior Classic and 1st Chancellor's Medallist. He became a Fellow of Trinity in that year also.

Although Sidgwick gained a University lectureship in classics, his thoughts began to turn to philosophy, perhaps influenced by his membership of the Grote Club. At the same time he also threw himself into the cause of University and College reform, forming a powerful alliance with Henry Jackson. In the few years after the death of Whewell in 1866, the party of reform were able to achieve a number of their goals, but the religious tests on Fellowships of Trinity still remained, and Sidgwick felt duty-bound to resign his Fellowship in 1869 on grounds of conscience.

In the same year Sidgwick exchanged his lectureship in Classics for one in Moral Sciences and strove to help develop a school of philosophy in Cambridge. In 1875, Trinity appointed him Praelector in Moral and Political Philosophy and in 1885 he was elected Knightbridge Professor of Moral Philosophy and re-elected to his Trinity Fellowship. He held the chair until 1900.

Sidgwick was a strong supporter of the education of women and served at times both on the governing bodies of Newnham and Girton; his wife Eleanor (née Balfour), whom he married in 1876, was Vice-President of Newnham. He died in 1900.

Sidgwick's major publications were Methods of Ethics (1874), Principles of Political Economy (1883), and Elements of Politics (1891)

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Refers to a letter from von Hügel some months previously on the subject of Sidgwick's' 'little book on the History of Ethics'. Explains that he did not reply because he miscalculated the time it would take him to finish his book on politics on which he was at that time working, and reports that he has only just sent it to the publisher. Explains that he is about to leave for a holiday in Switzerland, and assures von Hügel that his letter has not been discarded. States that the two points which von Hügel chiefly criticised in the book 'were both of much interest'; one of them being the contrast Sidgwick drew 'between Christian and pre-Christian civilisation in respect of religious persecution.' Assures him that he had no intention of making any charge against Christianity, and refers to Plato's advocacy of such persecution, as well as to the persecutions of the Roman Empire, and to Tacitus' thoughts on the subject. The other point to which von Hügel had referred was in relation to 'the vagaries of Luther and Calvin in sexual matters'. Admits that he ought to have said something about this, and explains that he did not mention it because he felt that he should 'maintain a severe reserve [on] the whole subject of sexual morality.' Claims that the relation of Christianity to this area of human life is a matter of extreme interest to him, and intends to add 'at least a few sentences' on the matter whenever another edition of his book is called for. Refers to another minor criticism, which von Hügel made in relation to the content of the book

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