Item 51 - Letter from Henry Sidgwick to his sister Mary "Minnie" Benson

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Add. MS c/100/51

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Letter from Henry Sidgwick to his sister Mary "Minnie" Benson

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  • 29 Nov [1879] (Creation)

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[Sent from Terling Place]:- Announces that he and Nora are not going to Rome as they had planned, partly due to his academic work, and partly due to the fact that he has 'been drawn more and more into some [local] quasi-philanthropic work at Cambridge' which involves the reconstructing of the old Mendicity Society on the principles of the London Charity Organisation Society, and which requires his presence there at Christmas time. Discusses the difficulties of the task; in his view, the 'people who ought to be helped 'are 'so often just trembling morally on the verge of helpless pauperism', and it is hard to say whether help 'will cheer and stimulate a man to help himself, or 'push him gently into the passive condition of letting society take him in hand and do what it will with him'.

Discusses Rayleigh's possible transfer to Cambridge, and refers to all the mathematical professors having signed a memorial to urge him to come and succeed Maxwell as Professor of Experimental Physics. Remarks that it is unusual to give up leisure and the comforts of a country house 'unless one is quite sure that one's duty to society requires it.' Asks her for her opinion of Ada [Benson, engaged to be married], and asks her to send him Ada's address. States that they were 'very much delighted to hear of it' and that [Henry Weston?] Eve has told them 'good things of him [Andrew McDowall, Ada's fiancé].' Reports that they have seen Arthur, but not William, who is not very well. Sends his and Nora's love to Edward and the children, and asks how much came from the 'Personal Appeal' after all.

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Part transcription in Sidgwick, Arthur, and Sidgwick, E. M, 'Henry Sidgwick'. London: Macmillan, 1906, p 341-342

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