Item 43 - Copy of part of letter from Henry Sidgwick to Roche Dakyns

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Copy of part of letter from Henry Sidgwick to Roche Dakyns


  • 5 Aug [ ] (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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MS copy of 'part of letter' in Nora Sidgwick's hand. States that he wishes he could see the election contest well that year. Declares that it is 'in every way the most interesting crisis there has been for some time'. Believes that if the Liberals come in the following year 'they will not only settle the Irish Church but dispose of education without particular regard for the ecclesiastical obstacles that are generally in the way.' In relation to the English Church establishment is that 'it is only a question of time'. Believes that if the Liberals win the election it will be the I[rish] C[hurch] which will go first, 'then the Scotch, then, in a few years the English.' Declares that if the Conservatives win 'the United Church of Great Britain at [ ] will go at the [ ] reaction.' With regard to the somewhat melancholy way' in which Dakyns speaks of his [places], refers to the relative unimportance of each individual in the scheme of the universe, and declares that 'the only thing to do is to f[ ] some p[lace] in the interest of the human race, calculated on the ordinary chances of human life, and carry it not for one's own good and comfort....'

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