Item 1 - Letter from William Whewell

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Letter from William Whewell


  • 25-26 Mar. 1816 [i.e. 1817] (Creation)

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4 pp.

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Cambridge University 'is a vile university and the vice chancellor is a damned vice chancellor. - But if possible I will waste no more time in exclamations and give you the facts - scene - Union debating Room - Time - six o'clock. - Knock at door - silence - enter the red round idiot head & turkey cock breast of Okes [William Okes] - Hon. gentlemen stare - enter the inflexibly meek countenance & proctorial smile of French [William French] - stare wider - Okes running himself against the table & addressing the president. "Vice Chancellor sent us to say he don't like these societies - all to go home". French "The Vice Chancellor desires you to disperse & to meet no more". - Pres. requests the messengers to withdraw that soc. may consider of it - "No - not a subject for your consideration - you must oblige" - so the vice chancellor dislikes these societies - but suppose we reject political subjects - will he let us discuss literary ones - "Can't say - no authority - but V.C. is in the house we will mention"[.] [Says] again "no societies at all to be allowed - all to disperse". But we must finish this meeting - we have financial matters - V.C. is here - you will let us send a deputation to him - Whewell - Thirlwall [Connop Thirlwall] - Sheridan [Charles B. Sheridan] - ushered into a room - V.C. in full silks - head white[,] face red & ugly. - Jackson in the background - Red nose of [Hornbuckle?] sticking across the room - and o sorrow & shame! Monk [James H. Monk] - (Why the devil - fool as he was - did he not let it be a Johnian business as it deserved to be) - "We are told you have an objection to our debates - want to know how far it goes - literary subjects?" "No sir - they are against the statutes - all meetings at regular times for the purpose of debate are - hum - haw - hum irregular - and you have only three years - you have other things to do - you take too much upon you - your knowledge[,] your reading[,] your minds are not proper food..." "I am afraid we are not to be allowed to consider the reasons - we must submit to the authority" A move at the word authority "But the case must have been exaggerated - two or three hours a week" "Sir I have had a letter from a person who once belonged to the society and who says that his prospects have been ruined & that the prospects of several of his friends have been ruined by the time and attention he has bestowed on the Society." "Very unfortunate - but it is impossible this can be common." "Sir it is against the statutes - you must disperse." But we may retain our reading room - and continue our present debate - granted. - Long debate - all manner of motions - Remonstrances proposed. - Committee - Whewell - Thirlwall - Sheridan - Lawson - Lodge - My Lord Chief Justice a fool as usual and apparently somewhat frightened. - Committee met today. Now what think you of this? - It is not yet decided what is to be done but of course there must somehow or other, a great noise be made. Do you not think it would do good to write to Clarke & inflame him about it. - And to write to some of the newspapers - it has been proposed to petition the chancellor - write immediately and tell me what you think. - I have done nothing for Lacroix [Silvestre F. Lacroix] yet but we will talk of that another time'.

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