Item 496 - William Whewell collection of passports and printed ephemera from Continental trips, with other printed material

Identity area

Reference code

Add. MS a/496

Title

William Whewell collection of passports and printed ephemera from Continental trips, with other printed material

Date(s)

  • 1820-1839 (Creation)

Level of description

Item

Extent and medium

1 vol.

Context area

Name of creator

(1794-1866)

Biographical history

William Whewell was born in Lancaster on 24 May 1794, son of John Whewell, master carpenter. Whewell's talents were spotted by Joseph Rowley, Master of Lancaster Grammar School, who offered to teach him for free. When John Hudson, a Fellow of Trinity College, prophesied that Whewell would be among the top six Wranglers at Cambridge, Whewell moved to Heversham School, which offered an exhibition to Trinity.

Whewell came up to Trinity in 1812 and graduated Second Wrangler in 1817. In the same year he was elected to a Fellowship and the following year was appointed Assistant Tutor, becoming Tutor in 1823.

Whewell was famously a polymath. He wrote on subjects as diverse as mechanics and church architecture, English hexameter and the plurality of worlds. In 1828 he was elected to the Chair of Mineralogy, which prompted an immediate essay on mineralogical classification and experiments in a Cornish mine with George Biddell Airy in an attempt to determine the density of the Earth. However, he resigned the Chair in 1832. In June 1838 he was elected to the Knightbridge Chair of Moral Philosophy, which he held until 1855.

Between 1833 and 1850 he published a number of papers on tides. In 1837 he published his History of the Inductive Sciences and in 1840 the sequel The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences. In the former year he also published his On the Principles of an English University Education which he was to expand into Of a Liberal Education in General, with particular reference to the leading studies of the University of Cambridge, publishing the first volume (of three) in 1845.

Once he had resigned his tutorship in 1839, Whewell began to tire of college life and considered taking a parish. He married Cordelia Marshall, daughter of the wealthy Leeds flax merchant John Marshall, and Jane his wife, a school friend of Dorothy Wordsworth's. Their marriage took place on October 12, 1841, and on the same day Trinity's Master Christopher Wordsworth announced his intention to retire, safe in the knowledge that the new prime minister Sir Robert Peel would not propose a Whig to replace him. Whewell took formal possession of the Master's Lodge on 16 November.

For much of his tenure as Master, University reform was in the air. In 1844 the College statutes were revised. In 1850 the Royal Commissions on Oxford and Cambridge Universities began their investigations. A reformer in his youth, Whewell was a reactionary as Master and sternly defended the autonomy of the colleges and the type of liberal education he espoused in his 1845 book.

Whewell served as the university's Vice-Chancellor twice: in 1842-43 and 1855-56. Cordelia Whewell died on December 18, 1855. Whewell married Frances Everina Affleck, the widow of Sir Gilbert Affleck on 1 July 1858. Lady Affleck, a name she continued to use after her remarriage, died 1 April 1865. Neither marriage had produced children. On 24 February 1866, Whewell fell from a horse while riding near Cambridge, and died of his injuries on 6 March.

Towards the end of his life, Whewell set about endowing his college and the university. Two courts were built opposite the Great Gate of Trinity with monies provided by Whewell, although only one was completed during his lifetime. He also endowed six university scholarships and a chair of International Law, the latter with the express intention of making war less likely.

Archival history

Originally shelved with printed books in the library and reassigned to Add.MS.a in 2005.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Bequest of William Whewell, 1866.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

A bound volume with 44 items tipped in, many of them collected during trips to the Continent and an 1825 visit to Vienna in particular. Eight passports for Whewell are dated 1820-1839, and are accompanied by playbills, handbills, museum and gallery catalogues, coach tickets, price lists, pamphlets, advertisements, offprints, clippings, and a MS poem apparently written on the publication of Whewell's book on inductive sciences. Playbills, handbills and pamphlets from Vienna in late summer/early autumn 1825 include those for Kotzebue's "Das Epigramm", Friedrich Kind's "Der Freischütz", Adolph Bäuerle's "Fausts Mantel", a firework spectacular by Paul Chiarini, an exhibition of paintings by Johann Peter Krafft and a museum catalogue to the Schloss Ambras collection [by curator Alois Primisser], with an appendix describing ethnographic collections gathered in the South Sea islands and Greenland.

The other printed material dates from roughly the same time period and includes the lithograph plates and key from the Descriptive Catalogue sold at the exhibition of Sir George Hayter's painting "The Trial of Queen Caroline", an account of a dinner in honour of Sir John Malcolm, and a lithograph of a University of Virginia examination in Plane Trigonometry in Dec. 1826, a handbill printed in Cambridge advertising Spence's Invention of a Perpetual Motion machine, and a list of "Soirées françaises par souscription" in London in June 1825.

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Language of material

  • English
  • French
  • German

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Related units of description

Forms part of the papers of William Whewell, housed under a variety of numbers in Additional Manuscripts a and c and Wren classes O and R. The collection is described briefly with all component parts listed in the collection level record linked below.

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