Papers of Thomas (Tom) Arnold (1823 - 1900)
Born in 1823, Tom was the second and favourite son of Dr. Arnold of Rugby, and like his father and his elder brother Matthew, the interwoven strands of religious, educational and academic interests dominated his life.
The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence with family, friends and colleagues, reflecting both public and private concerns. The Arnolds were great letter writers and Tom's absences from his family, firstly in New Zealand and later due to the demands of his work, necessitated the regular exchange of correspondence, with Julia on an almost daily basis. His mother was his great confidant throughout her life and Tom remained close to his unmarried sister Fan until his death in 1900. However, the correspondence with his wife is the most substantial sequence; it spans the whole of their married life and attests to Julia's bitterness about Tom's conversion to Catholicism and to their stormy and frequently acrimonious relationship. Tom was in contact with many of the leading Catholics of his day - the collection includes letters from Newman, whose teaching was responsible for Tom's conversion and who did much to further his career, although their friendship was strained at times -, but the biographical material does confirm the practical difficulties, financial and social, of which Julia complains with such bitterness in her letters.
Tom's academic career had got off to a promising start with a First at Oxford, but, like his father, religious doubts prevented him taking up a fellowship. Through the letters we can trace his educational career in New Zealand, but it was not until his return to England and to work at Newman's Catholic foundations in Birmingham and in Dublin that he was able to research specialist subjects and the flow of literary manuscripts begins. Until his death, Tom researched and published in the field of English Literature, establishing himself in particular as an expert on early English, and this pre-eminence was recognised in his appointment as the first Professor of English Literature in Dublin.
The material came into the keeping of Balliol in 1982 through the generosity of Francis Arnold, a grandson of TA, and his daughter Mrs. Janet Davies. The correspondence had already been very roughly sorted by correspondent and chronology, a process apparently begun by TA himself; this arrangement was continued by the Librarian of the time, Mr. Vincent Quinn, who did preliminary work on the papers, and has been maintained and amplified in the following catalogue.
Sources & further reading
Bergonzi, B. (2000), Newman and a Catholic Arnold. New Blackfriars, 81: 464–484. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-2005.2000.tb06461.x
Trevor, M., The Arnolds: Thomas Arnold and his Family ( London, 1973).
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