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Jowett Papers - Introduction

[back to Contents and Catalogue of Jowett Papers]

This Full Catalogue of the Jowett Papers at Balliol provides complete contents lists of all notebooks, summaries of all letters to, from and about BJ, and details of all other documents in the Jowett Papers. Its size means that users of the Jowett Papers may find it more convenient to use this in conjunction with the short catalogue, using the latter to browse, and the former to make detailed searches of particular areas.

This Introduction explains in more detail certain features of both the Papers and the catalogue not immediately apparent from the catalogue proper. It will discuss:

I - The History of the Jowett Papers

The Jowett papers did not reach Balliol as a coherent group, but rather different parts arrived at different times. The present arrangement of the papers reflects this fact, and therefore this section will distinguish the four main groups of the collection, and their different stories.

Group I is in fact derived from two smaller groups, namely documents in BJ's possession on his death (henceforth called BJ's own papers), and material collected by Evelyn Abbott and Lewis Campbell for their biography of BJ (called the Abbott and Campbell papers). Circumstances make it impossible to separate them (see below), but they should be distinguished here.

BJ's own papers consist largely of notebooks, and loose leaves of notes. The notebooks had several purposes: notes for BJ's lectures and his sermons, or miscellaneous private jottings. Several notebooks were used for a translation of Hegel. There is also working material for his commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul and his unfinished essays on Aristotle's Politics (more will be said about these notebooks in Section II). The notes on loose leaves similarly contain lecture notes, notes for sermons, private jottings, working material for St. Paul and Aristotle, and so on.

Some of BJ's own papers are less easily classified. BJ kept certain documents of personal significance, such as his ordination papers, or the letter patent from Queen Victoria appointing him Regius Professor, in a special box. He also had a somewhat sentimental interest in keeping material related to his family.

Originally BJ's own papers included letters sent to him, but almost all of these have been destroyed. His housekeeper Martha Knight said (I E20/13) that he had instructed her to destroy these after his death, and this she did. There is also evidence that BJ himself destroyed some: Margot Asquith's Autobiography (Chapter VII) records BJ as saying that he had burnt almost all his correspondence. Over 600 letters addressed to BJ have somehow survived, but they can only represent a tiny fraction of those he received.

Two groups of letters escaped this destruction, namely BJ's letters from A.P. Stanley and Sir Robert Morier (now stored at Balliol in MS410 and the Morier Papers respectively). They survived for different reasons: BJ gave Stanley's letters to Stanley's first biographer R.E. Prothero, whereas he made an agreement with Morier that they would return each other's letters after their deaths. The preservation of these letters is particularly fortunate, because Stanley and Morier were two of BJ's most intimate friends.

The Abbott and Campbell papers were collected during the writing of the official biography of BJ, mostly in 1894-6. They contain: (i) letters from Campbell to Abbott discussing the Life, (ii) letters written to both men from people who knew BJ, often containing reminiscences of him, (iii) MS copies (occasionally originals) of letters from BJ, (iv) records, usually preserved in notebooks, of interviews with friends of BJ and (v) drafts of the biography itself. The letter copies often omitted unfavourable comments about living people and material which was considered too personal or uninteresting. There are, occasionally, several copies of the same letter, of which one copy is less censored than the others.

Sometimes, as with BJ's letters to Florence Nightingale, the original letters are in Balliol itself, and in other cases, they are in known locations. Often, however, the present whereabouts of letters is unknown. Some originals may therefore be lost; for example, when E.V. Quinn, then Librarian of Balliol, wrote to the then Marquess of Lansdowne in 1967 asking about BJ's letters to the 5th Marquess, the Marquess's estate manager reported that they could not be found.

Although BJ's own papers and the Abbott and Campbell papers have different provenances, they cannot now be listed separately. After the biography, and a supplementary volume of letters, were published, Evelyn Abbott seems to have collected all the material he had used (from both groups) [1] , placed it in several metal boxes and left them in the Balliol Library. These boxes form the basis of classes A-F. Abbott tried to rationalise the contents of each box: Box A contained material on theology, whereas Box B contained material on Greek philosophy, and Box F copies of letters from BJ and drafts of the biography. In sorting this material, however, Abbott (not unreasonably) had no interest in separating BJ's own papers from those which he and Campbell had collected.

These papers remained more or less undisturbed for almost forty years. Some new material joined the collection, such as BJ's letters to Florence Nightingale (added in 1913), but that was all. The next important period in their history came in the 1930s, when Geoffrey Faber planned to write a new biography of BJ, which was eventually published in 1957. His correspondence with Balliol (now preserved as Jowett Papers IV A7) shows that in the late 1930s he borrowed the metal boxes, which were now eight in number, and held on to them, either at All Souls College, or at his house in Sussex, until 1953. On returning them to Balliol (where they have remained ever since), he provided brief checklists of the boxes (now also preserved at IV A7), and on pp.440-1 of the published biography he provided a list of the boxes with summaries of their contents.

How greatly did Faber rearrange the contents of the boxes, and were any papers lost during their travels? In two cases, he himself admitted to moving documents from their original place: he retained Campbell's 'M.E.' notebook (now II J3), and another small notebook (now I E3) after he gave the boxes back, returning these only later, and he selected from Campbell's letters to Abbott those which he considered interesting and put them in Box E. It seems likely that he moved nothing else, and it is impossible to know for sure whether he lost anything.

Faber was the first person to make public the contents of Group I of the Jowett Papers, albeit cursorily. His lists created a primitive reference system, so that later scholars could allude to an item being in, say, 'Jowett Papers Box D'. This presented a problem during the creation of the present catalogue: although most of the divisions between boxes were logical, there were anomalies, and material from BJ's own papers and the Abbott and Campbell papers were so jumbled as to make complete separation impossible. Some reorganisation would be desirable, but the currency of the old references has made this impossible. My solution is explained in Section III.

Whereas Group I of the Jowett Papers was all assembled at once, probably by Evelyn Abbott, Group II of the Papers took longer to collect [2] . This group contains material connected with BJ which has been found in Balliol during this century. It came from various places throughout the college, but the richest source was the Basement to Staircase III of the Front Quad. Early this century, documents in the college which were no longer in current use went to the Bursary. After some items had been picked out, the residue went to this basement, where it was forgotten. From the late 1950s, E.V. Quinn frequently visited this basement and salvaged material, which he preserved in the Library. One of the earliest items to be recovered from somewhere in the College must have been BJ's letters to his family (II A7), because on p.440 of his biography Faber says that they 'have been recently discovered at Balliol'. John Jones eventually oversaw the complete emptying of the cellar's contents. The material recovered was very diverse, but a significant amount was linked with BJ, and this was attached to the Jowett Papers. There is also the anomalous case of the 'M.E.' notebook, which originally belonged to Group I, but became displaced (see above).

The items in Group II were thus assembled at different times. In 1979 Dr. J.H. Jones examined this collection of Jowett material in the Library as it stood, much of it in very poor condition after its life in a cellar. Much of the material was unsorted, although Quinn had ordered most of the letters. Apart from transferring some items to more suitable containers, Dr. Jones also provided a brief checklist of the contents, giving them the title 'Additional Jowett Papers', but otherwise they were left as they stood until the present catalogue was written.

The contents of Group II are similar to those of Group I: several of BJ's own papers, including letters (Group II contains the majority of extant letters to BJ), notebooks, and leaves of notes, and more material from the Abbott and Campbell papers, such as letters from Campbell to Abbott and reminiscences of BJ. There is also material connected with BJ's funeral. However, the history of most of Group II is impossible to trace. Sometimes, it is noted where and when a bundle was found (e.g. that it was taken from the Basement to Staircase III in 1962), but its earlier history is unrecoverable: in the case of Basement material, it is not known where the Bursary had found it, and with what other material it had been left in the cellar. It was therefore decided to turn 'Additional Jowett Papers 1-11' into classes A-K of Group II, to prevent even more confusion. Each class probably does represent a body of papers which stayed together throughout their lives, but their original home, and their relationship with the other classes, are impossible to rediscover.

Group III consists of large bodies of letters from BJ to some of his closest friends, namely Lewis Campbell, Sir Robert Morier, Florence Nightingale and Arthur Stanley. These are listed separately because of their special nature.

Group IV is the least homogeneous one, consisting of material connected with BJ which has been given to or bought by Balliol at various times since his death. This consists mostly, but not exclusively, of letters from BJ, both originals, and photocopies and transcripts of documents in other collections. Most of this group came to Balliol after c.1960, as a result of the initiative of E.V. Quinn and John Prest, who began a search for Jowett material preserved elsewhere. The immediate provenance of most of these items is well documented, and is summarised at relevant points in the catalogue. All future accruals to the Jowett Papers should be assigned here.

Certain parts of the Abbott and Campbell papers do resemble Group IV, in that here too there are originals and copies of letters. However, the items in Group IV were all added after A & C was completed, and therefore their history is very different.

Although the Jowett Papers preserve the most extensive collection of Jowett material anywhere, much of it is still stored elsewhere. It is, however, impractical to list everything connected with BJ now preserved in public institutions throughout Britain. Instead, an appendix only lists Jowettiana in other collections in Balliol itself.

[1] This is probably why only Campbell's letters to Abbott, and almost none of Campbell's draft chapters survive. Campbell did, however, hand over primary material which he had used.

[2] I am grateful to Dr. J.H. Jones for discussing the history of these papers with me.

[back to Contents and Catalogue of Jowett Papers]

- Robin Darwall-Smith, 1993


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