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Jowett Papers - Introduction

Biographical outline of the Life of Benjamin Jowett

1817 Born 15 April at Camberwell, son of Benjamin and Isabella Jowett

1829-35 attended St. Paul's School, London.

1835 elected a Scholar of Balliol.

1836-8 an undergraduate at Balliol.

1838 elected a Fellow of Balliol while still an undergraduate.

1842 appointed a Balliol Tutor.

1854 On the death of Richard Jenkyns, BJ was considered a possible successor as Master, but in the end lost to the conservative Robert Scott. Angered by the result, BJ withdrew from college public life for several years, refusing to attend the Senior Common Room, or sit at High Table.

1855 BJ published a commentary on St. Paul's Epistles to the Thessalonians, Galatians and Romans. His unorthodox views, especially on the Atonement, created much controversy. He was also appointed Regius Professor of Greek. Christ Church persistently refused to increase his salary because of his beliefs. For the next ten years a campaign was waged over BJ's salary, until at last Christ Church gave way in 1864.

1859 Death of BJ's father.

1860 BJ contributed an essay 'On the Interpretation of Scripture' to Essays and Reviews, a collection of work by leading liberal clergymen. The book, and BJ's contribution in particular, received ferocious criticism from conservative churchmen for what they considered its heresy. In this year, he made his first contact with Florence Nightingale, although they did not meet until 1862.

1866 The election of a new Fellow to Balliol gave BJ a majority of supporters there over Scott.

1869 BJ met W.E. Gladstone (then Prime Minister) at the house of one of his ex-pupils, the Earl of Camperdown. Gladstone decided to offer BJ preferment. Death of BJ's mother.

1870 Learning that BJ did not want to leave Balliol, Gladstone instead persuaded Robert Scott to accept the Deanery of Rochester, and BJ was unanimously elected Master of Balliol in his stead.

1871 BJ published his translation (with introductory essays) of the complete works of Plato.

1875 A revised edition of Plato published

1877 A new Hall was completed at Balliol. BJ had played a crucial role in raising funds for its construction.

1881 BJ published his translation (with notes) of Thucydides. An accompanying series of essays was planned, but never finished.

1882 Death of Ellen Jowett, BJ's last surviving sibling.

1882-6 BJ was Vice-Chancellor of the University.

1885 BJ published his translation (with notes) of Aristotle's Politics. An accompanying series of essays was planned, but never finished.

1889-90 BJ raises money to begin the purchase of the Master's Field at Holywell. Although the field was acquired piecemeal, enough had been bought by 1891 to hold the first cricket match there.

1891 BJ fell seriously ill in the autumn of this year. Although he recovered, he remained in delicate health for the remainder of his life.

1892 A third, and heavily revised, edition of BJ's translation of Plato was published.

1893 BJ died on 1 October at Headley Park, Hants. (Sir Robert Wright's home). He was buried on 6 October in St. Sepulchre's Cemetery, Oxford, just to the right of the main entrance, and near T.H. Green. Later, John Farmer and Edward Caird were both buried near him. Balliol was the main beneficiary of his will.

[back to Contents and Catalogue of Jowett Papers]

- Robin Darwall-Smith, 1993


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