Magdalene College Cambridge in Mid-Victorian Times

This discussion of nineteenth-century Magdalene grew out of my interest in the education of Charles Stewart Parnell, who entered the College in 1865 and was rusticated (briefly expelled, but he never returned) in 1869. Originally posted here in 2015, the text was re-spaced in May 2020, with additional material at Endnotes 131 and 181.

Prologue: Parnell's College

I: A Transpontine Refuge for Fallen Undergraduates?

II: Magdalene College, October 1865

III: The Magdalene Irish

IV: Endnotes

Prologue: Parnell's College

This exploration of Magdalene College Cambridge in the eighteen-sixties forms part of the background to a continuing study of the early life of Charles Stewart Parnell, who was "rusticated" (temporarily expelled) from the University in May 1869 after becoming involved in a fight outside the railway station. Its starting point is my own article on the subject, in Irish Historical Studies, published so long ago (in 1974) that I feel I can legitimately (and, I hope, objectively) treat it as a document in its own right.[1] The picture assembled from available evidence at that time requires modification in three major respects. First, Parnell went to Cambridge under a major financial handicap, caused by having inherited the family property at Avondale in County Wicklow at a time when its relatively limited rental income was severely encumbered with mortgages. The financial situation was made worse by the unimaginative financial grip of the Court of Chancery which controlled the estate during Parnell's minority, which terminated in 1867. Second, and related to this, he was not in residence at Cambridge throughout the four years from his matriculation in October 1865, but rather was absent, almost certainly largely for financial reasons, for two periods, the longer of which spanned much of 1867 to 1869. The third modification of the traditionally accepted picture of an uninvolved and directionless young man is that Parnell passed both his first- and second-year examinations, the one with credit and the other with at least average competence. Thus, contrary to the generally accepted negative view ─ for which my younger self bears considerable share of responsibility ─ Charles Stewart Parnell was both intellectually able, and ─ in the face of considerable obstacles ─ impressively determined to secure his degree, an ambition that he had to abandon after the unfortunate episode at Cambridge railway station.

The essay that follows similarly re-examines both assumptions and sources about Magdalene College at the time when he studied there. While the picture of a snobbish and intellectually undistinguished institution remains generally accurate, some qualification can be offered. Magdalene perhaps functioned more effectively as a community than its rejection of Parnell might seem to imply. Educationally, if it specialised in taking the rejected sows' ears of more high-powered colleges, it also managed to turn a surprising number of them into the cloth purses of the despised Cambridge Pass degree. Paradoxically, Magdalene functioned as a second-chance institution that specialised in value-added education. Its shortcoming, to modern eyes, was that it discharged these worthy functions almost entirely for the benefit of the rich. The discussion that follows focuses upon Magdalene, but has Parnell as its background point of reference.

I: A Transpontine Refuge for Fallen Undergraduates?

A distinguished scholar of Magdalene College Cambridge once wrote that academic histories "have the curious effect of distancing and embalming the conditions they describe." The "pale violet tints" of nostalgic memoirs and seductive "anecdotage" against which J.A.W. Bennett warned figure large in any subsequent invocation of Magdalene in Victorian times.[2] In the case of Magdalene, reminiscence and memorialisation give us tantalising and sometimes vivid glimpses of an academic community that was simultaneously vigorous and malfunctioning, combining to produce a predominantly pejorative impression. This impression is by no means inaccurate but it somehow fails to capture the full, nuanced picture of the student society through which Charles Stewart Parnell experienced his first sustained contact with the English elite.

Magdalene was one of the smaller colleges in the University of Cambridge. In November 1866, there were sixty undergraduates in residence, far fewer than the 571 at Trinity, the 322 of St John's or even the 130 of Gonville and Caius. But its student population was equal to that of Queens', and roughly the same as Pembroke, Sidney Sussex, Peterhouse and St Catharine's. Only King's, with just 33 undergraduates and Downing, with 34, were markedly smaller. But although Magdalene was not the smallest college, it was definitely the poorest. In 1880, when the University began to levy a contribution from the colleges proportionate to their wealth, Trinity, at the head of the list, was rated to contribute more than 32 times as much as Magdalene, at the bottom ─ and Magdalene found even that imposition a struggle. It was simple enough to assume that the College's poverty explained its allegedly low academic standards. By the eighteen-sixties, money was beginning to talk very loud in the league tables of examination success. Institutional reform at both Cambridge and Oxford had opened up to general competition many scholarships that had been quaintly restricted to candidates from particular counties or schools, while the Indian Civil Service was also offering glittering financial prizes for clever young men. As discussed below, Magdalene lacked the resources to compete in recruiting the most promising students. Since the College was not responsible for its poverty ─ and could in fact claim to have been badly treated ─ it seemed equally easy to conclude that nothing could be done to raise either its income or its academic record.

Broadly, there were three reasons why Magdalene was so poor. First, in its earliest incarnation, at its initial founding in 1428, it had not been an independent college at all, but simply a hall of residence dependent upon four east-of-England abbeys, and known as the Monks' Hostel.[3] Second, as it slowly developed towards independent status, the College had been unlucky in its patrons, although arguably the patrons had been unluckier still. Two Dukes of Buckingham and one Duke of Norfolk had promised support, in each case shortly before being beheaded for treason. "Surely no College has suffered so greatly from the liquidation of benefactors", a College historian has complained.[4] It was re-founded, and punningly renamed as "Magdalene", by Sir Thomas Audley in 1542 but, as will be seen, this grasping Tudor politician was more concerned with his own dynastic interests than with the financial independence of his creation.[5] Although Audley dodged the block, he too soon died, having endowed the College with little more than a single chunk of land.

And that leads us to the third reason for endemic poverty, the saga of the Aldgate property. Briefly, Audley gifted the College seven acres of land on the eastern fringe of the growing city of London. In 1574, Magdalene entered into agreement with a developer ─ itself not an unreasonable move ─ who promised to increase the College's annual income from £9 to £15. Unfortunately, the Crown spotted a legal flaw in the contract and punished the transgression by seizing the property. Even by the standards of Tudor rapacity, this was a monstrous injustice. Magdalene actually won a court case over the Aldgate property in 1615, but a legal victory over the Crown did not mean that the College would recover the land, although it still hoped to do so as late as 1805, and went through the motions of considering further litigation as late as 1914.[6] When the College developed its adjoining Quayside site in 1990 (also, and very sensibly, in partnership with a developer), it included a gargoyle to represent the partner in its ill-fated sixteenth-century venture. This was a trifle unfair.

Obviously, the loss of the Aldgate property was a financial setback, but perhaps more debilitating was the legacy of long-term victimhood that tended to engulf Magdalene like a dispiriting fog. "We have been plundered of our just property by unexampled fraud and iniquity," fumed the Master of Magdalene, Peter Peckard, in 1786. In 1851, the College sadly reported to the Royal Commission on the Universities that the property "would have been at the present day of enormous value".[7] The pioneer College historian, E.K. Purnell (a contemporary of his near namesake, C.S. Parnell), complained in 1904 that "but for fraud, at which the highest in the land connived, we should now have been almost the richest college in Oxford or Cambridge." (In fact, modern calculations suggest that Aldgate would have provided a comfortable rather than an astronomical endowment income.)[8] But where Peckard, one of the best Masters the College ever had, urged that Magdalene should seek to excel in virtue rather than opulence, others almost certainly used the legend of the lost Aldgate property as an excuse for mediocrity.[9] Its vigorous neighbour St John's, on the other hand, managed to outgrow the "hardy legend" that it had been cheated out of its intended endowment by Henry VIII.[10] Similarly, King's recovered from the deposition of its founder Henry VI although, even in the twentieth century, St Catharine's was still bemoaning the fact that its founder had backed the wrong side in the War of the Roses. Similarly, at Oxford, Christ Church triumphantly bounced back from the downfall of its initial projector, Cardinal Wolsey. A great deal of money, or at least moneyed undergraduates, passed through Magdalene in the nineteenth century, and their fees were no doubt essential, but remarkably little of their wealth made its way into the College coffers. When Magdalene launched its first formal appeal for cash in 1928, the response from old members was notably disappointing.[11] Poverty provided the context and much of the explanation for Magdalene's problems, but it obscured their real origins, which were to be found in a curious apposition between the disadvantages of geography and the curiosities of history.[12]

Location, location, location

Magdalene was the only college north (or west) of the Cam. The mid-Victorian joke that it was "somewhere in Huntingdonshire"[13] reflects the preciously Lilliputian world of Cambridge, as seen in the complaint of Trinity Hall's Leslie Stephen when the Union Society moved in 1866 from Green Street to a site behind the Round Church that it had "crept into so retired a corner". Although a seventeenth-century versifier had called the Cam at Magdalene a "vast Gulph", which it likened to the English Channel, the College was not so very far from downtown Cambridge.[14] Far less desirable was its location. Daniel Defoe had noted in 1723 that all the colleges were "promiscuously scattered ... and some even among the meanest of other buildings; as Magdalen College over the bridge is in particular".[15] One of its disadvantages was its location hard by one of the town's busiest and narrowest thoroughfares, a "very dirty street" as it had been called in 1760. Several main roads entered Cambridge from the south and east, but all traffic from the three major routes leading from the north and west funnelled down Magdalene Street, "one of the great arteries of the town".[16] Victoria Bridge, the second crossing downstream, was not built until 1890.[17] In the twenty years before Parnell's time, railways provided some relief in the amount of bulk traffic heading across the bridge, resulting in fewer stagecoaches and probably less movement of livestock. A rare and precious photograph of Magdalene Street at about the time Parnell was in residence shows relatively little traffic but there is no way of telling whether the late-afternoon scene was typical or specially chosen, perhaps taken on a Sunday. But this amelioration in traffic flow would have been balanced by the northward expansion of the town's own built-up area, and here Magdalene was located not so much on the far side of the river as on the wrong side of the tracks. The old-established suburb of Castle End had an unsavoury reputation.[18] Twentieth-century Magdalene swept its frontier round to Northampton Street, but in Parnell's time the area to the west of Magdalene Street, now Benson Court, was a warren of back alleys: there was a smithy in Fisher Lane, near the site of modern O Block.[19]

A few hundred yards up Castle Hill, on the site of the Shire Hall, the County Gaol cast its baleful influence over the neighbourhood. There were hangings in Cambridge in 1861 and 1864:[20] executions were still carried out in public, and Parnell himself would be outraged by the last of them, the open-air killing of the "Manchester Martyrs" outside Salford Prison in 1868. A regular reminder of the gaol would have been the prison vans, like the vehicle the Fenians attacked in Manchester, which must have shuttled along Magdalene Street bringing felons from the police station and the magistrates' courts. Police officers unfamiliar with the town sometimes attempted to deliver prisoners to Magdalene porters' lodge, misled by the gloomy institutional appearance of the College's facade.[21]

Bricks and mortar were advancing beyond Castle Hill and it was not surprising that the new residents were predominantly poor. Most of them lived within the parish of St Giles, described in 1856 as "a most difficult parish from vice & poverty & disease". In 1862, Trinity College helped fund a curate to minister to more than a thousand people living in the district around Victoria Road and Histon Road: a part of Cambridge that is now gentrified was then "in great spiritual destitution". The following year, the wedding of the Prince of Wales was celebrated by charity feasts for the poor, and no fewer than eighteen hundred of them were fed in the parish of St Giles.[22] The Edwardian fashion for community service had not yet engulfed Cambridge,[23] but the Vicar of St Giles, Edward Dodd, was a Magdalene man who, in the absence of a designated vicarage, retained rooms in College. In 1861, arising out of a theological dispute, he was horse-whipped in First Court by a fellow cleric.[24]

The cluster of colleges in the urban core of Cambridge also occupied terrain that was sometimes violently contested between Town and Gown, but the arrival of the railway in 1845 had cut into the river trade that had created employment in the town centre rookeries, and the poor were moving out of the central area parishes.[25] The growing artisan suburbs of Barnwell and Romsey Town were segregated from the main University district by a curtain of open spaces. With no such cordon sanitaire keeping Castle End at arm's length, Magdalene was becoming particularly exposed to social deprivation. However, one aspect of river trade continued to flourish, to the further disadvantage of the College. It still made sense to use waterborne transport to move bulk freight, especially coal, which was unloaded at Quayside. The modern-day recreational piazza was described in 1865, Parnell's freshman year, as "the busiest part of the town". It was probably also the dirtiest.[26]

Coal-heaving bargees were muscular men with simple pleasures, which included drinking and fighting. Magdalene, the college of the Marquess of Queensberry, was a notable source of combatants. There was little malice in this casual violence: twenty years before Parnell's time, the bargees affectionately described Magdalene as "our college".[27] Institutionally, the College could exercise little control beyond its own gates: it did not even manage to buy the Pickerel Inn, the chief riverside hostelry, until 1879. There were other public houses further up the street which were swept away in a road-widening scheme in 1911.[28] After dark, Magdalene Street could be a rough place. A Saturday night fight outside the Pickerel during the Christmas vacation of 1866-67 ended up in the police court.[29] On one occasion "after the college gates were closed" at night, when his Mathematics lecturer, G.F. Pattrick, was sallying forth to investigate a disturbance, Parnell rushed up to him and said, "Oh, sir, do let me go out to protect you."[30]

Unhappily, there is yet one more element of Magdalene's bad luck to be taken into account. It was not just the bargees who came up the river who caused Magdalene problems. What flowed downstream was far more unpleasant, pervasive and downright unhealthy. A correspondent of a local newspaper complained in 1866 that the Cam was used as "a receptacle or charnel-house for the carcasses of almost all the dead dogs, cats, sheep, and pigs that have died in Cambridge during the year." . In 1887, the Cam was still "the receptacle for the canine and feline dead of the borough."[31] But it was humans and not animals who were the most comprehensive polluters. Most of the town's sewage was discharged direct into the river, and the population of Cambridge grew roughly fourfold between 1801 and the mid-eighteen-nineties, when a modern piped sewerage system was finally installed. Victorians were both robust and discreet, so that the unpleasant subject was rarely mentioned. One exception was Gwen Raverat, who recalled the smell of the river from her childhood at Newnham Grange, now Darwin College and, as she put it, "we lived at the upper end of the town, so it was not so very bad."[32] A German princeling in 1852 showed off his Latin by calling the Cam "Cloaca Maxima", the name of a famous sewer in ancient Rome.[33] A local joke had Queen Victoria standing on Trinity Bridge and enquiring why so many pieces of paper floating in the river. With ingenious tact, the Master of Trinity explained that they were notices forbidding the public to bathe.

The Queen was less naive than her detractors imagined. In 1868 she subscribed a massive £100 in 1868 to a scheme for cleaning up the Cam, a project she explained that her late husband, who had been Chancellor of the University, would have approved.[34] The intention was to dredge the river between Jesus Lock and Baitsbite, a three-mile stretch downstream from the main urban area. During the summer of 1868 (when Parnell was absent from Magdalene), the stink from the Cam "was so horrible that no one should have been allowed to row on it," in the opinion of the prominent civil engineer Sir John Hawkshaw. "To acquire or even to retain physical vigour by rowing upon such a river would require the laws of nature to be suspended on behalf of those who made the attempt."[35] Indeed, it was the rowing men who took the initiative in organising the clean-up, but their motive was not sanitary reform, and the endeavour provides fascinating if alarming evidence of Cambridge priorities. The problem was that the torrential discharge of sewage into the Cam had almost silted up parts of the river. Worse still, the high nutrient content of the water encouraged the growth of massive blooms of entangling weed. The combined effect of the silt and vegetation was that the Cambridge rowing technique had degenerated into a shallow, stabbing paddle. Oxford crews, on the other hand, training on the broad, deep reaches of the Upper Thames, could practise long, strong strokes of their "own grand old sweeping style" that were far better suited to the gruelling four-and-a-quarter mile course of the annual Boat Race between Putney and Mortlake. By 1868, Oxford had won eight contests in a row. Cambridge could live with the daily threat of typhoid, but it could not countenance indefinite annual aquatic humiliation. The public subscription raised awesome sums of money, sufficient not merely to dredge out the deposited sewage but even to straighten out some of the bends and rebuild the Barnwell railway bridge in flyover form. Measured by its own standards, the project was a success.[36] Cambridge rowing improved dramatically, and it was the Light Blues who crossed the Mortlake finishing line first for the five consecutive years beginning in 1870. If the dredging operation made virtually no contribution to public health, it is only fair to note that such was not its aim.

In May 1869, that fateful month in Parnell's university career, the engineer Hawkshaw sought to shift the focus upstream to the town itself, using that classic vehicle of English protest, a letter to The Times. It appeared the day after a local court had awarded damages against Parnell for his part in the Station Road affray: if he saw the paper, he may well have concluded that Cambridge needed cleaning-up at more than one level. "The Cam is called a river," Hawkshaw began; "practically it is a canal. The waters are impounded by locks above and below the town, and are very nearly stagnant." The downstream barrier was the lock and sluice at Jesus Green, just a few hundred yards below Magdalene. Thus when Hawkshaw described the Cam as possessing "in rich perfection all the attributes of a common sewer, and is very nearly filled with sewage deposit," he was identifying a crisis which was at its worst alongside the University's only "transpontine" college. Dredging and widening the lower reaches, Hawkshaw pointed out, would not solve the core problem. "The river will again silt up more speedily than before, for the town grows larger every day." To Hawkshaw, the remedy was obvious: the great sanitary engineer Joseph Bazalgette had drawn up a plan to give the town a modern sewerage system, and the remedy was cheap, costing a mere £2,700. Three days later, Hawkshaw corrected a misprint: the cost would in fact be £27,000. It was a foretaste of disappointments to follow.[37]

The sequel, or lack thereof, may be briefly summarised. The Master of Magdalene was one of six heads of colleges who attended a special meeting of the Cambridge Improvement Commissioners in November 1870 to discuss "immediate action" for remedying the "disgraceful and foul condition" of the Cam.[38] But it quickly became clear that an urgent response was beyond the various institutions involved. As late as 1884, the Town Clerk insisted that "the Town Council have no responsibility in the matter, which fell under the remit of the Cam Conservators and the Improvement Commissioners."[39] In 1871, the latter estimated the cost of a sewerage scheme at £60,000.[40] This alarmed the University, since a modern sewerage scheme would not only cost the colleges large sums as ratepayers but would also involve them in additional expense connecting to the system. Trinity, for instance, covered the area of a small town, which explains why, as late as 1883, its bursar insisted that a clean river "was from a sanitary point of view more a luxury than a necessity".[41] Magdalene had some surface water drains, but no internal sewerage of any kind. basic human needs were met by privies "built over the river, and very foul they were, for there was nothing but the slow current to perform any cleansing or move on the deposits which fell into the water, save for such scavenging as was done by the eels which could be seen swimming about below."[42] Given the scale of the problem, the University could only solemnly establish a special committee ─ a "syndicate" in Cambridge terminology ─ to explore the subject of sewerage. In 1872, this body recommended a scheme for mains sewers connecting to a proposed treatment plant at Coldham's Common, at a cost of £48,500, plus connection costs for the individual colleges. But the syndicate also recommended a change in the rating system designed to shift the cost burden from the University to the Town. Reacting with silent contempt, the Improvement Commissioners did not bother to reply.[43]

For the next decade and a half, until its abolition, the Improvement Commission pursued two contradictory policies. On the one hand, it either denied or simply ignored complaints about the state of the river. Denial was dangerous, as was shown in 1874 when the Commissioners publicly dismissed a report in the medical journal The Lancet, only to have it pointed out that there were eight cases of typhoid in Addenbrooke's Hospital, and that "Cambridge is not a safe place of residence for undergraduates." In 1884, the Commission sat out criticism in silence for long as it dared and, as late as 1887, some of its members felt that it was beneath their dignity to comment on attacks in the press.[44] When they were dragged out into the light, the Improvement Commission's Plan B was to blame everybody else, from the bureaucracy of the Local Government Board, through the miserliness of the University to the sloth of Parliament. In this last instance, it must be admitted that they marshalled a plausible case. Disraeli's ministry had made three attempts between 1877 and 1879 to settle the Cambridge rating issue through a Property Valuation Bill, but on each occasion the legislation had failed to make its way through Parliament. Parnell would have pointed out that Westminster's sluggishness formed part of the case for Irish Home Rule. Parliament was simply incapable of handling the bulk of legislation required to run a modernising society, and devolution for the United Kingdom's smaller island would open the way for the more efficient government of its larger neighbour. Meanwhile, the Improvement Commission doggedly pleaded that "the death-rate of this borough is lower than that of any borough in the kingdom, with one exception" and that its very few infectious cases "have always occurred in parts of the town most remote from the river." Downstream, sections of the rowing course dredged out under the 1868 scheme had once again accumulated up to three feet of "solid matter" by 1884.[45] Three years later, 171 members of the Cambridge Union Society voted unanimously for a motion declaring the state of the Cam to be a "disgrace" and "a serious danger to the health of the community".[46] Eventually, major local government reform in 1888 merged the Town Council and the Improvement Commission, and opened the way for the undertaking of a massively expensive sewerage scheme in 1895. For Cambridge's poorest college, already struggling with a financial crisis caused by falling rents during the late-Victorian agricultural depression, the expense was "almost insupportable".[47]

The Cam forms such a major backdrop to contemporary Cambridge that it is hard to appreciate just how disgusting it was before 1895 and, in particular, how damaging was its proximity to Magdalene. Of course, we have to acknowledge that the Victorians took a robust attitude to sewage: nobody would have rowed at all if they had been squeamish about such matters. Indeed, Leslie Stephen, a fervent oarsman, cheerfully inverted contemporary concern by claiming that rowing would not be possible at all on the shallow Cam without "the tribute derived from the town drains."[48] None the less, it is striking that only two of the seventeen colleges abutted the Cam, and both St John's and Queens' (the latter safely upstream) were end-on to the river. King's and Trinity Hall kept their distance until the stink was eliminated, while Trinity and Clare hold their noses to this day.[49] Magdalene also kept a slight distance. A terrace of houses occupied what is now the street front of River Court until 1873, and a huge boundary wall still flanks the south side of Second Court. But Magdalene was the furthest college downstream and the smell must have been awesome. With its prominent riverside latrines, Magdalene's image was particularly associated with sewage. Indeed, two traditional 'jokes' (few things are so unfunny as historical jokes) are best interpreted against this background. In 1687, the Master of Magdalene, John Peachell, opposed a despotic command from James II, so helping to set in motion the resistance that culminated in the Glorious Revolution. The king was reportedly furious at encountering defiance from such a humble institution, and contemptuously jibed that "he would go to stool there". A century later, when Magdalene was briefly dominated by Evangelicals, detractors alleged that their abstemious habits had blocked the Cam with tea-leaves.[50] The witticism was probably colour-coded. William Gretton (Master 1797-1813), an opponent of radical Protestantism, may not have been speaking figuratively when he complained "that there must be something in the air of Magdalene that made men Methodists".[51]

The Audley End Connection

Geography, then, had compounded the disadvantages of Cambridge's poorest college by locating Magdalene in the poorest, busiest, smelliest and most violent corner of the town. We might expect it to have become an institution that would attract students from unpretentious backgrounds, to have developed into a society whose (slight) remoteness from urban temptation would foster a high-minded commitment to study. Such indeed was Magdalene in its late eighteenth-century Evangelical period: in the first twenty-five years of the University's Divinity Prize, Magdalene candidates were victorious on fifteen occasions.[52] In the early nineteenth century, sophisticated Cambridge still derided their naivety. A dozen Magdalene men had daringly tried to get drunk ─ on a single bottle of wine. A Magdalene man had been tricked into proposing marriage to a transvestite, and had actually got as far as the wedding ceremony.[53] Yet within a few decades, the College's image (but not necessarily its secret inward reality) had been totally transformed: geographical determinism had been over-ridden by historical peculiarity.

By mid-Victorian times, Magdalene was perceived to have become one of the most socially select institutions in the University: Samuel Sproston chose Magdalene in 1868 because it contained "a larger proportion of Public School men than any other college", except for King's, which was largely an Eton preserve.[54] Historical particularism had overcome geographical determinism. The explanation dated back to Audley's re-foundation of the College in 1542. This Tudor hard man had taken over Walden Abbey, one of the sponsors of the Monks' Hostel, renaming it "Audley End". It was in keeping with this immodesty that he also decided to reserve the appointment of successive Masters of Magdalene to his descendants.[55] By the nineteenth century, those descendants were the Neville family, whose male head bore the title of Baron Braybrooke.

The result of this curious piece of patronage, as an American student scornfully put it, the Master of Magdalene was usually '"some Rev. Mr. Neville or other."[56] The Braybrookes saw nothing wrong in this. In 1812, the second Baron had called the arrangement "the choicest feather belonging to my inheritance", and made it clear that it would be reserved "either for my own family or the most enlightened of my friends."[57] Since the nineteenth-century Braybrookes produced a crop of needy and long-lived younger sons, not even the enlightened friends got a look-in. In 1813, the preferment went to the 24 year-old George Neville (from 1825, Neville-Grenville).[58] The College statutes required the Master to be "triginta aut circiter" (thirty or thereabouts): twenty-nine had been accepted as a benchmark back in 1747, twenty-seven more grudgingly swallowed in 1774. Lord Braybrooke claimed the right as Visitor to ignore the requirement altogether. However, it was not possible to subvert the requirement that the Master of Magdalene had to be an Anglican clergyman, and Neville went through a double ordination, as both deacon and priest, on the same day ─ his appointment thus violating both secular and ecclesiastical statutes.[59]

Throughout his forty-year Mastership, two Magdalenes, one intermittently academic, the other defiantly hedonistic, existed side by side. If unimpressive intellectually, the Master's facility for personal locomotion was awesome: indeed, he seems to have lived simultaneously in several parts of England, a multiple existence all the remarkable in that it preceded the railway age. In 1814, he was appointed Rector of Hawarden in Cheshire, on the nomination of his brother-in-law, Sir Stephen Glynne. Neville added nine bedrooms to the Rectory, and he was officially returned as living there in 1832: ten of his children were baptised in his parish church.[60] Yet, somehow, he managed to take his turn as Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University in 1818-19. In 1825, he inherited from a cousin the 2,000-acre estate of Butleigh Court in Somerset, changing his surname to Neville-Grenville in tribute. He extended the estate, engaged in large-scale tree planting and, in 1847, borrowed £4,000 to drain Sedgemoor.[61]

In 1834, Neville-Grenville made way in Hawarden for a clerical Glynne. It is probably no coincidence that planning began for a new, stand-alone Master's Lodge at Magdalene at that time, although buoyant enrolments (by Magdalene standards) were also adding to pressure for additional student accommodation. Previous Masters had lived in a lodging on the north side of First Court, but this was neither convenient for a family of ten children nor, one suspects, appropriate for Lady Charlotte Neville-Grenville, who was the daughter of an earl.[62] The architect Edward Blore was in Cambridge in January 1834 to discuss abortive plans, and building work was in progress by July 1835, when Prince George of Cambridge contributed a ceremonial brick. The new Lodge was ready for occupation in May 1837.[63] However, Neville-Grenville was still far from continuously resident. In January 1840, he had to make a special visit to Cambridge to deal with George Urquhart, a disruptive Fellow whose abusive comments had soured the donnish community: Urquhart was persuaded to accept "a sort of compulsory exile", probably sweetened by the promise of the reversion to a College living, which he acquired a decade later.[64] In November 1846, Neville-Grenville was described as "paying one of his fly-away visits" to Cambridge.[65] That year, to the delight of his nephew-by-marriage, W.E. Gladstone, the Master was appointed to the prestigious Deanery of Windsor, giving him yet another base.[66] Although Neville-Grenville offered to resign Magdalene on becoming Dean, he was blocked by the Visitor, his brother Lord Braybrooke, who had earmarked the post for his fourth son Latimer. Aged nineteen in 1846, Latimer Neville needed time to develop skills of academic leadership. But the Master's health was in decline: by 1850, although still only sixty years of age, he was "a wreck". Three years later, with some diplomacy needed to manage the Fellowship, the transition was achieved, and Latimer Neville became Master at the age of twenty-six.[67]

One result of Neville-Grenville's strange commuting headship was that much of the running of Magdalene was left in the hands of the Fellows. This accounts for the fact that the College's academic record during the Neville-Grenville era was in fact by no means unimpressive: there were twenty-one Firsts between 1823 and 1842.[68] However, the damaging image of the College as a privileged playground took root during his years. College historian Ronald Hyam notes that Neville's arrival was immediately followed by an influx of students from his old school, Eton, many admitted as Fellow Commoners, undergraduates who paid higher fees in return for privileges.[69] By 1820, it was claimed that a freshman who actually attended classes was privately warned against such vulgar conformism.[70] The Cambridge chronicler who recorded the tea-leaves joke in 1827 was fair-minded enough to add that the "modern men of Maudlin [sic] … fully attest, by their copious libations, the immense strides they have made in civilization." Evangelical seriousness was becoming a facetious memory: although the first Magdalene Boat to take to the river, in 1828, was named "The Tea Kettle", while at one early Bump Supper, near-lethal quantities of alcohol were consumed. When John Lodge resigned his Magdalene tutorship in 1836, his pupils subscribed 130 guineas for a gift of silverware. An undergraduate of 1840 recalled that S.W. Waud, who taught Mathematics, would invite students to "have a problem or two and an oyster and cigar."[71] Charles Kingsley was an undergraduate from 1838 to 1842 and, no doubt helped by Waud's oysters, he did manage some solid studying and a great deal of deep thinking. It was probably his fellow Magdalene men he had in mind when he deplored student commitment to "the excitement of animal exercise" devoted to cricket and hunting. "Every moment which is taken from them for duty [i.e. church attendance] or for reading is felt to be lost".[72] College historians have rightly deplored the transformation of Magdalene in these years into "an academy for idle but aristocratic young men", but it is not easy to see what other strategy might have been pursued. The College lacked resources to buy in talent on any large scale through scholarships, and its location, beside an open sewer and at the heart of a rough commercial district, both pointed to exploitation of its social connections, with the concomitant lowering of demands that this implied. The trick would be to combine the privileged finishing school with the small but worthy core of serious scholars. As the century wore on, so the College increasingly failed the challenge.

Of course, we should beware of judging the privileges of Audley End by modern standards. Patronage was part of the way of life: in almost every Anglican parish, the right to appoint the incumbent was a piece of property, although the extension of the principle to the Mastership of a college rendered Magdalene invidiously unique.[73] And there could have been less intellectual patrons than the Braybrookes. The third Baron had presided over the publication of the diary of Samuel Pepys. The fourth Baron had conducted the first excavations of major Roman sites in the Cambridge area, although modern archaeologists, with their far superior techniques, may perhaps wish he had not. They were an erudite family, with a sense of humour: Latimer Neville's mother suggested that the Latin word for that inconvenient fashion item, the ladies' bustle, should be "superbum".[74] Although, like most landowning families, they were staunch Conservatives from the eighteen-forties, they had earlier supported liberal causes, including the extension of civil rights to Catholics: hence, it would seem, the admission to Magdalene of the future Cardinal, Charles Acton, in 1819.

In addition, devotees of C.P. Snow will appreciate that academics do not always make rational decisions when choosing their own heads: alleged murky electoral practices in 1851 condemned St Catharine's to decades of disapproval. Some, at least, of the Audley End choices were more imaginative than the contemporary fellowship would have contemplated.[75] It might be said of successive Masters so eccentrically parachuted into Magdalene that when they were good, they were very, very good, but when they were bad, they were horrid. Even the problem of the two Reverend Mr Nevilles was not that they were appointed when they were ridiculously young, so much as the absence, in Magdalene as in every other college, of provision for retirement.[76] George Neville-Grenville was only in his early sixties when he resigned, but his health had been broken for some years; Latimer Neville died in 1904 at the age of 76. It was not entirely his fault that the preceding decade marked a gloomy phase for Magdalene, but it was too much to expect an ailing and ageing man to turn around a disastrous situation.[77] (As argued throughout this paper, it may also misleading to back-project the grim state of the College around 1900 to the undoubtedly livelier era of the eighteen-sixties.) Although he was Master for half a century, Latimer Neville left just one enduring (and even endearing) memorial of his long reign. It is the Pets Cemetery in the Fellows' Garden.[78]

Thus from Regency times to the dawn of Edwardian England, the College operated as a form of outdoor relief for a wealthy family: servants at Audley End innocently referred to it as "the Magdalene".[79] The monopolising of the Mastership by "some Rev. Mr. Neville or other" had two negative effects, one financial and the other social. For Cambridge colleges generally, the nineteenth century was not a great age of private munificence, but it was wholly unlikely that any benefactor would seek to shore up the endowment of an institution so blatantly run for private interests.[80] A vast amount of money passed through the College, in the form of sometimes obscenely wealthy undergraduates, but little of it was gifted or bequeathed to the institution. The aristocratic aura of the Audley End connection led Magdalene to be perceived as a select and fashionable institution, the favoured preserve of students from privileged backgrounds. For a College mired in a neighbourhood of stench and seedy deprivation, such a social revolution seemed possible only at the cost of accepting low standards, in matters both academic and disciplinary.

Education, education, education

To understand how this happened, and how damaging it was to Magdalene's institutional image, it is necessary to examine two aspects long-vanished aspects of Victorian Cambridge, the University's core academic curriculum and the mobility of undergraduates between colleges. To talk of low standards for admission to the University is in one sense irrelevant. All students spent their first year and part of the second preparing for a kind of retrospective entrance test, a mishmash of Classics and Mathematics, officially known as the Previous Examination, but generally referred to as the Little-Go.[81]

In theory, weaker students could repeat attempts to pass the Little-Go indefinitely although, even at Magdalene, those who found it too much for their limited skills generally left the University altogether. (Some of Parnell's contemporaries, for instance, had almost certainly never intended to stay the course, but were simply at Cambridge to sample the lifestyle.) Thus the question of differential academic standards between colleges only entered at the point of failure to clear this first academic fence. Trinity terminated the residence of those who could not pass their Little-Go; Magdalene was thought to be more easy-going. But ─ and here was the second distinctive feature ─ unlike modern Cambridge, to be sent down from one's college was not to be thrown out of the University. Students could "migrate", usually to smaller but not necessarily less demanding alternatives. Magdalene was not unique in this: Sidney Sussex was described in 1852 as "almost a colony of second-rate Johnians".[82] For the smaller and poorer colleges, accepting "migrants" was a well-established lucky-dip strategy which might just pay large dividends. The typical inter-college migrant was described by Leslie Stephen as "a piece of damaged goods ... an idle youth, who has promised to work harder in future".[83] Examination results indicate that some did just that.

It is worth noting that in earlier decades, Magdalene had benefited from inter-college migration. In the thirty years before 1853, the College gained seven students who went on to First Class Honours, the most notable of them being Charles Kingsley, who transferred from Trinity soon after arriving in 1838.[84] Unfortunately, from the middle of the eighteen-fifties ─ the start of the Latimer Neville era ─ the impact of such migration upon Magdalene was not very positive academically and probably counter-productive socially. In modern terms, the system provided a form of "second-chance" education, but nowadays we should link that concept with the priority of widening access to university study. Magdalene operated rather as last-chance saloon for the upper classes. In the later decades of nineteenth-century, for instance, it was claimed that "men were never sent down for not passing their 'Little Go' and as long as they were decent and respectable members of society, they were allowed to stay as long as they liked."[85]

When Latimer Neville died in 1904, the Spectator published a surprisingly caustic obituary, identifying the late eighteen-sixties as "a time when if a man were requested, in consequence of persistent failure to pass examinations, to withdraw from another College, he was cheerfully permitted ─ at any rate, if he possessed the right social qualifications ─ to find refuge at Magdalene."[86] Indeed, the process had taken hold well before Parnell's time. By the eighteen-fifties, around half the new entrants to Magdalene each year were refugees from other colleges. "Overwhelmingly the migrants were ex-Etonians and ex-Harrovians from Trinity."[87] The most famous of them was Jack Hall, who transferred his allegiance a few months after arriving in Cambridge 1854, from Trinity to Magdalene, where he spent seven energetic years. Four times he rowed against Oxford, and for two successive years he was President of the Cambridge University Boat Club. College tradition recalled that Jack Hall "was compelled to remain an undergraduate for seven years owing to difficulties with his examiners".[88] In fact, the young Etonian who had stumbled at the mild hurdle of the Trinity entrance examination did eventually graduate from Magdalene, although it took him until 1862, and his degree studies were obviously pursued as a cover for athletic enthusiasms.[89] Hall was a prominent figure, and his memory may have stimulated subsequent generalisations. In fact, the academic refugees who washed up on Magdalene shores generally seem to have left Cambridge altogether within a few terms, but some did indeed survive to graduate. Another notable example was John Brownrigg, also an Etonian. The son of an army officer who moved around the Empire, Brownrigg had an address in Dublin when he entered Trinity in 1860. He had won a modern languages prize at school, so it was presumably his Mathematics that tripped him up at Trinity. He switched to Magdalene in 1861, rowed in the Boat, but also won a scholarship and gained a distinction in the History certificate offered by Kingsley in association with his lectures. Brownrigg went into the Church and served for many years as secretary to the National Society, which ran Anglican primary schools, before acquiring one of the most delightful titles in the Church of England, Dean of Bocking. In 1928, at the age of eighty-five, he was guest of honour at the Boat Club centenary dinner.[90]

Applications to Trinity soared after 1861, when the Prince of Wales spent a year unofficially attached to the college, and this may account for an increase in admissions to Magdalene: less hopeful candidates were cutting their losses and heading straight for the comfort zone that the Master of Trinity cuttingly described as a "transpontine refuge for fallen undergraduates".[91] But whether through the well-trodden path of "migration" or the strength of the shared Eton background, there was a clear Trinity-Magdalene undergraduate network of wealthy young men, "many persons of high family and considerable means", as Sproston called them. On Guy Fawkes Night 1866, a Trinity aristocrat, the Marquess of Huntly, was beaten up by town roughs and left for dead in Sidney Street. The local bench called the assault "gross" but fined the chief assailant a mere ten shillings. With undergraduate opinion was outraged by this act of Town leniency, Lord Huntly "mustered his friends of Trinity and Magdalene and wreaked a summary and satisfying vengeance" upon his assailants, a much celebrated episode, and one which apparently did not call down any College sanctions upon his Magdalene supporters.[92] That same year, a penurious Trinity man and his fiancée were saved from a long engagement, thanks to a £10,000 gift from a friend in Magdalene. The young benefactor was said to command an annual income was £6,000 a year, about three times the notional rent roll at Parnell's Avondale, much of which was devoured by mortgages or earmarked for the support of family members.[93]

In a remarkably lame passage, the Students' Guide (it was written for students, not by them) insisted that "those persons are not always to be believed who say that they got no good at Cambridge" since it was "possible that they learnt something without being conscious of it."[94] A notably unconscious example was Harry de Windt, who came up to Magdalene in 1876, "did not learn much … at any rate of a profitable kind, but I certainly passed a remarkably pleasant time there".[95] A.S. Wilson also doubted whether he gained much from his brief sojourn at Magdalene in the late 'eighties: "I did not do much work and rather thought it a waste of time." However, he did fine-hone his skills at playing baccarat, and his role in exposing the 1891 Tranby Croft card-sharping scandal brought the College much negative publicity.[96] Latimer Neville was committed, as he stated during Parnell's first term, to "promoting that high tone which I am glad to say, has been generally characteristic of Magdalene."[97] Essentially, it was a philosophy that accepted that the rich would always be with us, and that the role of Magdalene was to contribute some veneer of humanity and culture to those who would exercise authority within society. It was a view that was still occasionally voiced within the College one hundred years later.

Magdalene's relative poverty made it difficult to provide the financial support necessary to recruit serious students. By the eighteen-sixties, Leslie Stephen could write of Cambridge scholarships in terms redolent of the modern football transfer market. "The price of good undergraduates has risen fearfully". A £50 scholarship would hardly secure a future Second Class Honours graduate while a potential First Class student "turns up his nose at anything under seventy", with meals and rooms thrown in.[98] Magdalene could not compete at this level. In 1867, the College offered three entrance scholarships for open competition, one worth £60 a year, the others just £40 and £20.[99] In Parnell's first year, one of his more studious contemporaries defected to a scholarship at Christ's. The Student's Guide for 1874 illustrates how Magdalene's poverty placed the College at a disadvantage. Scholarships (some of them called exhibitions) were generally based on endowments, and either open to all applicants or reserved to particular schools. Some eccentric provisions had survived earlier reforms: Corpus Christi had a scholarship for men called Colman, Trinity for kinfolk of a benefactor called Podmore. These restricted scholarships were not always awarded: Pembroke explicitly reserved the right to treat them as open to all if no qualified candidates presented. Nor did closed scholarships necessarily assist wider social access to the University: King's had 24 for Eton, at a generous £80 a year, plus rooms, tuition and "commons" (basic food). Caius had four awards linked to Harrow. Some colleges, such as Queens' and Sidney Sussex, dipped into general revenue to create additional scholarships where need and merit coincided. Magdalene's only venture of this kind was the funding in 1835 of a scholarship for applicants from King's College, London, a gesture of support for its Anglican identity. The award bore fruit in bringing Charles Kingsley to Cambridge, but in 1850 it was bizarrely extended to include candidates from Eton, hardly a priority access issue. Later, it was abandoned altogether.[100] Another form of subsidised study was the sizarship, cut-price admission to Cambridge officially ear-marked for poorer students. The institution was dying out in the second half of the nineteenth century, but sizars remained a feature of St John's which, in 1888, had fifty one of them.[101] Magdalene appointed one a year.

It is reasonable to assume that the greater the proportion of students in any college partly dependent on scholarships (which could be withdrawn for academic failure or on disciplinary grounds), the more likely the institution would foster a studious atmosphere. Magdalene offered twelve open scholarships, three at a minimum of £60, but six offering a baseline amount of no more than £20. Until 1882, Tripos (Honours) examinations were held in fourth year, so that in a normal cycle, only three awards were available. By contrast, colleges with similar undergraduate numbers were financially able to tilt the balance towards subsidised studiousness: Sidney Sussex and St Catharine's each maintained twenty-six Scholars. Christ's was one of several colleges to allocate its scholarships not through entrance tests, which favoured well-drilled schoolboys, but on the basis of internal first-year examinations. Corpus Christi even backdated its awards to the previous Christmas. Magdalene also had twelve awards limited to five schools: Halifax, Heversham, Leeds, Shrewsbury and Wisbech. Since these schools provided Magdalene with some of its best examination candidates, and it can be confidently assumed that more such financial pathways would have improved the overall academic record. In theory, if all the available Magdalene awards were in fact allocated, almost half the resident undergraduates would have been in receipt of some form of financial support from the institution ─ a calculation that may lend colour to the hypothesis of an academic but largely hidden Magdalene. Unfortunately, it is not easy to reconstruct these arrangements for the mid-nineteenth century. Far too often, it seems that Magdalene's Scholars graduated only with Pass degrees.[102]

As a College located in an undesirable area of the town and lacking resources to buy in talent, Magdalene had little alternative to adopting a relaxed attitude both to admission standards and to student behaviour. High concentrations of undergraduates from wealthy backgrounds posed particular problems of discipline. The public schools were mounting a steep curve of reform, but in many respects they remained anarchic boy republics loosely contained by the threat of brutal punishments. When prosperous young men made the transition to a system where discipline was based upon fines rather than flogging, they were inclined to take a relaxed approach to regulations. "Magdalene was a little oasis of idleness and insubordination to University rules and regulations", de Windt recalled, "more like a club than a college".[103] One example of open defiance of the University's authority was horse-racing. In December 1866, the Vice-Chancellor and the heads of every college, including Latimer Neville, formally reiterated the University's ban on undergraduate participation in steeplechases. In Cambridge, there were many regulations of which the average student was totally unaware, but this one was no dead-letter formality. In April 1867, undergraduates packed the Senate House and howled their protests at the Vice-Chancellor when the ban was announced yet again. None the less, most members of the College "would drive over to Cottenham for the steeplechases where Magdalene produced a large proportion of the winning riders".[104] A notable example was Cecil Legard, who rode in an Oxford-Cambridge steeplechase in 1865 and was twice winner of the Cottenham Whip. Two years ahead of Parnell at Magdalene, he was ordained in 1868. Although the dignity and authority of the University was set at nought, there is no indication that Latimer Neville and his donnish colleagues ever took any action.[105] Not surprisingly, the disapproving American, William Everett, called Magdalene "a favorite home for young men who are of the opinion, either from conjecture or experience, that other colleges are too strict for them."[106]

Given that Parnell's departure from Cambridge resulted from disciplinary action, Magdalene's attitude to undergraduate misbehaviour is of some importance. College discipline was lax, but it could also seem arbitrary, indulging many areas of misconduct but penalising others. When Latimer Neville died in 1904, the Cambridge Review tactfully observed that "his rule was mild ─ some might think too mild", adding that "he always had a compassionate view of undergraduates' shortcomings, though when occasion required he could be stern enough." Neville had a Victorian cleric's horror of inebriation and fornication, and he was "absolutely rigid" in enforcing compulsory attendance at morning and afternoon Chapel on Sundays. But the Master did at least enforce some rules (he was fiercely opposing the keeping of dogs in College[107]), even if they do not now seem the most obviously beneficial. Essentially, he did not seem to appreciate that there was a problem. "I unhesitatingly affirm that the undergraduates of this College are as well conducted as those of other Colleges," he wrote in 1891, "that the discipline maintained is precisely the same, & that the University officers who are well acquainted with such matters will corroborate my assertion."[108] The senior Fellow, Mynors Bright, who deputised during the Master's frequent absences (Neville doubled as a country clergyman) may have made matters worse by signalling that he was simply going through the motions. "Even when he dealt with a delinquent undergraduate for some breach of order or discipline, his lips might speak winged words of surprise, disappointment, and warning, but there was something that 'gave him away'".[109] If the issue of discipline in Magdalene was partly one of perception, it is not wholly surprising that the Fellows felt that they had no alternative but to come down heavily on Parnell, not so much for fighting as for incurring unfavourable publicity. It is equally not surprising that Parnell claimed that the College's draconian response to his escapade in Station Road was unfair and discriminatory.[110]

In 1891, no less a personage than the Lord Chief Justice of England, Coleridge, observed that Magdalene "enjoyed the reputation of not being the slowest College" in Cambridge. When Latimer Neville protested that his comments "do this College great & undeserved injury", Coleridge explained away his remarks as the general impression of an outsider. "I have heard now & then of Magdalene, always as the College of men of family & fortune, in fact of gentlemen, but I have heard of it as an expensive & what at Oxford we should have called a 'fast' College."[111] There was much to support his view, but the downside of this engaging fantasy was that it focused upon one assertive and favoured section of the undergraduate population, encouraging them to claim as the embodiment of the entire College community. They, in turn, came to feel that they were entitled to impose their norms upon everybody else. It was this aspect of the Magdalene identity that would make the College a less than ideal environment for the young Charles Parnell.

The view of Magdalene in the eighteen-sixties as a recreational community of gilded youth is splendidly conveyed through the rose-tinted reminiscences of Samuel Sproston, published in the College Magazine in 1910.[112] Sproston entered Magdalene in 1867, won a scholarship but managed to achieve only an undistinguished Third in the Classical Tripos of 1871.[113] His anecdotage offers some precious glimpses into Magdalene student life, not least because he briefly overlapped with Parnell, whom he recalled with evident distaste. But his evidence needs to be handled critically. Anyone who writes about an undergraduate education forty years later may be forgiven for stressing the eccentric over the humdrum. Moreover, Sproston was a more complicated personality than his preposterous snobbery would suggest. After graduation, he followed a conventional path to ordination as an Anglican clergyman. For a decade and a half he served as a curate in working-class areas of Bradford and London before securing a country living in Gloucestershire. A year later, he abandoned this snug clerical berth and converted to Rome.[114] The golden haze of his recollections perhaps compensated for a subsequent period of spiritual turmoil.

Sproston's account of his admission to Magdalene is engaging, but it is also misleading. He was lobbied by a former Shrewsbury schoolfellow, a Welshman called T.E. Jones, who was entering his third year at Cambridge. "Jones set forth with much zeal and loyalty the particular advantages of his own college, dilating on the exploits of Magdalene men in that 'Annus Mirabilis' of the College, 1866." The order in which Sproston listed these achievements is revealing: a rowing blue, three members of the University cricket team, the Cambridge billiards champion and the top steeplechaser. "There was, too, a First in the Classical Tripos". When Sproston arrived at Cambridge railway station as an expectant freshman, he encountered Jones emerging from another carriage accompanied by a third Shrewsbury student, whom he had diverted from Oxford at the last moment. The last-minute capture was triumphantly introduced to the College by Jones, "whose word was taken for his entire eligibility." To Sproston, the episode was "an example of the easy way in which things went at Magdalene in those days. So informal an admission could hardly have been secured at any other College."[115] But the sparkle of Sproston's reminiscence should not lead us into uncritical endorsement of his conclusion. The primary requirement for admission to Cambridge was a good grounding in Latin and Greek: Cambridge accepted responsibility for teaching Mathematics since English schools were notoriously deficient in the subject. Shrewsbury was the country's leading classical school: the mighty Benjamin Hall Kennedy, author of the celebrated Latin Primer, had left the headmastership two years earlier to become Professor of Greek at Cambridge. Mynors Bright, who was in charge of admissions at Magdalene, was a product of Shrewsbury himself. A few minutes informal conversation would have been enough to satisfy himself that Jones's latest capture would be capable of handling Little-Go Classics. Sproston had no way of knowing whether Magdalene was uniquely casual in its procedures. Several of the smaller Cambridge colleges were hard-pressed to attract students. By contrast, Magdalene enrolments were unusually buoyant in the late eighteen-sixties.[116]

A Magdalene College Community?

Conventional academic wisdom held that one advantage of the smaller colleges was that they functioned as integrated social communities. "The smaller the College is, the more likely it is that all its members ... will be acquainted with one another, if there be no marked disparity of previous education to keep them apart", remarked the Student's Guide, the qualification being a coded reference to barriers of class and wealth. "The diffident will thus find themselves introduced into a society ready formed for them; those of less culture, or force of mind or character, will benefit by the superior average of their neighbours; at any given time, something of a common tone, both social and moral, will prevail in the whole society of a moderate-sized College".[117] But Magdalene may never have conformed to the pattern and, far from being "superior", its "common [i.e. communal] tone" was too easily dominated by the rich, assertive and idle. When A.C. Benson became a Fellow forty years later, he found it "sharply demarcated into young men of wealth and sporting tastes, keeping hunters and living a life that was anything but studious, and a few scholars of a different type, holding scholarships attached to certain provincial grammar-schools, so that there was no coherence or social unity about the place."[118] In fact, Magdalene's admissions record for the calendar years 1860-9 suggests a more nuanced picture. Over half the 189 undergraduates did indeed come from public schools, but of these only 26 were from Eton and 11 from Harrow. Shrewsbury, a more middle-class institution and with a strong Classics tradition, provided 20. There were 46 entrants from other public schools, some of them new and not-yet fashionable institutions, such as Rossall, whose products were rarely in the same social league as Etonians. The hardest category to define consisted of the 57 men described as "privatim institutus" (privately educated). Some, like Parnell himself, had attended only small private schools, but others seem to have abandoned fruitless experience at public schools to prepare for university through crammers. The 29 undergraduates from traditional grammar schools formed the smallest category. At an average entrance of three a year, they were likely to have felt isolated, even though numerically they equalled the Etonians.[119] The sense of College identity was hijacked by the wealthy undergraduates, the confident, born-to-rule young men, who ignored and even denied the existence of any other version of Magdalene. "I suppose there were reading men," de Windt recalled, "… but I never saw them."[120] E.R. Yerburgh, who came to Magdalene on a tight budget in 1879, shortly after de Windt, was a product of Rossall. He quickly found that "the College was a distinctly fast one. More than half of the men were people of large means ─ some of great social position who would be unlikely to want to know me. The rest of the College was chiefly made of men from small Grammar Schools who were not men of my own social position."[121] The acerbic Spectator columnist of 1904 regarded the presence of young men from North of England grammar schools at Magdalene as the "quaintest anomaly", and thought it particularly unfair that they should be trapped in "a pleasant residential sporting club for well-to-do and more or less well-descended young men".[122] There were two Magdalenes, but one was not always very visible.

The Way We Live Now: An Eighteen-Seventies Downturn?

In asking how far the Spectator-Benson Two-Magdalenes theory applied to the College during Parnell's time at Cambridge, we need to consider indications that Magdalene went into accelerated decline during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Hence, we cannot simply back-project all evidence of its shortcomings during the final decades. The crucial stage of the downturn perhaps came in the middle years of the eighteen-seventies. Two contrasting events symbolise the transition. As late as 1875, a Magdalene candidate, A.G. Peskett, headed the Classical Tripos. As discussed below, major examination successes virtually ceased for about a decade and a half after Peskett's triumph.[123] In November 1876, during the Michaelmas Term, a second-year undergraduate, William Hoole, was killed in a riding accident. The son of a Sheffield manufacturer, accorded a gentlemanly veneer by another new public school, Wellington, Hoole was master of the Cambridge Drag Hounds and steward of the Harston steeplechases. At a steeplechase meeting in Huntingdonshire, he failed to tighten the girth of his saddle and broke his neck in a fall. One of the witnesses at the inquest was the Honourable Gilbert Henry Chandos Leigh, a Harrovian who had briefly entered Trinity Hall in 1871 before migrating to Magdalene, where four years later he had secured a Pass degree. In 1876, as he told the inquest, he was "of no occupation", but he became a member of parliament in 1880, four years before also falling to his death, this time in a Wyoming canyon.[124] Among the prosperous classes, social values were changing. As the Students' Guide noted in 1874, "the general style of living in England is more luxurious than it has ever been, and children are brought up in habits which would formerly have been considered self-indulgent." As a result, "young people" had become "easy going in money matters, and careful of personal comfort."[125] Anthony Trollope's 1875 novel, The Way We Live Now, reflects concern that ethical standards were slipping too. If there was indeed a change of gear towards an even more laid-back Magdalene, it may be associated with the retirement of Mynors Bright, who had been Parnell's Tutor, in 1873, leaving his Mathematics lecturer, G.F. Pattrick, in charge of admissions. Bright had been a Fellow for a decade before the appointment of Latimer Neville, Pattrick was moulded in the Master's image. Offering him a Tutorship in 1865, Neville had assured him that "this appointment will prove beneficial to the College, not only in its vocational aspect, but also in promoting that high moral tone which, I am glad to say, has been generally characteristic of Magdalene." Accepting, Pattrick pledged himself "to maintain the high traditional tone of the college".[126] In practice, the "vocational aspect" of Magdalene very much took second place to its social exclusiveness. Yerburgh believed that Pattrick "wished to make the College a force in Cambridge by attracting men of position and wealth. I fancy that he wished the College to depend more on its social position than on a reputation for scholarship or athleticism."[127] He gave brief evidence to confirm identity at the inquest into Hoole's death, but apparently was not asked to explain how a young man in statu pupillari came to be riding at a race meeting on a weekday during termtime.[128] Purnell's generous comment that Pattrick's "kindness and tact ruled the College without friction" perhaps signals that he was unduly indulgent to Magdalene's gilded youth.[129] No doubt it was true, as "A Magdalene Man of the Early 'Seventies'" protested to the Spectator in 1904, that Pattrick "cared for the welfare of poor scholars, as well as of richer undergraduates".[130] However, the legend that a Magdalene undergraduate "drove his own coach through the gateway, round First Court and out again" dates from Pattrick's Tutorship.[131]

The increasingly haughty exclusiveness of Magdalene's riding men in the eighteen-seventies manifested itself in a new contempt even for other sportsmen. Sproston, who rowed in the May Boat in 1870 and 1871, recalled that they had supported the oarsmen, and even occasionally taken to the river themselves. But this rapidly altered, and at about the time as the Magdalene culture generally changed gear as Pattrick succeeded Bright. The history of the Magdalene Boat Club noted that from the early eighteen-seventies, the riding fraternity "would have nothing to do with the boat." De Windt, who arrived in 1876, recalled that "to row or even play cricket was to be ostracized by the right set".[132] By Yerburgh's time, a single student, the Etonian and prominent oarsman J.A. Watson-Taylor, functioned as "the connecting link between the rowing men and the hunting men."[133] An example of this blinkered exclusiveness is Yerburgh's dismissal of the brothers "Red" and "Black" Waller. "They were enormously rich and enormously vulgar ─ the sons of a London builder. No one would have anything to do with them in Magdalene, so they made friends outside College."[134] "No one" here has a precise and narrow meaning: Thomas Waller rowed in the Lent races in 1881; John Waller was captain of the Boat Club in the summer of 1880. Once again, the prejudices of the "right set" were imposed as the attitude of the entire College community. It did not trouble the equestrian set that Magdalene was not allowed on the river at all for the May races of 1874 and 1875. In 1876, a Boat Club meeting reconvened as the Magdalene Football Club ─ another unfashionable sport. Magdalene continued throughout the eighteen-eighties to have one of the weakest crews on the Cam: through a series of years into the early 'nineties, its Lent Boat was bumped on twenty-four consecutive occasions. In 1889, the Club captain, elected in absentia, refused to do anything, and had to be ousted at the last minute. His successor launched an intensive four-day training programme before announcing that the Boat would not enter the races. "Mr Pattrick was in a frightful state".[135] Another measure of the 'seventies downturn seems to have been the flourishing of private dinner parties. "No dinners or suppers are allowed in the College except by an order from one of the tutors," Warter had reported to the Royal Commission in 1851. Giving evidence, he had explained that Magdalene had abandoned its former practice of marking attendance in Hall, as a deliberate policy of improving the quality of food meant that "the men rarely absent themselves."[136] Everett noted that Magdalene was famous for its "luxurious table", while Sproston did not mention private parties.[137] Yet, a decade later, de Windt recalled that "[t]here was a dinner party somewhere nearly every night."[138] "In my time, we hardly ever dined in Hall," wrote Yerburgh, "... we used to dine in each other's rooms."[139] The size of student rooms limited the numbers taking part. Yerburgh recalled groups of four. A precious photograph from around 1910 shows eight young men, their garb of evening dress incorporating striped blazers that probably indicated some sports team.[140] The practice of private dining could only contribute to cliquish exclusivity.

Since it was generally acknowledged that it was difficult for small colleges to achieve major academic success, Magdalene's mid-nineteenth century record in the University's two major Tripos subjects, Mathematics and Classics, had been mildly satisfactory, with twelve Firsts between 1852 and 1867.[141] In 1861, the College notched one of its most notable (if, it seems, quickly forgotten) triumphs: John Bond, a product of Heversham, one of its Northern feeder schools, came out second in the Mathematical Tripos and was also runner-up in the Smith's Prize, the University's most prestigious Mathematics competition.[142] Gunton's First in 1867, the addendum to Sproston's "annus mirabilis", was one of three others in that decade. Gunton had also won no fewer than three University medals for Latin verse in 1865 and 1866.[143] A further cluster of seven Firsts spanned the years from 1871 through to Peskett's success in 1875.

Although there were two isolated Firsts in Classics in 1879 and 1880, overall the decade from the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties was academically blank: in 1878, only one Magdalene candidate appeared in any Tripos list. The Magdalene malaise was palpable. The University was expanding: the 530 matriculations of Parnell's year, 1865, had almost doubled by 1887, when they broke the thousand mark for the first time. Other colleges were building, yet Magdalene remained static ─ and, after 1888, would actually decline in numbers. In 1883, Mynors Bright bequeathed £5,000 to build a Tutor's residence ─ a useful project, for celibacy had been abolished the previous year. It proved impossible to agree a site in Magdalene's limited patch, and Bright's Building did not rise until 1909. The college also failed to respond, except negatively, to the changing University environment. In 1869, King's decided to admit only candidates who intended to read for Honours. New Tripos subjects joined the elite duo of Mathematics and Classics. A Magdalene candidate had taken a First when Natural Sciences began in 1851, but b y 1880, only six others had blazed that trail, all of them unspectacularly. The Historical Tripos was launched in 1875: the first Magdalene candidate achieved a Third in 1890. A second historian emulated his feat in 1906. No Magdalene candidate appeared in the Law Tripos between 1878 and 1893, although members of the College probably continued to read for Bar. Other new Honours subjects were Moral Sciences, Oriental Languages, as well as Mediaeval and Modern Languages ─ admittedly, none of them overcrowded with students ─ but, also, none of them patronised from Magdalene. In the mid-century, a fire was "constantly kept up during the daytime" in the College Library, and favoured undergraduates allowed keys to give them access. "This is a privilege, which is found to be of great benefit, and of which the undergraduates gladly avail themselves."[144] It seems that the Library was valued as a place of study rather than as a source of knowledge. Mid-century Honours teaching was based almost entirely on set books and lectures, so it did not matter that Magdalene treated its Library as a historical collection and had no acquisitions programme. By the late eighteen-eighties, the Library "was only visited from motives of curiosity." Cobwebs covered the "bare, uncarpeted, unattractive rooms", and a detached door had been deposited against one of the bookcases, obscuring its contents.[145] By the time Benson inspected the Library in 1904, it was clear that even the fire was seldom lit.[146] Magdalene was conspicuously failing to keep abreast of educational change. For instance, from 1879, the Classical Tripos included questions on the history and culture of the ancient world,[147] while new subjects like History and Moral Sciences were more likely to draw upon library resources than textbooks.

Yet there are faint signs of a revival in the later eighteen-eighties, with eight Firsts between 1888 and 1896. In 1888, as many as eight undergraduates were classed in the Tripos lists, a multitude not achieved since 1854. Between 1891 and 1896, after a twelve-year gap, four students entered for Natural Sciences. However, they may simply have been encouraged by the opening of an additional University laboratory in 1889 ─ Magdalene, unlike Sidney, had made no attempt to provide experimental facilities of its own.[148] The Firsts may also have been random flickers of light in the overall darkness. Perhaps the phenomenon merely represented what stock markets call a dead-cat bounce: even a collapsing institution may recover slightly from its lowest point. If there was a revival, its driving force is hard to identify. The influence of Wilfred Gill, junior Fellow since 1880, may have been a factor, but Pattrick remained the sole Tutor until his death in 1896. (Gill's premature death two years later was another loss to the College.) Magdalene was already in the earlier phases of a prolonged financial crisis, which not only ruled out new initiatives but meant that existing Fellowships had to be left vacant: no new Fellows were elected between 1880 and 1897. However, while limitations on the range and quality of teaching that a small college could offer constituted handicaps to outstanding academic success, although it was possible to buy in lecturers to cover the core curriculum: in the late eighteen-eighties, Magdalene briefly employed Alfred North Whitehead, the Trinity mathematician and philosopher, but he was not a success as a teacher. High flyers, especially in Mathematics, sought paid coaching outside their colleges.[149] Thus Magdalene's instructional imitations represented a challenge but not necessarily an unsurmountable obstacle to examination success. Financial pressures worsened throughout the eighteen-nineties, and the association of the College with the Tranby Croft baccarat scandal could hardly have helped. Over nine hundred new students enrolled in the University of Cambridge every year throughout the 'nineties. In Magdalene, matriculations fell to a low point of thirteen in 1898. With College rooms now vacant, lower enrolments meant falling revenue, worsening the downward spiral.

Overall, in late nineteenth-century Magdalene, the culture and atmosphere of the institution almost constituted the major handicaps to high achievement. In the forty years from the middle of the eighteen-fifties to the mid-eighteen nineties, around seven hundred students were admitted to Magdalene. Of these, in the years 1860 to 1898, twenty-four can be identified as having graduated with First Class Honours ─ a disappointing three percent of the total.[150] Even more striking was the absence of the major schools and the landed classes from the intellectual elite.[151] Two of the Firsts were won by former pupils of Shrewsbury, but the remainder came overwhelmingly from unfashionable backgrounds, some of them from Leeds and Heversham, North country grammar schools with traditional links (and scholarships) to Magdalene, but others from schools in places such as Batley, Bishops Stortford, Colchester, Great Yarmouth, Huddersfield, Lancaster, West Kirby and Wolverhampton. Closely examined, Magdalene does indeed appear to have been demarcated as Benson described it, a College in which small enclaves of unfashionable studiousness were disdained or ignored by rich young men determined to have a good time. But while we can justifiably identify toxic attitudes of social exclusiveness and anti-intellectualism as consistently negative themes, it is still important to bear in mind that the emphases varied from decade to decade. The Magdalene of Peckard and the Evangelicals had been eclipsed, but it still maintained a flickering survival, in the attic rooms and the examination halls.

Magdalene in the Eighteen-Sixties

If ─ as it argued ─ there was a downturn in the social culture of Magdalene in the eighteen-seventies, it is important to establish how strong a sense of community had existed in the previous decade, the time when Parnell encountered the College culture. Writing of the late eighteen-sixties, Sproston recalled that the fifty-odd undergraduates of his time "naturally grouped themselves into two main divisions", and we might expect that he, too, saw Magdalene as split, however unequally, between the social and the academic. In fact he divided his contemporaries between "those who gave their minds and energies to horse and hound and those who sought recreation and muscular development on the river." However, in Sproston's memory, "there was no very distinct border-line between the two sets", for some of the rowing men were "straight riders across country and good shots, while useful oarsmen were forthcoming from time to time among the riding fraternity." The two groups also supported each other's sporting ventures: Boat Club stalwarts defied academic authority to support Magdalene jockeys at Cottenham, "and every man in the College was zealous for its aquatic success." However, this was not to say that Magdalene was one big happy family of ecumenically minded sportsmen. "Unfortunately there were in residence in the Sixties a few undergraduates, mostly sons of monied [sic] parvenus from the North of England", Sproston grumbled, who "tried to liken themselves to country gentlemen, and succeeded in looking like stable-boys." But even though they were "the least desirable section of the College ... it was probably better for them to be at Magdalene than elsewhere, for in any other College their money might have given them an unworthy prominence, and made them leaders of a pseudo-sporting set". As it was, they found themselves in an environment where "their highest aspiration was to resemble those, who were obviously their betters". And if Sproston was an appalling snob, he was at least a fair-minded one, conceding that "by assiduous imitation, they sometimes ended by becoming fairly good copies of the genuine article."[152] It may be some defence of Sproston's preposterously snooty world that Magdalene's social elite seem to have co-opted at least some of the College's moneyed parvenus ─ unlike King's twenty years later, where a feud between old and new rich erupted in violence in 1889.[153] As will be discussed later, Sproston did acknowledge the small cluster of poor and serious-minded students ─ missed entirely by de Windt ─ but numbered them at no more than three or four.

The young Parnell did not fit comfortably into Sproston's world. Two of his companions in Station Road on the night of the celebrated fight that led to his departure from Cambridge were from the north of England. Far from being "zealous" for the College's "aquatic success", Parnell refused even to subscribe to the Boat Club ─ probably for the simple reason that he did not have the money. Reviewing his own four years at Magdalene, Sproston could not recall "more than, at the outside, three or four genuine loafers, men ... who were keen about nothing." Although he could not bring himself to utter the hated name, it was obviously Parnell whom he had in mind when he added that "one of these, strange to say, afterwards acquired considerable eminence in a career which in a special degree demanded energy and activity."[154] Sproston's memoir suggests a picture of a young Parnell out of sympathy with the sprigs of the English elite, associating himself with the provincial parvenus whom the fashionable young men despised as "the least desirable section" of the College. But even this vivid glimpse of a long-lost undergraduate community may not tell the whole story. Sproston's arrival at Magdalene in October 1867 meant that his first two years coincided with Parnell's long period of absence from Cambridge. The two men overlapped for a few weeks in April and May of 1869. Sproston was a keen oarsman, Parnell played cricket. Sproston was heading for Honours in Classics, Parnell was probably gearing himself to tackle the Pass degree in Engineering. The two young men had neither the opportunity nor, one suspects, much inclination to get to know each other. And Sproston's invocation of Magdalene shared one major weakness with the common perception of the College. It took one section of the undergraduate community and imposed their identity and their priorities upon the image of the whole. A reconstruction of Magdalene College in Parnell's time suggest that we can equally view it as a community that comprehended students from varying backgrounds and was capable of accommodating a range of personalities. While no amount of revisionism will ever succeed in portraying Magdalene as a major centre of intellectual activity, it may also be argued that Sproston's emphasis upon horse and hound and muscular development on the river does less than justice to an admittedly modest educational culture in the College.    

Indeed, although Sproston's memoir probably did not exaggerate the divisions within Magdalene, he may not have told the whole story. Each year, during February, several colleges organised sports days, taking turns to hire Fenner's cricket ground which, in those days, was equipped with a running track. In some years, Magdalene was among them although, it seems, not while Parnell was in residence: the 1866 Magdalene Sports were postponed due to bad weather and apparently never took place,[155] and there is no report of any such event in 1867, when he was in residence. However, a substantial competition organised in February 1869 suggests that some level of shared social activity existed within the College. It is unfortunate that Parnell was not in residence at the time, for he enjoyed watching athletics. In 1877, he took a break from the House of Commons to watch the Irish champion, Dan O'Leary, win a walking race, and impishly bribed the band to strike up God Save Ireland after they had officially closed the proceedings with the National Anthem.[156] Had he been in Cambridge, he might well have turned out for the event, if only to cheer Percival Hoole, with whom he seems to have been friendly, who entered for the half-mile. The 1869 Sports were organised by a three-man committee of second-year undergraduates, two of whom had been at school at Rossall and the third at Bromsgrove. These were educationally impressive independent schools: Rossall had established a notable record for winning Oxford and Cambridge scholarships since its founding in 1844, while Bromsgrove was one of thirteen founder-members of the Headmasters' Conference in 1869. But neither institution could rank alongside establishments such as Eton or Harrow in social prestige. Evidently, middle-class Magdalene men felt entitled to articulate their own version of a College identity. Nineteen Magdalene undergraduates can be identified as taking part in events that day, probably around one-third of the resident student body ─ and there are indications that others were spectators (there was "a good attendance") and perhaps ran in unrecorded scratch races. The Boat Club did not enter an eight for the Lent Term races, and this may explain why five rowing men took part, but there was also a Harrovian riding man, Edward Dalglish, later "a well-known steeplechaser". Most of the participants came from unfashionable schools, although two Etonians deigned to compete. It is odd that Sproston seems not to have remembered that February day when he penned his snobbish memoir forty years later, for his victory in the mile race, one of the main events, surely represented a high point in his own college career. Dalglish struck out from the start, attempting to set a fast pace and force other competitors to drop out. But he had probably drawn deep on his energies in the earlier 880 yards, and when Sproston overtook him at the end of the first lap, he retired from the race. Sproston in turn was challenged by Bernard Sheppard, like himself a clergyman's son heading for ordination, who had come to Magdalene in 1867 after preliminary study at King's College, London. Sproston shook him off and won by twenty yards, in a time of five minutes, twelve and a half seconds.[157] Overall, we may conclude that, in some years, and through some activities, Magdalene was capable of generating some form of collective social culture, driven by young men from the margins of the social elite.

Of course, it is tempting to qualify the picture of an element of genuine community spanning a sizeable section of the Magdalene community with the reservation that Parnell himself may have been entirely alienated from it, as suggested by John Howard Parnell's recollection that his brother "got on badly with the other fellows [sc. 'chaps']".[158] Yet one newspaper report of action for assault against him on 21 May 1869 stated that Parnell "was accompanied by hosts of friends".[159] This may have been, as I attempted to explain it away in 1974, "a demonstration of college solidarity".[160] However, another shred of evidence suggests that the presence of Parnell's student cheer-squad represented something more than an amusing way to fill in an aimless day. Throughout that week ─ the case was heard on the Friday ─ the village of Chippenham, fifteen miles north-east of Cambridge, was hosting a cricket festival, sponsored by the squire and entertained by the brass band of the Huntingdonshire Militia. The Magdalene eleven had agreed to take part in a match scheduled for Thursday 20 May, but "on the morning of the match" the team "sent an apology for not being able to come".[161] This violation of gentlemanly courtesy could only be explained by some sudden imperative, and it is tempting to assume that the cricketers thought Parnell's case might be called that day, and decided not to risk being out of town when their moral support was needed. By great good fortune, a Gate Book for 1867 survives in the Magdalene archives. This is a ledger in which the porter recorded the arrival times of undergraduates returning to College after the curfew hour of ten o'clock at night. On 26 May, a College Meeting (the modern term is 'Governing Body') decided to rusticate Parnell, that is, to send him away for the remainder of the term. The Gate Book reveals that some, at least, of his fellow-students decided to give him a send-off, probably in the form of a dinner at a Cambridge inn. Parnell and three of the revellers returned to College after three o'clock in the morning. Four more rolled in after four o'clock. A few years earlier, such blatant absenteeism would certainly have provoked serious sanctions, a fine of two shillings and sixpence for coming in after two o'clock, plus an automatic requirement to stay an extra week in College to "keep" (i.e. formally register residence for) the term. Possibly by 1869, the rules had been relaxed, but the celebration does look like an act of defiance.[162] The record throws only an oblique shaft of light on the concept of a College community. The seven students who accompanied Parnell could hardly have known him, since all were freshmen, and five of them had only recently arrived in Magdalene and do not appear to have commenced serious study (if they ever did). Two had played cricket with him, against Trinity Hall on Parker's Piece three weeks earlier, none of them came from a fashionable school and several were clearly socially marginal ─ one was an American, another son of a plantation owner in St Kitts. A modest conclusion might suggest once again that there some sense of community among Magdalene students, if in shifting groupings and with varying depths of profundity. In this, the College was no different from most institutions, then and now.

II: Magdalene College, October 1865

"Wise and Kindly Dons"

"Something happens to me always in October," Parnell remarked years later.[163] In October 1865, that "something" was Magdalene College Cambridge, where he arrived on the nineteenth.[164] When Parnell arrived in Cambridge in October 1865, he joined a community that consisted of a handful of (in Sproston's phrase) "wise and kindly" dons (as established academics were called) plus about sixty undergraduates. Of these, about a dozen lived out of College, either in lodging houses or because (in a very few cases) they were married men enrolled as mature students.[165] Although the society was small in numbers, we cannot say that all its members knew one another ─ the few fourth-year men, for instance, would have been intensively preparing for Honours examinations after Christmas ─ and, still less, that they liked one another.[166] None the less, a reconstruction of the College in Parnell's first term points to a broader range of personalities and backgrounds than might be expected from the mythic Magdalene of those who unflatteringly observed it from without or those who nostalgically memorialised it from distant memory.

Presiding over the College was the Honourable and Reverend Latimer Neville, "a good but decidedly dull man",[167] the twenty-fifth Master of Magdalene in a line stretching back to 1544. While the antiquated Cambridge statutes required Fellows of colleges to be celibate, "Heads of Houses" possessed what Leslie Stephen impishly called "the privilege, and almost the duty of taking a wife." Latimer Neville had married on being appointed in 1853, and was the father of a young family, the last of whom was born a few months after Parnell was dismissed from the University. In one of his splendidly waspish put-downs, Benson recorded that Neville's widow had regarded the College as "a disagreeable sort of incumbrance on the Mastership",[168] but Latimer Neville himself, although a remote figure, certainly cared about the institution entrusted to his charge, even if his concern mainly took the form of resisting most changes in its character and administration.[169] The Nevilles lived in the Master's Lodge, but they did not reside there all the year. A pluralist, Latimer Neville combined the Mastership with another Braybrooke appointment, as Rector of Heydon with Little Chishill, adjoining parishes about twelve miles away in Essex.[170] Due ceremonial was observed to mark the movements of the Master. When Latimer Neville was in residence, the fine old timber gates in the entrance archway to First Court were flung wide open until ten o'clock at night. When he was away, they were closed, and ingress was only possible through the much smaller wicket gate. Mere mortal undergraduates had little contact the Master. In four years as an undergraduate, A.S. Ramsey was only once invited the Lodge, to have breakfast as part of a successful College cricket team. He was obliged to decline as the invitation clashed with a Tripos examination: it seems curious that the Master was so detached from the day-to-day life of Magdalene that he could have been unaware of one of the major landmarks in the academic calendar.[171] Undergraduates saw the Master in Chapel and when he dined in Hall, where he was part of the High Table set aside for senior members.[172] However, in the eighteen-sixties, he did summon students who failed to appear at the two Sunday Chapels to explain their absence. Those who offered "solid and sound" excuses would be granted "a few minutes quite pleasant chat", but those who could not were reprimanded and often "gated", a form of curfew that confined transgressors to the College precincts from an early hour. According to Leslie Stephen the archetypal Master "sits solemnly upon certain boards which meet once a term to settle that no change need to be made in the University system", devoting the rest of his time "to studies of so abstruse a character ... that he seldom manages to bring them to a close within the term of his natural life".[173] Latimer Neville conformed to the first image but not to the second.

If Latimer Neville was barely visible and not always present, the average undergraduate found that that the Master's second-in-command, Mynors Bright, "touched him nearly and at every turn." Since Magdalene was short of money, Bright combined the offices of President and Tutor, the former making him deputy to the Master, indeed with a considerable measure of executive autonomy within the College, and the latter giving him open-ended responsibility for the welfare of undergraduates. (It is a peculiarity of Cambridge terminology that Tutors do not by virtue of their appointment engage in teaching, although they may also teach in some other capacity: Bright, for instance, was a distinguished Hebrew scholar and lectured to small numbers of students who wished to study the Old Testament.) Fortunately, Mynors Bright was "an excellent man of affairs", capable of conducting "with punctuality, and sometimes at considerable length, the correspondence which his position as Tutor involved." (Parnell's younger brother Henry recalled seeing "a courteous letter from his Tutor, Mr Bright" urging Parnell to return to resume his studies after his rustication.[174]) With no secretarial support, he also "wrote out with his own hand all the undergraduates' accounts", a process that enabled him to monitor their lifestyles.[175] All of this was the more remarkable in that Bright was virtually immobilised by poor health. He was the son of a London physician, and undergraduate wisdom claimed with its habitual wisdom that their Tutor had been felled by the very kidney affliction that his own father had identified and named. In this, as so often, undergraduate wisdom was completely wrong, and a more likely story is that Bright fell ill after sleeping "in a damp bed" in middle life, which perhaps points to some form of rheumatic fever. (Bright was fit enough to row in the Magdalene Boat as late as 1841, a year after his election to a Fellowship.) Whatever the cause, "he seldom left his rooms", although "on very rare occasions" he would be carried out into the fresh air in a bath-chair, "a pathetic little figure in a very old fashioned and very tall beaver hat." Indeed, there was something pithily pre-Victorian about Mynors Bright. "He took an old-world view of life and his speech was marked on occasion by the picturesque and forcible forms of expression which were common in his younger days." It was characteristic of the man that his major research project was the complete revision of the original Braybrooke transcription of the diary of Samuel Pepys, although Bright's outspokenness did not extend to publishing the more salacious passages.[176] Measured by contemporary standards, Mynors Bright was a major scholar and he seems also to have been an immensely likeable personality, blessed with a brave sense of humour and the ability to inspire admiring loyalty among the young men whose lives he supervised.[177] While he ran Magdalene, down to 1873, some attempt was made to strike a balance between academic achievement and jolly sociability.

As might be expected of a small and far-from-wealthy institution, the Magdalene Fellowship consisted of just a handful of men. Although the son of a Methodist minister, John Roberts, a Yorkshireman who taught Classics, was regarded as man of the world. A qualified barrister, he "frequently visited London on professional business, returning to Magdalene with the most recent gossip of the Clubs."[178] Francis Pattrick lectured in Mathematics. Not yet thirty, Pattrick was "a most patient teacher to the dull, and stimulating to the quick".[179] The collapse into alcoholism of the College chaplain, Samuel Jackson, formed a dramatic backdrop to Parnell's first term, unfortunately timed for the young Irish Protestant, since, as he later confessed to Tim Healy, reading Paley's Evidences of Christianity ─ a set book for the Little-Go ─ "upset his faith".[180] Although Pattrick was a committed teacher and administrator, none of the three ever troubled the cataloguing department of the University Library. In one of Magdalene's more charming eccentricities, both Roberts and Jackson had continued to row in the Magdalene Boat even after their election as Fellows. Also resident in College was the Reverend Edward Dodd, vicar of nearby St Giles. Dodd was not averse to ecclesiastical and political controversy, but was not involved in the running of Magdalene.[181] Thus far, the emerging picture conforms to the generally dismissive view of Magdalene as a low-key community of under-achieving dons (although, in this, the College would not have been unique in contemporary Cambridge.) However, in Parnell's time, its senior membership included three notably energetic figures, and it may be claimed that the intellectual influence of two of them lingers into our own twenty-first century.

The now-forgotten member of this trio was by no means the least interesting. Formally, Joseph Lumby had vacated his Fellowship upon marriage, but he remained in Cambridge and was one of those valuable dons who took on vital administrative tasks to keep the academic show on the road ─ a much-regretted breed now rendered obsolete by the management revolution that has overwhelmed higher education. It was characteristic that Lumby was the author of the chapter in the quasi-official Students' Guide on the Cambridge Pass degree, a well-trodden path for Magdalene undergraduates. When Jackson dramatically collapsed in the middle of divine service, it was Lumby who was called in to fill the gap. Like most of his donnish contemporaries, he was in Holy Orders, but in Lumby's case this was no mere formality, for he was a theologian with a pronounced taste for editing historical manuscripts. In the mid-eighteen sixties he was on the verge of a torrential publishing career which would eventually carry him to one of the University's Divinity professorships. He was also an exceptionally committed teacher, "a most conscientious lecturer", who delivered a course on Plato which some Magdalene students attended. On one occasion, he was confined to bed after injuring himself in a fall at Cambridge railway station. "Most lecturers would have considered such an accident an ample excuse for deferring a college lecture. Not so Dr. Lumby." His undergraduate class was directed to gather, wearing the correct academic garb of cap ("mortar board") and gown in his bedroom. They sat on a circle of chairs around the bed, with Lumby propped up on pillows, Plato in hand "and a huge white tie under the collar of his nightshirt. The effect of this conventional effort to maintain his dignity as a Don was irresistibly comic."[182] If Lumby's full intellectual potential was not yet obvious in 1865, the same cannot be said of his physique. He weighed twenty stone and could snap pokers in two. In later years a bemused colleague would comment that Lumby was omniscient and omnipotent, but mercifully not omnipresent.[183] Parnell must have known Lumby at least by sight, for he would have encountered him in Chapel and it was hardly possible to miss this massive Yorkshireman.

In 1865, it might have been difficult to foresee that a Cambridge Chair loomed for Joseph Lumby. Perhaps even more surprising, by the close of Parnell's first year, this small and not very distinguished College was also home to two of Cambridge University's thirty professors, Alfred Newton in Zoology and Charles Kingsley in Modern History. Both men were themselves products of Magdalene and both, though in different ways, would leave an enduring mark on intellectual life far beyond Cambridge. Soon after his graduation in 1853 (apparently with a Pass degree), Newton had been elected to a travelling fellowship, the forerunner of the modern-day research studentship. This had enabled him to pursue his enthusiasm for ornithology, travelling to regions as varied and remote as Iceland, Spitsbergen and the Caribbean, adventures all the more remarkable in someone who had been lame since childhood. By the end of the eighteen-fifties Newton had settled at Magdalene, occupying a muddle of apartments to the north of First Court called Old Lodge where he was to remain for fifty years.[184] Although his publications, mainly catalogues of birds and their eggs, were painstaking and slow to appear, he established the scientific study of ornithology, in 1858 founding the British Ornithologists' Union at a meeting in his College rooms.[185]

In 1865, Cambridge's Professor of Anatomy retired, having complained for years of carrying a double teaching load. The University took the opportunity to split the responsibilities, and in March 1866 Newton was elected to a new Chair of Zoology. The Chair brought with it a daunting challenge, for Newton was one of those scholars whose outstanding capacity for research was unaccompanied by classroom skills. Cambridge professors occupied an awkward position in relation to the University's core curriculum. Broadly, a rough solution had evolved that required professors to offer specialist lectures to "Poll men", students for the Pass degree, who paid a small fee to attend the course and sit the undemanding examination designed to establish that they had in fact turned up ─ thus using the University's brightest intellects to lecture at its least gifted students. Newton began lecturing in October 1866, reporting "a pretty good audience ─ 30 or 40 at least ─ and 14 men and were kind enough to inscribe their names on a board, which means as many pounds in my pocket."[186] For the fourteen victims, it would prove to be a hard-bought experience. Newton's lecture technique involved doggedly reading from a prepared text form which he seemed unable to depart even on occasions when his class dwindled to an audience of one. At intervals through the text the Professor had drawn a small sketch of a wineglass, a symbol that prompted him to take a sip of water before droning into the next section. The root problem was a slight stutter which made any form of public utterance an ordeal for him. "I know I am one of the worst of lecturers," he admitted. In later years, he took to delivering his lectures at one o'clock, relying upon the rival attractions of lunch to guarantee that his audience would be small.[187]

A.C. Benson, who encountered Newton in the eighteen-eighties, recalled him with some awe as "a strongly built man of about fifty, leaning heavily on a stick, with a brisk, alert face and bushy grey side-whiskers", dressed in the garb of yesteryear, an "old-fashioned tall top-hat ... and a short full-skirted tail coat". He seemed to "bristle with decision", suggesting a personality that was "not wholly good-natured, not a man to oppose in any way." Yet, curiously for a man who seemed bad-tempered and who undoubtedly was a bad lecturer, Newton went to considerable lengths to encourage those undergraduates who were interested in his subject, holding Sunday night open sessions in his Old Lodge rooms that we would now regard as a seminar series. Alone among the Magdalene dons, "he belonged to what may, for convenience, be called the upper class", the son of a Suffolk squire and cousin of the celebrated wit Richard Monckton Milnes, the second Lord Houghton. A.C. Benson thought it "part of his old-fashioned and magnanimous code that the more adventitious advantages a gentleman possessed, the less he must put them forward or allude to them in any way." (It was a code to which Parnell would also subscribe in his dealings with his Irish Nationalist colleagues who invariably hailed from less privileged backgrounds, and explains why so many of them assumed that he lacked intelligence or general knowledge.) This sense of noblesse oblige prompted Newton, especially during his early career, to "gather round him, to advise and encourage, all younger and less experienced students, and to give them all the help in his power."[188] Undergraduates appreciated his openness all the more because it contrasted with the prevalent culture that maintained a formal gap between students and their seniors. However, his inter-generational contact seems to have been largely confined, for obvious reasons, to those young men who shared his interests. "Beyond seeing him in Hall, undergraduates had very little to do with him," Yerburgh recalled, "and I do not think I ever spoke to him."[189]

Parnell would have known Newton by sight, for the Professor was hard to miss, but it is unlikely that he ventured into his Old Lodge lair to join the impromptu Sunday evening seminars on zoology. As a boy he had robbed nests to collect birds' eggs. Unluckily, disaster ensued when he spread out the collection on the floor of a room where they were trodden on by a clumsy servant girl. The surviving examples were discarded when the family left Avondale in 1860 to live in a series of smaller houses in the Dublin area.[190] Thereafter Parnell's chief interest in birds seems to have been slaughtering them on the Wicklow hills during the pheasant season. In old age, Newton was "full to the brim of picturesque details" about the people he had encountered, but when he was consulted in 1906 about Parnell's time at Magdalene, he had no personal recollection of the future Irish leader. But Newton did play two indirect roles in the Parnell story. First, he was a close friend of Francis Pattrick, who taught Parnell, liked him and evidently reminisced about his former pupil. A decade after Pattrick's death, and implicitly drawing upon Pattrick's conversation, Newton authoritatively denied that sexual immorality had played any part in Parnell's departure from Cambridge. Newton's second contribution, one that is admittedly more speculative, lay in his support for the work of Charles Darwin. As already noted, there is evidence that Parnell passed through a phase of religious doubt during his first year at Cambridge. Darwin's theory of evolution, published in 1859, was one of the major influences that impelled two Cambridge dons, Leslie Stephen and Henry Sidgwick, towards agnosticism during the eighteen-sixties. However, doubters may wonder whether intellectual currents that troubled two of the most powerful minds in Cambridge would have swirled as turbulently around a poorly schooled teenager in an academic backwater. Newton provides a possible, indeed a likely, mechanism for the transmission of Darwinian ideas. Although his classroom performance was so lamentable that even students interested in zoology did not attempt to take notes, Newton in his Sunday soirées seems to have been a more relaxed and cogent personality, and here he may have been a channel for making Darwin's ideas understood and accepted. Darwin himself spoke to the Sunday evening gathering on three occasions between 1865 and 1869, on subjects as varied as the land tortoise, the red deer and the fauna of the New Forest, and those were almost certainly not his only visits to the Old Lodge. One of the features of Newton's sitting room was an unpredictable rocking chair which, he recalled, "had more than once thrown Darwin on to the floor."[191]

If Alfred Newton's strength lay in his research and emphatically not his lecturing, Magdalene's other professor, Charles Kingsley, was very much the other way around. We need to grasp two points about Kingsley's Regius Chair of Modern History. First, the adjective means that it was a Crown appointment and so, unlike most professors who had been elected by their peers, Kingsley had no supportive constituency within the University. He had been selected in 1860 by a Liberal government on the urging of the Prince Consort, both of them suspect in the eyes of many dons. Moreover, Kingsley himself was a controversial figure, whose Christian Socialist novel, Alton Locke, published in 1850, had painted a savage picture of Cambridge student life, and would have done nothing to endear him to the Fellows of Magdalene.[192] Secondly, Kingsley's Chair had yet to acquire the prestige that it would accrue to it thanks to the work of his two successors, J.R. Seeley and Lord Acton. History as a discipline was held in low regard, arousing something of the disdain that in more recent times conservative academics have felt towards Media Studies. Indeed, official Cambridge had expected Lord Palmerston to go outside the University in choosing a professor, since the only halfway qualified local candidate had a ferocious track record for quarrelling. Kingsley himself used his Inaugural Lecture (delivered to a packed Senate House and lasting for an hour and three-quarters) to discuss scientific theories of causation. Fundamentally, however, he viewed History as a grand field for moralising, although this sat uneasily with his enthusiastic if idiosyncratic endorsement of Darwin: somehow, Kingsley combined a theological doctrine of human free will with a zoological theory of divinely mapped predestination through evolution. But thanks to his thunderous style of lecturing, undergraduates were not conscious of any contradiction. Like Newton, he was afflicted with a stammer, but Kingsley turned a handicap into a challenge, forcing out his words and using his hesitations of speech to dramatic effect. "Professor Kingsley draws about the largest class in the University", the Cambridge Chronicle commented in 1867, adding to the impact of his lectures by reporting them in full.[193] Accounts of his Kingsley's lectures are replete with what may sound to us suspiciously formulaic declarations by his hearers to repent and lead worthier lives. But in academic life, undergraduate acclaim rarely translates into esteem from colleagues. Worse still, Kingsley's histrionic successes compounded the deeper problem of his approach to the discipline. The imaginative qualities that made him an exciting historical novelist undermined his claims to scholarship when he turned his lectern into a pulpit. In 1869, discouraged by unfavourable reviews of his published work, he resigned the Chair and retreated into the more comfortable world of the cathedral close. But, as recalled in one of the most famous of all Cambridge put-downs, he remained "poor Kingsley".[194]

On being appointed to his Chair, Charles Kingsley's worthy intention was to reside in Cambridge, even though his lecture series would occupy only a few weeks of the year. But in 1863, he gave up renting a house, ostensibly on grounds of cost ─ his professorial salary was not enormous and Kingsley had to pay for a curate to look after his Berkshire parish, as well as maintain his rectory there. It seems that his wife's health suffered in Cambridge, and Kingsley's popularity with undergraduates was still not matched by any warmth of acceptance among the dons. This change of plan meant that when he did come to Cambridge to lecture, he spent time in Magdalene, and may even have stayed in College. He struck up a friendship with his fellow professor, Alfred Newton. Victorian intellectuals often pursued broad interests, and Kingsley was a keen naturalist who admired Newton's ornithological work. It was a measure of the shattered confidence in his ability to command respect in his own Chair that he came to dream of switching fields. "Gladly would I give up History and think of nothing but dicky birds," he assured Newton in 1867, "but it must not be ─ yet." In later years, after Kingsley's early death, as Newton engaged in the eminently donnish exercise of savouring his post-prandial glass of port, he would sometimes remark: "How old Kingsley would have lapped this up!"[195] One of Parnell's Magdalene contemporaries recalled Kingsley's "resounding laugh from the Dons' High Table and his resonant voice, leading the conversation",[196] but it does not seem that undergraduates had any direct contact with the great man. And in two important respects, we can be reasonably sure that he did not influence the young Parnell.

For Kingsley, History was driven by conflicts of race and religion, and his opinions on both were at their most controversial in the middle of the eighteen-sixties. His belief in the fundamental importance of race, sharpened by Darwin's view of competitive selection, permeated his 1864 lectures on "The Roman and the Teuton", in which the barbarian ancestors of the English people destroyed the world's mightiest empire through sheer force of character, although his well-merited doubts about the quality of his historical analysis ensured that they were not published in his lifetime. In 1866 he came out in public defence of Governor Eyre, whose bloody repression of civil disturbance in Jamaica prompted some of Kingsley's former liberal allies to launch a prosecution for murder. Kingsley praised Eyre for his "English spirit of perseverance, courage, and adventure" and his "understanding of human beings", which had manifested itself in the hanging of over four hundred Black people under martial law.[197] Although unpleasant, Kingsley's prejudice against people of African origin was conventional enough for the period.[198]

More complex was the difficulty he experienced in fitting the Irish into his colour-coded racial hierarchy. A fishing holiday in County Sligo in the summer of 1860 gave him his first opportunity to study the people of Ireland, who, he was shocked to find, were "white chimpanzees ... if they were black, one would not feel it so much, but their skins ... are as white as ours". The passionate sympathy that he felt for English working men utterly deserted him when confronted by Irish peasants. "I don't believe they are our fault," he consoled himself. "I believe there are not only many more of them than of old, but that they are happier, better, more comfortably fed and lodged under our rule than they ever were."[199] Kingsley seems strangely ignorant of the recent tragedy of the Irish Famine. Even as an undergraduate, Parnell would surely disagreed with the Professor's assessment of the benefits of English rule and Irish tenancy law.

For obvious reasons, had Parnell embraced Kingsley's belief in the primacy of race in History, it is unlikely that he would have become an Irish nationalist. "There is not a bit of the Celt in him," A.M. Sullivan had remarked in 1880 and, although many such comments about Parnell reflected behavioural stereotypes, it was true that he was entirely descended from Planter stock, diluted on his mother's side by American (and non-Celtic) ancestry.[200] In modern political science, his view of Irish nationality was 'civic' rather than 'ethnic', as he showed in his dramatic refusal to consider the exclusion of Ulster from Home Rule in 1886: "we cannot give up a single Irishman."[201] Indeed, Parnell was notably sparing in his use of ethnic terminology. His explosive "Address to the People of Ireland" of issued in November 1890 climaxes with an allusion to "the aspirations of the Irish race" but this was part of an appeal to "the Irish people throughout the world", the well-practised strategy of mobilising the American Irish for Parnell's own ends.[202] As a rhetorical device, it required him neither to define the Irish race nor to justify his implicit claim to inclusion. By December 1866, Kingsley had privately concluded "that the differences of race are so great, that certain races, e.g. the Irish Celts, seem quite unfit for self-government". Two years after his parliamentary manoeuvring had ensured that the 1884 Reform Act would hand over control of the Irish constituencies to those same people, Parnell made his supreme push for an Irish parliament. Kingsley doubted whether the Irish should even be allowed the local right of "self-administration" through trial by jury, "because they regard freedom and law, not as means of preserving what is just and right, but merely as weapons to be used in their own private interests and passions." This interpretation ignored the blatant practice of Dublin Castle to drive its own coach-and-horses through the legal process, although it might be pointed out that Parnell was to have no problem in encouraging his followers to test the Land Courts established under the 1881 Act in much the spirit that Kingsley had censured.[203] Although Kingsley's most venomous opinions were expressed in private correspondence, his antipathy was well known. "He can never say a civil word about an Irishman," complained the Irish Times in 1864. "Imagine a sane man talking in a Cambridge lecture of Celts with glibs of long hair hanging over their hypo-gorillaceous visages."[204] Parnell may well have been unaware of the full horror of Charles Kingsley's censures on Irish ethnicity but he would certainly not persuaded by the Professor's insistence upon the centrality of race.

The young Parnell would also have known that Kingsley had suffered public humiliation at the wrong end of a religious controversy with John Henry Newman, the Oxford don who had been a major figure in the Anglo-Catholic revival within the Church of England before rejecting his own compromise and going over to Rome in 1845. If for Kingsley, the struggle between races was the motor force of History from ancient times, his Anglican soul saw the unending battle between Protestant truth and Catholic mendacity as an equally powerful theme through recent centuries. "Truth, for its own sake, had never been a virtue with the Roman clergy", he wrote in a book review published early in 1864, adding that "Father Newman" (the honorific carried more than a touch of sarcasm) was a particular exponent of this lack of principle.[205] The slur was not only unnecessary, but deeply clumsy, for it appeared by innuendo to endorse a Protestant conspiracy theory which suspected that Newman had secretly become a Catholic some years before 1845, but had been ordered to remain formally within the Church of England in order to sow doubt and discord in Anglican ranks.

For all his saintliness, Newman revealed a considerable skill at media manipulation, keeping the controversy alive through a low-level pamphlet war while he prepared a complete defence of his religious trajectory. Kingsley, "ill from overwork of the brain"[206] and close to a breakdown, attempted first to slide out his allegation and then allowed himself to be goaded into renewing his attack. In What, then, does Dr Newman mean?, Kingsley denied that he regarded Catholics as "villains". "The Catholic laity of these realms are just as much respected and trusted as the Protestants, when their conduct justifies that respect and trust, as it does in the case of all save a few wild Irish". There has been a tendency to discount Kingsley's pamphlet as merely the unworthy trigger of Newman's devastating response, but he can be credited with a detailed attack on practices which most Protestants found incomprehensibly credulous, seasoned with notable invective against the antagonist who propagated them. "I see now how deeply I have wronged him," was his cutting dismissal of Newman. "So far from thinking truth for its own sake to be no virtue, he considers it a virtue so lofty as to be unattainable by man".[207] In instalments between March and June 1864, Newman replied with the Apologia Pro Vita Sua, intended as an inner history of his religious history, which contemptuously reprinted both Kingsley's pamphlet attack and the correspondence between them. In comparison with Newman's magnificent, labyrinthine and perplexing account of his spiritual odyssey, Kingsley's criticisms seemed crass and two-dimensional. The Spectator, for instance, concluded that Kingsley had "grievously wronged a man utterly unintelligible to him, but as incapable of falsehood or the advocacy of falsehood as the sincerest Protestant."[208] Half a century later, a Fellow of Magdalene could only offer the defence that "we may be ultimately grateful to Kingsley's fierce and faulty dialectic for eliciting the splendid Apologia."[209] It was humiliating to acknowledge that the College's most notable contribution to nineteenth-century religious thought came from the wrong end of a bad-tempered spat over veracity.

Biographers conventionally portray Parnell as a student who took no interest in public affairs. This is almost certainly untrue: as a teenager, for instance, he had supported the North in the American Civil War.[210] It is likely that the nineteen-year-old freshman from Dublin was aware that Magdalene's best-known academic had been worsted in a public controversy that had been lovingly reported in Irish newspapers.[211] Although Parnell treated suggestions that he might go over to Rome himself as impertinence,[212] he worked closely with priests for much of his political career. In his local town of Rathdrum, he was on far closer terms with Father Richard Galvin, who energetically supported his first attempts to enter parliament, than with the Church of Ireland incumbent, Canon Galbraith.[213] His victory in Meath in 1875 owed much to the solid organisational support of the local priesthood.[214] Similarly, during his time in Kilmainham, he enjoyed the company of the Catholic chaplain, Canon Kennedy, with whom he chatted "on every topic except religion" but took pleasure in pretending to mis-remember the name of his Protestant opposite number, the Reverend Mr Fleming, whom he addressed as "Fletch-aw".[215] Parnell was angered by the accusation that he had abused backsliding Home Rulers as "papist rats" in 1880. As he put it to a supporter, he would have been "very foolish" to used such an insulting term. "An Irish Protestant politician can least of all afford to offend the Catholic priests or laity."[216] Nor was this a mere tactical ploy. In one of his last public speeches, delivered in the unlikely surroundings of Belfast, he insisted that "there is no fear to Protestant interests from Catholic freedom".[217] This was a far cry from Kingsley's ethnic and sectarian sideswipe in 1864 against "those hapless Irish Celts" in thrall to a mendacious priesthood.[218]

Even those who cling to the myth of a stolidly apolitical young man will concede that Parnell was reared with a pride in his own family. In 1807, his grandfather, William Parnell, had published An Historical Apology for the Irish Catholics, whose central argument was the plea that it was "the principle of persecution adopted against the religion which makes the Catholics zealous [i.e. doctrinaire] and disaffected, and that therefore the persecution should be dropped." The Apology and the Apologia were very different statements, the one political and the other theological. William Parnell was as loyal a Protestant as Charles Kingsley, but his key point was "that even allowing that the principle of the [Catholic] religion is bad; still, that if it were left alone, it would become indolent and innocuous".[219] It is likely that the undergraduate Parnell would have felt that, Professor Kingsley had only himself to blame for recklessly voicing criticisms that would have better left unsaid.

Distrust of Kingsley may put into context an enigmatic put-down that Parnell employed a decade after his time at Cambridge. But the late eighteen-seventies, he was becoming restive under the restrained leadership of Isaac Butt. For a five-year period early in his career, Butt had held the Chair of Political Economy at Trinity College Dublin. He had moved on since leaving his professorship in 1841, five years before Parnell had been born. After a professional career of decades, he might be fairly labelled as a barrister or as a politician. A denigratory critic might allude to his financial irresponsibility or his sexual promiscuity. Parnell encapsulated his impatience with his leader's learned and kid-glove parliamentary tactics. "'Mr Butt', he said, with one of his softly satirical smiles, 'is a Professor.'" For William O'Brien, who recorded the comment, it was the only time Parnell uttered a remark "which grated upon me".[220] But William O'Brien had not observed Professor Charles Kingsley at close quarters.

One final comment about the dons of Magdalene seems appropriate in reference to Ireland's future uncrowned king. They represented the first collective manifestation of a distinctly English structure of authority that Parnell had personally encountered, and four of them would formally pronounce against him in May 1869. It is worth noting that they predominantly constituted a middle-class meritocracy, however much we must allow for the imprecision of those categories. The major exception was Latimer Neville, the Etonian son of a peer, but, as Master, Neville was a relatively remote figure with little impact on the daily life of undergraduates. (Professor Newton also came from a gentry background but, in a strange anomaly, although he held a University Chair, he was not elected to a Fellowship until 1877. Hence, his signature does not appear in the Order Book endorsing Parnell's rustication.) Lumby and Roberts, like Jackson the chaplain, were products of Yorkshire grammar schools who had come through the Cambridge system on merit. Pattrick, similarly, hailed from Wisbech in the Fens, where his father was a jeweller and silversmith. Mynors Bright was the son of a physician, Roberts of a Methodist minister, while Jackson's father had been a farmer. Acting in concert, they embodied the academic and religious establishment of mid-Victorian England, but it would be entirely misleading to imagine the young Parnell coming into contact and eventually conflict with the upper levels of the social hierarchy.

Parnell's Student Contemporaries

Samuel Sproston's description of the Magdalene undergraduate community as "between fifty and sixty in number" was not merely the result of imprecise recollection. Student numbers fluctuated, with young men arriving and departing at odd times, not least those who landed in the Magdalene safety net from other colleges. Hence, thanks to the College's unstructured admissions policy, it is impossible to be entirely sure, at this distance in time, which of them would have sat alongside Parnell in first-year lectures.[221] Twenty freshmen arrived at Magdalene in October 1865 (a bumper year).[222] We can also add a handful who had come into residence earlier in the calendar year, since the tendency of less enthusiastic students (in Warter's disapproving words) to "devote the Easter Term to boating and cricket only"[223] would have made them effectively beginners in the academic programme. Broadly we can assume that Parnell was one of a couple of dozen freshmen, who joined a similar number of second-, third- and fourth-year students. (The handful of fourth-year students, "questionists", were preparing for Tripos examinations, held in Mathematics in January and for Classics in March. This arrangement smoothed out the University's examination burdens throughout the year but must have been inconvenient to lodging-house keepers.)

Before attempting to disinter Parnell's exact contemporaries from the pages of Venn's Alumni Cantabrigienses, it is useful to set his freshman year against the background of their seniors. The picture that emerges is of a more serious student community than the traditional caricature would allow. And the word "community" may not be entirely a retrospective construct. One of the aspects of Cambridge culture strongly praised by the Bostonian Edward Everett was the openness of older students towards freshmen: the sadistic initiation rituals of American colleges were entirely absent.[224] As with most aspects of English life, relationships were characterised by hierarchy, in this case of age and seniority transferred from the public schools: freshmen were encouraged to respond to friendly approaches but not to initiate them.[225] There is no reason to assume that this welcome would not have been extended to the young Irish landowner who was an ensign in the Wicklow militia.

In the most skittish of Parnell biographies, St John Ervine portrayed Magdalene as "essentially a sporting and somewhat rowdy college", mainly populated by huntsmen. "The authorities were astounded when a Magdalene man took a degree, and it is probable that among themselves the men considered such an act as slightly disgraceful."[226] This charming picture is a travesty. There was indeed a high rate of attrition among Magdalene undergraduates in their first year of residence: some were weeded out (by University examinations if not by College policy) while, academically speaking, others had never intended to bed themselves in. The best-known personality in the year immediately ahead of Parnell, the Marquess of Queensberry, survived just two terms. Others were unable to pass their Little-Go, the retrospective entrance examination taken during the second year. One such casualty seems to have been a young man with the splendid name of Eversfield Botry Pigott, who vanishes from the College account books in the spring of 1866 after five terms in residence. Although bishops generally expected Cambridge ordinands to have achieved Cambridge degrees, Pigott managed to become a clergyman and pursued a worthy career as a country clergyman.[227] Parnell would encounter another Pigott, presumably unrelated, during his subsequent career.

Once students surmounted their Little-Go, they mostly went on to graduate and, paradoxically perhaps, the fact that few achieved brilliant examination results suggests a certain dogged determination to complete the course. Even some of the exceptions could be worthy enough. Augustine Dawson had entered Magdalene a year ahead of Parnell, in the autumn of 1864, as a "sizar". Sizarships, which were becoming almost obsolete, were a means of providing cut-price admission to the University for poor students, since sizars paid reduced fees. By the eighteen-sixties, the menial duties formerly required from them, such as serving dinner to their wealthier contemporaries, had been abandoned, although as late as 1864 Trinity maintained the tradition of feeding them from the Fellows' leftovers.[228] Dawson was a product of Christ's Hospital, a London day school which provided an academic education to a broad social range of pupils. In addition to allowing him subsidised fees, Magdalene also awarded Dawson further financial support in the form of a minor scholarship called an "exhibition". Presumably he had a talent for languages, because he cut short his University career early in 1866 to enter the Ceylon government service, where he quickly became proficient in Sinhalese and Tamil.[229]  

Augustine Dawson was not the only undergraduate who mobilised his language skills to work in the East. Like Dawson, Edward Baber was a product of Christ's Hospital. The two Magdalene undergraduates seem to have decided to divide the Orient between them, for in 1866 the Foreign Office appointed Baber "to be student interpreter in China". Baber had rowed for the College during his first two years at Cambridge and had risen to the height of Vice-President of the Magdalene Boat Club. His Cambridge Pass degree included attendance at the lectures of the Professor of Medicine, where he secured a certificate of basic proficiency, a sensible precaution for someone heading into unknown territory.[230] He was soon on his way to the British legation in Peking (Beijing) where he broke all known records for learning colloquial Chinese. Baber evidently had a genius for language and a talent for exploration, the first prompting the second. He was one of the earliest Europeans to visit regions as remote as Yunnan and Sichuan, and held diplomatic appointments in Korea and Burma, where he died in 1890. There was evidently collegiate space for young Magdalene men to study, even to begin mastering Asian languages, as well as to enjoy themselves.

We need to keep Baber and Dawson in mind when we look at Parnell's cohort, the Magdalene freshmen of 1865. Ten of them were wealthy sprigs of the social elite who apparently shared the Marquess of Queensberry's view that he had "never known a degree to be worth twopence to anybody".[231] Robert Harley, from Westminster School, had inherited a surname redolent of the high politics of the reign of Queen Anne and, more to the point, was heir to the Herefordshire estates that went with it. Harley rowed in the Magdalene Boat in 1866 and, brief though his studies would prove, he seems to have identified with the College, since his son followed him to Magdalene in 1900. Three Etonians equally had no need to study. Gilbert Gilbert-East coxed the Boat in the May Races of 1866. His father (who had been at Trinity, a path the son did not venture to tread) was a stalwart of the Isle of Wight's Royal Victoria Yacht Club. In August of that year, a slightly inebriated Sir Gilbert Gilbert-East stumbled off Ryde Pier and drowned. The son inherited the baronetcy, and left Cambridge.[232] Graham Hamond (later Hamond-Graeme) became an officer in the 3rd Dragoon Guards and, by 1867, had left Magdalene to punish the king of Abyssinia in one of the Empire's frontier wars. He too inherited a baronetcy, in 1874. Henry Warde went off to a career in the Foreign Office, which recruited through patronage not merit, and became third secretary at the British Embassy in St Petersburg, where he died in 1872.

Two of Parnell's immediate contemporaries were products of Harrow. Clement Tudway was heir to a plantation in Antigua and, soon after failing to make his mark at University, he married the daughter of an earl and settled down in Somerset. He achieved the rank of Captain in the local Yeomanry (cavalry) regiment, and so was presumably a riding man. The other Harrovian was John Maunsell Richardson, who was the emblematic, although hardly the typical Magdalene undergraduate. By good fortune, we know something of the student days of this exact contemporary of Parnell thanks to an admiring biography by his sister. Maunsell Richardson (as he preferred to be known) had chosen Magdalene because it was Cambridge's "sporting college par excellence". He already had a reputation as a schoolboy cricketer, and played twice for the University: he was an excellent fieldsman at cover point and a prolific batsman who is said to have invented the leg glide. It seems that Richardson played less often for the College, since he concentrated upon horse and hound during his time at Cambridge. This compensated him for the deprivation he had suffered during his schooldays, for "at Harrow he was not able to get any hunting". Richardson was an example of the fashionable Magdalene-Trinity axis. He opted to live in lodgings, at 61 Park Street, where the widowed Mrs French could accommodate five young men. It was "the custom of the house" that newcomers could only be admitted to French's with the approval of the existing tenants, "and the chief quality for their acceptance was riding". (There were livery stables in nearby Jesus Lane.) This suited Richardson, who would go on to win the Grand National ─ twice ─ as a gentleman amateur jockey. His closest friend at French's, a Trinity undergraduate called Lord Melgund, had a less happy experience at Aintree, where he broke a bone in his neck. Melgund later inherited the title of Earl of Minto. It is only fair to say, that although he never made the slightest claim to intellectual power, Minto was remarkably successful first as Governor General of Canada and later as Viceroy of India. Other residents included a Rothschild and two of the Fitzwilliams, Parnell's Wicklow neighbours at Coollattin, who patronised both Trinity and Magdalene. Whether this connection fostered social contact between Richardson and Parnell is not recorded. It was not the sort of acquaintance that the hagiographical Mary Richardson would allow to sully her brother's memory.

Serious responsibilities such as the Mastership of the University Drag Hounds clearly left little time for study, and Maunsell Richardson's talents were definitely not academic. A visitor to Park Street was astonished to discover that there was not a single book to be found in his rooms. However, his sister proudly recorded that when examinations loomed, he locked himself incommunicado in his rooms and actually managed to pass. "Surely this speaks volumes for my brother's powers of concentration on any subject, congenial or uncongenial to his nature, that he was determined to conquer."[233] The challenge was perhaps the College's 1866 summer term examination for freshmen, which Richardson passed in the lowest class.[234] Unfortunately, although Richardson managed to scramble over Magdalene's equivalent of Becher's Brook, he did not complete the course and eventually departed without a degree. Marriage in 1881 to the widowed Countess of Yarborough gave him the command of an extensive aristocratic influence in Lincolnshire politics. In 1886, he was narrowly defeated standing as a Conservative (of course) in the Brigg division of the county. Beaten again in 1892, he scraped home at a by-election in 1894, only to have his political career terminated at the general election of the following year. He spoke just once in the House of Commons. It would be stretching the evidence to suggest that British politics narrowly failed to witness a mighty parliamentary duel between two Magdalene freshmen of the Class of '65.

Magdalene's socially elevated undergraduates did not all come from leading public schools: like Parnell, four members of the degreeless land-owning group had been privately educated. Reginald Cadman, who played cricket alongside Parnell in 1867, was the son of an East Riding squire, while William Barneby inherited a castle in Herefordshire in 1871. Two others moved on to army careers. One was William Fife (later Fife-Cookson), a refugee from Trinity Hall who became a Major in the 9th Lancers ─ again, presumably, a riding man. The other, John Foster who joined the 11th Hussars in 1867, is an enigma in the Parnell story. The College Admissions Register records him as the son of an earlier Magdalene product, the Reverend Sir Cavendish Hervey Foster, a clergyman-baronet from Essex. (Parnell would later meet somebody else whose father was a clergyman-baronet from Essex: her name was Katharine O'Shea.) But the Fosters were pre-eminently an Irish family. When Parnell's great-grand-father had resisted the Union of 1800, one of his last-ditch allies had been his friend, Sir John Foster, the last Speaker of the old House of Commons on College Green. His Magdalene namesake was a kinsman, and when Lieutenant Foster left the Army to get married in 1871, he settled on the family estates in County Louth, where he became High Sheriff in 1875 ─ the same office that Parnell had held a year earlier in Wicklow. In 1868, Foster's younger brother followed him to Magdalene (after a fruitless confrontation with Trinity's intractable entrance examination) and he was one of Parnell's three companions on the fateful night of the affray in Station Road. Friendly acquaintances they may have been in their college days, but there is no sign of lifelong amity. Foster died "very suddenly" at his home near Ardee in 1890: like Parnell, he seems to have been felled by a heart attack. The Fosters were Conservatives, but Parnell's contemporary does not seem to have been active in politics.[235]

By modern standards, the fact that over one third of the 1865 cohort failed to achieve a degree seems a major indictment of the College's academic record. Magdalene's standards were hardly impressive but they were not seriously out of line with the University as a whole, especially if we bear in mind that two dozen students represents a very unsatisfactory statistical sample. A study published on the eve of the First World War found that, between 1851 and 1906, almost one quarter of Cambridge undergraduates left without taking a degree, and it was the Master of Magdalene, well-placed to observe, who called them "men who came up to have a good time, and did not care to read or work hard."[236] (The late date of the research is revealing: mid-Victorian Cambridge had been entirely oblivious to the concept of completion rates.) If the graduation rate among Parnell's contemporaries is assessed, not against the total entry but in terms of those who aimed to achieve a degree, the record becomes more impressive. Indeed, this in turn underlines the misfortune of Parnell's own fate.

Nostalgic reminiscence may also unwittingly distort the picture: it is human nature to remember contemporaries for their panache at rowing or riding rather than for their ability to translate Latin or master hydrostatics. If some Magdalene undergraduates played hard, most Little-Go survivors were at least moderately and occasionally studious. One such example, from the 1863 intake, is Hugh John Fortescue, whose rowing Blue had helped inspire Sproston to choose Magdalene. An Etonian and cousin of an earl, Fortescue rowed number four in a race in which the Cambridge crew were profoundly unlucky. Although the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race was a major sporting event by the eighteen-sixties, the organisers lacked any authority to clear the Thames of other craft. At Chiswick, Cambridge were leading when the two crews came upon a barge in full sail in the middle of the tideway. The two coxes had to decide fast how to negotiate the obstacle: the Cambridge steersman made the wrong choice, condemning his crew to an awkward turn which cost them the race.[237] However, Fortescue was more than a mere aristocratic sportsman. He had won an entrance scholarship to Magdalene, and graduated with Second Class Honours ('Senior Optime') in Mathematics in 1867, ranking fiftieth in the University overall.[238] Bearing in mind the advice Leslie Stephen was given as an undergraduate oarsman, that every day spent on the river was a place lost in the Tripos,[239] we might ask whether Fortescue could have risen higher had he spent less time behind an oar? One of the most attractive products of mid-Victorian Magdalene was Thomas Stevens, who had graduated back in 1863 and eventually became a muscular assistant bishop in the Essex docklands. He had captained the College Boat, and simultaneously sought Honours in Cambridge's two principal Tripos subjects, securing a Third ('Junior Optime') in Mathematics and a Second in Classics. It was felt that "he would easily have taken first-class Honours in both Classics and Mathematics, had he not allowed his youthful interests to range so widely."[240] The eighteen-sixties were not the only years in which the issue of work/life balance has proved a challenge in Magdalene College.

On paper, at least, Parnell's seniors have a far from disreputable career record. At least fourteen of them became Anglican clergymen, including Fortescue the rowing blue. His own cohort would add to the crop. However, Parnell does not seem to have been impressed by them. During the Carlow by-election in 1891, he is said to have been confronted by a "Protestant clergyman" called McCree, who demanded his withdrawal from the contest, apparently censuring his private life. Parnell icily silenced the man. "When I was at college I had opportunities of seeing men of your Church and of your cloth, preparing for their profession, and I must say that they were no better than they should be, morally or otherwise. ... I altogether deny your right to interfere." It is an intriguing story. A.J. Kettle, who recorded it, can hardly have made it up, but it almost certainly has improved in transmission, probably by T.M Harrington, who witnessed the encounter. No clergyman called McCree has been identified, while the phrase "no better than they should be" conventionally hinted at sexual immorality, and may have been an elaboration in reporting.[241] In defence of Parnell's clerical contemporaries, even if an energetic pursuit of secular pleasure characterised some of them, they could still achieve success in the examination rooms. Cecil Legard was noted steeplechaser, twice winning the main event at Cottenham, but he also managed to collect a Law degree, the LLB, before taking orders in 1868. He remained a hunting parson and, in later years, was bizarrely compared with York Minister in both visibility and popularity. He married a Yorkshire neighbour, the sister of Jack Hall, the perennial Magdalene oarsman.

Parnell's distaste may also have been directed at Frederick Gunton, who had been initially admitted as a sizar in 1863. Given that he was the son of the organist at Chester Cathedral and a former pupil of Shrewsbury, it may seem surprising that he should have been treated as a disadvantaged student in this way: sizarships were in the personal gift of the Master, and Latimer Neville's conception of poverty was no doubt relative. Gunton lived Magdalene life to the full. Even as a Fellow, from 1867, he rowed in the Boat and was regarded by his sporting contemporaries "as one of themselves".[242] In fairness, it should be added that he proved a good investment ─ Magdalene awarded him a scholarship ─ and brought the College rare academic distinction. He was twice winner of the University's Camden Medal for Latin composition and took First Class Honours in the Classical Tripos at the end of Parnell's second term, the Magdalene academic success that formed the tailpiece to the list of sporting triumphs that so impressed the schoolboy Samuel Sproston. Gunton's initial intention after graduating was to read for the Bar, but he later switched to the Church. He was ordained deacon in 1870, and so was probably treading the ecclesiastical path by the time Parnell returned to Cambridge the previous year. The sporting metaphors transferred to his new calling: Sproston referred to Gunton's first sermon as "his maiden effort at sacred eloquence".[243] Although Dean (i.e. College chaplain) from 1870, he became a disruptive element in a small donnish community. "Gunton is so flippant & unmanageable that he is a difficult person to deal with him," complained Bright in 1873, and it was well known among undergraduates that Latimer Neville "cordially detested" him. Having taken the first step towards the Anglican ministry, he proved reluctant to go for full orders. In 1873, he abruptly announced that he was abandoning "the Church as a profession" to take a three-year sabbatical. "Happily this is not owing to any religious doubts or difficulty," he added, an abrupt addendum that hardly clarified his motives. He did indeed return to his post, and accepted full ordination in 1876. Yerburgh thought him "a very pleasant fellow" but believed he had "mistaken his vocation": Gunton seemed happier at the races than on the altar. It is tempting to think of him an Anglican prototype for Father Ted. "He was generally supposed to get through Matins and the Litany quicker than any other man in Cambridge." He was eventually eased out of office in 1883 after a scandal about his neglect of official duties during Newmarket.[244] It is impossible to say whether Parnell had him in mind at Carlow in 1891, but Gunton was certainly no role model in the search for sanctity. The trainee clergy among Parnell's immediate cohort seem to have been both blameless and colourless, with the exception of Lord Francis Godolphin Osborne, whose alcoholic shortcomings may have been effectively masked. He would make a surprise appearance in Parnell's career as a Home Rule politician, and is discussed later, along with the Magdalene Irish.

Fortescue's success in combining a place in the Cambridge Boat with a moderately creditable Honours degree is a reminder members of the social elite did not necessarily lack academic ability. Three Etonians from Parnell's year managed to graduate. Henry Lane-Fox (who rowed for Magdalene in his freshman year) went into the Army, and died in 1876. Lane-Fox was admitted from an address in Yorkshire, but his family were Irish landowners, his father having served as High Sheriff for Leitrim in 1846. By Henry's time, they were absentees.[245] John Rashleigh bumped along in the lowest classes of each examination he sat, but took his degree in 1870 and became a clergyman. In 1868, Robert Neville (later Neville-Grenville) was one of the first students to qualify in the new Engineering option of the Pass degree, where he headed the first class. He played a notably unpleasant role in Parnell's Magdalene career, admitting sixty years later that he had "had a great wrestling match with the notorious Charles S. Parnell on the sacred college grass" in an attempt to extract a subscription to the Boat Club.[246] It is likely that he was one of the five students who attempted to smash Parnell's rooms:[247] a cousin of Latimer Neville and grandson of his predecessor, Neville would have regarded himself as a privileged insider entitled to impose his own idea of a college culture. An obsessive personality, he was determined to rescue the finances of the Boat Club, although it seems that he did not row himself. He survived until 1936, an immensely wealthy Somerset squire. In his later years, he insisted on proposing a toast to the King before every meal (breakfast presumably included).[248] Another student with social connections to Latimer Neville was Edward Byng, who came from a naval dynasty that had produced the unlucky admiral whom George II had insisted on having shot for cowardice in 1757. His family lived at Quendon Hall in north-west Essex, not far from the Master's country rectory at Heydon. The two families were on friendly terms: when Latimer Neville proposed the toast of the Army and Navy at a "sumptuous dinner" in honour of the Essex Volunteers at Heydon in 1862, it was Captain Byng who replied in the name of the senior service.[249] The gallant captain's problem was fecundity: Edward was his fifth son, and a younger brother, eighth in line, followed him (briefly) to Magdalene in 1880. Put simply, there were too many Byngs for the buck, and the less fortunate were pitched into the world. Privately educated ("surely a bad sign", as a Magdalene historian puts it[250]), Edward Byng (the Magdalene admissions register suggests he preferred to be called Francis) certainly did not take the fast track to graduation, but he got there in 1871.

Middle-class Magdalene

Applied to Victorian Britain, the term "middle class" conventionally covers a multitude of sinners. It is used here as a blanket term to include all those who were not obviously from extremely wealthy and landed backgrounds. Of the twenty freshmen who arrived in October 1865, one, W.J.R.H. Oliver, defected after two terms to Christ's, which awarded him a scholarship, a rare example of a member of Magdalene using inter-college migration to move up the pecking order. The son of a clergyman, Oliver's firm grounding in Classics at Shrewsbury would have made him a well-qualified candidate for a scholarship, although it may be doubted whether Christ's netted full value from their poaching. Oliver took middling Second Class Honours in his BA in 1869, slightly behind his fellow Salopian, Richard Stevens, who had remained loyal to Magdalene.[251] Stevens, brother of the muscular bishop, went to the Bar, while another product of Shrewsbury, Thomas Gale, became a solicitor in Twickenham. Located on the Severn, Shrewsbury was a strong rowing school: both Stevens and Gale rowed in the Magdalene Boat. Stevens rowed at Bow through all four years at Cambridge, while "Tom" Gale seems to have been the crew's joker.[252]

Two of Parnell's exact contemporaries came from the industrial north of England ─ the "sons of northern parvenus" in Sproston's contemptuous dismissal. Of particular importance is Percival Hoole, who was the one member of the College whom we may plausibly regard as Parnell's friend. Percy Hoole, as he was known, played cricket alongside Parnell and was with him in Station Road on the evening of the fateful fight on 1 May 1869. He was the son of Henry Elliot Hoole, a Sheffield ironmaster whose Green Lane Works specialised in manufacturing stoves and grates, winning medals at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Paris Exposition of 1855 ─ a very different background from most of his Magdalene contemporaries. Hoole senior was an active and advanced Liberal, who had served as mayor of the city in 1859-60. Parnell, too, had been reared in a Liberal family.

Percival Hoole was already reading for the Bar before taking his BA in 1869. He qualified in 1873 and returned to Yorkshire. Although formally affiliated to the North-Eastern Circuit, by 1891 he had been "for some years" a partner in the Green Lane Works. There is no indication that he maintained any contact with Parnell, and some evidence that the family were steadily becoming gentrified. H.E. Hoole took no part in Liberal politics after 1874, and a journalist noted in 1891 that his attitude to the Home Rule split was unknown. William Hoole, the steeplechasing fatality of 1876, was Percy's cousin. Percy's elder brother, another William, joined the Army after Oxford, and contested Rotherham for the Conservatives in 1885.[253] Evidently Percy enjoyed Magdalene, for he attended the College's first alumni reunion dinner, at a London hotel in 1904.[254] His nephew, George, who followed him there in 1888, took gentrification to new heights, at the age of twenty changing his name to Lowsley-Williams. If he had chosen his uncle's university, he followed his father's profession, and was mentioned in despatches during the Boer War. Percival Hoole may also offer an intriguing clue to the concept of a Magdalene community. One shadowy contemporary of Parnell was Charles Wilcox, a product of Rossall, who had inherited a Staffordshire estate as a small boy. He managed a respectable second class in the Magdalene freshmen's examination in the summer of 1866, but seems to have dropped out soon afterwards: an obituary referred to him receiving "part of his education at Magdalene College, Cambridge".[255] However, the most intriguing piece of biographical information about Wilcox was his marriage, in 1871, to Catherine Hoole, Percy's cousin and sister of Billy the steeplechaser. There was no May Week in the Cambridge of the eighteen-sixties, and mothers and sisters were not much encouraged to visit the University in those days. For Wilcox to have met, let alone courted Miss Hoole suggests some deeper degree of sociability, perhaps vacation visits to family homes.

The other northerner was Thomas Richardson, a product of Rossall and son of the Hartlepool industrialist, and no relation of his namesake, the young horse-riding Lincolnshire squire. Like Parnell, Thomas Richardson played cricket (indeed, they played together for Magdalene in 1867, both scoring ducks). He seems to have dropped out of Cambridge for a time, but ─ like Parnell ─ Richardson did not abandon his hopes to take a degree. He re-entered Magdalene in 1873, graduating the following year at the age of 27. Richardson had probably been drawn back to Teesside by the demands of the family business: the iron trade faced difficulties, and the Richardson firm went bankrupt in 1875.[256] His father, who had been elected Liberal MP for the town the previous year, was forced to leave the House of Commons, but by 1880 the business had resumed and Richardson senior was again elected for The Hartlepools. He retained the seat after switching to the Liberal Unionists during the 1886 Home Rule crisis. He died in the midst of the Parnell divorce scandal, and Liberal leaders awaited the January 1890 by-election with trepidation to discover how much collateral damage they might suffer as a result of Nonconformist disapproval of Parnell's alleged adultery. In the event, the Liberal opposition recaptured the seat. Despite the fact that the victorious Liberal candidate had specifically repudiated him, Parnell, by now fighting for his political life, proclaimed that there had never been any political necessity for Gladstone to insist upon his deposition.[257] Thomas Richardson, his Magdalene contemporary, took part in the by-election campaign[258] and, at the general election of 1895, he stood himself and narrowly recaptured the seat for the Liberal Unionists.[259] Evidently, Parnell had not used his College tie to lasso Richardson, even though they had much in common, from politics to cricket, and might have been on friendly terms during their undergraduate days.[260] It is an odd coincidence, too, that both the Richardsons should have been elected to the House of Commons, representing different strands of Unionism, and in the years immediately after Parnell's early death.

A third Northerner, William Hutt Allhusen, joined Magdalene during Parnell's first year. The son of a naturalised Holsteiner who had established a successful chemical works at Gateshead on Tyneside, Allhusen migrated from St John's in March 1866. As Parnell missed the Easter Term of that year, their overlap was confined to the three terms of his second year, 1866-67. Allhusen, described by Venn as a "keen sportsman", was a regular in the Magdalene cricket team during the 1867 season, and a handy run scorer. (Parnell played alongside him in one match but proved unable to score.[261]) Meanwhile, in a complex commercial law case, Allhusen's father seems to have established the right to nominate his son to a partnership in a company in which he had once had some involvement.[262] Allhusen and Parnell went their separate ways and pursued their differing destinies. Who's Who for 1914 records that Allhusen rented estates in Perthshire and near Beaufort West in South Africa, the latter "for buck shooting".

Last but not least in Parnell's year came five students from varied backgrounds and unfashionable schools, all of whom took their degrees with the intention of proceeding to ordination in the Anglican Church. One of them was George Woodcock, from Rossall, son of a Lincolnshire clergyman, who was heading for ordination in the Anglican Church but died in 1873, four years after taking Third Class Honours in Classics.[263] Three others were young men who came from respectable backgrounds but whose families probably lacked the cash needed to send them to a major public school. Alfred Relton, the son of the Vicar of Ealing, was a product of Heversham, the small West Riding school that had long been associated with Magdalene. He had won an entrance scholarship, which marked him out as a promising student. Unfortunately, during his second term Relton's health broke down, and in February 1866 Magdalene formally allowed him to "hold his scholarship without further examination, in consequence of his present illness." He lowered his sights and went for a Pass degree.[264] In fact, he had already been overtaken by two high-fliers from humble schools, Pearson and Meade, who had out-classed him in the Magdalene freshmen's examination the previous June ─ a hurdle that Parnell missed through his absence from Cambridge that summer term.[265]

Arthur Pearson, a member of a Derbyshire landowning family, had been preceded to Magdalene two years earlier by an elder brother, who took a respectable Honours degree in Mathematics in 1867. Their mother was a Suffolk woman and both boys had been sent to a small-town grammar school at Beccles, in that county. The Pearson family home was about a dozen miles from Kirk Langley, where Parnell had spent some time at school. South Wingfield was on the edge of the coalfield and this perhaps explains why Pearson eventually retired to Beccles, where he died in 1934. Pearson, then, was no peasant prodigy ─ indeed, he rowed in the Magdalene Boat in his third year ─ although the choice of an unfashionable country school points to financial pressures in the family. He rowed in the May Boat in his third year and seems to have enjoyed his Magdalene experience: in 1930, he presented the College with the advowson of the Suffolk parish of Ringsfield.[266] Charles Meade came from Bradford, and had been educated at Giggleswick, an ancient foundation high in the Yorkshire Dales. His father was not only a distinguished surgeon, but an amateur scientist who was an authority on spiders: Charles Darwin admired his work on the daddy-long-legs.[267] Meade was definitely a Northerner but whether Sproston would have condemned such a studious young man as a parvenu we cannot say. Pearson and Meade jointly topped the 1866 freshmen's examination. They were still neck-and-neck when they each achieved respectable Second Class Honours in the Mathematical Tripos in 1869: Pearson was ranked 54th overall in the University, Meade 60th.[268] Charles Meade was the other member of Parnell's freshman year to attend the first College reunion dinner in 1904.along with his fellow Yorkshireman, Percy Hoole.[269] In terms of Magdalene identity, the Northern parvenus seemed to have the last laugh.

Last, but definitely not least, came Thomas Nixon from the Lincolnshire village of Tealby, who was admitted to Magdalene as a sizar. Although sizarships were intended to provide cut-price education for poor students, the handful of places available in Magdalene were not always bestowed upon village geniuses, as already noted in the case of Frederick Gunton, the son of a cathedral organist who had attended Shrewsbury. Another Magdalene sizar who did not conform to the traditional pattern was Ralph Blakiston, son of a Sussex rector and a product of Marlborough ─ not yet a fashionable school but hardly a sign of social deprivation. Blakiston took Second Class Honours in the Mathematical Tripos in 1866, ranking 48th overall.[270] He seems to have liked Magdalene, for three of his sons would follow him to the College.

Thomas Nixon came from a very different world, and it is unlikely that he felt at home in Magdalene. Without naming him, Sproston recalled the type in patronising terms: "three or four men, mostly from private schools, who lived quiet, unobtrusive lives because, their means being small, they declined to indulge in pleasures which they could not afford. They were poor and, all honour to them, they did not pretend to be rich." Magdalene's poor relations "consorted only with one another, went long walks by way of exercise, and sat together in Hall." Despite their exclusion from "the social and sporting life of the College", Sproston believed that they too were affected by its "distinctive spirit and tone". Unlike their counterparts in other colleges, there was "little of the 'smug' about them".[271] In other words, they were not only marginalised but cowed.

Nixon came from a small village called Tealby near Market Rasen in Lincolnshire. The Magdalene Admissions register grandly describes his father, William Nixon, as "armiger", which loosely translates as "Esquire", and names his mother as Helena Dewhurst. The census records her as a more straightforward and prosaic Ellen. They were National School teachers, the classic partnership of the village schoolmaster and his wife. William was from Staffordshire, Ellen from Chorley in Lancashire. In 1851, when they were working in Macclesfield, Ellen's widowed mother was living with the family, and she was described as a cook. The Nixons must have been Anglicans, for that would be the condition of working in a National School. From the fact that three of their sons became clergymen, we may deduce that the family was devout. The parents were also probably musical, for they named their youngest son Haydn. By 1861, the Nixons had moved to the Lincolnshire village of Swineshead, prior to their further relocation to Tealby. Their eldest son, Thomas, had already struck out for himself, for he turns up in the 1861 census teaching in the Devon town of Newton Abbot. At the age of sixteen, he had become a pupil teacher, a tough apprenticeship that combined training on the job with a series of gruelling and rote-learning examinations. Somehow he managed to acquire not only a basic education, but the ambition and some of the cash to study at Cambridge, probably as a step to entering the Church. "There was unfortunately a temptation to use a Sizarship as a step in an ecclesiastical career," wrote W.E. Heitland of contemporary St John's, which specialised in the category. "A Cambridge degree was an asset to a curate."[272] It is unlikely to have been a coincidence that another Magdalene freshman in 1865, George Woodcock, the undergraduate from Rossall, came from another tiny Lincolnshire village, Sixhills, about three miles from Tealby. Nixon presumably decided to choose a college where he would know somebody who could ease him into a dauntingly elevated world. It may not have been entirely a wise choice. Nixon's academic record was sound enough: he ranked third, behind Meade and Pearson, in the College's 1866 freshmen examination.[273] In addition to subsiding his fees, Magdalene awarded him an exhibition, but he probably found survival at Cambridge a financial struggle. It is likely that his parents were dead by 1868, when he disappeared from the College account books, since they cannot be traced in the 1871 census. As the eldest son, Nixon would have become responsible for the support of two younger brothers and a sister, and probably would have left Cambridge for a time to get a job. He eventually graduated in 1872. His brother Henry was pupil-teaching in Lancashire in 1871, and both Henry at the age of 21 and Haydn at 20 managed to get into Cambridge and eventually to become clergymen. It is probably significant that both went to St John's, a much less elitist environment. Magdalene made a university education possible for Thomas Nixon, but it may be doubted whether he found the College a congenial environment.

The subsequent clerical careers of all four confirmed their lack of access to patronage and privilege. Pearson led the most exotic life. After a brief period as a curate in Gloucestershire, he spent two decades as a military chaplain in India, which included service with the Khyber Field Force at the time of the Afghan War of 1879-80. In 1889, he publicly supported inspection of the brothels of Lucknow to protect soldiers against venereal disease. "Impiety, Fraud and Loathsome Hypocrisy," proclaimed the headline of a purity campaigning newspaper. "A Military Sodom and Its Chaplain."[274] In 1885, Pearson married the daughter of the Rector of Ringsfield in Suffolk, where he later became the incumbent himself and owner of the advowson that he presented to Magdalene. Charles Meade was a curate in Peckham for fifteen years before obtaining a country living in the Weald of Kent. Like Parnell, he died at Hove, although he survived his celebrated contemporary by three decades. Alfred Relton spent some years as inspector of schools for the diocese of Hereford before obtaining preferment. Thomas Nixon also served his time in a series of curacies before switching to teach in a preparatory school in Surrey.[275]

Victorian Magdalene: some tentative conclusions

Magdalene College Cambridge faced three basic handicaps in the nineteenth century. The first, its lack of endowment funds, is well established in College histories and tradition. The second, its unsavoury location, is less widely recognised. Located on a busy street, in a commercial district adjoining some of Cambridge's poorest suburbs, Magdalene had the additional disadvantage of proximity to a river that urban growth had turned into an open sewer and garbage dump. Its third burden was its curious constitution, which made nomination to its headship a piece of external patronage which, until 1904, was not even influenced by public opinion. It is tempting to see a dual element in the nineteenth-century Magdalene identity that was almost predestined: poverty and location pointed to a community of poor but worthy scholars, private patronage leaned towards the creation of a socially exclusive club of privileged young men, who would only accept Magdalene's innate drawbacks if permitted to indulge in carousing and riding horses.

There is much about nineteenth-century Magdalene that now strikes us as ludicrous, inadequate and objectionable, and which was indeed repellent to contemporaries as varied as the American Edward Everett and the outspoken judge Lord Coleridge. However, some limitations in historical perception should be noted. Nostalgia is likely to emphasise the bizarre over the humdrum: as the decades roll by, few will recall poring over textbooks or taking notes in lectures as the high spots of their student days. Historians too may be at fault: it is tempting to find Gunton a more entertaining personality than Peskett, implicitly allowing the latter's undoubted dullness to obscure his more positive and extended commitment to the College. My own early work on Parnell's Magdalene years included the rediscovery and identification of Sproston's preposterous memoir. Rightly enough, Sproston's recollections still colour the way we view the Magdalene of the eighteen-sixties, but it is not the only filter through which the College should be viewed. We may take, for instance, the Magdalene College freshmen's examination in the Easter Term of 1866, noting first that some may be surprised that the College so memorably lampooned by Parnell's biographer St John Ervine should have bothered to test its inmates at all. Twenty-three candidates sat the examination (Parnell himself was not in Cambridge that term, and one other, Oliver, had decamped to Christ's). Eleven men did not proceed to degrees, and these represented the headline Magdalene, the Magdalene of caricature ─ some of them astonishingly wealthy, three from Eton, one each from Harrow and Westminster, one a refugee from St John's, three others privately educated, probably at crammers. Of those who did not stay the course, only Wilcox, from Rossall, came from a middle-ranking school, and he had already inherited a country estate. By contrast, twelve of the twenty-three, a majority if a narrow one, did proceed to graduation. Four of them took Honours degrees. The Class of 1865 was not one of the cohorts that produced a First but, even so, we are some distance from Ervine's caricature of a University whose authorities were astonished if a Magdalene man ever took his BA. There are signs that they enjoyed themselves too: Gale, Pearson and Stevens rowed in the May races, Percy Hoole and Thomas Richardson played cricket for the College. Given the challenges that they faced, it is hard to begrudge them their enthusiasms.

It is also necessary to guard against treating nineteenth-century Magdalene as a single immutable entity, even though there are undoubted thematic continuities. Few communities can change so rapidly as a college, where undergraduate 'generations' succeed one another in three- or four-year cycles. When Neville-Grenville was appointed in 1813, there were still echoes in Magdalene of the high academic standards achieved during its Evangelical period. Throughout the four decades of his multi-home commuting Mastership, Magdalene seems to have operated as a condominium, with the Fellowship producing a steady and sometimes impressive haul of examination results, while Neville-Grenville himself encouraged an aristocratic element that shaped its external image. A second phase through the first twenty years of the Mastership of Latimer Neville accelerated the downward trend. Inter-college migration, from which Magdalene had formerly benefited, now increasingly turned it into an institution of last resort with, for the privileged, as many last chances as they chose to embrace. In the early eighteen-seventies, an atmosphere that was already laid back and luxurious became distastefully toxic, partly in response to a general change towards laxer standards and looser living, but also thanks to the replacement of Mynors Bright, the last pre-Latimerian don, by Francis Pattrick, the Fenland tradesman's son who eagerly endorsed Neville's aim of a gentlemanly community. For reasons that are not entirely clear, Magdalene began to climb out of its trough at the end of the eighteen-eighties, but attempts at revival faced the multiple challenges of financial crisis, an ageing crisis and ─ the final touch ─ a collapse in numbers around the time of the Boer War. The College porter confessed to a visitor that Magdalene was at "a low ebb" in 1904,[276] but this assessment should not be taken as a culminating verdict on the entire preceding century. Yerburgh's recollection of seeing "as many as twenty" horses being exercised in Magdalene Street on hunting days around 1880 is certainly striking.[277] Yet, as with the near-even split in the fate of the 1866 freshmen examination candidates, the riding element formed a prominent but not necessarily a numerically dominant thread in the College identity, however much they coolly monopolised a claim to be the real and the only Magdalene. Even if we add in the handful of undergraduates, like Yerburgh himself, who could not afford to keep horses but followed the foot beagles, we must still recognise that half the fifty students in residence gave their attention to their books and their own, less exclusive outdoor recreations. Even in the most dispiriting days of the nineteenth century, there were always two Magdalenes, and the one that ultimately embodied the spirit of the institution was the one that may have been less visible but which none the less, in a non-racing metaphor, stayed the course.

On that fateful May evening in 1869 when Parnell became involved in the fight that ended his Cambridge career, two of his three companions decidedly fit Sproston's "northern parvenus" stereotype. Robert Bentley was the son of a Rotherham brewer who had set himself up as a country gentleman. Bentley was three years younger than Parnell, and had come up in 1868, during Parnell's prolonged absence from college. The two could only have met Parnell a few weeks previously and any friendship between them was at best in the bud.[278] More likely, Bentley had tagged along because of some connection with Percival Hoole, from Sheffield, who probably was Parnell's friend: they had come up in the same year, and they had politics and cricket in common. The third member of the group, Hervey Foster, was the son of an Irish gentry family, whose elder brother had also been a freshman in Parnell's first year. The dim lamp-posts of Station Road provide a glimpse of the young Parnell as an associate of a middling group in a dysfunctionally stratified student community. Magdalene probably did not determine his Irish nationalism, but it almost certainly brought him face-to-face with some of the less attractive aspects of England's dominant social and political power structure. It remains to be seen whether he was alone in his experience.

III: The Magdalene Irish

The received view of the frivolous aristocratic Magdalene student community that Parnell joined in October 1865 needs to be modified to suggest a conglomeration of varied personalities, some engaged in the pursuit of pleasure, others in serious study, and some even managing to combine both. However, it might be objected that even though there were potential elements of civilized companionship for the freshman from Dublin, it was an English community, and one that would be of necessity alien to the young Parnell. As Leslie Stephen wrote at the time, " a young Englishman at a University is remarkably like a young Englishman anywhere else, ─ that is to say, he is full of animal spirits, a thoroughly good fellow, and intensely and incredibly ignorant."[279] We should not back-project Parnell's future career upon his undergraduate years so that we interpret his reactions at the age of nineteen as those of the leader of Irish nationalism. Parnell was already conscious of his Irish identity, but it did not follow that he would be hostile to the English, nor that they would reject him. Indeed, while he came to dislike intensely English rule in Ireland, and the governing elite that imposed it, it is less likely that he ever entertained a personal dislike for English people as individuals: he did, after all, marry an Englishwoman. He had enjoyed his time at Barton's Derbyshire school, and his only recorded personality clash at Whishaw's ─ and even that evidence may owe something to the colouring of retrospective dislike ─ was with Lord Brabazon, a fellow Irish Protestant.[280] Parnell was English in accent, and in 1865 had recently become an ensign in the Wicklow militia. He arrived at Cambridge virtually direct from the cricket fields of Leinster.[281] There is no evidence that he rode at Cambridge ─ indeed, it is overwhelmingly likely that he could not afford such a luxury ─ but his brother John later claimed that his favourite book was Youatt's manual, The Horse, and he could presumably have kept up a conversation with riding men.[282] E.R. Yerburgh, who came to Magdalene in 1879, made friends among the riding men although he could not afford to keep a horse in Cambridge himself. Given the potential sharing of background and interests with the community of young men he was joining in Magdalene, could it be that national identity alone would constitute a barrier between Parnell and his contemporaries? Was there something in Barry O'Brien's that "Parnell's English training had undoubtedly something to do in the making of him, and if it did not make him very Irish, it certainly made him very anti-English."[283]

O'Brien's use of the label "very Irish" is a reminder of the lurking prevalence of stereotypes in English-Irish relations. The use of such blanket terminology can obscure the fact that only two highly specific categories of young Irishmen came to Cambridge: members of the landed elite, and sons of the Protestant Rectories ─ prosperous, Church of Ireland and probably Conservative in politics. Queen's College Belfast had been created for Northern Presbyterians, who looked to Scottish universities. Few Catholics of any nationality studied at Cambridge before the condemnation by their Church was relaxed in 1895.[284] Yet even these privileged Protestants were judged against derisive national images. One of E.R. Yerburgh's Magdalene contemporaries, "a very good fellow and a fine rider", was William John Talbot, who had inherited the 3,500-acre Mount Talbot estate in Roscommon. "But he was not at all like an Irishman, as he was very quiet and retiring."[285] So strong were the preconceptions of the host community that young Irishmen at Cambridge may have been tempted to play to the required image. Nugent Everard was an engaging figure, whose attempts to regenerate Irish agriculture by introducing tobacco cultivation on his estate at Randalstown, County Meath, earned an approving mention in Joyce's Ulysses. He entered Trinity College Cambridge in 1867, and survived long enough to be nominated as a token Unionist to the Senate of the Irish Free State. Recalling his undergraduate days in 1909, he proclaimed "that if he had exhibited himself in that place as an imitation Englishman he should have been the laughing stock of all his school fellows and fellow graduates. Nothing was so contemptible to an Englishman than an imitation Englishman."[286] Everard had at least come to Cambridge from a major English public school, where he would have been initiated into English values: Parnell had not shared in that tribal acculturation. When he arrived at Magdalene in October 1865, did Parnell face the choice between courting contempt by pretending to be English and risking ostracization for asserting an Irish identity?

Without making the point specific, Parnell's biographers have implied that at Magdalene he found himself isolated in the face of an entirely English community. In fact, this was not the case and there seems no reason to posit any such sharp dilemma. Magdalene seems to have accommodated a steady trickle of young men from the Irish Protestant elite, and there is no reason to think that they did not fit into the College and enjoy the experience. One of Daniel O'Connell's principal supporters, Thomas Steele, had been at Magdalene briefly in 1820. A County Clare landowner, he supported the Liberator at the famous 1829 by-election that brought about Catholic Emancipation. A more notable Magdalene Irishman was George Augustus Chichester May, son of a Belfast clergyman, who had been at school at Shrewsbury. In 1838, he achieved spectacular examination success, a Double First (the only one in nineteenth-century Magdalene) in Mathematics and Classics, rising to an impressive third place in the Classical Tripos. He used a Magdalene Fellowship as a springboard to a legal career in Dublin, culminating in his appointment as Lord Chief Justice of Ireland in 1877.

At this point, I intrude a speculative hypothesis. Until Charles Stewart Parnell came of age in 1867, his Avondale estate was controlled by the Court of Chancery. In her admittedly unreliable memoirs, his sister Emily claimed that the Court ordered their mother to take a house in Dublin "so that her elder daughters might have the advantage of a Dublin season."[287] It is possible that the Master in Chancery, Gerald Fitzgibbon, would have been consulted about the young squire's ambition to study at Cambridge, both because of his social position and ─ more crucially ─ because the straitened Avondale estate would be hard-pressed to meet the cost. As Fitzgibbon was himself a Dublin University graduate, professional courtesy might well have inclined him to seek the advice of some Cambridge-educated member of the Irish bar. Chichester May, by then a rising force ─ he became a Queen's Counsel in 1865, would have been an obvious choice, and the sometime Fellow of Magdalene could hardly have failed to specify his own college. Parnell's schooling was probably not sufficient to qualify him for his father's Cambridge college, Trinity, which inconveniently imposed an entrance test, but no evidence exists to explain his choice of Magdalene. The hypothesis must be regarded as a long shot, but there is an intriguing sequel. In December 1880, as Parnell faced trial for conspiracy in relation to the Land League, Chichester May delivered a procedural judgement that was widely criticised as politically motivated, and resulted in his removal from the case.[288] Could there have been something else going on? At the Special Commission in 1889, Parnell mentioned that he had been educated at Magdalene, his only traced public reference to his connection with the College. However, it is easy to imagine the embarrassment that would have been caused had he defended himself against the Land League conspiracy charge by informing the court that he had entered Magdalene with a character reference from the learned judge. The decision to shunt Chichester May aside from the case may have stemmed from a desire to avoid an impish propaganda coup. It must be stressed that, in the absence of hard evidence ─ for instance, no individual student files survive ─ this is only a hypothesis, and one based on guesswork. However, it does have the merit of tentatively linking several otherwise unresolved strands.

The experiences of two more Irishmen from shortly before Parnell's time seem to reveal two young men who fitted in to the College culture, in one case all too well. Charles Doyne was heir to a landed family at Oulart in County Wexford, about thirty miles south of Avondale. He came to Magdalene in 1859, and graduated with a Pass degree in 1862. There followed an apparently token attempt at a legal career, but in 1867 he married Lady Frances Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, daughter of one of Wicklow's leading landowners, Earl Fitzwilliam, of Coollattin. Doyne also owned property in County Carlow, the west of Avondale. Parnell served as High Sheriff for Wicklow in 1874; Doyne held the same office for Wexford in 1873 and for Carlow in 1875. Doyne and Parnell certainly moved on parallel tracks, and may indeed have encountered one another. Doyne presumably enjoyed his Magdalene experience: two sons followed him to the College, in 1887 and 1891, but neither graduated.

Another young Irishman who enjoyed his experience was William Boyton, son of a Donegal clergyman, who was formally reprimanded by the Fellows of Magdalene for "certain irregularities against the College discipline" in December 1860. A higher standard of conduct may have been required from Boyton because he was a Scholar: he was not only "confined to gates after Hall for the rest of the Term" ─ hardly a severe punishment in December ─ but also temporarily suspended from his scholarship. His companion in mischief in that December revelry was a young Cornishman, the son of a clergyman and landowner, perhaps an example of the Celtic fringe in action. The two were sternly informed that if they caused any more trouble, they would be "removed from the College boards". However, they were not expelled, and Boyton rowed for four consecutive years in the Magdalene Boat. This may explain why he only took a Pass degree ─ an undistinguished outcome for a Scholar. Boyton entered the Church, spending most of his career in Derry where he was Canon of the Protestant Cathedral. He inherited an estate in Donegal which, at the time of his death in 1904, was being bought by the tenants under the Land Purchase Acts. Boyton's disciplinary brush with the Fellows of Magdalene left no enduring mark: he was "a distinguished scholar, wise and sagacious in counsel, and an indefatigable and able parochial clergyman." His (presumably) alcoholic rampage was no doubt deplorable but, like his energetic contribution to College rowing, it demonstrates that he fitted in to Magdalene, if too well.[289]

When Parnell arrived from Ireland in October 1865, he was not alone. Three young Irishmen were already in residence at Magdalene (about ten percent of the senior student body) and it would be surprising if they had not made some effort to welcome their compatriot. Three years older than Parnell, and the son of an Ulster clergyman, George Crossle might not have seemed the ideal bosom companion. A product of Christ's Hospital, he graduated at the end of Parnell's second term with lowly Second Class Honours in the Classical Tripos. After a few years as a schoolmaster, he followed in his father's footsteps professionally but not geographically, serving in various English rural parishes. But there was a link with Parnell, and one that operated more strongly in days gone by than might be obvious today. Crossle's father was Rector of Newtown Hamilton in County Armagh. Parnell's father had been an Armagh landowner, and that part of the inheritance had been left to Parnell's brother, John. In 1865 John had opted to join the militia wing of the Armagh Light Infantry to identify himself with the county. The Armagh property had no gentleman's residence on the property, so John could not live on the estate, and he soon learned that he could not live off it either: the Parnell lands were leasehold, and the "head rent" payable to Trinity College devoured most of the income.[290] The bulk of John's landholding lay about fifteen miles north of Newtown Hamilton, but county loyalties were strong in Victorian Ireland and the two young men would have had some kind of local identification in common. But it is unlikely that they became close. Crossle's eventual decision to seek ordination possibly reflected the earlier impact of the religious revivals of the late eighteen-fifties which had swept through the North of Ireland but which did not touch the young Parnell. A three-year age difference separated them, while Crossle was a "questionist", a fourth-year student who ought to have been intensively preparing for Tripos.

The other two undergraduates from Ireland were remarkably like Parnell in background, a similarity which throws into sharp relief the unpredictability of his own political trajectory. With John Dillon, heir to a baronetcy and a landed estate in County Meath, he overlapped for only a few weeks. Dillon had entered Magdalene the previous year, but by the autumn of 1865 his thoughts were turning to the Army. College accounts suggest that Dillon signalled his departure with in a blaze of hospitality and, as his father was commanding officer of the Royal Meath militia, it is possible that Ensign Parnell was among his guests.[291] On succeeding his father in 1875, the young baronet took care to be known by his full name, Sir John Fox Dillon, probably because by that time there was another John Dillon on the scene with whom he would not have wished to be confused. Certainly by the late eighteen-seventies he was out of the Army, living on his Lismullen estate (in the shadow of the legendary Hill of Tara) and serving on the local Grand Jury.[292] By then, it unlikely that he would have felt a glow of satisfaction at having a fellow Magdalene man as his member of parliament. In October 1881, he took a rare political stance, seconding a motion that pledged the support of the Meath magistrates "towards the prevention and suppression of the seditious agitation and traitorous doctrines fostered and inculcated by the leaders of the Land League conspiracy." This thunderous motion had been proposed in appropriately forceful language, and Dillon economically commented that "it would be waste of time to add anything".[293]

However, if Sir John Fox Dillon seemed pleased that his College contemporary, along with his own namesake, had just been incarcerated in Kilmainham, in other respects he proved himself to be the sort of landlord Parnell hoped would provide take a leadership role in a Home Rule Ireland. Dillon lived on his estate, supported the local Hunt, provided well-paid work and was one of the first landlords to sell his farms to tenants, and at reasonable prices. It was no mere de mortuis politeness that led one obituary to claim that he was "respected and loved in the neighbourhood" where he resided for almost half a century. It is all the more tragic that he provided a link between the young Parnell and the Troubles almost sixty years later. One night in April 1923, a party of terrorists burst into Lismullen and announced that their intention of destroying the house. Meath had been almost untouched by Ireland's civil war, which was in any case stuttering to a close. The eighty-year old Dillon pleaded with the thugs, who explained they were "very sorry" but "they had to comply with their orders". The Dillons were given a few minutes to collect a few valuables before petrol was poured around the house to set it alight. Among the few items salvaged was a family portrait by Reynolds, but this too was damaged when hastily cut from its frame. Lismullen was a fine building, noted for its ancient wood panelling, and it was three weeks before the fire was finally extinguished. The Irish Times thought it "inexplicable" to attack "an elderly gentleman ...very popular in the county." A local newspaper called the outrage "the acme of senselessness ... Age should have protected him if nothing else." All sources agree that Dillon took no part in politics and was a generous employer. "Is he likely to continue employment on such a generous scale when he is forced to be an absentee from the county?" Dillon was driven to England, where he died two years later, although he was buried at Lismullen.[294] Speculations about the possible evolution of Parnell's career had he lived beyond 1891 tend to exude the air of a counter-factual parlour game: he would have been 69 at the time of the Easter Rising, 72 when the first Dáil convened, 75 when the Treaty was signed. The Cambridge world of 1865 certainly seems a very long way from the Irish crisis of 1919-23. Yet the life of John Fox Dillon bridged those two eras, and Parnell, too, might have found them bewildering to reconcile.

The third Magdalene Irishman, John Newman, provides both a comparison and a contrast with Parnell, and possibly even an intriguing connection. Two years older than Parnell and a product of Eton, Newman had begun his Cambridge career at Trinity before treading the familiar downward path to Magdalene, where he proved to be one of the College's second-chance successes. If his lowly fourth-class pass in the General degree in the summer of 1866 was hardly spectacular,[295] Newman deserves some credit for persisting with his studies, for he certainly had no need of a degree. He was undoubtedly far wealthier than Parnell, paying double fees at Magdalene to enjoy the inflated status of Fellow Commoner ─ which might have created a barrier between them.[296] But in other respects, there were striking parallels between the two young men. In 1859, Newman had inherited Dromore House, near Mallow in County Cork. That same year, the death of Parnell's father had made him the owner of Avondale. In 1874, Newman would serve as High Sheriff of Cork, the year Parnell found that the same largely honorific office blocked him from standing for parliament in Wicklow. Just as Lord Carysfort urged Parnell after leaving Cambridge to "take his place in the county", so from 1868 among the names of local notables serving on the Grand Jury for Cork, was that of John A.R. Newman. (Unusually for a member of the social elite, Newman used middle initials as a personal identifier, possibly to distance himself from Kingsley's antagonist, John Henry Newman.)

In 1879, Newman was one of the magistrates who dealt with the Mallow riot, one of the oddest disturbances of that turbulent year. Basic education had been supplied to the Catholic parishioners of the town by the Christian Brothers, four of whom were teaching four hundred boys. The parish priest and his bishop reckoned that if they turned the school over to the National Board of Education, they would secure better-trained teachers, and more of them, paid from the public purse. Ireland's post-Famine Catholic Church possessed many strengths, but consultation with laity was not one of them. The first that the parish knew of the plan was the sudden departure of the four Brothers who had been told to clear out of town quietly. Although ─ or perhaps, because ─ the Christian Brothers practised a tough-love educational philosophy, they were respected by the people of Mallow, a section of whom demonstrated their opposition to the transfer of the school building to government control by attempting to burn it down.[297] It was episodes of this kind that led sections of English opinion to wonder whether "Irish Celts" were suitable material for self-government.

Newman survived his celebrated college contemporary by just two years. His "sudden and unexpected death" in 1893 produced a tribute from the Irish Times that was conventional enough: "an exceedingly kind and indulgent landlord, a good employer ... charitable to the poor". But it added the interesting sidelight that Newman was "a great friend to education, and gave sites for schools and teachers' residences, and substantial help towards their cost."[298] It is worth noting Newman's commitment to education since it was compatible with his own sporting enthusiasms. He was probably a riding man at Cambridge, and in later life he was certainly a pillar of North Cork's Duhallow Hunt. And here we encounter what may be an intriguing link with Parnell.

Parnell was also a hunting man. There is some suggestion of a phase sometime after his Cambridge days when he abandoned the saddle, after receiving medical advice that he had heart disease. (The death of his elder brother, Hayes Parnell, seems to have been accelerated by an accident on the hunting field, and his mother might well have pressured him to avoid a repeat of the tragedy.) But as late as 1880, when he was already anathema to his own class, Parnell broke off a political visit to Waterford, borrowed a mount and went out with the Curraghmore Hunt. The day before he was incarcerated in Kilmainham in 1881, he sent off his annual subscription to the Wicklow Harriers.[299] Three years earlier, Parnell had spent a few hours in Mallow, visiting the home of his supporter William O'Brien. He was returning to Dublin after addressing a rally in Kerry, and killed time between trains by taking tea with O'Brien and his sisters. With ladies present, politics would be tabooed, and the conversation turned to hunting. Parnell surprised his hosts by remarking that "the Duhallows are a fine pack" and revealing "a minute knowledge of the district as a hunting country."[300] Had he struck up some sort of camaraderie with Newman in his student days that had brought him to Mallow as the guest of a fellow Magdalene man? If so, it did not survive Parnell's transition to a career in politics.

Given the interconnecting nature of the English and Irish elites, it is not always easy to tag individuals. The example of Henry Lane-Fox has been mentioned. His father owned Dromahair in County Leitrim, an estate of around twenty thousand acres. The local agricultural society held a dinner in October 1867, at which the agent, Joshua Kell, assured the tenants of their landlord's goodwill. "I can assure you, he is always glad to hear of the prosperity of his tenantry, and to hear that your circumstances are improving."[301] Statisticians might calculate the drain of capital from Ireland caused by absentee landlords, but every day in the Hall and lecture room of Magdalene College Cambridge, Parnell would encounter a symbolic manifestation of the incubus, the son of the landowner who was always so pleased to hear that the people of Leitrim were doing well enough to pay their rents.

Parnell's career was to intersect in various ways with two other contemporaries who had links to Ireland. In January 1867, the Honourable William Charles Wentworth Fitzwilliam was admitted to Magdalene in the privileged category of Fellow Commoner. He did not formally matriculate as a member of the University until the Easter Term, and this loophole may explain why he seems to have escaped major College censure for his part in a foolish episode. Wentworth-Fitzwilliam was described at his admission as the son of Earl Fitzwilliam of Wentworth House, Yorkshire, but the family also owned Coollattin in County Wicklow, where they were prominent leaders of elite society. The Fitzwilliams were regarded as an Irish family as much as they belonged to England: it was, after all, at that time that Charles Doyne was courting Lady Frances Wentworth-Fitzwilliam. Henry Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, elder brother of the Magdalene freshman, was Liberal MP for Wicklow. Parnell was to recall that he took "a little part" in the 1868 general election "in favour of the Liberal candidate for Wicklow".[302] He also played a crucial role in unseating Wentworth-Fitzwilliam in 1874 by running his brother John as Home Rule candidate for the county. A Wentworth-Fitzwilliam at Magdalene would hardly have escaped his notice.

In April 1867, while Parnell was in residence and working for his second-year examinations, Charles Wentworth-Fitzwilliam was prosecuted for obstructing a Cambridge police officer in the course of his duty. Some Oxford students had arrived for an athletics meeting, followed by celebrations. Several generations of undergraduates had conceived a feud against a doctor called Ransom who lived in Jesus Lane, and it had become customary, even a passage rite, to ring his doorbell late at night and run away, an interesting commentary on student maturity. So serious had the problem become that the premises were under police surveillance. Hence Police Sergeant Maltby emerged from the shadows to arrest one of the young Oxford men. called Charrington, as he grabbed Dr Ransom's bell pulls. This prank was the culmination of about an hour of intermittent persecution, which had included the jape of tying Dr Ransom's front door to the knocker of the house next door, so that he could not get out. The rest of the group attempted to free Charrington. Sergeant Maltby was attacked by an undergraduate called Alfred Jacobson, a Harrovian who had migrated from Trinity to Downing, possibly the only Cambridge institution to tolerate less seriousness of purpose than Magdalene. The charge of obstruction against Wentworth-Fitzwilliam suggests that he tried to impede the police officer, while two other young men were charged with incitement.

In itself, the episode was just one of the many irritations that the law-abiding citizens of Cambridge had to endure as part of the price for the presence of the high-spending University community. With ironic resignation, the Cambridge Chronicle headlined its report "Undergraduate Larks". However, for Parnell, two aspects of the case would retrospectively have stuck in his throat. First, the five defendants were robustly defended by a local solicitor, Frederick Poland Adcock, who denied that his clients knew anything of Dr Ransom, and generally made light of the charges against them. Two years later, Adcock represented Edward Hamilton, the drover who had come off second-best in his bout with Parnell outside the railway station. On that occasion, Adcock delivered a lofty and indignant denunciation of student misbehaviour. When the magistrate found the case against the first of the accused proved, Adcock consulted his clients and abruptly changed his tune. The defendants now pleaded guilty "and threw themselves upon the consideration of the court." They were each fined fifty shillings, with the alternative option ─ politely declined ─ of one month's imprisonment.[303] Adcock, of course, was paid to do his best for his clients, and no moral shortcomings need be attributed to the difference attitudes he expressed between the two cases. However, more consistency might have been expected from the upright Fellows of Magdalene. There is no entry in the College Order Book recording any disciplinary action against Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, although it is possible that sanctions were applied less formally. It is possible to argue that Parnell's fight outside the railway station caused the College such unfavourable publicity that the Fellows of Magdalene had no option but to register their own displeasure. Yet it is difficult now, and the point probably struck Parnell as inconsistent then, to view a fist fight with an aggressive drover as a more serious offence than an unprovoked attack on a police officer acting in the course of his duty. The moral, it appeared, was that at Magdalene, it was better to be an English aristocrat than an Irish gentleman.

Parnell's rustication may not have predisposed him to become an Irish nationalist, but Charles Wentworth-Fitzwilliam's criminal record did not rule out a pleasurable career on the margins of power. In 1870, he became one of the last Army officers to purchase his commission. His military career included a time in India, not in humdrum imperial garrison duty but as an aide-de-camp to the Viceroy. Although he did not take a degree at Magdalene, he no doubt cultivated other talents, which explain his appointment as Master of the Stables to the future King George V as Prince of Wales in 1901. He remained an equerry, working with the Master of Horse. By the time of his death in 1925, he was Sir William Charles Wentworth-Fitzwilliam GCVO, and the Magdalene College Magazine accorded him a respectful obituary notice.

The last of Parnell's Magdalene Irish connections is the most bizarre of them all. Lord Francis Godolphin Osborne was a younger son of the Duke of Leeds, who owned Gogmagog House, on the low hills east of Cambridge. Born in 1830, Lord Francis married in 1854 Matilda Rich, daughter of an army officer and Irish landowner. For most of their first decade of married life, the couple lived at Castleconnell, on the banks of the Shannon, near Limerick. A daughter was born in 1856, and a son, whom Osborne would tell a London Home Rule audience in 1876 "was buried in Irish soil, and that kept the land green in his heart."[304] Sometime in the early eighteen-sixties, Osborne decided to enter the Anglican Church, and studied at Cuddesdon, the theological college near Oxford ─ where, as it happened, the principal, Henry Swinny, was a Magdalene man who had taken First Class Honours in Mathematics. In December 1863, Osborne took the first step towards the Anglican ministry, receiving deacon's orders from the formidable Bishop Wilberforce in Oxford Cathedral.[305] But he held back from full ordination, deciding first to acquire a Cambridge degree. This was an unusual trajectory: many Anglican clergymen took degrees before entering the Church, but there was little in the Cambridge syllabus to equip a man who was already ordained deacon.

In January 1865, Osborne entered Magdalene, with the privileged status of Fellow Commoner, appropriate to his rank, his age and his status as a married man. The family had some history with the College: in 1834, a cousin, Lord D'Arcy Godolphin Osborne, "an unmanageable profligate", had been suspended from Magdalene for one year because of "drunkenness and gross irregularities at Barnwell", Cambridge's brothel quarter.[306] Latimer Neville soon heard a disturbing rumour that Lord Francis also had a dark side. In a characteristic stern-but-kind letter, the Master reported that he had learned of an unfortunate incident at Cuddesdon, and that "had I been aware of it, your name could not have been entered upon the Boards of our College." (The comment is interesting in revealing that admission to Magdalene, even for the very rich, was not entirely unrestricted.) Neville urged Osborne to "endeavour by abstaining from & discontinuing any practice, which can bring discredit upon your profession, or the College" and so demonstrate that "you are entirely sorry for the past." Osborne replied, admitting that he had got drunk in Oxford after taking deacon's orders. "Of course, after that, so near the time of ordination, I could not offer myself to the Bishop." Hence his decision to come to Magdalene, "to endeavour by a course of work, and discipline, to wipe out the stain of this one truly sad fault." Lord Francis Godolphin Osborne evidently had an alcohol problem, and he did not succeed in bringing it entirely under control. This may explain a note in the on-line Venn project indicating that for a time in 1867 he transferred to Downing. However, it was from Magdalene that he took his MA in 1870, two years after achieving his BA. No doubt he came to Cambridge to graduate in person. A note in the Latimer Neville papers indicates that in November 1870 he was "requested not to appear in the College" again "until further notice". The ban was repeated when he sought to invite himself to dine on High Table in 1872, and again in 1890.[307]

Was Lord Francis Godolphin Osborne one of the Magdalene trainee clergymen whom Parnell condemned in 1891 as "no better than they should be"?[308] It is unlikely that there was much social contact between them. The Osbornes moved in high donnish circles, where Matilda (Lady Francis) was a popular figure.[309] But the two men probably sat in class together. (Henry Wale, a married man who had enrolled as a Fellow Commoner in 1855, certainly attended College lectures with the other undergraduates.[310]) Although Osborne had been admitted two terms before Parnell, he probably counted as a member of the same intake: he took his Pass degree in 1868, the year when Parnell would have been on track to graduate had the affairs of Avondale not forced him to drop out. There is every reason to assume that the two were acquainted, however superficially.

On graduating in 1868, Lord Francis Godolphin Osborne took orders and became Rector of Elm in Somerset. The sole public incident of his seven-year tenure was a petty legal wrangle over a right of way with the lord of the manor, William Strachey[311] ─ uncle of St Loe Strachey whose 1904 Spectator article placed Magdalene's unhealthy social atmosphere in the public domain. The Rector was not to disturb the peace of Elm for much longer. In 1875, Osborne joined the Church of Rome.

Lord Francis Godolphin Osborne certainly displayed the zeal of a convert, although it is arguable whether he exuded any accompanying sense of humility. He seemed keen to appear on public platforms, for instance flaunting his new faith at a rally of the League of the Cross chaired by Cardinal Manning at Exeter Hall, a venue traditionally associated with militantly evangelical Protestantims.[312] Anglican clergy were debarred from election to the House of Commons, but by disclaiming his orders, Osborne opened the way to the possibility of a new career ─ and he saw his opportunity in a new political movement. He told a London Irish rally on St Patrick's Day 1876 that although "he had been a Catholic only a few months ... he had known Ireland and Irishmen for 25 years; and the more he had seen of them the more he felt the justice of their demands."[313]It was a natural step to apply for membership of the Home Rule League, which was conferred upon him at a meeting in April, chaired by the member of parliament for Meath, C.S. Parnell.[314] If Parnell had needed persuading that the gentlemanly Home Rule party needed to be revolutionised from below, the reappearance in his life of a dilettante aristocrat from his Magdalene days would surely have provided the clinching motive.

As a nationalist, Lord Francis was plausible enough. Delivering "A slight sketch of Ireland and the Irish" to the London Catholic Young Men's Association in February 1876, he denounced the Act of Union as the product of corruption, and referred knowingly to Hungary's autonomy under the Hapsburg dual monarchy.[315] A Home Rule meeting at Islington in May heard a learned allusion to the autonomy of the Isle of Man, and he took part in at least two other meetings designed to strengthen the English wing of the movement.[316] Yet there were signs that some of Osborne's opinions were embarrassingly idiosyncratic. Veneration for St Patrick and admiration for Daniel O'Connell were both acceptable viewpoints, but equating the two seemed eccentric. It was both good sense and fair comment to defended Home Rulers from the accusation of disloyalty to Queen Victoria, but his claim that "since he had become a Catholic he was more loyal than when he was a Protestant" represented a clumsy and credulous attempt to highlight his own conversion. A decade's residence in Ireland had undoubtedly given insights into its people, but in dismissing fears that "the Repeal of the Union would lead to democratic anarchy", he surely went too far in claiming that the Irish "rejoice when they are led ... by men of high station and lineage."[317]

In April 1876 Osborne visited Cork to lecture on the Kulturkampf, Bismarck's campaign to restrict the powers of the Catholic church in Prussia. His polite praise to the audience of "their noble city" was accidentally well-timed. When the death occurred, early in May, of one of the Cork's MPs, Joseph P. Ronayne, the name of Lord Francis Godolphin Osborne was mentioned as a possible replacement. The veteran O'Connellite Repealer, W.J. O'Neill Daunt, had been his host in Cork, and Osborne himself had spoken of "the kindness of Mr A.M. Sullivan to him": Sullivan was the proprietor of the Nation, the weekly Nationalist publication that certainly gave him generous coverage in its columns.[318] Yet an Osborne candidature seems an absurdity that can only discredit the judgement of those who place his name in play. The "English nobleman and recent convert to Catholicity" had said nothing about tenant right issues. If elected, would probably have proved merely as addition to the nominal Home Rulers swept to Westminster in 1874. Perhaps he might have served as a compromise candidate at the May 1876 by-election, although it seems improbable that so proudly Irish a city as Cork would have accepted an English carpetbagger. In the event, the Home Rulers managed to lose by splitting between two candidates and allowing the Conservatives to win on a minority vote.

It was left to Edmund Dwyer Gray's Freeman's Journal to pronounce a silently damning verdict on its rival's flirtation with the London-based aristocrat. In 1878, it carried a brief report, impishly headed "Strange Conduct of a Nobleman". Lord Francis Godolphin Osborne had appeared before the Westminster magistrate on a charge of being drunk and disorderly in a London street. The arresting officer stated that the accused had been "acting in a most disgusting manner" despite the presence of "a number of females". When asked to desist, he told the constable several times to go to Hell, claiming that he was ill and had taken brandy on the advice of a chemist. "The prisoner was so drunk that he could not walk without the assistance of a stick." The magistrate gave him the choice between a thirty shilling fine and eight days imprisonment. "The money was paid."[319]

An inebriated aristocrat urinating on a Pimlico pavement seems an appropriate image to close this exploration of Magdalene College Cambridge in the mid-nineteenth century. Without wishing to belabour one of the arguments in mitigation offered in defence of the College's academic and pastoral record, it is perhaps worth pointing out that Lord Francis Godolphin Osborne had graduated from his Magdalene experience ─ typically, with a Pass degree ─ and that Latimer Neville had offered him supporting counsel on lifestyle issues. Within the select numbers and confined space of Magdalene, there was scope for different personalities and overlapping communities. We should not judge Magdalene College Cambridge in the time of Charles Stewart Parnell through the prism of its likely decline and decay through the four decades that followed his abrupt departure. Of course, this does not mean that the undoubted shortcomings of the College merit retrospective exculpation. The most that an apologist can suggest is that its combination of perennial poverty, unsavoury location and peculiar constitution placed severe limitations on its ability to function as a centre of academic excellence. Lord Francis Godolphin Osborne and his like were the price that was paid to sustain an institution in which others, maybe less glittering and definitely less visible, were able to proceed to their Cambridge degrees.


[1] Ged Martin, "Parnell at Cambridge: the Education of an Irish Nationalist", Irish Historical Studies, 19 (1973), pp. 72-82. A supplementary report, "Parnell at Cambridge: Some New Evidence", Magdalene College Magazine & Record, n.s., 36 (1991-2), pp. 37-41, has proved too obscure to penetrate the central canon of Parnell biography. Information about members of the University of Cambridge is taken from Venn's Alumni Cantabrigienses via the on-line updating of the project, Magdalene College oarsmen are listed in The Magdalene Boat Club 1828-1928 (Cambridge, 1930). Tripos results are given in J.R. Tanner, ed., Historical Register of the University of Cambridge ... to the Year 1910 (Cambridge, 1917). "Poll" (Pass) degree results are inferred from Venn. Some biographical information comes from Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Individual references are not given, as the context usually indicates the source. I owe thanks to Ronald Hyam for information regarding Magdalene, and to Gail Wood for census research.

[2] J.A.W. Bennett in Chaucer at Oxford and Cambridge (1974) quoted in L. and H. Fowler, eds, Cambridge Commemorated: An Anthology of University Life (Cambridge, 1984), p. 252.

[3] The four abbeys, all Benedictine foundations, had even built individual staircases in First Court. The monastic origins probably account for the secluded location of the College, a little away from the fleshpots of central Cambridge, while the fact that three of the four abbeys were located around the Fens may explain why Magdalene is at the north end of the town, on a site convenient for travel by water. Scholars from King's Hall took two days to travel by boat from Cambridge to Spalding in December 1319, and were able to reach Lincoln and York by water, with only a brief overland link between Spalding and Boston. W.W.R. Ball, Cambridge Papers (London, 1918), pp. 156-8.

[4] Ronald Hyam, Magdalene Described (Cambridge, 1982), p. 4.

[5] Magdalene is pronounced "maudlin" and was occasionally (and informally) so spelt.

[6] The £15 rent was still being paid in Parnell's time, but in 1880-2 most of it was bought out by the District (Underground) Railway and the Commissioners of Sewers, leaving Magdalene only a token annual sum of £2. E.K. Purnell, Magdalene College (London, 1904), p. 77.

[7] British Parliamentary Papers, 1852-53, xliv, pp. 403-13.

[8] Peter Cunich, David Hoyle, Eamon Duffy & Ronald Hyam, A History of Magdalene College Cambridge 1428-1988 (Cambridge, 1994), p. 215. [Cited as College History].

[9] College History, p. 215.

[10] Victoria County History of Cambridgeshire, iii, p. 438 (by E. Miller).

[11] College History, p. 251.

[12] Poverty had one incidental and idiosyncratic but positive side effect. 19th-century Magdalene could not afford to install artificial lighting in Hall. 20th- and 21st century Magdalene has made a point of retaining candles.

[13] Purnell, Magdalene College, p. 194.

[14] The Cambridge Union Society: Inaugural Proceedings (London, 1866), p. 43, quoting Saturday Review, of which Stephen was the Cambridge correspondent. An unknown versifier of 1673 had hailed "noble Magdalene" from the town side of the Cam:

"And as from hence 'tis seen

It looks like Heaven with a vast Gulph between:

The sacred river between us doth glide,

Like England parted by the Sea from all the world beside."

"A Poem Attempting Something upon the Rarities of the Most Renowned University of Cambridge" (1673) in E.E. Kellett, ed., A Book of Cambridge Verse (Cambridge, 1911), p. 78. In fact, for 200 years after 1873, most of Magdalene would have been obscured by buildings on the site of River Court.

[15] Daniel Defoe, A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724-6), (ed. P. Rogers, Harmondsworth, 1971), p. 107. "Magdalene" was generally spelt without the final "e" until c.1816.

[16] College History, p. 181; William Everett, On the Cam (Cambridge, 1865), p. 202.

[17] Castle End and Magdalene Street traders had successfully campaigned against a proposal for a Midsummer Common bridge in 1875, fearing loss of business. E. Porter, Victorian Cambridge: Josiah Chater's Diaries (London, 1975), p. 175.

[18] Gwen Raverat recalled "rough gangs of boys" at Castle End in the 1890s, along with drunks and incidents of cruelty to children and animals. Gwen Raverat, Period Piece: A Cambridge Childhood (London, 1960 ed.), p. 168. For the photograph of Magdalene Street c. 1865, Reeve, Cambridge Illustrated, plate 29; Victoria County History of Cambridgeshire, iii, facing p. 123.

[19] Reeve, Cambridge Illustrated, Introduction.

[20] Cambridge Independent Press, 9 January 1864. "Many thousands of persons arrived in Cambridge after the execution" , thronging the public houses. Local police reported much drunkenness.

[21] Magdalene College Old Library, A.S. Ramsey, "Bygone Days at Magdalene" (typescript), pp. 5-6. Restoration of the street frontage by College architect F.C.Penrose in 1873 lessened its resemblance to a penitentiary.

[22] E.M. Bury J.T. and Pickles, eds, Romilly's Cambridge Diary 1848-1864 (Cambridge, 2000), pp. 265, 417, 434n. Romilly's comments reflected an Anglican point of view. Castle End's Methodist congregation dated back to 1823 and survives today in the Castle Street Methodist Church.

[23] Edward Lyttelton recalled that he was never "asked for a single subscription to any philanthropic object" during his time at Trinity in the mid-seventies. E. Lyttelton, Alfred Lyttelton: An Account of His Life (London, 1917), p. 57.

[24] In 1861, Cambridge rumour reported that Dodd had omitted reference to Jesus Christ from the Magdalene grace because a Jewish member of the College was dining at High Table. (This was perhaps the lawyer Arthur Cohen, whom Magdalene had admitted after Trinity had refused to take him on religious grounds.) Dodd denied the allegation but Joseph Brockhurst, a virulent anti-Semite from St John's and country curate near Cambridge, decided to horsewhip him "for the glory of his Saviour." A university disciplinary committee decided that Brockhurst was "a desperate & incurable maniac" and "commended Mr Dodd for his Christian forbearance" in not retaliating. Two points may be drawn from this unsavoury episode: (i) Dodd, although not a teaching Fellow of the College, was actively involved in its daily life, and (ii) even if mid-Victorian Magdalene sometimes seems absurd, it had no monopoly on dangerous eccentrics. Bury and Pickles, eds, Romilly's Cambridge Diary 1848-1864, p. 378; The Times, 4 February 1861.

[25] J.A. Steers, ed., The Cambridge Region 1965 (Cambridge, 1965), p. 177.

[26] Everett, On the Cam, p. 203. Easy access to coal supply helps explain why Cambridge's first electricity generating station was built, in late Victorian times, opposite Magdalene's Fellows' Garden. This primitive installation had the carbon footprint of a hobnail boot, much of which landed on Magdalene, and it remained an eyesore until demolition in the 1960s. The site was provided by St John's College, in what a Magdalene historian has called "perhaps the most unfriendly act ever perpetrated by a Cambridge college against one of its neighbours". College History, p. 223. Everett (p. 12) referred to "half a hundred barges" on the Cam, which seems indicative if a touch poetic.

[27] D.A. Winstanley, Early Victorian Cambridge (Cambridge, 1955), p. 418. The Marquess of Queensberry had been admitted to Magdalene in October 1864, but was not in residence when Parnell arrived in October 1865. Queensberry married early in February 1866, but appeared in Cambridge that June to play cricket for Magdalene, during the term when Parnell was absent from Cambridge. The claim by a "Cantab." in 1904 that Parnell's "greatest friend at Magdalene was the Marquess of Queensberry" is unfounded, but demonstrates the strength of myth-making. (Cambridge Independent Press, 15 January 1904, cutting in Magdalene College Old Library.) Queensberry's mother was a Fenian sympathiser who converted to Catholicism and became a nun. She provided money for the families of the executed Manchester Martyrs. In 1878 she warned the IRB leader John Devoy that "the young are being taught to look to Parliament alone ─ and Nationality is dying out rapidly." Although Devoy called her "a patriotic Irishwoman" , her background appears to have been English. She did not influence her son, who is remembered for formulating the rules of boxing and for his persecution of Oscar Wilde. W. O'Brien and D. Ryan, eds., Devoy's Post Bag 1871-1928 (2 vols, Dublin, 1948), II, pp. 569-70.

[28] Tom Licence, "The Old Inns of Magdalene Street", Magdalene College Magazine and Record, 51, 2006-2007, pp. 112-118.

[29] Cambridge Chronicle, 5 January 1867.

[30] R. Barry O'Brien, The Life of Charles Stewart Parnell (2 vols, London, 1898), i, p. 41.

[31] Cambridge Chronicle, 30 June 1866; The Times, 11 October 1887.

[32] Raverat, Period Piece, p. 34. Although Cambridge's nude male bathing area was located at Coe Fen, above the town, conditions were not perfect upstream. In 1874, an Essex Medical Officer urged the removal of a dam at Newport so that "filth is allowed to flow away" down the Cam. A more ambitious scheme proposed by a successor in 1898 led the local squire (a brother of one of Parnell's Magdalene contemporaries) to propose the official's removal to some place "where he may find scope for his costly and uncalled-for sanitary improvements". Anthony Tuck et al., Victoria County History of Essex: Newport (London, 2015), p. 83.

[33] Bury and Pickles, eds, Romilly's Cambridge Diary 1848-1864, p. 110.

[34] L. and H. Fowler, eds, Cambridge Commemorated: An Anthology of University Life (Cambridge, 1989 ed.), p. 242; The Times, 11 November 1868.

[35] The Times, 22 May 1869.

[36] The Times, 11 November 1868; 10 May 1869. For the "sweeping style", The Times, 26 March 1866.

[37] The Times, 22, 25 May 1869. There were nineteen outlets for raw sewage between Magdalene Bridge and Barnwell, in addition to the discharges upstream. Reeve, Cambridge Illustrated, Introduction.

[38] The Times, 8 November 1870.

[39] The Times, 12 August 1884.

[40] The Times, 12 October 1871.

[41] Victoria County History of Cambridgeshire, iii, p. 105.

[42] Ramsey, "Bygone Days at Magdalene", pp. 16-17. These facilities were referred to in Magdalene as "Fourth Court" (The Brewhouse, demolished 1970, was the location of an unofficial third court).

[43] The Times, 3, 28 May 1872; 27 February 1873.

[44] The Times, 29 January 1874; 6 September 1884; 17 September, 19 October 1887.

[45] The Times, 25, 6 September 1884.

[46] Ged Martin, The Cambridge Union and Ireland, 1815-1914 (Edinburgh, 2000), p. 28.

[47] College History, p. 224.

[48] Leslie Stephen cheerfully inverted contemporary concern about the state of the river by claiming that rowing would not be possible at all on the shallow Cam without "the tribute derived from the town drains." L. Stephen, Sketches from Cambridge (London, 1865), p. 28.

[49] But King's began to build towards the river in 1889.

[50] College History, pp. 167, 190.

[51] Henry Gunning, Reminscences of ... Cambridge (2 vols, London, 1855 ed.), i, p. 239

[52] Purnell, Magdalene College, p. 182; College History, p. 193.

[53] Alma Mater; or, Seven Years at the University of Cambridge (2 vols, 1827), ii, pp. 202, 121-25.

[54] "S.S.", "Magdalene in the Sixties", Magdalene College Magazine, 3, March 1910, pp. 65-69, esp. pp. 66-67; IV, June 1910, pp. 101-8. [Cited as Sproston]

[55] Technically, nomination to the Mastership of Magdalene belonged to the owner of Audley End, who was also "Visitor" (external arbiter). By the twentieth century, it was likely that the Neville/Braybrooke family, Audley's heirs, would have to give up the house, and it was duly handed to the State in 1948. To maintain the connection, the Visitorship was attached to the peerage in 1926. This was almost certainly the last hereditary institution to be created in Britain. For a notoriously conservative college, the transfer was fortuitous: the next vacancy in the Mastership, in 1967, would have been filled by Harold Wilson. It should be stated, to the honour of the Braybrooke family, that the 8th Baron was killed on active service in 1943, two years after inheriting the estate. Sacrifice for King and Country did not prevent the imposition of double death duties, which the family settled by ceding the house.

[56] Everett, On the Cam, p. 202.

[57] College History, p. 195. In fairness, it must be said that he was protesting against a rumour that he had "the dirty inclination" of selling the nomination to the highest bidder. College History, p. 195.  

[58] The Mastership of Neville's predecessor William Gretton (1797-1813) was undistinguished. (Purnell, Magdalene College, p. 183.) Vicar of Saffron Walden, near Audley End, he seems to have been appointed to root out the Evangelicals who had briefly made Magdalene a powerhouse within the University. College History, pp. 193-5. In ridding Magdalene of religious radicalism, Gretton also drove out academic success. Matriculations dwindled, and in the five years 1804-8, only one candidate was classed in the Mathematical Tripos. He achieved the Wooden Spoon (the lowest position in the Class list) ─ and was elected to a Fellowship. There were problems among the Fellows during Gretton's time: in 1806 the Tutor, Thomas Paley, was dismissed for offences "which from delicacy cannot be specified." College History, p. 195. Paley was consoled with the College living of East Aldrington in Sussex, an attractive piece of patronage since the population of the parish was just two, and the church had fallen down. Until 1835, the Master's Lodging adjoined the Chapel in First Court. The terminally ill Gretton is said to have looked on as gravediggers prepared his last resting place. It is a sad cameo, but a grimly appropriate tailpiece to a negative phase in Magdalene history. Gretton was the last Master to be buried within the College. Purnell, Magdalene College, p. 19.

[59] Purnell, Magdalene College, p. 183.

[60] E. Newman, A Brief History of the Old Rectory Hawarden (Flintshire County Record Office, c. 1992), consulted on line via, 3 August 2015.

[61] Victoria County History of Somerset, ix, "Butleigh", consulted via, 4 August 2015. Tradition indicates that the new surname was pronounced "greenville".

[62] The Magdalene Boat Club had named the Lady Charlotte in her honour in 1830.

[63] J.P.T. Bury, ed., Romilly's Cambridge Diary 1832-42 (Cambridge, 1967), pp. 45, 85, 120. Blore's design was rejected as too expensive, and Buckler built a Lodge that curiously resembled a battered cardboard box. It was replaced by a modern building 1966-7. The publication of Romilly's diary revealed too late that a silver medal had been placed under Prince George's brick: it was never found. A loan raised to pay for the new Master's Lodge remained outstanding in 1854. Purnell, Magdalene College, p. 205.

[64] Bury, ed., Romilly's Cambridge Diary 1832-42, p. 186.

[65] M.E. Bury and J.E. Pickles, eds, Romilly's Cambridge Diary 1842-1847 (Cambridge, 1994), p. 181.

[66] "Great news: Uncle George is Dean of Windsor!", A.T. Bassett, ed., Gladstone to His Wife (London, 1936), p. 71. Uncle George had conducted their wedding in 1839. Mrs Gladstone was a Glynne.

[67] Bury and Pickles, eds, Romilly's Cambridge Diary 1848-1864, pp. 6, 133.

[68]   Waud was 5th Wrangler in 1825, Warter 5th Classic in 1834, Chichester May 3rd Classic in 1838, Thring 3rd Classic in 1841, Roberts 4th Classic in 1847, Cohen 5th Wrangler in 1853. In 1840, Magdalene had two Wranglers (First Class Honours) and five Senior Optimes (Seconds) in the Mathematical Tripos. The description of the Magdalene Fellows in Neville-Grenville's time as "easy going and undistinguished" perhaps undervalues their contribution to basic teaching. College History, p. 197.

[69] R. Hyam, Godliness, Hunting and Quite Good Learning (Cambridge: Magdalene College Occasional Papers, 1992), p. 10.

[70] College History, p. 196.

[71] College History, pp. 196-98; Alma Mater, ii, p. 202; Purnell, Magdalene College, p. 184.

[72] F.E. Kingsley, Charles Kingsley: his Letters and Memories of His Life (London, 1904 ed.), p. 16.

[73] In 1867, a Magdalene product, the Reverend William Rusbridge Holmes, was "instituted, on his own petition as patron, to the Rectorship of Birkby." Holmes had purchased this North Riding advowson in 1865 ─ a good investment. Cambridge Chronicle, 23 March 1867; Victoria County History of Yorkshire: North Riding, i, pp. 399-402. In Cambridge, the Master of Trinity was appointed by the Crown (i.e. the government of the day). The Master of Downing was selected by a committee of the great and the good, and the Bishop of Ely had a formal role in the choice of a Master for Jesus.

[74] Bury and Pickles, eds, Romilly's Cambridge Diary 1842-1847, p. 178n.

[75] Peter Peckard, an Oxford man and social radical in 1781, and Henry Willink, a former cabinet minister in 1948, stand out as selections that Magdalene itself would hardly have made, with both Masters making a notable impact. The choice of S.A. Donaldson in 1904, if less inspired in itself, was not only right at the time (one of near-collapse) but one that led to the enormously influential association of A.C. Benson with the College. Donald Portway, himself elected Master of St Catharine's in 1946, was "convinced that in a college with a small number of Fellows there is much to be said for an outside nomination, as is the case with Trinity and Magdalene Colleges." D. Portway, Militant Don (London, 1964), p. 138. But the Mastership of mighty Trinity was a matter of national interest. Magdalene remained a matter of minor private patronage until consultation processes modified the institution in the last third of the twentieth century. Fellows finally acquired the right to elect the Master in 2012.

[76] Clare conducted only one election for Master between the battle of Waterloo and the First World War, and was saddled with a senile Master who lived to be 99.

[77] On joining the College as a Fellow in 1904, the admittedly waspish A.C. Benson formed the impression that Neville had been "a dear old man", much dominated by a formidable wife who regarded the College as "a disagreeable sort of incumbrance on the Mastership." Latimer Neville outlived his four older brothers, none of whom produced a male heir. As a result, he inherited the Braybrooke title and during the last months of life was both Master and Visitor, an obvious absurdity, but accepted as a transient anomaly. College History, p. 207.

[78] At Neville's death, Magdalene's perennial poverty for once worked in the College's favour. The Master's salary (called his "dividend") had fallen to the level of an average country clergyman ─ £330 in 1895, and in a post where there were many calls on the purse. No member of the Braybrooke family was willing to accept the Mastership. College History, pp. 216, 221.

[79] Bury and Pickles, eds, Romilly's Cambridge Diary 1842-1847, p. 159.

[80] When Christ's secured a large benefaction in 1923, it was its first major windfall for two centuries. Major bequests were usually of an "insider" nature: James Wood at St John's and William Whewell at Trinity both recycled some of the massive profits of their Masterships. The major Magdalene example was the bequest of £5,000for a Tutor's house from the former President, Mynors Bright, in 1883, following the example of Peter Peckard in 1797 and, on a smaller scale, John Lodge in 1850. Lord Braybrooke and George Neville-Grenville headed the subscription list of an appeal for £2,000 to renovate the Chapel in 1847, apparently the only formal attempt at fund-raising in the nineteenth century. Purnell, Magdalene College, p. 19.

[81] According to a serious-minded Trinity man, the Little-Go "is generally voted a bore and in fact serves only to frighten the determinedly idle". J. Smith and C. Stray, eds, Cambridge in the 1830s: The Letters of Alexander Chisholm Gooden 1831-1841 (Cambridge, 2003), p. 115. Leslie Stephen, who thought the University's teaching "a mere farce" for 90 percent of undergraduates, sarcastically quoted the conventional Cambridge defence of its curriculum that "all experience" proved that the study of Mathematics and Classics "strengthen the intellectual faculties; as lifting weights and jumping bars strengthen the mind." The same argument, he observed, would certainly be advanced if the University "had been in the habit of teaching ... the art of shoemaking". Stephen, Sketches from Cambridge, pp. 34-35. Some new courses were developing: in Parnell's time, Magdalene undergraduates achieved modest success in History, Natural Sciences and Law. In the first year of the Natural Sciences Tripos, 185, Henry Harden of Magdalene took First Class Honours. (Harden also rowed in the Magdalene Boat.)

[82] Bristed, Five Years, i, p. 100. A Trinity undergraduate who felt humiliated at having to transfer to Jesus College was said to have been greeted at his first chapel service by a hymn beginning; "Ashamed of Jesus! Can it? / A mortal man ashamed of thee." B. and P. Russell, eds, The Amberley Papers (2 vols, London, 1937), i, p. 227. In 1876, a thoughtful Cambridge graduate, Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, proposed in the House of Commons that Sidney Sussex should be closed down. Ged Martin, The Cambridge Union and Ireland 1815-1914, p. 55.

[83] Stephen, Sketches from Cambridge, p. 40.

[84] Kingsley came to Magdalene thanks to a scholarship established as a gesture of Anglican solidarity in support of King's College, London, where he had studied. College History, pp. 197-8; Owen Chadwick, "Charles Kingsley at Cambridge", Historical Journal, 18 (1975), pp. 303-25. The other migrants who took Firsts were Waud (from St John's, 1823), Lawless (from St John's, 1832), Swinny (from Trinity, 1832), Gooch (from St John's, 1843), Barrett-Lennard (from Peterhouse, 1853) and Meek (from Peterhouse, 1853).

[85] "Life at Magdalene 1879 to 1882 by the Revd E.R. Yerburgh", Magdalene College Magazine, n.s., 45, 2000-1, pp. 81-9, esp. p. 87 [cited as Yerburgh]. When A.S. Ramsey became Senior Tutor in 1912, he persuaded the College to adopt a policy of requiring undergraduates to pass at least one examination in their first year or be sent down. Since the weaker students were often enrolled in sub-degree diploma courses, this was less revolutionary than it sounded. College History, p. 228.

[86] Spectator, 23 January 1904; College History, p. 207. The Spectator's surprisingly outspoken criticism, almost certainly representing the personal sentiments of its proprietor, Balliol graduate J. St Loe Strachey, probably prodded the then Visitor, the 7th Baron Braybrooke, to look beyond his own family (reportedly his first instinct) for a Master of Magdalene. College History, p. 221.

[87] College History, p. 207. As noted, Eton's cleverest students could win scholarships at King's.  

[88] Magdalene Boat Club 1828-1928, p. 15.

[89] Hall appears to have graduated with a Pass degree in 1862. The statement in Venn that he secured an LL.B is not confirmed by Tripos lists in Tanner, ed., Historical Register. Hall became a banker at Beverley, but died at St Leonard's-on-Sea, Sussex, in January 1868, aged 32. Hull Packet, 31 January 1868.

[90] The Times, 7 February 1863; Magdalene Boat Club 1828-1928, p. 49; Essex Review, xl (1931), p. 39.

[91] College History, p. 207. In 1852, it was estimated that 20Trinity undergraduates out of an annual admission total of about 120 failed to survive to the end of second year. Bristed, Five Years, p. 12.

[92] Cambridge Chronicle, 10, 17 November 1866; Sproston, p. 106.

[93] Sproston, p. 103; C. Jebb, Life and Letters of Sir Richard Claverhouse Jebb (Cambridge, 1907), p. 89. The Trinity-Magdalene axis was taken for granted in a charming novel of the time, Herbert Vaughan, The Cambridge Grisette (London, 1862).

[94] The Student's Guide to the University of Cambridge (2nd ed., Cambridge, 1866), pp. 97-98. This despairing sentiment was omitted from the next edition, in 1874.

[95] H. de Windt, My Restless Life (London, 1909), p. 68.

[96] The Times, 4 June 1891. Vaughan included a scene of an all-night blackjack session at "Magdalen" in his 1862 novel, so Wilson's card-playing may not be evidence of late-nineteenth century decline. Vaughan, Cambridge Grisette, pp. 37-8.

[97] Magdalene College Old Library, C/LN/45, Neville to G.F. Pattrick, copy, 27 November 1865.

[98] Leslie Stephen, Sketches from Cambridge (Cambridge, 1865), p. 39.

[99] Cambridge Chronicle, 9 February 1867.

[100] College History, p. 197.

[101] Kelly's Directory of Cambridgeshire (London, 1888), p. 29.

[102] The Student's Guide to the University of Cambridge (3rd ed., Cambridge, 1874), pp. 449-90. Some colleges also subsidised accommodation costs. In Pembroke, no rooms cost more than £10 a year. Jesus, St Catharine's and Trinity Hall guaranteed to cover costs of painting and wallpapering, while Sidney offered an "undertaking to keep them in comfortable order", which may have included provision of furniture, generally purchased at valuation by each arriving student from his predecessor. In 1865, Parnell paid £18 rent for his rooms in the Pepys Building, but he also spent heavily on redecoration and re-upholstering, possibly using up his budget and so explaining his inability to return to Cambridge for the Easter Term of 1866. Magdalene College Old Library, B/153, account books.

[103] de Windt, My Restless Life, pp. 67-68.

[104]Parnell's contemporary J.M. Richardson also rode at Cottenham while he was still formally on the College books, Cambridge Chronicle, 10 April 1869.

[105] Cambridge Chronicle, 8 December 1866, 6 April 1867, 10 April 1869; Sproston, p. 103.

[106] Everett, On The Cam, p. 203. In a copy of this book in the Cambridge Union Society Library, c. 1970, there were marginal comments in faded pencil: "Damnable" and "beastly cheek". Everett's note (p. 18) of the recent move of "a band of unruly youths dismissed by a more prosperous Foundation as untameable" to "a certain college, which has long been deplorably short of undergraduates" may refer to Downing rather than Magdalene. (Cf .College History, p. 292).

[107] Magdalene College Old Library, C/LN/VI/27.

[108] Magdalene College Old Library, C/LN/X, 79, Neville to Lord Chief Justice Coleridge, copy, [11 March 1891].

[109] Cambridge Review, 21 January 1904, in Purnell, Magdalene College, p. 199; Sproston, pp. 67-8.

[110] A.J. Kettle, Material for Victory (ed. L.J. Kettle, Dublin, 1958), pp. 68-9.

[111] Quoted in Magdalene College Old Library, C/LN/X, 79, Neville to Lord Chief Justice Coleridge, copy, [11 March 1891]. Coleridge's summing up was widely reported, and his comment on Magdalene can be located in e.g. Belfast News Letter, Birmingham Daily Post and [London] Daily News, 10 June 1891.

[112] "Magdalene in the Sixties", Magdalene College Magazine, 1, pp. 66-69, 101-108. [As noted, cited as Sproston.]

[113] He passed close to the foot of the Thirds (The Times, 24 March 1871).

[114] Obituary in Magdalene College Magazine, 6, March 1922, p. 58.

[115] Sproston, pp. 65-66. The undergraduate so casually pirated was probably Evan Lewis, a Salopian and fellow Welshman who became a clergyman in Pembrokeshire. Gunton's First was actually registered in 1867, since Tripos examinations were then held after ten terms.

[116] College History, p. 306.

[117] Student's Guide (1874 ed.), pp. 7-8.

[118] A.C. Benson, Memories and Friends (London, 1924), p. 267.

[119] Ged Martin, "Parnell at Cambridge", p. 74n.

[120] De Windt, My Restless Life, p. 67.

[121] Yerburgh, p. 82-3. Parnell may have found himself in a similar position at Magdalene: he was a gentleman by breeding but lacked the cash to support the lifestyle.

[122] Spectator, 23 January 1904; College History, p. 207.

[123] Peskett was elected to a Fellowship, "and spent the rest of his working life in the service of the college." The product of a Suffolk grammar school, he lacked the personality to assert the academic tradition of Magdalene. He was "naturally silent and self-contained, and had no flow of conversation. ... He found it difficult to open up communication with undergraduates, and was regarded by them as something of a friendly mystery." His attitude to internal discipline was "the young don't like to be interfered with." The Times, 28 July 1931; College History, p. 226. Purnell's1904 history of Magdalene virtually ignores examination results after Peskett. Until 1909, Tripos results were arranged not simply in classes but ranked within them, hence Peskett's title of Senior Classic.

[124] Sheffield Telegraph, 25 November 1876; Cambridge Independent Press, 1 December 1876.

[125] Student's Guide, p. 71.

[126] Magdalene College Old Library, C/LN/45, Neville to Pattrick and reply, both 27 November 1865.

[127] Yerburgh, p. 87.

[128] Cambridge Independent Press, 1 December 1876.

[129] Purnell, Magdalene College, p. 194.

[130] Spectator, 30 January 1904.

[131] Magdalene Boat Club, p. 43. A photograph of First Court, c. 1900, facing Purnell, Magdalene College, p. 16, indicates that there were no flower beds in that era. [Additional note, May 2020: This story may have its origins in a lecture given to the University's Hibernian Club in May 1914 by L.P. Carolan McQuaid. McQuaid was a government official, probably retired, who lived in St Barnabas Road, and hoped to represent Monaghan in an Irish parliament. His lecture, on "Parnell and Cambridge", was muddled compilation of hearsay stories. One referred to a Magdalene undergraduate called Seton, who "once won a bet from a friend that he would enter on horseback through the front gate of the college and ride as far as the Pepys' Library and return backwards after parading the cloisters!" Cambridge Independent Press, 22 May 1914. As an equestrian feat, the exercise was feasible, if pointless. Charles Henry Seton, son of an Army officer from Shropshire, came to Magdalene in January 1890. His brother, Bruce, matriculated at Trinity Hall, that year, but migrated to join his elder brother in 1891. Bruce Seton graduated in 1894, but Charles left without taking a degree. If this is the origin of the coach-and-four story, it is an example of reckless exaggeration in the pejorative Magdalene legend.]

[132] Sproston, p. 103; Magdalene Boat Club, p. 26; de Windt, My Restless Life, p. 67.

[133] Yerburgh, p. 85.

[134] Yerburgh, p. 84.

[135] Magdalene Boat Club, pp. 27-36.

[136] British Parliamentary Papers, 1852-3, Cambridge University Commission, Warter to Commissioners, 6 February 1851; evidence, p. 408.

[137] Everett, On The Cam, p. 151. However, the anti-hero of Herbert Vaughan's university novel of 1862, Roughley of Christ's, looked back on days "when he kept [had rooms] in the first court and the whole college dined in his rooms". There is also a scene of an aristocratic supper party in Trinity (with lobster on the menu) attended by a member of "Magdalen". The practice may have been widespread by the 1860s. H. Vaughan, The Cambridge Grisette (London, 1862), pp. 2, 18-21.

[138] de Windt, My Restless Life, pp. 67-72.

[139] Yerburgh, p. 89.

[140] College History, Plate 14.

[141] First Class Honours graduates in the 1850s included Arthur Cohen (Mathematics, 1853), whom Magdalene admitted when other colleges seem to have retained a prejudice against Jews, and Joseph Lumby (Classics, 1858), later Fellow.

[142] John Bond was a Fellow of Magdalene from 1861 to 1865, although for part of that time he taught as an assistant master at Rugby. Ordained in 1865, he was named to a Magdalene living, Anderby-with-Cumberworth, in Lincolnshire, and in 1889 advanced to the College's plum ecclesiastical prize, Steeple Ashton in Wiltshire. His brother and three sons followed him to Magdalene.

[143] Gunton's success was more impressive than Sproston registered. He twice won the University's Camden Medal for Latin hexameters, the only Magdalene winner in the nineteenth century. He also won Browne's Medal for a Latin ode, which had not come to the College since 1787 and was not won again until 1891.

[144] British Parliamentary Papers, 1852-53, xliv, p. 413.

[145] Ramsey, "Bygone Days at Magdalene", pp. 21-2. The door had been removed from the screens passage to enable dons residing the Pepys Building intervene in First Court jollifications.

[146] College History, p. 224.

[147] D.A. Winstanley, Later Victorian Cambridge (Cambridge, 1947), pp. 214-17.

[148] Victoria County History of Cambridgeshire, iii, p. 274.

[149] Ramsey, "Bygone Days at Magdalene", p. 14. Yerburgh, p. 88, believed that Peskett, as Tutor, "altered the tone of the College. It ceased to be a 'social' College". However, Peskett only became Tutor in 1896, and Benson encountered the "social" element in 1904.

[150] Admission numbers are taken from College History, p. 306, but presented approximately to allow for no-shows. It should be stressed that not all entrants intended to trouble the examiners. Overall, between 1813 and 1904, around 5 percent of Magdalene students achieved First Class results. This is not a stellar performance, but it is a great deal more positive than most portrayals of the College have allowed.

[151] There was even a certain symbolism from an earlier generation. William Berkeley Portman was an Etonian who had taken a First in the Civil Law class (forerunner of the Law Tripos) in 1853-4. In 1884, he founded Horse and Hound, the house journal of the hunting fraternity.

[152] Sproston, pp. 103-4. Yerburgh recalled the Etonian George Baird, son of a Scottish ironmaster, as "such a hopeless blackguard that he never got into any good set at College or into any decent club, and in fact people would have nothing to do with him." He was also too mean to tip his bedmaker. Yerburgh, pp. 83-4.

[153] S. Rothblatt, The Revolution of the Dons: Cambridge and Society in Victorian England (London, 1968), p. 226.

[154] Sproston, p. 106.

[155] Cambridge Chronicle, 3 March1866.

[156] O'Brien, Life of Charles Stewart Parnell, i, pp. 138-9.

[157] Bell's Life in London, 24 February 1869. The fastest amateur mile performance at the time, by Walter Gibbs in 1868, was 4 minutes, 28.8 seconds. Sproston's race, at about 43 seconds outside the record, was still impressive.

[158] J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell: A Memoir (New York, 1914), pp. 52-3.

[159] Cambridge Chronicle, 22 May 1869.

[160] Ged Martin, "Parnell at Cambridge", p. 80.

[161] Bury and Norwich Post, 25 May 1869.

[162] Magdalene College Old Library, B/291;   British Parliamentary Papers,1852-3, Cambridge University Commission, Warter to Commissioners, 27 June 1851.

[163] T.M. Healy, Letters and Leaders of My Day (2 vols, London, 1928), i, p. 169.

[164] Magdalene College Old Library, B/239, weekly accounts.

[165] The Cambridge Chronicle, 17 November 1866, reported 48 Magdalene undergraduates living in College and 12 in lodgings. This was probably the pattern for most years. Parnell just missed overlapping with John Barrett-Lennard, a married man and Fellow Commoner (a privileged category of aristocratic students), who had graduated in 1864. He was the brother of Sir Thomas Barrett-Lennard, whose wife was a sister of Katharine O'Shea.

[166] Yerburgh's reminiscences indicate, as we might expect, that throwing together diverse personalities within a confined social space resulted in some sharp animosities. Of the cricketer Lord Hawke, one of the iconic Magdalene figures of that period, Yerburgh wrote, "I disliked him. I did not see much of him." Most of Hawke's friends belonged to a Trinity, and probably mainly Etonian, network. Yerburgh, pp. 84-5.

[167] Yerburgh, p. 87.

[168] College History, p. 207

[169] In some ways, Neville's finest hour came in 1894, as Magdalene faced a financial crisis. In 1812, a Rolling Fund had been established in memory of 18th-century master Peter Peckard, intended to grow into a sizeable capital sum over 112 years. Neville reluctantly proposed to divert its income to current needs, but the move was blocked by the outrage of Professor Newton. College History, p. 217. When A.S. Ramsey was elected to a Fellowship in 1897, Neville seemed to be under the impression that he was required to assent to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, a requirement that had in fact been removed in 1882. But the Master may have been firing a warning shot at the first Congregationalist to be elected a Fellow of Magdalene. There was a large Congregational chapel in his parish. Ramsey, "Bygone Days", p. 2

[170] Neville had become Rector of Heydon in 1851. In 1853, the year he married, he built a large residence in the village. The living was worth £688 in 1831, which included the income from 210 acres of land in Little Chishill (in Neville's time spelt "Chishall"), awarded as part of an enclosure agreement. White's Directory of Essex (1848), pp. 610, 614-15. During Parnell's first year at Magdalene, Neville was engaged in restoring the chancel (in which Irish marble was used for decoration). Cambridge Chronicle, 7 April 1866. Heydon was transferred to Cambridgeshire in 1895. In fairness to Neville, it must be said that Heydon was considerably closer to Cambridge than George Neville-Grenville's parish of Hawarden in Cheshire.

[171] Ramsey, "Bygone Days at Magdalene", p. 8. Latimer Neville had been an effective slow left-arm bowler in his schooldays, and had played for Eton against Harrow at Lord's.

[172] Neville dined on Sunday evenings in termtime, a custom maintained by later Masters. He was a non-smoker and "out of respect for him there was no smoking in the Combination Room when he was present". A.S. Ramsey, "Bygone Days at Magdalene", pp. 26-7; Purnell, Magdalene College, p. 199, quoting Cambridge Review, 21 January 1904.

[173] Sproston, p. 67; Stephen, Sketches from Cambridge, pp. 128-19.

[174] Magdalene College Old Library, E/A/2/4, H.T. Parnell to Donaldson, 22 February 1906.

[175] Cambridge tradesmen were required to alert college tutors whenever an undergraduate had run up a quarterly account of more than £5, and "respectable" shopkeepers found it in their interest to warn colleges of any sign of extravagance. Thanks to this system, Edward Warter of Magdalene reported in 1851, "a tutor can now more readily discover the first outbreak of a pupil, and perhaps save him from going utterly wrong." British Parliamentary Papers, 1852-53, xliv, pp. 201-203, 403-13.

[176] Sproston, pp. 68-69; Purnell, Magdalene, p. 187. Bright had a set of room on the first floor of the Pepys Building, probably on the Left Cloister. Parnell was allocated rooms on the ground floor at the other side, possibly so that his Tutor could keep an eye on him. Bright began work on Pepys in 1872, to give himself a retirement project when it became clear that his health would force him to leave Cambridge (he moved to London in 1873). Bright checked the shorthand of the diary against Shilton's Tachygraphy, the system that Pepys had used. A twentieth-century authority on the shorthand, William Matthews, called Bright's work "solid, even laudable", although his edition was not without its howlers, such as converting the Queen of Sweden into the Queen of Sheba. Characteristically, Latimer Neville initially sought to block the project, since by implication it cast doubt on the work of his father, Lord Braybrooke, nominal editor of the first published edition. R. Latham and W. Matthews, eds, The Diary of Samuel Pepys, i (London, 1970), pp. lxxxvii ff.

[177] His successor, G.F. Pattrick, paid tribute to Bright's "singular power of discerning character and managing men." Magdalene College Old Library, LN45, Pattrick to Neville, 8 October 1872.

[178] Sproston, p. 101.

[179] Purnell, Magdalene College, p. 194.

[180] College History, p. 208; Healy, Letters and Leaders, ii, p. 367. Neville's correspondence with Jackson shows that the Dean had failed to complete the service on 4 November 1865, barely a fortnight after Parnell's arrival at Magdalene. Magdalene College Old Library, C/LN/VI/33.

[181] In 1866, Dodd was an outspoken opponent of an offer to endow a visiting lectureship in American history, the nomination to be entrusted to Harvard. In one of his milder diatribes, Dodd described the proposal as "opposed to all English feeling, all academic feeling, and all Church feeling" ─ in his mind, interchangeable categories. Ged Martin, "The Cambridge American Lectureship of 1866: a False Start in American Studies", Journal of American Studies, 7 (1973), pp. 17-29. Parnell, half American himself and, at that time, a strong partisan of the Northern States, would not have been impressed by Dodd's judgement. [Additional note, May 2020: Dodd's headstrong and dogmatic personality was shown in the case of Cooper v. Dodd in 1850. Dodd was also the incumbent of St Peter's, a miniature church across Castle Street from St Giles. In 1849, he refused to bury a parishioner, William Hules, who had been found drowned. The case was referred by the Bishop of Ely to the Court of Arches: Dodd initially refused to appear, arguing that he was not answerable to a court outside the diocese. He then contested the claim that he was obliged to bury a deceased parishioner under "the (so-called) 68th canon of 1603", arguing that the canon was "bad in law and in religion". His case was frankly absurd: the Court of Arches had jurisdiction throughout the Province of Canterbury, and clergy were bound by the canons. Dodd's refusal to bury Hules rested upon his belief that the deceased had been drunk, apparently with some element of suspicion of suicide. The Court of Arches refused to recognise that a clergyman had any independent right to determine the cause of death, suspended him from his benefice for three months, and awarded costs against him. Dodd's behaviour towards the grieving family, who were left sharing a small house with a decomposing corpse, was monstrous. Especially insensitive was his comment to the son of the deceased: "Why do you not go to the dissenters? They are not so scrupulous." It was no doubt to the advantage of Magdalene that Dodd was not involved in running the College, although he must be regarded as a drain on its limited resources. He was unusual among Cambridge clergy in following ritualistic practices: Joseph Romilly of Trinity was startled to discover that he "intoned the prayers & the Communion." His High Church views probably rendered him ineligible for any College office that might have brought him into contact with undergraduates. St Giles in 1851 was "a curious old church". It was largely demolished after Dodd's death in 1868. Its replacement is not a triumph of Victorian architecture. E.H. Bennett and C. Smith, eds, English Reports in Law and Equity... ii (Boston ed., 1851), 583-90; Romilly's Cambridge Diary 1848-1864, 90.]

[182] A.T. Wirgman, Storm and Sunshine in South Africa (London, 1922), p. 18.

[183] College History, pp. 205-6.

[184] Prior to the construction of the 1835 Lodge, Masters had resided in the north side of the First Court, which had gradually been extended at the rear to provide additional domestic accommodation. Old Lodge was formed from "the back rooms of the original Master's Lodge, converted into a curious little dwelling". Access was through "what appeared to be a stable entrance to a slippery and stony yard" which led to "a narrow and ugly door, through which, after struggling with a recalcitrant bell, you were admitted to a dark passage leading into the Professor's rooms." One bedroom was called the Cowshed. In effect, Old Lodge was an academic granny flat. A.C. Benson, The Leaves of the Tree: Studies in Biography (London, 1911), p. 142; A.F.J. Wollaston, Life of Alfred Newton (London, 1921), p. 261. Benson himself took over the apartments after Newton's death, adding a bizarre dining room, complete with minstrels' gallery, now the Benson Hall.

[185] Wollaston, Life of Alfred Newton, p. 61

[186] Wollaston, Life of Alfred Newton, p. 250.

[187] Wollaston, Life of Alfred Newton, p. 250; Benson, The Leaves of the Tree, pp. 148-49.

[188] Benson, The Leaves of the Tree, pp. 137-38, 134.

[189] Yerburgh, p. 89.

[190] J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, p. 32.

[191] A.S. Ramsey, "Bygone Days at Magdalene", p. 32. The article in Dictionary of National Biography, 1901-1911, iii, pp. 10-11, by Norman Moore, drew on personal information. Moore was at St Catharine's from 1865 to 1869, making him an exact contemporary of Parnell.

[192] Owen Chadwick, "Charles Kingsley at Cambridge", Historical Journal, xviii (1975), pp. 303-25. Kingsley substantially rewrote sections about Cambridge for the 1862 second edition, toning down his criticisms..

[193] Cambridge Chronicle, 16 February, 2, 9 March 1867.

[194] The acerbic Master of Trinity, W.H, Thompson, is said to have commented on the Inaugural Lecture of his successor, J.R. Seeley: "I did not think we could so soon have had occasion to regret poor Kingsley."

[195] Wollaston, Life of Alfred Newton, pp. 256, 270.

[196] Wirgman, Storm and Sunshine in South Africa, p. 17

[197] R. Hyam, Britain's Imperial Century: A Study of Empire and expansion (3rd ed., Basingstoke, 2002), pp. 150-54.

[198] Parnell himself was not at ease with Black people during his visit to the Southern States in 1872, J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, p. 83.

[199] F.E. Kingsley, Charles Kingsley: His Letters and Memories of His Life (London, 1904 ed.), p. 236.

[200] O'Brien, Charles Stewart Parnell, i, p. 296.

[201] F.S.L. Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell (London, 1978 ed.), p. 351. He remarked in 1886 that his family had settled in Ireland in the reign of Charles II "and therefore were long enough in the country to have become thoroughly Irish, although there was no Irish blood in them." J. Mullin, ed. P. Maume, The Story of a Toiler's Life (Dublin, 2000 ed.), p. 190. No biographer seems to have noticed that Parnell was a very distant cousin of Basil Brooke (later Lord Brookeborough), first prime minister of Northern Ireland.

[202] F.S.L. Lyons, The Fall of Parnell 1890-1891 (London, 1960), pp. 320-26.

[203] Kingsley, Charles Kingsley, p. 278.

[204] Irish Times, 18 May 1864. 'Glibs' were dreadlocks.

[205] Widely quoted (although not in his wife's biography of him), cf. B. Colloms, Charles Kingsley: The Lion of Eversley (London, 1975), p. 269.

[206] Kingsley, Charles Kingsley, p. 259.

[207] C. Kingsley, What, Then, Does Dr Newman Mean?, (3rd ed. London and Cambridge, 1864), pp. 18, 40. Kingsley added that converts like Newman "have turned round upon their mother-Church (I had almost said their mother-Country) with contumely and slander." (p. 18)

[208] Quoted, Cork Examiner, 24 May 1864.

[209] Benson, Leaves of the Tree, p. 251.

[210] J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell: A Memoir, pp. 55-6.

[211] e.g. Freeman's Journal , 13 August 1864.

[212] Paul Bew makes the point in his Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article, "Charles Stewart Parnell".

[213] Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, p. 45.

[214] Bew, C.S. Parnell, p. 17; J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, pp. 139-40.

[215] W. O'Brien, The Parnell of Real Life (London, 1926), p. 45.

[216] Lyons, Parnell, pp. 93-5; O'Brien, Life of Charles Stewart Parnell, i, p. 192. The incident blew up in 1879, in relation to an internal party disagreement over Church demands for a Catholic university. Parnell favoured supporting the ecclesiastical hard-line, his opponents wanted to accept a lesser solution on offer from the government. The publication of the "papist rats" story by the Freeman's Journal looks like an attempt by the moderates to undercut Parnell's Catholic support. Parnell said that the phrase had been used during the disagreement, "but not by me". Healy, who was often suspicious of Parnell, insisted that "no one ever heard anything of the 'papist rats' business, either as lobby gossip or in any other form, until the Freeman brought it out." T.M. Healy, Letters and Leaders of My Day, i, p. 72.

[217] Bew, C.S. Parnell, p. 130.

[218] Kingsley, What, Then, Does Dr Newman Mean?, p. 48

[219] W. Parnell, An Historical Apology for the Irish Catholics (Dublin, 1807), p. 3, edition consulted as, 17 August 2015.

[220] W. O'Brien, The Parnell of Real Life, p. 13.

[221] Sproston, p. 103. The portrayal of the undergraduate community attempted here covers the 27 students admitted during the calendar year 1865. Magdalene History, p. 306, calculates 23, on the basis of the academic year. Two students admitted early in 1866, Thomas Howe and John Groucock, left no trace.

[222] Cambridge Independent Press, 21 October 1865; College History, p. 306.

[223] British Parliamentary Papers, 1852-3, Cambridge University Commission, Warter to Commissioners, 27 June 1851, pp. 201-3.

[224] Everett, On The Cam, pp. 154-55, 382-87. Freshmen had been victims of persecution and extortion in the 17th century. Purnell, Magdalene College, pp. 142-3.

[225] There is an account of these rituals at Downing in Edwardian times in Portway, Militant Don, p. 37.

[226] St John Ervine, Parnell (Harmondsworth, 1944 ed.), p. 52. Ervine was an Ulsterman, a fluent but shallow writer. Neither the plot nor the characterisation of his 1920 novel, The Foolish Lovers, was very convincing. In the life of Parnell, first published in 1924, the plot was provided and his imagination soared in portraying the chief character. On the positive side, he was the first biographer to integrate the Parnell-O'Shea love story into the main narrative. "I began to write this book with a feeling of prejudice against Parnell," he remarked in his foreword. "I ended it with a deep affection for him." Unluckily, the Cambridge years must have been covered early in the project.

[227] Presumably E. Botry Pigott did not resent his early departure from Magdalene, for his son followed him there in 1899. After graduating, the younger Pigott went off to Africa as to become a District Commissioner, and was eaten by a crocodile in 1911. A .Walker and P. Shipman, The Ape in the Tree (Cambridge, Mass, 2005), pp. 11-13

[228] Bury & Pickles, eds, Romilly's Cambridge Diary 1848-1864, p. 449. In 1864 Trinity adopted the policy of St John's and allowed its sizars an additional pound-and-a-half of meat plus fivepence for pastry for each student's dinner ─ if a daily allowance, one rich in protein.

[229] Dawson's Ceylon Writership was announced in The Times, 15 February 1866. To qualify for a Ceylon Writership it was necessary to pass the entrance examination for the East India College at Haileybury. Appointees then had eighteen months in which to become proficient in one of the two languages. L.A. Mills, Ceylon Under British Rule, 1795-1932 (Oxford, 1933), p. 84. The success of Baber and Dawson may have been another example of the 1860s as an Indian summer. No Magdalene candidates appear in the Oriental Languages Tripos.

[230] The Times, 4 August 1866. He must be the "E.C. Faber, of Magdalen [sic]" who qualified for the certificate of the Downing Professor of Medicine, The Times, 4 June 1866.

[231] John Davis, "John Sholto Douglas", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

[232] The Times, 23 August 1866. The drowning of a baronet would have been major news in Victorian England anyway, but the inquest on Sir Gilbert Gilbert-East revealed the scandalous information that he was living with a woman who was not his wife. Suicide was ruled out after the baronet's doctor gave evidence that "the deceased had been particularly anxious to live until his son came of age, which had not yet to come to pass by seven months."

[233] M.E. Richardson, The Life of a Great Sportsman (London, 1919), pp. 67-71, 190-91, 206-7.

[234] Cambridge Independent Press, 9 June 1866.

[235] Irish Times, 29 July, Weekly Irish Times, 16 August 1890. Venn indicates that John Foster had attended Marlborough College; the Magdalene record that he was "privatim institutus" may mean that he entered Cambridge from a crammer. John Foster's grandfather had been Speaker Foster's cousin. If Foster was a Unionist, Louth offered no politics in which to engage. A Foster had contested the 1865 general election as a Conservative and polled eight votes.

[236] Victoria County History of Cambridgeshire, iii, p. 282

[237] The Times, 26 March 1866.

[238] The Times, 26 January 1867. In 1854 the College Boat was allowed to keep its place for the two days of the May Races "because several of the Magdalene crew were sitting University examinations". Summer term examinations were for the Pass degree, not for Honours ─ but they were still examinations, and the Magdalene oarsmen appear to have been atypically studious. Magdalene Boat Club 1828 -1928, p. 14.

[239] Stephen, Sketches from Cambridge, p. 29.

[240] S.G. Wilson, The First Bishop of Barking (Colchester, 1921), p. 12. Stevens was the subject of a celebrated exchange between two east End working men: "Who's that toff in the black leggings?" ""E ain't no toff, 'e's the Bishop of Barking." With a fine historical sense, Stevens named his newly created suffragan bishopric in recollection of Barking Abbey, one of England's great medieval convents. He did not foresee the evolution of slang terms for insanity.

[241] Kettle, Material for Victory, p. 96. No Church of Ireland clergyman called McCree or McCrea can be traced in Thom's Directory, and the name does not show up in connection with the Carlow by-election through keyword searching in on-line newspaper files.

[242] Sproston, p. 67; The Times, 27 January 1868; 4 April 1867.

[243] Sproston, p. 67.

[244] Magdalene College Old Library, C/LN/VI/27; Yerburgh, p. 87; College History, p. 208. Like Parnell, Gunton died young ─ in 1893, aged 49.


[246] R. Neville Grenville, "The Birth of Engineering at the University of Cambridge", Cambridge University Engineering and Aeronautical Societies' Journals, ii, 1928, pp. 13-30. I owe this item to the Rev. N.J. Hancock.

[247] J.H. Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell, pp. 52-3.

[248] The Times, 22 September 1936. He changed his name to Neville-Grenville on inheriting Butleigh Court in Somerset in 1886, thereby following his grandfather's decision 40 years earlier.

[249] Essex Standard, 6 June 1862.

[250] College History, p. 207

[251] The Times, 26 March 1869. Oliver took Anglican orders in 1876. A curate until 1889, it is likely that he remained short of cash, since he did not take his MA (to Cambridge's shame, then and now, a purely fee-paying transaction) until 1892.

[252] Magdalene Boat Club 1828-1928, p. 20.

[253] Sheffield Independent, 2 February 1891. On-line newspaper searches find no evidence that he ever practised. He visited the USA in 1880.

[254] Magdalene College Old Library, Latimer Neville Papers, xi.

[255] Cambridge Independent Press, 9 June 1866;, consulted 5 August 2015. Wilcox died in 1926.

[256] Northern Echo, 1 May 1875.

[257] F. Callanan, The Parnell Split 1890-91 (Cork, 1992), pp. 224-25. Writing in 1960, F.S.L. Lyons called the constituency "West Hartlepool", the name of a prominent rugby union club of that era. Lyons, The Fall of Parnell, pp. 228-29.

[258] He was part of the platform party at the Unionist eve-of-poll rally but did not speak. The Times, 20 January 1891.

[259] Richardson (by now Sir Thomas) was narrowly defeated at the 1900 general election, against the national tide, by the Liberal Christopher Furness, head of a major shipping line. For personal ascendancy of Furness in the borough, H. Pelling, Social Geography of British Elections 1885-1910 (London, 1967), pp. 327-28.

[260] Liberals were regularly outvoted in the Union's "No Confidence" debates, and in April 1866 there were allegations that Liberal voters going to the polls for the borough elections were obstructed by undergraduates. Ged Martin, The Cambridge Union and Ireland, passim; Cambridge Chronicle, 28 April 1866.

[261] Cambridge Chronicle, 11, 18 May, 5 June 1867.

[262] The Times, 26, 29 April 1867.

[263] His name is marked "Testim." in Magdalene College Old Library B/283, which appears to be the code for a College reference towards ordination, although it is not known whether he had taken the first step, deacon's orders.

[264] Magdalene College Old Library, Order Book, 1791-1906 (B441), p. 210 (8 February 1866). Relton sat the (second-year) Ordinary Examination alongside Parnell in June 1867, passing in the Second Class. The Times, 14 June 1867.

[265] Cambridge Independent Press, 9 June 1866.

[266] Victoria County History of Cambridgeshire, iii, p. 45. An advowson confers the right of nominating the clergyman to a parish.

[267] I owe background information on Meade, and several of his contemporaries especially Thomas Nixon, to Gail Wood. For the Darwin connection, see (letter 2664a), consulted 20 May 2009.

[268] Cambridge Chronicle, 9 June 1866; The Times, 30 January 1869. The two graduated as "Senior Optimes" (i.e. with Second Class Honours).

[269] Magdalene College Old Library, Latimer Neville Papers, xi.

[270] The Times, 27 January 1866.

[271] Sproston, p. 104.

[272] W.E. Heitland, After Many Years (Cambridge, 1926), p. 108.

[273] Cambridge Chronicle, 9 June 1866.

[274] M. Snape and E. Madigan, eds, The Clergy in Khaki (2015), unpaginated, cited via Google Books, consulted 18 August 2015.

[275] Nixon's death notice indicates that he had been a schoolmaster. The Times, 15 February 1904. In 1876-8, he was briefly vicar of the Somerset parish of Chilton Polden with Edington, a very poor benefice.

[276] College History, p. 222.

[277] Yerburgh, p. 88.

[278] In 1974, I noted that Bentley died in 1870, and floated the possibility that Parnell had acted to defend a weaker companion when he assaulted the menacing drover who had exchanged abuse with his companion. The Venn project now states that Bentley died of scarlatina [scarlet fever], a disease that did not discriminate in its victims.

[279] Stephen, Sketches from Cambridge, pp. 9-10.

[280] Lord Meath, Memories of the Nineteenth Century (London, 1923), p. 60 barely mentions Parnell, but Meath, who was then Lord Brabazon, told R.B. O'Brien that Parnell "was arrogant and aggressive, and he tried to sit on us, and we tried to sit on him." O'Brien, Life of Charles Stewart Parnell, i, p. 39. Identification by R.F. Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell: the Man and His Family (Hassocks, Sussex, 1979), p. 90. Meath was in his twenties when the two met at Whishaw's cramming academy; Parnell in his mid-teens. The reminiscence seems exaggerated.

[281] Parnell can be traced playing in several club matches around Dublin and Wicklow, specialising in keeping wicket. Robert Kee, The Laurel and the Ivy (London, 1993), pp. 23, 46-7. Kee wrongly states that Parnell played for I Zingari, a prestigious English touring club, in which a namesake, Captain Parnell, was a prominent batsman.

[282] O'Brien, Life of Charles Stewart Parnell, i, p. 53.

[283] O'Brien, Life of Charles Stewart Parnell, i, p. 41.

[284] Martin, Cambridge Union and Ireland, pp. 79-85.

[285] Yerburgh, p. 85. Talbot does not appear in Venn, but is identified via

[286] Meath Chronicle, 19 June 1909. This reminiscence was delivered in the unlikely surroundings of a meeting of Meath County Council. Councillors were debating whether the newly created National University of Ireland (to its detractors, the "Nationalist University") should insist upon a pass in the Irish language as a matriculation requirement. Everard thought that "Irish should be made a compulsory subject" but that to make it an entrance requirement would be "a great hardship". The discussion became a competition in claiming "the Irish spirit". Everard "admitted he was of English origin, but thought that 700 years should have put some Irish blood into him".

[287] E.M. Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake (London, 1905), pp. 35-6.

[288] Lyons, Charles Stewart Parnell, p. 139.

[289] Magdalene College Old Library, B441, p. 192; Irish Times, 15 October 1904.

[290] Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell: The Man and His Family, pp. 83-4, 97-9.

[291] Dillon ran up an unusually large weekly Buttery bill in mid-November: £1-7-4, more than three times the student average. (Information from Dr Ronald Hyam); Irish Times, 27 May 1865.

[292] Irish Times, 2 March 1878.

[293] Irish Times, 28 October 1881. Parnell was MP for Meath from 1875 to 1880 when he switched to sit for Cork City.

[294] Irish Times, 14 April 1923, 14 November 1925; Meath Chronicle, 14 April 1923, 21 March 1925. Dillon sent a note to his neighbour, the Earl of Fingall: "Dear Fingall, They are burning my house, and they say they are going on to you.  I thought I had better let you know. John Dillon"., consulted 19 August 2015.

[295] The Times, 16 June 1866.

[296] The ornate tassels worn by fellow-commoners on their academic caps gave them the nickname "tufts". From this derives the term "tuft-hunting", the slavish pursuit of distinguished company. It is unlikely that this was an exercise that ever appealed to Parnell. The slang term "toff" may be a derivative.

[297] Irish Times, 6, 10 May 1879. Mallow was a local storm-centre during the Land War: J.S. Donnelly, jr, The Land and People of Cork (London, 1975), pp. 282-83, 306.

[298] Irish Times, 16 October 1893. Newman was also a member of the General Convention of the recently disestablished Protestant Church (Irish Times, 16 February 1870). Parnell told the House of Commons in1879 and 1880 that he was a member of the Synod of the Church of Ireland, but no biographer has found that he played any active role in Church affairs. Hansard, 4 March 1879, col. 205; 1 July 1880, col. 1304.

[299] Dickinson, A Patriot's Mistake, p. 60; R. Kee, The Laurel and the Ivy (London, 1993), pp. 301-2;   Foster, Charles Stewart Parnell: The Man and His Family, p. 190.

[300] W. O'Brien, Parnell of Real Life, p. 14.

[301] Irish Times, 16 October 1867.

[302] Special Commission Report, 1889, ii, p. 695.

[303] Cambridge Chronicle, 6 April 1867.

[304] Nation, 6 May 1876. Woodlands, the Osbornes' home, is now the Castle Oaks Hotel.

[305] The Times, 22 December 1863. Swinny had died in December 1862.

[306] College History, p. 203.

[307] Magdalene College Old Library, LN 43, Neville to Osborne, copy, 3 April 1865 [abbreviations written out], Osborne to Neville, 4 May 1865. One of the letters is evidently misdated. The 1870 ban is dated 25 November.

[308] Kettle, Material for Victory, p. 96.

[309] Jebb, Life and Letters of Sir Richard Claverhouse Jebb, p. 95.

[310] A Magdalene undergraduate with rooms in College was reprimanded for persistent unpunctuality, and urged to emulate Wale who always arrived on time from his family home in Little Shelford. Defending himself, the student tactlessly protested, "Oh, sir, you forget Mrs Wale." Purnell, Magdalene College, p. 194.

[311] The Times, 8 August 1874. Osborne had cut down a tree on the village green because it threatened his outbuildings, and had removed a stone seat because "it attracted boys and others who made a noise during service time". Strachey won fifty shillings in damages, but costs were refused. Strachey had recently been eased out of a clerkship in the Colonial Office because nobody knew what duties he performed. Perhaps he had time on his hands, but such issues between squire and parson should never have come to court. B.L. Blakeley, The Colonial Office 1868-1892 (Durham NC, 1972), pp. 26-7.

[312] The Times, 22 March 1876.

[313] The Times, 20 March 1876.

[314] The Times, 25 April; Nation, 29 April 1876.

[315] Nation, 11 March 1876.

[316] Nation, 6 May, 3 June 1876, 3 March 1877.

[317] Nation, 11 March 1876.

[318] Nation, 29 April, 6, 13 May 1876.

[319] Nation, 1April 1878. Later, Osborne allowed his name to be used in the promotion of a shady company which claimed to own a Venezuelan goldmine. When he unsuccessfully sued for unpaid director's fees in 1892, the judge pronounced the scheme "disgraceful to all concerned. ... In point of demerits there is not much to choose between the plaintiff and the defendants." The Times, 11 August 1892.