The Correspondence of Thomas Gaisford Dean of Christ Church,...





The Correspondence of Thomas Gaisford
Dean of Christ Church, Oxford

(approx. 384 items)

Gaisford (Dean Thomas)  An extensive collection of letters and other material associated with the V. Rev. Thomas Gaisford (1779-1855), Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford University and Dean of Christ Church.

Gaisford was born at the family home, Iford Manor near Bradford in Wiltshire, and was educated at Winchester and Oxford. He became successively student and tutor at Christ Church; was appointed Regius Professor of Greek in 1811; and was Dean of Christ Church from 1831 until his death.  He was a noted classical scholar and published numerous works of Greek literature.  As curator of the Bodleian Library and principal delegate of the University Press, he was instrumental in securing the co-operation of some distinguished European scholars who were anxious to have their works published in Oxford.

Some of the larger files are letters from these scholars and concern the progress of their work and negotiations for its publication.  There is also correspondence with other members of the university, particularly relating to Gaisford’s own college.  Christ Church, founded by Cardinal Wolsey and refounded after his fall by Henry VIII, is the largest of the constituent colleges of the university, and one of the most prestigious; it is also unique in that it is part of Oxford’s cathedral establishment, and the dean and chapter are its governing body.

The collection includes correspondence from a number of individuals associated with Christ Church: Cyril Jackson, a previous dean; Charles Lloyd, Professor of Divinity and briefly Bishop of Oxford; and Robert Peel, a precocious student who had been tutored by Lloyd and proved a useful patron.  To these must be added William Van Mildert, Professor of Divinity and Bishop successively of Llandaff and Durham, under whom Gaisford had served as a cleric and to whom he was related by marriage (their wives were respectively aunt and niece).

While most of these letters are concerned with academic and administrative issues, some also deal with personal matters.  The letters of Charles Lloyd in particular are outspoken in their comments about colleagues and contemporary affairs.

Gaisford married in 1815 Helen Margaret Douglas; they had five sons and two daughters.  The two elder sons, Thomas and John William, were destined for army careers and there is a file of letters from the Military Secretary, Lord FitzRoy Somerset, dealing with their father’s efforts to secure commissions for them.  After his wife’s death (1830), Gaisford married (1832) Jane Catharine Jenkyns, sister of the Master of Balliol College.

There is a much smaller collection of letters to Gaisford’s eldest son, Thomas Gaisford of Offington, Sussex (1816-1898), a convert to the Roman Catholic Church.  Thomas married in 1859 as his second (of three) wives Lady Emily St Lawrence (d 1868), eldest daughter of the 3rd Earl of Howth.  Their eldest surviving son, Julian Charles Gaisford-St Lawrence (1862-1932), succeeded in 1909 his uncle the 4th and last Earl of Howth and came to reside at Howth Castle in Co. Dublin.  

The following is a Resume of the Archive:


K.W. Dindorf

Karl Wilhelm Dindorf (1802-1883) was an assiduous and prolific scholar of Leipzig with a lifelong interest in classical Greek literature and an impressive record of publishing modern annotated editions of the ancient texts.  His correspondence with Gaisford reflects the latter’s important role as principal delegate of the Oxford University Press in presenting Dindorf’s works to the delegates and negotiating their publication.

            Letters from Dindorf to Gaisford, 1833-1851, numbered 1 to 45 (nos 1-33 in Latin, the rest in English); with another 15 for 1851-52, ten being in their original envelopes.  In all, 60 letters.  (The first letter is simply addressed from Leipzig to “Thomae Gaisfordiae, viro illustri, Oxoniam” – but it reached its destination!)

With associated papers, including some draft replies from Gaisford; a printed “Advertisement” from Dindorf expressing indignation at the unauthorised reprinting of the 1830 edition of his Poetae scenici Graeci, of which he is about to produce a revised edition (1846); a memorandum from Dindorf to the delegates of the University Press (1848); and a letter of condolence to Gaisford’s widow (1856).

Jan Bake and other continental academics

A large file of approx. 80 letters etc.  to Dean Gaisford in Latin, with some notes and drafts by him in English, re the projected publication of classical works by the Oxford University Press.  Mostly from Jan Bake (1787-1864), Professor of Greek and Roman Literature at Leiden University; also some from:

·       Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl (1806-1876), joint director, philological seminary, Bonn;

·       Carel Gabriel Cobet (1813-1889), Professor of Greek at Leiden;

·       Friedrich August Nobbe (1791-1878), Professor of Philology at Leipzig;

·       Jean Théodore Bergman, Leiden

·       Jan Hendrik Holwerda

·       Franz Dorotheus Gerlach (1793-1876), teacher of Latin and librarian at Basel

·       G.A. Hirschig, Leiden

Academic material from Leipzig

·       Pamphlet: Upsala Academies Catalog 1842

·       Pamphlet: Invitation to the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Historisch-Theologisches Gesellschaft zu Leipzig 22-23 Sept 1839

·       Pamphlet: invitation to the 30th anniversary of founding of the Historisch-Theologisches Gesellschaft zu Leipzig, from Christian Friedrich Illgen, 11-12 sept 1844.

·       Statutes of the Gesellschaft

·       25 Sept 1844: Letter naming Gaisford an honorary member of the Gesellschaft, with English translation

Cyril Jackson

Cyril Jackson (1746-1819) was appointed Dean of Christ Church in 1783.  He declined offers to be made Bishop of Oxford (1799) and Archbishop of Armagh (1800) and remained at his post until he resigned in 1809.  He then settled at Felpham in Sussex, where he remained until his death ten years later.

            40 letters from Jackson to Gaisford, from his retirement in 1809 until shortly before his death.  Also one letter to him from Thomas D’Oyly, 4 Jan. 1818, and a printed circular dated 7 July seeking subscriptions towards a monument in his memory.

Charles Lloyd

Charles Lloyd (1784-1829) was a member of Christ Church for 26 years, from his matriculation in 1803 until his death in 1829.  He was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity in 1822, and in the same year married Mary Harriet Stapleton.  On 4 March 1827 he was consecrated Bishop of Oxford, but died on 31 May 1829. 

As a lecturer he was a major influence on the future Tractarian scholars, and was remembered with especial warmth by Newman; as bishop he attempted to do away with pluralism in his diocese.  On 2 April 1829 he delivered a speech in the House of Lords in favour of Catholic Emancipation which was much resented by the defeated conservatives. 

See JFA Mason, “Charles Lloyd, Bishop of Oxford 1827-1829, and his family”, Oxoniensa, LXV, 447-451 (2000).

·       9 June 1816.  A gossipy letter to Gaisford, who is in Leiden attending a book auction, updating him on ecclesiastical affairs and mutual acquaintances.  “A poem of Coleridge’s [Kubla Khan] has been published, unequalled in its absurdity by anything now extant …”

·       5 July 1816.  Another, similar; “what Chitchat I can find for you, I send you” – and there is plenty of it.

·       5 June 1817.  More gossip for Gaisford, who is now in Paris, mostly regarding the flurry following the Speaker’s announcement of his intended resignation.

·       22 Jan 1820.  “I am confined to my room by a sore throat and cold, with much fever, living on mutton broth and unable to move …”

·       24 May 1821.  He has heard that in a discussion on the Craven Scholarships Gaisford “treated the Regius Professor of Divinity with more roughness than is generally supposed to be consistent with the courtesy of society”, and urges him to redress the matter.

·       22 [Jan?] 1822.  More about the “Craven Squabbles” and a vitriolic denunciation of the Vice-Chancellor’s conduct – “extraordinarily gross … so miserable a reptile” etc.  “And now … to say something touching the Dame in question …”

·       2 Dec [1824].  More university gossip.  Grave illness of Elmsley (Peter Elmsley, classical scholar at Christ Church, died 8 March 1825).

·       9 May 1825.  Gossip, as usual, especially about the new Canon of Christ Church and his impending nuptials.

·       12 Nov 1827.  Re affairs of the University Press and Bodleian.  Difficulties of the Librarian (Bulkeley Bandinel) in cataloguing owing to shortage of staff.

·       10 Dec 1827.  University news: the Royal Society, Copleston, Collingwood …

·      13 Dec 1827.  On the importance of introducing published texts of classical works with a proper preface.

·      15 Dec 1827.  Forwarding a letter from Joseph Parker re dispatch of a quantity of books.

·      18 Dec 1827.  Detailed response to Gaisford’s comments on his edition of the New Testament incorporating the Canons of Eusebius.

·      22 Jan 1828.  Comments on the new government, biblical texts, and the possibility of buying the 60 volumes of records of the Roman Inquisition, which Buonaparte “among other exports from Rome carried off”.

·      9 April 1828.  Looks forward to Gaisford’s return to Oxford.  “We live, as you say, in strange times …”

·      2 June 1828.  Asks for a subscription for “poor Kidd”.  Quotes from Van Mildert’s speech in the House of Lords: “My Lords, the whole of this business has been painful, dreadfully painful to me, so painful, my Lords, that I can say with truth that I look back with bitterness and anguish on the day which gave me the honor of a seat in this House.”

·      25 June 1828.  An important letter on the debate in the Lords on the Catholic Emancipation bill.  When Van Mildert urged him to speak, he threatened to give a blistering denunciation of the Church of Ireland, “a gross and hideous anomaly … a gross and hideous tyranny.”  “The debate, on the whole, was heavy and dull.  The great novelty was the speech of His Grace of Tuam [Power le Poer Trench], which in bigotry and want of tact surpassed everything you can imagine …”  Describes the struggle of Edward Copleston (Bishop of Llandaff) to get the House to listen to his maiden speech.

·      8 Dec 1828.  Has just heard of Gaisford’s resignation of his stall at Worcester.  Is financially out of the wood.  Seeks 50-60 copies of Cranmer’s Catechism.

·      [10 April 1829].  Transcript in Gaisford’s hand of an article in the Morning Post – a poem denouncing in blistering terms Lloyd’s defence of his “Popish friends” and his claim that Roman Catholics are not Idolators!”

William Van Mildert

William Van Mildert (1765-1836) was a graduate of The Queen’s College, Oxford.  He was Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, Bishop of Llandaff 1819-1826, and Bishop of Durham 1826-1836.  “Van Mildert is often described as a 'stormy petrel' on account of his outspoken expression of his views. As Bishop of Llandaff he broke with the practice of his predecessors and actually resided in the diocese. As the bishop's palace had fallen to ruin, he rented Coldbrook House near Abergavenny. During his time in Llandaff, he gained a reputation as "a conscientious diocesan".  As part of the University of Durham's foundation, behind which he was the driving force, he gave Durham Castle to the university, where it became the home of University College. Auckland Castle therefore became the sole residence of the Bishop of Durham. In addition, he donated a large number of buildings on Palace Green, between the Castle and the Cathedral.  He was the last Bishop of Durham with significant temporal powers as a Palatinate Prince-Bishop.  Those secular powers were removed and returned to the Crown after his death.” (Wikipedia)

            Van Mildert married in 1795 Jane, daughter of General Archibald Douglas and aunt of Gaisford’s first wife, Helen Douglas; hence the close relationship between the two clerics.

·       12 June 1824.  Gaisford to Van Mildert from The agueHHague reporting on improvements to living standards since the peace, the state of the university library, and his attendance at a book auction.

·       28 August to 29 December 1828.  5 letters from Van Mildert re his negotiations with the Duke of Wellington to secure a promotion for Gaisford.  The last also contains some remarks on “matters of immediate and most distressing urgency (i.e., Catholic Emancipation) and the attitudes of some of the bishops: “Of my Lord of Oxford [Charles Lloyd], you may perhaps know more than I do.  It is rumoured that he leans towards Liberalism.  But of this I know nothing.  Whenever he perchance has touched on these topics with me, he writes so flippantly, and so entirely plays the jester upon me, that I do not mean to trouble him again with such matters.”

·       22 Jan 1831.  Gaisford to Van Mildert, giving his views on the reforms proposed for the structure and governance of the Church.

·       5 August to 6 Sept 1831.  12 letters between Gaisford and Van Mildert re proposals for the structure of a university at Durham, and a course of studies.

·       6 Jan 1836.  An affectionate family letter, sent with a box of “eatables” and a picture book for Gaisford’s daughter Fanny.  His wife’s health, and his own.  Endorsed: “This is the last letter recd by me from my poor friend the Bp of Durham.”

Robert Peel

26 letters to Gaisford from Sir Robert Peel, 1817-1845.  Peel (1788-1809) matriculated at Christ Church in 1805, his tutor being Charles Lloyd (q.v.).  In 1808 he became the first Oxford student to obtain a double first in Classics and Mathematics, and in the following year he entered Parliament at the age of 21, being elected unopposed by the 24-strong voters of Cashel.  He was Chief Secretary for Ireland 1812-18, Home Secretary 1822-27 and 1828-30 (when he reformed the policing system), and Prime Minister 1834-35 and 1841-46.  “Peel often started from a traditional Tory position in opposition to a measure, then reversed his stance and became the leader in supporting liberal legislation. This happened with the Test Act, Catholic Emancipation, the Reform Act, income tax and, most notably, the repeal of the Corn Laws. Historian A. J. P. Taylor wrote: "Peel was in the first rank of 19th century statesmen. He carried Catholic Emancipation; he repealed the Corn Laws; he created the modern Conservative Party on the ruins of the old Toryism."” (Wikipedia)

·       4 July 1817.  Thanks Gaisford for his letter congratulating him on the distinction conferred on him by the University of Oxford.

·       18 Feb. 1818.  Re the University’s right to a copy of every book entered at Stationer’s Hall.

·       7 April 1818.  He will do all he can to protect the University’s right to copyright from the attacks of Sir E Bridges.

·       1 May 1818. do

·       5 May 1818. do

·       6 June 1818.  Ditto, enclosing copy of his letter to the Vice-Chancellor

·       30 Jan. 1822. Note stating that Charles Lloyd is to be Regius Professor of Divinity.  (One of Lloyd’s first tasks at Oxford had been to prepare Peel for his exams)

·       30 Sept 1822.  Re proposed publications of the Record Commission.

·       21 May 1824.  Enclosing a letter of recommendation for him to Lord Granville [Ambassador to France] for his upcoming visit to Holland.

·       22 Oct 1824.  Will write to the British Ambassador at Brussels re the manuscript he will send him.

·       22 Nov 1824.  Is sending him “the book for which application was made to the Government of the Netherlands”.

·       10 June 1825, offering him a stall in Worcester Cathedral

·       10 June 1825, urging him to accept the offer

·       15 June 1825, repeating his offer

·       16 June 1825, confirming his previous letter enclosed with one from Lord Liverpool offering him a stall in Worcester Cathedral

·       10 Nov 1826.  Reply to Dean Gaisford, re his request for a commission for his nephew.

·       27 Nov 1828, urging him to reconsider his proposed resignation of the stall at Worcester Cathedral

·       3 Dec. 1828.  Letter from the Bishop of Worcester expressing regret at Gaisford’s decision to resign his stall in the cathedral.

·       20 April 1831.  Re unusual manner of making additions to the Commissioners of the Peace for Co. Durham.

·       15 April 1842.  Re the appointment of Mr Hussey to be Professor of Ecclesiastical History, and Mr Ogilvie Professor of Pastoral Theology.

·       14 June 1842.  Asks for his opinion as to the appointment of Regius Professor of Modern History.

·       18 Jan. 1843.  Has interviewed the new Dean of Westminster [Thomas Turton] about the necessity of remedying the “great Evil” at Westminster School.

·       23 Jan 1843.  Re proposals to remedy the “evils” (unspecified, alas) existing at Westminster School. 

·       27 Nov 1844.  Consults Gaisford’s advice on the suitability of Dr Cramer to be Dean of Carlisle.  The appointee “should not hold Tractarian opinions or having any marked leanings towards them.”

·       13 March 1845.  Asks for Gaisford’s help in establishing the correct wording of the Latin inscription to be carved on the trophy presented by Czar Nicholas I for the Ascot Gold Cup, in the light of criticisms by “an eminent Latin scholar” (attached; signed “Beaufoy Jacobus St Patrick”).

·       27-31 May 1845.  Asks for Gaisford’s advice re the appointment of the Master of Balliol (Richard Jenkyns – Gaisford’s brother-in-law!) as Dean of Wells; copy of Gaisford’s reply; and Peel’s confirmation of the appointment.

The Duke of Wellington and Lord Wellesley

6 letters to Gaisford from the Duke of Wellington (Prime Minister 1828-30 and for most of 1834) and 4 from his elder brother the Marquess Wellesley.

·       17 July 1820.  Has received his note, to which he will pay attention.

·       19 August 1828, offering him the Deanery of Norwich, with draft of Gaisford’s reply declining the offer.

·       26 April 1834.  Requests his name be entered in the books of Christ Church.

·       6 Oct 1835.  Has received the Dean’s letter re the Queen’s visit to Oxford and forwarded it to Earl Howe. [see separate file]

·       10 Dec 1836, requesting him to promote the views of the man in the enclosed papers.

·       17 Dec 1836, requesting him to send the name and address of the man whose petition he had sent.  Envelope with seal but no stamp.

·       19 March 1840.  Marquess Wellesley.  Acknowledges with deep gratitude their offer to have his portrait painted and placed in the Hall.

·       1 Oct 1840.  His portrait is now finished.

·       25 Oct 1840.  It is about to be dispatched.  The artist is Fortescue Bate.

·       14 April 1841.  It will be sent tomorrow.

·       N.d.  Copy letter from Gaisford, thanking him for sending the portrait, but tactfully pointing out that it is far too big for the Hall and they have nowhere to hang it!

Sir R.H. Inglis

9 letters from Sir Robert Harry Inglis, Bart, MP to the Rev William Tournay, Warden of Wadham College, Oxford (one being mainly a copy letter to Inglis from the Rev J.P. Chambers), regarding the need to correct errors and anomalies that had occurred in the printing of previous editions of the Bible and Book of Common Prayer, 25 June 1831 – 12 July 1832.

            Inglis (1786-1855) was a Conservative politician noted for his high church views and opposition to any measure that could weaken the established church.  He opposed the granting of civil rights to Jews and of a yearly subsidy to Maynooth.  However, he was a passionate advocate of government relief during the Great Famine, and in general was an honourable and conscientious public representative.

Correspondence re the Queen’s proposed visit to Oxford, 1835

·       6 Oct 1835.  From the Duke of Wellington.  Has received the Dean’s letter and forwarded it to Earl Howe. [in Wellington file]

·       8 Oct.: Lord Howe, Lord Chamberlain to the Queen, to Dean Gaisford, thanking him for his offer to accommodate the Queen at Christ Church and informing him who the party will consist of.  In envelope with seal

·       11 Oct.  Copy of Gaisford’s reply stating what is available in the Deanery.

·       12 Oct. Lord Howe to Gaisford, declining his offer with thanks.

·       21 Oct. Copy of Gaisford’s letter to the Bishop of Durham, reporting in detail on the Queen’s visit and thanking him for sending grouse and pines [pineapples].

Miscellaneous items re errors in printing the Bible

Notes and lists of errors and anomalies in earlier printings of the King James Bible.  10 items.  Includes:

·       “A letter from Dr Parr [?Rev Samuel Parr, 1747-1825] never completely deciphered”, from Warwick, 17 Oct 1816, with partial transcript by Gaisford;

·       a letter from the Rev. W. Tournay, 6 August 1831, re “the outcry raised by Mr Curtis, a Dissenting Minister of Islington, about errors in our Bible, especially when compared with the early editions of the authorised version of James I,” pointing out the threat posed to the continuing monopoly of Oxford and Cambridge as printers of the Bible, and urging a swift response.

·       Copy letters from British and Foreign Bible Society, 1832

Letters re army commissions for Gaisford’s sons

10 letters to Gaisford from Lord FitzRoy Somerset.  Commissions in the army were then obtained by purchase, as vacancies occurred in the most desired regiments.  Gaisford’s eldest son Thomas initially joined the 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment, but transferred to the 79th (Highlanders), in which he served as Captain; his second son John William joined the 72nd (Highlanders), of which he rose to be Lt. Colonel. 

Lord FitzRoy Somerset at this time was Military Secretary; he was raised to the peerage as Lord Raglan in 1852 and served as commander of the British forces during the Crimean War, where he was greatly blamed for the sufferings of the soldiers and the ineffectualness of his leadership.

·       10 Dec 1836.  Requesting £450 for purchase of commission in 22nd Regiment [for Thomas]

·       13 Dec 1836.  Re impending return of 22nd from Jamaica, with copy letter from Gaisford

·       16 Dec 1836.  Re Dean’s request for Thomas to have leave of absence

·       23 Dec 1836.  Confirming Thomas’s appointment as an ensign in the 22nd [Cheshire] Regiment

·       16 May 1839.  2 letters from Somerset requesting £450 for purchase of commission in 72nd Regiment [for John William]

·       7 Oct 1839.  Offering [John William] a lieutenancy in 22nd without purchase

·       14 Dec 1840.  Copy letter of Dean’s request that Thomas should not go to India with his regiment.  Somerset’s suggestion that he could instead transfer to another regiment.

·       19 June 1843. Re Thomas’s illness, enclosing extract from a letter from Gen. Sir Robert Wilson to Somerset.

·       31 Aug 1844.  Regrets that Captain McCarthy’s impending retirement on half pay will not be “conducive to your son’s promotion”.


Spencer Perceval

29 Jan, 8 Feb, 21 Feb & 12 March 1812.  4 letters from Spencer Perceval, Prime Minister, proposing to Gaisford his appointment as Regius Professor Greek, and conforming that appointment.  (Perceval was assassinated two months later, the only British Prime Minster to have met such a fate – so far!

W.E. Gladstone

·       17 Feb 1854.  Re the propriety of sending Gaisford confidential information on the changes proposed by the Government for Oxford University.

·       3 March 1854.  Encloses a copy of the bill proposed by the government.

·       3 March 1854.  Copy letter to the Vice-Chancellor.

Richard Porson

3 items associated with Richard Porson, Regius Professor of Greek at Cambridge.

·       “Charades by Prof Porson.”  MS, 2 verses.  In Gaisford’s handwriting.

·       7 Feb 1807. Classical matters

·       29 June 1808, “Old Jewry”.  R Porson to Gaisford re translation of Horace.

Reginald Heber

Reginald Heber (1783-1826) grew up at Hodnet Hall in Shropshire.  A graduate of Brasenose College, he was ordained priest in 1807 and served as rector of Hodnet, describing his situation as “a halfway station between a parson and a squire”.  He was appointed Bishop of Calcutta in 1823 but died three years later.  He was the author of several well-known hymns, including the controversial “From Greenland’s icy mountains”.

·       Westminster, 27 June 1809.  A chatty letter about books and scholars.  “When I next come to Oxford, in about a fortnight, I shall hope to find you, and we will then eat, drink, talk, read, laugh and lounge, to t

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