Letters of Hartley Coleridge

By Grace Griggs Evelyn; Earl Griggs Leslie et al. | Go to book overview

APPENDIX

A
Letter from DR. L. R. PHELPS to E. L. GRIGGS.
24 Norham Road, Oxford, 16 Oct., 1931.Dear SirI have been lately reading, I need not say, with much interest your book on Hartley Coleridge, and I think that you may like to have a few lines on the subject of his connexion with Oriel, a college of which I have been a member since 1872 and of which I was lately Provost. Do not think that I intend in any way to impugn your account of his expulsion, it is very fair and Derwent's criticism that the sentence on H. C. was severe but not unjust is a judicious summing up of the incident. I will only add that my information in the main is at second-hand, derived from the Edward Hawkins who was then a Fellow and afterwards Provost.It must be allowed at once that to be admitted to the society of the Fellows in the Oriel Common Room was a terrifying experience. Both Arnold and Keble found it uncongenial after the 'give and take' of the undergraduate society at Corpus Christi College. It was so for two reasons.
1. Oriel no doubt demanded a far higher standard of loyalty than other colleges. The Fellows were the picked men of the University and were encouraged by the Provost to set to other colleges a pattern in even the details of life. At a time e.g. when Common Rooms 'reeked' of port wine--the Oriel 'teapot' was a common source of chaff against its members. Spartam nactus es hanc orna was, down to my time, made the motto of the Society. For pursuit of knowledge, for devotion to their pupils the Fellows of Oriel had a reputation which they were jealous in preserving.
2. The life of the Common Room and its conversation was of a critical type--insisting on clear definition of terms and logical sequence in argument. I remember a Sermon by one who was a member of it at a later date on the text 'Why callest thou Me good?' in which the preacher remarked how often in our younger days when we had gone rather farther in statement or argument than our knowledge or our premises justified, we were properly taken up by some older man and called upon to prove our point more conclusively or to define more accurately. It was a reminiscence, we felt, of the old Common Room. Such a society is more likely to be a good training-ground for the wits, than a scene of cordial relations!

Now on both these grounds H. C. was chilled and repelled rather than encouraged and stimulated by the atmosphere in which he found himself. It stood in sharp contrast to the 'give and take', the genial discussions, the irresponsible statements, the camaraderie

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