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Arthur Sidgwick's Greek Prose Composition: Gender, Affect, and Sociability in the Late-Victorian University

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 January 2017


The diaries and other papers of the Oxford classics teacher Arthur Sidgwick (1840–1920) show how men like Sidgwick used ancient Greek to demarcate the boundaries of an elite male social, emotional, and educational sphere, and how that sphere became more porous at the turn of the twentieth century through processes such as university coeducation. Progressive dons like Sidgwick stood by women's equality in principle but were troubled by the potential loss of an exceptional environment of intense friendships forged within intellectually rigorous single-sex institutions. Several aspects of Sidgwick's life and his use of Greek exemplify these tensions: his marriage, his feelings about close male friends, his life as a college fellow, his work on behalf of the Oxford Association for the Education of Women, and his children's lives and careers. The article recovers a lost world in which Greek was an active conversational language, shows how the teaching of classics and the inclusion of women were intimately connected in late-nineteenth-century Oxford, and suggests some reasons why that world endured for a certain period of time but ultimately came to an end. It offers a new way of explaining late-nineteenth-century cultural changes surrounding gender by placing education and affect firmly at their center.

Copyright © The North American Conference on British Studies 2017 

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18 “πρῶτον τότ’ εἶδον τὴν ἐμήν, ἥρων τ’ἰδὲν,” Sidgwick, Diaries, 2:161.

19 I have transliterated Greek key words that appear in the original in the diaries.

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22 Oxford Liberal Association, “Reports of the Executive Committee” (1888–1914), Per.G.A.Oxon. 4° 544, BL, Oxford.

23 Arthur Sidgwick, letter to Henry Sidgwick, n. d., c. December 1875, Add. Ms. c. 95, fol. 75, Trinity College, Cambridge (hereafter TC); Charlotte Sidgwick, letter to Henry Sidgwick, n. d., c. December 1875, fol. 76; Henry Sidgwick, letter to Mary Sidgwick, December 1875, Add. Ms. c. 105, fol. 19; James M. Wilson, James M. Wilson: An Autobiography (London, 1932), 238–39.

24 Charlotte Sidgwick, “Verse notebooks,” 1884–1905, MS Eng. misc. e. 1012, d. 1079, BL.

25 Sidgwick, Diaries, 2:168.

26 Michie, Victorian Honeymoons, xiv, 1–19, 24, 112; Rose, Parallel Lives, 59–63. On Minnie and Edward Benson's marriage, see Tosh, John, A Man's Place: Masculinity and the Middle-Class Home in Victorian England (New Haven, 2007), 71 Google Scholar; Askwith, Betty, Two Victorian Families (London, 1971), 109, 145Google Scholar; Schultz, Bart, Henry Sidgwick: The Eye of the Universe. An Intellectual Biography (Cambridge, 2004), 733n30CrossRefGoogle Scholar; cf. Newsome, Godliness and Good Learning, 152–53.

27 Matthew, The Gladstone Diaries, xlvi; Jenkins, Roy, Gladstone (London, 1995), 100–4Google Scholar; Isba, Anne, Gladstone and Women (London, 2006), 106–7Google Scholar; Sara Crangle, “Engagements, Accounts, Menses: The Domestic Economies of Virginia and Leonard Woolf” (lecture, Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality, Columbia University, New York, 30 March 2015).

28 Sidgwick, Diaries, 3:121, 5:83.

29 “γυμνούμενοι δὲ σώματ’ ἐς λίμνην τάχα, / συνῇσσον ἁνήρ θ’ ἥ τ’ ἐπήρατος γυνή / ὡς ἐν ῥοαῖς φύγωσι καύμαθ’ ἡλίου / χαράν τ’ ἔχωσι σωμάτων ἀμφι πτυχαῖς,” Sidgwick, Diaries, 3:103. I am grateful to Will Guast for assistance with this translation.

30 W. F. R. Hardie, Corpus Christi College, Oxford 1851–1905 ([typescript], [n. d.]), Corpus Christi College Library, 23; Elton, Oliver, “Arthur Sidgwick” [obituary], Pelican Record 15, no. 1 (January 1921): 22 Google Scholar; Murray, Gilbert, “I Remember …,Listener (25 February 1954), MS Eng. misc. 706, fol. 10, BLGoogle Scholar.

31 Stray, Classics Transformed, 59, 68–74; Clarke, Classical Education in Britain; Jenkyns, The Victorians and Ancient Greece, 283–84.

32 Arthur Sidgwick, letter to Gilbert Murray, n. d., MS Gilbert Murray 168, fols. 3–6, BL; see also fols. 73, 78.

33 Sidgwick, letters to Murray, 5 March 1891, MS Gilbert Murray 168, fols. 7–8; 7 April 1893, fol. 12; 4 March 1898, fol. 30; 20 October 1902, fols. 42–43; 19 August 1904, fols. 57–58; 25 November 1908, fol. 70, BL.

34 Arthur Sidgwick, letter to Henry Sidgwick, n. d., c. December 1875, Add. Ms. c. 95, fol. 75, TC; Charlotte Sidgwick, letter to Henry Sidgwick, n. d., fol. 76.

35 Tosh, A Man's Place, 17; Hamlett, Jane, “‘Tiresome Trips Downstairs’: Middle–Class Domestic Space and Family Relationships in England, 1850–1910,” in The Politics of Domestic Authority in Britain since 1800, ed. Delap, Lucy, Griffin, Ben and Wills, Abigail (Basingstoke, 2009), 111131, at 119–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

36 Sidgwick, Diaries, 2:45, 164, 264.

37 For a famous example see review of the first English translation of Richard von Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis, in British Medical Journal 1, no. 1695 (June 1893): 1325–1326. See also Gail Trimble, “Catullus and ‘Comment in English,’” and Morwood, J., “‘From Out the Schoolboy's Vision,’” in Expurgating the Classics: Editing Out in Greek and Latin, ed. Harrison, Stephen and Stray, Christopher (London, 2012), 143–73Google Scholar.

38 Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York, 1985), 215 Google Scholar; eadem, Epistemology of the Closet (Berkeley, 2008), 203–4Google Scholar; Cocks, H. G., Nameless Offences: Homosexual Desire in the Nineteenth Century (London, 2003), 23, 7Google Scholar; Orrells, Daniel, Classical Culture and Modern Masculinity (Oxford, 2011), 3, 2233 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For an alternative view of this system of gender and power see Marcus, Between Women, chap. 1.

39 Apostles Minute-Books, 1858–present, 39/1/5, King's College, Cambridge (hereafter KC); Sidgwick, Arthur and Sidgwick, Eleanor M., Henry Sidgwick: A Memoir (London, 1906), 2932 Google Scholar; Brookfield, F. M., The Cambridge “Apostles” (London, 1906), 218 Google Scholar; Lubenow, W. C., The Cambridge Apostles 1820–1914 (Cambridge, 1998), 30–34, 53–60Google Scholar.

40 Sidgwick and Sidgwick, Henry Sidgwick: A Memoir, 30; Deacon, Richard, The Cambridge Apostles: A History of Cambridge University's Elite Intellectual Secret Society (London, 1985), 44 Google Scholar.

41 Lubenow, The Cambridge Apostles, 37.

42 Moffat, Wendy, E. M. Forster: A New Life (London, 2010), 5256 Google Scholar; Dixon, Thomas, The Invention of Altruism: Making Moral Meanings in Victorian Britain (Oxford, 2008), 330–31, 358–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

43 Apostles Address Books, n. d., 39/2/1, KC. The flyleaf of vol. 2 records the annual dinner of 1884, organized by Sidgwick. See also Sidgwick, Diaries, 3:83, 100, 187, 204.

44 Lubenow, The Cambridge Apostles, 55–56. It is difficult to establish the precise date for the admission of women due to the restrictions on viewing Apostles records pertaining to living members.

45 Ibid., 69–83.


46 Schultz, Henry Sidgwick, 489.

47 Apostles Photo Book, 1864, 39/4/1, KC.

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51 Moffatt, E. M. Forster, 55. Cf. Lubenow, The Cambridge Apostles, 250–355, esp. 301, 355, which skirts strangely around the explicit homoeroticism of many Apostles’ invocation of a Platonic mode of teaching.

52 For a detailed critical assessment of the literature on the invention of male homosexuality in Britain see Bristow, Joseph, “Remapping the Sites of Modern Gay History: Legal Reform, Medico–Legal Thought, Homosexual Scandal, Erotic Geography,Journal of British Studies 46, no. 1 (January 2007): 116–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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56 Rothblatt, Revolution of the Dons, 135; Schultz, Henry Sidgwick, 396–97, 410, 415.

57 Sidgwick, Diaries, 2:56, 159. On Symonds in this period see his Memoirs, 164–213; Grosskurth, Phyllis, The Woeful Victorian: A Biography of John Addington Symonds (New York, 1964), 128–40Google Scholar.

58 Schueller, H. M. and Peters, R., eds., The Letters of John Addington Symonds, 3 vols. (Detroit, 1967–69), 1:614Google Scholar; 666–67; Symonds, Memoirs, 200–2.

59 Sidgwick, Diaries, 2:78; Grosskurth, The Woeful Victorian, 128.

60 Orrells, Classical Culture and Modern Masculinity, 140–45.

61 Jenkyns, The Victorians and Ancient Greece; Turner, Greek Heritage in Victorian Britain; Richardson, Classical Victorians; Prins, Yopie, “Response,Victorian Studies 52, no. 1 (October 2009): 5262, at 55CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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63 Stray, Oxford Classics and Classics Transformed; Clarke, Classical Education; Turner, Greek Heritage, 1–14; Brink, C. O., English Classical Scholarship: Historical Reflections on Bentley, Porson, and Housman (Cambridge, 1985)Google Scholar.

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66 Sidgwick, Introduction to Greek Prose Composition, v–vii; idem, “The Teaching of Classics as Literature.”

67 Sidgwick, Teaching of Composition, 9, 28.

68 Sidgwick, “On Stimulus,” 46.

69 Sidgwick, “School Subjects Utilised for Moral Instruction,” 144.

70 Hardie, Corpus Christi College, 73.

71 For the Pelican Essay Club poem see “ΤΕΙΡΕΣΙΑΣ ΚΟΡΠΥΝΤΙΟΣ,” Pelican Record 4, no. 4 (June 1898): 103–5.

72 Hardie, Corpus Christi College, 23.

73 Pelican Essay Club Minute Books, 1881–1914, E/5/1–4, 145, 157, Corpus Christi College, Oxford (hereafter CCC); Owlet Club Minute Books, 1889–1914, E/6/1–9, CCC, see esp. vol. 2, 97, and vol. 3, flyleaf. Sidgwick, Diaries, 3:231, notes Pelican and Owlets annual dinners on 16 and 17 June 1892.

74 E.g., Pelican Minute Books, 151; Owlet Minute Books, 53, 58–59.

75 Joyce, The State of Freedom, 330–32.

76 Pelican Minute Books, 1:151, 2:62, 71, 109.

77 Stray, Classics Transformed, 146.

78 M. C. Curthoys, “The Colleges in the New Era,” in HUO 7, 138–40.

79 Anonymous poem in Pelican Record 7, no. 1 (December 1903): 9: “In prose and verse, in Latin & in Greek, / We've one as deep in Home Rule as in Homer; / Dodona's oaks he sugars once a week; / His rooms are fragrant with bacchic aroma; / Through him the Pelican has learnt to speak— / ‘Sidgwickian Zeus’, it said; ‘tis no misnomer. / From Cambridge we appointed this divinity, / Adviser–general to the whole community”; Hardie, Corpus Christi College, 73.

80 Sidgwick, Diaries, 3:130, 272, 274, 4:102, 107, 120, 138, 5:22.

81 Sidgwick, “The Teaching of Classics as Literature”; idem, Teaching of Composition.

82 Report of the annual meeting of the Classical Association, Journal of Education 16, no. 7 (July 1904): 462–63, at 463. On Britain as classical Athens see Turner, Greek Heritage; on democracy see Hadley, Elaine, Living Liberalism: Practical Citizenship in Mid-Victorian Britain (Chicago, 2010), 67 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For contemporary reflections see Arnold, Matthew, Culture and Anarchy: An Essay in Political and Social Criticism (London, 1875)Google Scholar; Farrar, Essays on a Liberal Education.

83 Goldman, Lawrence, Dons and Workers: Oxford and Adult Education since 1850 (Oxford, 1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Anne Ockwell and Harold Pollins, “‘Extension’ in All Its Forms,” in HUO 7, 661–88.

84 Sidgwick, Diaries, 3:149, 175, 241. The Oxford Magazine reported the popularity of Sidgwick's Extension lectures: Oxford Magazine 4, no. 5 (24 February 1886), 71; Oxford Magazine 5, no. 2 (26 January 1887), 20. See also Journal of Education 2, no. 10 (October 1889), 506 on the Extension summer meeting.

85 “AEW Annual Report,” October 1879, AEW Records 1/1, St. Anne's College, Oxford.

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88 Sidgwick, Diaries, 3:37ff; “Minutes of the Association for the Education of Women,” 1882–1897, MS. Top. Oxon. d. 1047, 19–20, 38–40, 47, 67, BL; review of Sidgwick's lecture on Browning to “a certain Ladies’ Association,” Oxford Magazine 9, no. 4 (5 November 1890): 59.

89 Sutherland, Faith, Duty, and the Power of Mind, 95–96; “Minutes of the AEW,” 50.

90 Sidgwick, Diaries, esp. 3:37, 73–74, 78, 90, 93, 95, 98, 115, 141, 168, 180, 212, 249, 251, 284, 289–90, 4:2–4, 73, 103, 143, 153, 5:3, 20, 40, 42, 49, 60–61, 65, 72, 91, 108.

91 Janet Howarth, “The Self–Governing University, 1882–1914,” in HUO 7, 612; Howarth, “The Women's Colleges,” 257.

92 D. J. Palmer, “English,” in HUO 7, 397; Isobel Hurst, “‘A Fleet of … Inexperienced Argonauts’: Oxford Women and the Classics, 1873–1920,” in Stray, Oxford Classics, 16–33, at 18.

93 Sidgwick, Arthur, “Women's Examinations,Oxford Magazine 2, no. 4 (13 February 1884): 6667 Google Scholar; Dyhouse, No Distinction of Sex?, 18.

94 “AEW Misc. loose papers,” MS Top. Oxon. c. 817, fols. 5–6, BL. Somerville student Vera Brittain's struggle with the Responsions exam is recorded in her Testament of Youth (London, 1933), 6677, 105–112Google Scholar; see also The Women at Oxford, 46.

95 Ewing, R., reply to Sidgwick's “The Teaching of Classics as Literature,Journal of Education 2, vol. 6 (June 1889): 318 Google Scholar; Howarth, “The Women's Colleges,” 281. The AEW's “Notebooks of the teaching given to students” record some tutors’ reports on individual students, MS Top. Oxon. e. 682–9, BL.

96 Tullberg, Rita McWilliams, Women at Cambridge (Cambridge, 1998), 4445 Google Scholar.

97 Arthur Sidgwick, letter to Butler, 10 March 1902, MS Eng. lett. c. 473, fols. 41–42, BL; Howarth, “The Women's Colleges,” 281; “Oxford Letter” (unsigned, but clearly attributable to Sidgwick), Journal of Education 21, no. 2 (February 1908): 121.

98 “AEW Minutes,” 50, 146.

99 Sidgwick, Arthur, “Mixed Secondary Schools: From the Point of View of an Examiner,” in Co-education: A Series of Essays by Various Authors, ed. Woods, Alice (London, 1903), 121–25, at 125Google Scholar.

100 Dyhouse, No Distinction of Sex?, 223–28; Howarth, “The Women's Colleges,” 277–78; Pedersen, Susan, Eleanor Rathbone and the Politics of Conscience (New Haven, 2004), 4951 Google Scholar; P. Adams, s.v., “Associated Prigs (act. 1894–99),” ODNB,, accessed 10 December 2016.

101 Sidgwick, Diaries, 3:161, 4:9, 62–3, 67, 95, 97, 165.

102 “Visit of the British Educational Mission to the United States” (pamphlet), 1918, MS Eng. misc. c. 706d, 18, BL; Margery Fry, “In Memoriam. Rose Sidgwick,” 1919, MS Eng. misc. c. 706, fol. 3, BL; Muirhead, “Miss Rose Sidgwick” (typescript copy of address), 31 January 1919, MS Eng. misc. c. 706, fols. 4–7, BL.

103 Rose Sidgwick, “Diary of US trip,” Margery Fry Papers, Box 30 Folder 3, Somerville.

104 For examples see Caroline Spurgeon, “University Women and World Friendship” (typescript), September 1922, Caroline Spurgeon Papers PP7/6/3, Royal Holloway University London; Mrs. Cummings, Willoughby, “A Women's League of Nations,Montreal Listening Post (6 May 1924), Spurgeon Papers, PP7/6/5/1Google Scholar.

105 Gildersleeve, Virginia C., Many a Good Crusade: Memoirs of Virginia Crocheron Gildersleeve (New York, 1954), 130 Google Scholar; Muirhead, “Miss Rose Sidgwick”; Fry, “In Memoriam. Rose Sidgwick”; Gildersleeve, letter to Ethel Sidgwick, 30 March 1919, MS Eng. lett. c. 471, fol. 203, BL; Ethel Sidgwick, letter to Charlotte Sidgwick, 10 December 1919, MS Eng. lett. c. 473, fol. 93; Mabel Choate, letter to Ethel Sidgwick, 30 April 1920, MS Eng. lett. c. 471, fol. 144; Gildersleeve, letter to Ethel Sidgwick, 11 February 1941, fol. 204; Gildersleeve, “For a Rose Sidgwick Memorial,” New–York Tribune, 24 March 1919, 10.

106 “Mr. Frank Sidgwick (obituary),” Times, 15 August 1939, 14; Papers of Sidgwick and Jackson, MSS Sidgwick and Jackson, 1–381, BL; A. Hugh Sidgwick, letter to Margaret Sidgwick, 29 June 1917, MS Eng. lett. c. 473, fol. 111, BL; Gilbert Murray, letter to Ethel Sidgwick, 21 July 1917, MS Gilbert Murray 168, fols. 127–28, BL.

107 Howarth, “Sidgwick, Arthur (1840–1920)”; AEW Annual Report, 1906, AEW/1/1, St. Anne's College, Oxford; Sidgwick, Diaries, 5:68; AEW Council Minute Book, 1897–1910, MS Top. Oxon. d. 1048, 53, BL; Arthur Sidgwick, letter to Ethel Sidgwick, 11 June 1907, MS Eng. lett. c. 473, fols. 43–44, BL; 12 April 1909, fols. 45–46; Rose Sidgwick, letter to Ethel Sidgwick, 13 June 1907, fols. 252–54; Johnson, R. Brimley, Some Contemporary Novelists (Women) (London, 1920)Google Scholar; Ethel Sidgwick, letter to Gilbert Murray, 22 June 1910, MS Gilbert Murray 168, fols. 111–12; letters from Charlotte and Ethel Sidgwick to Margery Fry, Margery Fry Papers Box 2, Folders 9 and 10, Somerville College, Oxford.

108 Ethel Sidgwick, letter to Eleanor Sidgwick, 3 October 1917, MS Eng. lett. c. 473.

109 Beard, Mary, The Invention of Jane Harrison (Cambridge, MA, 2000)Google Scholar.

110 See, for instance, a scholarly article that Housman, A. E. wrote entirely in Latin on sex in Greek and Latin poetry: “Praefanda,Hermes 66, no. 1 (January 1931): 402–12Google Scholar.

111 On cross-gender social interaction as a site of cultural conflict see Walkowitz, Judith, “Science, Feminism and Romance: The Men and Women's Club 1885–1889,History Workshop 21, no. 1 (Spring 1986): 3659 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; eadem, Going Public: Shopping, Street Harassment, and Streetwalking in Late Victorian London,Representations, no. 62 (Spring 1998): 130 Google Scholar.

112 Deslandes, Oxbridge Men, 197; Arthur Sidgwick, letter to the editor, Oxford Magazine 2, no. 7 (5 March 1884): 140.

113 Joyce, The State of Freedom, 309.

114 For a vivid evocation of this principle see Hilliard, English as a Vocation, 251–58.

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