George Peacock.

Observations on the plans for the new library, etc. online

. (page 2 of 6)
Online LibraryGeorge PeacockObservations on the plans for the new library, etc. → online text (page 2 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

has been compelled to stow away the very fine collection
of minerals, formed by the late Dr. E. D. Clarke, purchased
by the University, into a garret in his own rooms, where it
is quite inaccessible to the public and nearly so to himself:
whilst the large and valuable collection of human and com-
parative Anatomy, formed by the present Professor and his
predecessors, is crowded into a dark room near Queen's
College, where a great part of the dry preparations are
perishing from damp*.

It might be objected that the University is not in pos-
session of funds for the supply of such Museums in a
proper manner, in case they were provided : but such an
objection would at all events not apply to the means of

" There are few Members of this University who are alive to its honour,
who have not felt humiliated by a sense of these deficiencies, both when visiting
Foreign Universities, and when shewing their own. The following circumstance,
of very recent occurrence, will illustrate the nature of the feelings which are most
commonly experienced on such occasions. The most illustrious naturalist in
Europe, had proposed to visit Cambridge during the last summer, and was fur-
nished with letters of introduction to several of our scientific Professors.
Though they would have felt proud of any opportunity of shewing him respect,
and would have considered themselves honoured by his presence among them,
yet I know that they rejoiced to hear of the postponement of his visit, as it
spared them the pain of exposing the nakedness of the land. Nay, so anxious
was one of our most distinguished Professors to escape this very severe mortifi-
cation, that he had nearly resolved to quit Cambridge at the time, though he
would willingly have travelled any distance in order to enjoy the advantage of
his society ; if he had come among us he would have found Professors full of
zeal and knowledge, who had neither Lecture Rooms nor Museums, which they
could venture to shew ; and the deficiency of that taste and ardour for the culti-
vation of natural knowledge, which has been too frequently, and perhaps too
truly a subject of reproach to this country, would have ceased to excite surprise,
when it was found that the very fountains of public instruction were thus
scantily supplied.


exhibiting or preserving the collections which already exist;
and I feel satisfied from past experience, that contributions
would pour in from every quarter, in case they could be
bestowed in places which were worthy of the gifts. The
Professor of Geology has already a promise of casts of all
the chief fossils in the Paris Museum, if he knew where
to place them ; and from the liberal spirit of mutual assistance
which prevails amongst men of science and collectors of all
kinds, I have no doubt but that this encouraging example
would be followed generally: but I would trust more con-
fidently to the patriotic spirit of our own Members ; and as a
just ground of hope, I would appeal to the example of the Phi-
losophical Society, where a noble collection of birds was pur-
chased without difficulty, by private contributions from the
Members, and avowedly for the purpose of forming the basis
of a General Zoological Collection, for the benefit of the
University. A similar spirit has been shewn on other
occasions whenever an opportunity has presented itself of
acquiring other collections, which might promote the pro-
gress of natural science; and we may fairly conclude, that
the same zeal which has animated the Members of the
University, when confined to the benefit of a particular
Society, would not be wanting to fill worthily a proper
series of academical Museums.

There are other objections however to the formation of
such Museums, which I feel some difficulty and some feeling
of shame in noticing; it is contended that our system of
academical education is general and not professional ; and
that as it is impossible to include any notice of such subjects,
in our general course of instruction and examination, it is
not expedient to divert the attention of our students from
those subjects, which it is their duty to pursue. It is asserted
also, that as the very essence and pride of our system, is
the acquisition of accurate knowledge, and, since all our
rewards are strictly regulated by it, the public encourage-
ment of other studies, might endanger the supremacy of
those which are peculiarly our own ; and inasmuch as
superficial knowledge only can result from a great diver-
sity of pursuits, it is the duty of the University to limit


their range, by removing as much as possible, the tempta-
tion of diverging widely from the beaten paths of academi-
cal studies.

If this argument, (which is not an imaginary one,
adduced for the mere purpose of refutation) was just, it
would prove as much against the system of the University
as it is, as against that which we should wish it to be. It
is, and I trust it ever will be, the great object of the Uni-
versity, to encourage and reward the acquisition of accurate
knowledge : but the advantages of such knowledge, are
not confined to Classics or Mathematics, but may be derived
in a very considerable degree at least, from the careful
and accurate study of other sciences, whether natural,
political, or moral; and whilst I acknowledge the wisdom
of the choice made by the University of those studies to
which her regular course of instruction is confined, and
to proficiency in which her rewards are given, yet I think
it an equally essential part of her system to discountenance
superficial knowledge of every kind, and to undertake to
teach no science, unless she teaches it completely ; for it is
by such means only that she can vindicate her proper rank
and superiority, and entitle herself to be considered both
at home and abroad, as one of the great public sources of
genuine knowledge.

It is upon this principle, that I consider it the duty of
the University, to discourage the delivery of Courses of
Lectures which are merely popular, or which are so short
as necessarily to become so : or rather, I should think it best
to discontinue such Lectures altogether, as are not or cannot
be given in a form calculated to teach the most advanced state
of the sciences to which they belong. The want of Lecture
Rooms has hitherto compelled many Professors to give mere
sketches of Courses of Lectures, and has therefore brought
the University into a disadvantageous comparison with other
academical institutions, which our enemies have not hesi-
tated to notice ; and a similar consequence must ensue from
the want of Museums and Collections, particularly in those
cases where the power of exhibiting specimens is essential
to those minutiae of detail, upon which accurate descrip-


tion, and therefore accurate knowledge must depend. The
Professors of this University have laboured under both
these disadvantages, and in a much greater degree than
the meanest University on the Continent and even than the
greater number of our own ; and it is not a little honour-
able to the zeal and spirit with which they are animated,
that they have struggled with so much energy and with
so much success, particularly of late years, to promote the
study of their respective sciences, notwithstanding the
pressure of so many discouragements.

The University has recognized the importance of the
same principle of teaching well, if she teaches at all, by a
recent Grace of the Senate, respecting an increasing and a
most important class of our students. Candidates for Me-
dical degrees are compelled to attend the Lectures of the
Professors of Physic, of Anatomy, and of Chemistry, in
case their respective Courses extend to at least 50 Lectures,
and in no other case : such a regulation was equally agree-
able to the Professors of those sciences and creditable to the
University ; for it conferred upon their Lectures the cha-
racter of a complete scientific Course, which was neces-
sary to make them respected by the public, and really
useful to those persons who attended them for the purpose
of professional instruction ; whilst its natural tendency would
be, to convey to those persons who attended as amateur
students, that severe and accurate knowledge, which should
alone be recognized in this University, as really worthy of
being taught or acquired.

I must return however from this long digression on the
proper nature and object of our academical studies, and on
the importance and even necessity of providing Museums
and Collections of all the objects which are required for
the illustration of the Public Lectures of the University. It
was considered that there would be required collections of in-
struments and of apparatus connected with the lectures on
Natural and Experimental Philosophy and the Mechanical
Arts, a laboratory of Chemistry, a Museum of human and com-
parative Anatomy, of Geology, Mineralogy, Botany, and Zoo-
logy: and for all these objects, it was the duty and wish of the


Syndicate to make as complete a provision as the space would
allow. They did not consider their decision respecting the posi-
tion and magnitude of the several rooms to be used for these
objects as final, but left them to be distributed and appropriated
as circumstances and the wishes of the University might here-
after dictate. It was considered however that it would be a
great advantage to the University, and a great convenience
to the Professors, if their Museums were sufficiently spacious
and well lighted, as to serve for Lecture Rooms, for those
Professors, whose Collections were contained in them.

The Library was directed to be placed on the first
floor over the Schools and Museums, so as to form a com-
plete rectangle of 200 feet by 130: and provision was
required to be made, by the addition of galleries, for the
ultimate accommodation of 300,000 volumes. It was true
that many years must elapse before so considerable a space
could be filled ; but the building was intended to be one
of a lasting character, which might satisfy the wants and
expectations of our successors, as well as of ourselves. It
was also directed that the books should be placed upon
projecting cases, as in the Library of Trinity College: but
the particular arrangements of the Library, as well as of the
other Buildings, were expressly committed to the judgement
and taste of the Architects.

It was directed that all the principal fronts should be
of stone, inasmuch as any other material would have been
unworthy of a great public building, placed in one of
the most conspicuous parts of the University.

The plans which were formed by the four Architects,
in consequence of the preceding instructions, were for-
warded to the Vice-Chancellor, on the first of November;
and on the 25th of the same month, the following Report
was made to the Senate.

" The Syndicate appointed ' to consider the arrangements
to be made with respect to the Old Court of King's College,'
beg leave to make the following Report to the Senate.

" They unanimously agree, to recommend Mr. Cockerell's
Plan for adoption, as being on the whole, the best adapted
to answer the objects which the University have in view."


This Report was signed by the Vice-Chancellor, (Dr.
Chafy,) the Bishop of Lincoln, Dr. Haviland, Mr. Carrighan,
Mr. Hustler, Mr. Shelford, Professor Whewell, Mr. Lodge,
and Mr. Peacock : the Master of Catharine Hall was absent
from indisposition, and Mr. King was detained by important
University business. The first draught of the Report did
not contain the word unanimously, which was added at the
request of a most distinguished Member of the Syndicate,
who had expressed some doubts respecting the preference
given to Mr. Cockerell's plan, but whose opinion had been
determined in its favour by some observations made at

the time.

It was perhaps unfortunate that the Report did not
state more expressly, that the decision of the Syndicate
was comparative and not absolute. Nothing indeed could
be further from their intention, than to recommend to the
Senate the adoption of Mr. Cockerell's plan, without most
material alterations : and it was extremely improbable that
any plan could have been proposed in the first trial, which
would satisfy all the wishes and wants of the University,
where so many different objects were to be combined, so
many difficulties to be overcome, so many conflicting in-
terests and claims to be reconciled, and where the instruc-
tions as might be expected, required more to be done,
than was practicable under the circumstances of the situation
or under the imposed conditions, some of which were not con-
sistent either with good taste or good construction. They
considered however that Mr. Cockerell had more completely,
than any other Architect, satisfied the conditions of the
very difficult problem proposed; and they conceived that
it was their duty, in conformity with the terms of the com-
petition, that they should recommend the University to
award to him the prize of being employed to prepare all
future plans, and to superintend the execution of any one
which might be finally adopted.

The decision of the Syndicate was the result of a very
careful, and I believe of a very dispassionate examination of
the different plans, and it was made on the part of seven
at least out of nine Members who signed it, without hesi-


tation or reserve. Without presuming to dictate to the Uni-
versity upon a subject, about which every Member of the
Senate was so greatly interested, and about which, every one,
who was willing to examine, was equally capable of judging
with themselves, they certainly expected that more deference
would have been paid to their opinion than it received. The
Architects themselves must have considered that decision as
nearly final, as far as the terms of the competition were con-
cerned ; and the public generally must have formed a very strong
opinion of the popular or perhaps democratic nature of our
Academical constitution, when the solemn and nearly unani-
mous judgement of a body of men, constituted by the Uni-
versity, to whom some degree of authority was supposed
to be delegated, was or rather would have been, if pro-
posed, rejected almost with indignation.

The Syndicate certainly considered themselves, however
erroneously, as possessing a delegated authority with respect
to this competition, otherwise they would not have ventured
to compromise either the Architects or themselves, by ven-
turing to publish any opinion on the subject, but would have
committed the decision of it at once to the public voice.

The Observatory Syndicate had been constituted with
the same power delegated by the same form of words ; and
they incautiously presumed to exercise the same authority in
the present case, which had been allowed without controversy
in the former. It is true that the Sydicate in question was
unfortunate in incurring, during the execution of the work,
both odium and a most serious responsibility, by acting
without proper authority. But those errors and their punish-
ment, had no connection with the selection of the Architect
from amongst the different competitors, nor with the propriety
of the details of the plan which they finally recommended,
and which the University immediately adopted.

Whatever, however, might have been the opinion of many
Members of the Senate on the selection made by the Syndi-
cate, their decision was final with respect to those Members
of the Syndicate who approved of the Report. They violated
therefore no point of delicacy with respect to the other Archi-
tects, in immediately communicating to Mr. Cockerell, their



objections to parts of his plan, as well as their opinion of
a suggestion contained in a second plan which he had for-
warded along with the former, which extended the principal
building to the extremity of the ground belonging to the
University on every side. They certainly encouraged him
to persevere in his efforts, to render his plan in every way
worthy of the approbation of the University; and it was
in consequence of these suggestions, that he immediately
devoted himself to the formation of a new plan, which was
forwarded to one of the Members of the Syndicate, in the
course of the month of March 1830.

In the mean time, so extraordinary a degree of excitement
prevailed in the University respecting the different plans,
and in opposition to the Report of the Syndicate, that the
new plan in question could neither be publicly shewn nor
impartially considered: a large and powerful party sup-
ported the claims of a Grecian design of Mr. Rickman or
Mr. Hutchinson, and did not hesitate to accuse the Members
of the Syndicate of want of taste, at least, in the judgement
they had given: others contended that the Syndicate had
exceeded the powers entrusted to them in presuming to ex-
press an opinion on the subject and in not committing the
whole affair to the free and unbiassed decision of the Senate
at large : whilst many others considered it expedient to stop
all farther proceedings concerning them, until a full inquiry
had been made into the state of the funds of the University,
in order to ascertain whether the means existed, or could be
provided, for carrying any of these plans into execution.

This last enquiry was not unreasonable, but the Syndicate
considered the first part of it unnecessary, at the commence-
ment of their labours, inasmuch as it had been made the
subject of the Report of a Syndicate on this and other
subjects at the beginning of the year : and they considered
that they would act most wisely in deferring any particular
investigation into the means of raising extraordinary funds,
until such time as the plans were completed, and some
opinion could be formed of the sum which it would be
necessary to raise: at all events, they were not authorized,
by the terms of their appointment, to make any such enquiry.


and it was unquestionably unjust to accuse them of not
furnishing information, which had never been asked for at their
hands. The subject however had been one of frequent and
anxious discussion amongst them, and they were prepared
to have expressed an opinion upon it at the proper season.
It is merely necessary to observe, in their justification, that
they never intended to commit the University to the ex-
penditure of a single shilling beyond the sum necessary for
the preparation of the plans, before the funds for their execu-
tion, in whole or in part, had been provided.

The University continued in a state of considerable agita-
tion, as far as this subject was concerned, until the end of May,
notwithstanding several attempts which were made to produce
a calm. On the 31st of May, the following conciliatory Grace
was proposed, by Mr. Thorp of Trinity College, and carried
without opposition :

" Placeat vobis, ut Dominus Procancellarius, Dr. French,
Dr. Ainslie, Dr. Turton, Professor Whewell, Mr. Lodge,
Mr. Martin Thackeray, Mr. Blick, Mr. Jones, Mr. Griffith,
Mr. Graham, Mr. Sheepshanks, Mr. King, Mr. Shelford,
Mr. Cape, Mr. Dawes, Mr. Hildyard, Mr. Studholme, et
Mr. Gibson, Syndici nominentur, qui de bibliotheca vestra
amplificanda, de Auditoriis Museisque quibus opus fuerit
exstruendis consulant, respectu habito ad Gratias super hac
re jamjam a vobis concessas; necnon inquirant quibus
potissimum rationibus facultates idoneae ad ea opera efficienda
comparari possint: denique de his omnibus aut simul aut
separatim, ante proximum terminum finitum referant ad

In consequence of this Grace, a letter was addressed to
each of the Architects, inviting them to a new competition,
announcing to them that they must consider all that had
hitherto been done by the University as completely can-
celled. Whatever opinion might have been entertained of
the delicacy and justice of this proposition, it was perhaps the
only course left, under the very extraordinary circumstances in
which the University had been placed : the Architects however
acceded to the proposal made to them, and were furnished in
the course of the month of July with the following instructions.



I. " It is required to provide Museums of Geology,
Mineralogy and Botany ; three Lecture Rooms ; an Un-
packing Room, attached to each Museum; a large Model
Room for the Jacksonian Professor, an Apparatus Room
for the Plumian Professor; a new Public Library with
greatly increased accommodation for Books; also a Room
for the Librarian and Syndics ; an Office for the Registrary ;
four Schools of Divinity, Law, Physic and Arts.

II. " In the line of the present North Library, on the
ground floor, are to be placed the Museums of Geology,
Mineralogy and Botany ; the first being at the Western
extremity of this line, 70 feet long; the next, to the East
of this, 30 feet long; the rest of the North side being
appropriated to the Botanical Museum and other uses ; a
Lecture Room for the Plumian Professor being provided
at its Eastern extremity.

III. " At the Eastern extremity of the present South
Library, on the ground floor, it is proposed to place the
Registrary's Office and Record Room ; the first about 30 feet
by 20 feet, communicating with the Law Schools and
Record Room; the Record Room also about 30 feet by
20 feet*.

IV. " On the South, and if necessary the West Side,
it is proposed to place the Four Schools, the Law School
being next the Registry t.

V. " On the space between the range of Museums (II),
and Senate- House Passage, it is proposed to place two large
Lecture Rooms; one capable of containing from 400 to
500 persons, the other from 200 to 300.

To be fire-proof, and to admit of being perfectly ventilated and

t They are to be constructed as to communicate with each other,
when required, by large double folding doors, and thus to form a series of Exa-
mination or Lecture Rooms. The Professors' Pulpits must be moveable, or
so constructed as not to interfere with these latter objects. The Divinity
Schools to be at the West, and to be somewhat longer than the other two :
Galleries must be placed at the East end of the Law Schools, and at the
West end of the Divinity Schools, for the accommodation of the Heads,
Professors, Doctors, &c.


VI. " The Museums, the Model Room for the Jackso-
nian Professor, and the Apparatus Room for the Plumian
Professor, to have as intimate and near a communication as
possible with those parts of the Lecture Rooms where
Models, Specimens, &c. are to be placed during the Lecture,
so that such articles may be transferred without the ne-
cessity of passing into the open air, or of moving them to
a considerable distance.

VII. " The Library to occupy the whole of the first
floor over the Museums, Schools, &c., so as to form
a complete hollow square. The room for the use of the
Librarian and Syndics, to be on the first floor if possible,
but neither this room nor the staircase to interfere with
the above arrangement of the Library. The Books to be
placed in projecting cases as in the Library of Trinity
College, and these to be so constructed as to admit here-
after of the addition of galleries.

VIII. " All the Museums and Schools to be well-
lighted, and to admit as much as possible of perfect venti-
lation: and to be aired by heated air, which may likewise
serve for the Library above.

IX. " It is intended to execute at present only a part
of the plan, and to leave the whole of the existing Library
untouched ; connecting it temporarily with the additions
to it which shall be first built. It is proposed to begin with
the Museums forming the North side, between the present
Registry and the Western boundary of the ground ; adding
on the West side a room to be occupied by the Botanical
Professor till the rest of the plan can be executed ; the
story above these rooms forming the addition to be at
present made to the Library. It is proposed also to build
the Lecture Rooms adjoining Senate-House Passage, pro-
viding as soon as possible one Lecture Room and an accom-
panying Model Room for the Jacksonian Professor!

X. " The sum to be at present expended not to exceed
25,000 ; and estimates of the expense of the part described
in the last paragraph to be sent along with the Plans.

XI. " The fronts to be of stone.

XII. " The style of Architecture to be Grecian.


XIII. " The Plans and Estimates of the whole Build-
ing to be sent to the Vice-Chancellor, on or before the 10th
of October next ; the Plans to be drawn to a scale of 8 feet

to an inch."

The preceding instructions are principally copied, with

2 4 5 6

Online LibraryGeorge PeacockObservations on the plans for the new library, etc. → online text (page 2 of 6)