MC:F33 Papers of Paul Victor Mendelssohn Benecke (Fellow 1891-1944)
Paul Victor Mendelssohn Benecke (1868-1944) came up to Magdalen as a Demy in 1886. He read Classics, achieving a first class in Honour Moderations, followed by a first class in Literae Humaniores in 1890 and a first class in Theology in 1891. He was a Denyer Johnson Scholar, awarded the Junior and Senior Greek Testament prizes, the Senior Septuagint prize and the Ellerton Theological Essay prize. He was made a Fellow of Magdalen in 1894, remaining as a Fellow until his death on 25 September 1944. He was the grandson of the composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and possessed many first edition manuscripts of his works.
As a tutor, Benecke was to teach both students in Classics and Theology, although the papers below show that his interests ranged widely in philosophy, history, theology, classics, music and foreign languages. Although he published practically nothing during his lifetime apart from a revision of Liddell’s History of Rome and articles in a dictionary of the Bible, the documents below show how diverse a selection of papers he produced.
Benecke occupied rooms in the New Buildings of Magdalen for the entirety of his time as a Fellow. Known for his conservatism and longevity, he became renowned as the authority on college traditions and institutions. He served as Senior Dean of Arts from 1898-1899, Vice-President in 1900-1901 and 1912-1913 and Home Bursar from 1902-1920. His attention to his duties in the latter role was to make him a formidable presence at the meetings of Governing Body where his command of figures and knowledge of the finances of the college in intimate detail were legendary. He was also a frequent attendee of Magdalen Chapel services despite his self-confessed near-agnosticism. His papers on theological issues show Benecke trying to grapple with the issue of rationalising an emotional faith.
Outside of Magdalen, Benecke was an enthusiastic member of the University Music Society, serving as President 1888-1889. He was very interested in the ‘Magdalen Vagabonds’ singing group and was a good friend of John Stainer during Stainer’s second time at Magdalen after 1889. He also served on the boards of various charities and trusts, including as Treasurer of Lady Margaret Hall.
The papers of P.V.M. Benecke were originally dispersed throughout the college archives, acquired over a number of years and are here brought together for the first time. The collection has been divided into four groups, based on the provenance of the material within them. MC:F33/1 comprises the papers given to the college by P.V.M. Benecke himself. MC:F33/2 are papers given to the college by Benecke’s sister, Margaret Benecke. MC:F33/3 was given by a Miss Margaret Deneke [sic] who was a friend of Benecke’s as a child and was to rekindle their friendship later in her life. Miss Deneke lived in Norham Gardens, Oxford and was in regular correspondence with Paul Benecke over his music manuscripts and his charitable work. Benecke was eventually to give all of his priceless music manuscripts to Deneke to add to her collection of music, which she bequeathed to the Bodleian Library. Deneke produced a volume on Benecke’s life: Paul Victor Mendelssohn Benecke. 1868 – 1944 (Printed privately, copies in Magdalen New Library and McFarlane Library) which is invaluable for details of his life and work. Much of this group is concerned with the publication of her volume on Benecke. The final group MC:F33/4 are papers of an unknown provenance. Most likely this collection originated with Paul Benecke but there have been later additions made to it after his death and thus it is impossible to be sure of its origins. Within these groups the collection is divided into manuscript works of Benecke and others, correspondence, financial files, newspapers cuttings and ephemeral items. There are also papers relating to the ‘Magdalen Vagabonds’ and the visit of George Bernard Shaw to Oxford in 1892, as well as much of interest on the history of the college and its Fellows. For other documents relating to Benecke, see MC:PR35/2/8C and MC:P302.
This collection has been divided into the following sections:
MC:F33/1 Papers given by P.V.M. Benecke
MC:F33/2 Papers given by Margaret Benecke
MC:F33/3 Papers given by Margaret Deneke
MC:F33/4 Papers of unknown provenance
Re-catalogued by Richard Hunt. October 2007.