MC:PR30 Papers of Martin Routh (D. 1771-5; F. 1775-91; P. 1791-1854)
[Because of the length and complexity of this catalogue, a pdf version of it may be found at: MCPR30]
1 – The life and career of Martin Routh
Martin Joseph Routh was born in South Elmham, Suffolk, on 18 September 1755. His father Peter was rector there, but later became master of the Fauconberge Grammar School at Beccles. Peter Routh and his wife Mary (née Reynolds) had fourteen children, of whom Martin was the oldest. Among the Routh children, the most significant, as far as concerns the current collection, are the third son, Robert, the sixth son Samuel (D. 1785–91; F. 1791–1811), who followed Martin to Magdalen, and the fourth and youngest daughter Sophia (1769/70–1848), of whom more later.
Routh matriculated from The Queen’s College on 31 May 1770 aged only 14, but in the following year he migrated to Magdalen College having been elected a Demy there. He then remained at Magdalen for the next 83 years until his death.
Routh was elected a Fellow of Magdalen in 1775, and in 1781 he became tutor to Edward South Thurlow (matr. 1781). Thurlow was extremely well connected: his uncles included Edward, 1st Baron Thurlow and Lord Chancellor from 1778–92, and Thomas (D. 1755–9; F. 1759–72), who was Bishop of Lincoln in 1779–87 and of Durham in 1787–91. Another early pupil who, like Thurlow, retained a lifelong link with Routh was Granville Penn (matr. 1780).
In addition to his teaching, Routh took on several important College offices. He served as Librarian in 1781, Junior Dean of Arts in 1784 and 1785, and Bursar in 1786. At University level, he was appointed Senior Proctor in April 1785. It is important to remember these details about his career in the light of later accounts which like to dwell on his scholarly and apparently unworldly character. This is especially true in April 1791, when George Horne resigned as President. Routh, with his father’s advice and encouragement, keenly canvassed to be his successor (see MC:PR30/1/C1/3), and was elected by a majority of one in the final ballot on 28 April. As a published scholar (see below) and someone who had already shown an interest in and aptitude for College business, Routh would from the first have been a serious candidate for the post.
Once elected President, Routh’s worldly ambitions seem to have been at an end: unlike other contemporary heads of house, he never served as Vice-Chancellor, nor does he seem ever to have aspired to a deanery or a bishopric. His only later appointment occurred in 1810, when he was instituted as Rector of Tilehurst, Berkshire, by his brother-in-law Thomas Sheppard, who owned the living. Routh tried to stay at Tilehurst during University vacations well into his nineties, and in later years his nephew John Routh acted as his curate. Nevertheless, he could still intervene in University politics on occasion: in 1821, for example, when his friend Richard Heber was standing as a Parliamentary candidate for the University of Oxford, Routh was energetically seeking support for him, as can be seen in these papers.
When Routh first moved into the President’s Lodgings, his youngest sister Sophia acted as his housekeeper until she married Thomas Sheppard (D. 1747–9; F. 1749–70) in 1801. Thomas Sheppard was a wealthy man, and on his death in 1814 Sophia became a major philanthropist, supporting many causes, including Magdalen. One of her most substantial gifts was the construction of a new church in Theale, a hamlet within Tilehurst, which was consecrated in 1832. Routh took a keen interest in his sister’s project, and even provided the church with several pieces of medieval stonework which had been uncovered during the restoration of the College Chapel during this time.
On Sophia’s marriage, it seems that another of Routh’s sisters, Anne, kept house for him for a while, but then in 1820 he married Eliza Agnes Blagrave, daughter of a Tilehurst family. Although Routh was thirty-five years older than his wife, the marriage proved a happy one, and several observers commented on the hospitable atmosphere which the Rouths created in the President’s Lodgings.
Throughout his long Presidency, Routh kept a firm hand and a keen eye on the administration of Magdalen. Whether this was always advantageous to the College is another matter: Routh took no interest in any kind of reform, academic, institutional or otherwise, and Magdalen acquired a reputation as a backwater, to the point that the report of the Royal Commission into Oxford, published in 1852, dismissed it as being ‘among the least important’ academic institutions in the University. Routh also remained stoutly loyal to traditional interpretations of the College statutes, as handed down to him, which could lead to abuses. By the 1790s, for example, it had become the custom that Demies were automatically elected to Fellowships, and could remain in their posts until the right post fell vacant, yet this was entirely contrary to Waynflete’s statutes.
The greatest changes which took place at Magdalen during Routh’s Presidency were undoubtedly architectural. After several years of dithering, and a disastrous demolition of the north range of the Cloisters (quickly reversed after national protest), Routh and the College engaged in a major rebuilding of the College in the 1820s and early 1830s, which culminated in a complete refurbishment of the Chapel.
In his religion, Routh was a devout High Churchman. He claimed kinship with Archbishop Laud, and in his churchmanship derived inspiration from the Arminian divines of the 1630s. Worship in Magdalen Chapel assumed a significantly more High Church character than in many Anglican places of worship in England. Unsurprisingly, Routh took a supportive interest in the Oxford Movement, even if he did not completely agree with all its aims and beliefs, and its leaders, especially John Henry Newman, greatly admired him.
Routh’s churchmanship let him to take an interest in outposts of Protestant episcopal churches elsewhere. In 1782, he was called upon to offer advice to the Episcopal Church in what would soon become the independent United States of America as to how to create an episcopate there, and his suggestion that its first Bishops should be consecrated in Scotland was followed. In 1803 he arranged for duplicate books from the disbanded undergraduate Library at Magdalen to be presented to King’s College, Nova Scotia. He was also a supporter of the newly-founded University of Durham, which in its early years was open only to Anglicans, and bequeathed his remarkable library to it. However, it was the Scottish Episcopalian Church which received Routh’s most loyal support: he dedicated Reliqiuae Sacrae to its Bishops and priests, and he regularly corresponded with Scottish Bishops. In addition, Routh and his sister Sophia Sheppard regularly supported appeals for building churches or for supporting the Episcopal Church in other ways.
Routh, however, was most distinguished among his contemporaries for his scholarship, and it is fair to say that he and the scientist Charles Daubeny (D. 1810–15; F. 1815–67) were the only members of Magdalen in the first half of the nineteenth century to enjoy international reputations for their learning. He was certainly unusual among Oxford heads of house at this time in publishing some major works and—characteristically for him—still more unusual in that his publications spanned almost seven decades, from 1784 until the year before his death. Routh was also widely admired for his skill in writing inscriptions, mainly in Latin.
Routh’s earliest major publication was an edition of Plato’s Euthydemus and Gorgias, published in 1784 with a dedication to Bishop Thomas Thurlow. Like many Oxford academics of his day, however, Routh then left Classics behind for the study of theology. In 1788 he published a prospectus for a major edition of the fragmentary writings of the Christian fathers who were active before the Council of Nicaea in 324. The first edition of the promised work, Reliquiae Sacrae, was published in four volumes between 1814 and 1818, to general acclaim. Routh even published a substantially revised edition in five volumes between 1846 and 1848, in his nineties. Routh’s other major work was an edition of Gilbert Burnet’s memoirs, first published in 1823. A fuller list of Routh’s major publications is given below. Routh was very generous in presenting free copies of his works, and many of the letters catalogued below are from grateful recipients of his latest books.
Although, therefore, Routh’s life took him rarely outside the worlds of Magdalen and Tilehurst, he did enjoy a considerable reputation in his lifetime, and perhaps in his old age he attained an even greater fame on account of his being the last significant link with a lost age. He therefore enjoyed a wide and eminent circle of correspondents, as will be seen from the papers below, writing and receiving letters right up until the last weeks of his life.
Martin Routh died after a short illness on 22 December 1854 aged 99. His mind had only started to wander in the last day or two of his life. Although he himself had hoped to be buried at Theale, he was buried in the Chapel of Magdalen College, in front of the altar. The site is now marked with a memorial brass.
2 – Select bibliography of the works of Martin Routh
Edition of Plato’s Euthydemus and Gorgias (1784).
Reliquiæ sacræ: sive, Auctorum fere jam perditorum secundi tertiique sæculi fragmenta, quæ supersunt.: Accedunt epistolæ synodicæ et canonicæ Nicæno Concilio antiquiores (4 vols. 1814–18). Volumes I–II came out in 1814, Volume III in 1815 and Volume IV in 1818.
Bishop Burnet’s History of his own time: with the suppressed passages of the first volume, and notes by the Earls of Dartmouth and Hardwicke, and Speaker Onslow, hitherto unpublished, to which are added the cursory remarks of Swift. And other observations. (6 vols. 1823).
Scriptorum ecclesiasticorum opuscula præcipua quædam (2 vols, 1832).
The additional annotations in the second edition of Bishop Burnet’s History of his own times, with notes: accommodated to the pages of the first edition (1833).
Bishop Burnet’s History of his own time: with the suppressed passages of the first volume, and notes. (6 vols., 1833; a revised edition of 1823).
Scriptorum ecclesiasticorum opuscula præcipua quædam. (2nd edition, 2 vols, 1840).
Reliquiæ sacræ: sive, Auctorum fere jam perditorum secundi tertiique sæculi post Christum natum quæ supersunt.: Accedunt synodi, et epistolæ canonicæ, Nicæno Concilio antiquiores. (5 vols, 1846–8).
De episcopis et presbyteris adnotata quædum ad concilium contra noetum tertio sæculo celebratum (1852).
Bishop Burnet’s History of the reign of king James the second. Additional observations now enlarged. (1852). This is a single volume, containing a revised edition of that part of Burnet’s history which covers James’s reign.
Tres breves tractatus. De primis episcopis. S. Petri Alexandrini episcopi fragmenta quædam S. Irenæi illustrata ῥησις in qua Ecclesia Romana commemoratur. (1853).
3 – The history of the present collection
The papers of Martin Routh in the following collection can be divided into four main groups, as follows:
(1) Papers on Routh collected by Magdalen’s great antiquarian and first historian, John Bloxam (D. 1830–5; F. 1835–63). It seems that, on Routh’s death, John Bloxam was given access to the President’s Lodgings, and assembled a great quantity of Routh’s papers. He then sorted them out, and had them bound into a succession of guardbooks.
Bloxam’s collection of Routh papers mainly comprises many hundreds of letters written to Routh, with a few draft replies from Routh himself, but there are also a few papers relating to Routh’s scholarly activities and his work as President. The writers of the letters include many members of Magdalen College, but also several Bishops, both English and Scottish, many clerics and scholars, and some politicians.
These Routh papers were later presented by Bloxam to the Library at Magdalen, along with a large quantity of material created or collected by Bloxam himself as part of his historical research. These are all listed at Macray Register, vi. 114–16. It would appear, however, that Bloxam did not give the College his complete collection of Routh papers. For example, the second volume of a guardbook of letters from and about Choristers (MC:PR30/1/C2/14) only came to the College in 1943, by way of the family of W. E. Sherwood, Master of Magdalen College School in 1888–1900, and the first volume appears to have been lost long ago.
A few Routh papers which came into Bloxam’s hands were bound up by him elsewhere, namely in Vol. III of a series of collections made by Bloxam on Presidents of Magdalen (ref. MS 655 (c)). Bloxam nowhere explains why these records, most of which comprise letters to Routh from his father Peter, were bound up here and not with the main Routh collection.
Posterity owes John Bloxam a great deal in preserving so much of Routh’s correspondence. It is not known, however, whether he weeded Routh’s correspondence before sorting and binding it. As matters stand, the papers comprise letters from or about members of Magdalen College, and letters from miscellaneous correspondents, most of whom nevertheless are sufficiently eminent that they have since been granted entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Descriptions of Routh’s study suggest that it was always in a rather chaotic state, so that it is perhaps more likely that Bloxam, rather than Routh, might have disposed of items which he thought were not worth keeping.
(2) Manuscripts from Routh’s Library. Routh was a great bibliophile, and collected a large personal library of many thousands of volumes. The printed volumes were bequeathed by Routh to the University of Durham, where they remain. However, the manuscript volumes were sold at auction. Some copies of the auction catalogue are preserved among John Bloxam’s Routh papers, and they show that some volumes were bought by him and others, and have made their way back to the College. They are various in character, not all of them relating to Magdalen. One item in this section, MC:PR30/2/MS2/2, was transferred to the archives from the President’s Lodgings in August 1997 as Accession No. 97/206.
(3) Documents relating to Routh’s scholarly research. Surprisingly few items in the Routh collections relate to his academic work. The actual autographs of his major published works are lost, but there are some manuscript volumes containing material relating to his work on Reliquiae Sacrae, and a volume of Burnet’s memoirs which Routh used for his 1852 reprinting.
(4) Other Routh material. Some Routh material appears not to have been gathered up by Bloxam, but instead made its way into other corners of Magdalen. They have gradually made their way to the archives at a later date. They include some miscellaneous correspondence, including with Routh’s family, and some material relating to College administration, as well as a remarkable daguerreotype of Routh, taken on his 99th birthday in September 1854.
Various letters from Routh himself have been given to the College at various times. They are listed elsewhere.
4 – Bibliography of works about Martin Routh
J. R. Bloxam, A Register of the Presidents, Fellows, Demies, Instructors in Grammar and in Music, Chaplains, Clerks, Choristers, and Other Members of Saint Mary Magdalen College in the University of Oxford, 8 vols. (Oxford, 1853–85), vii. 1–37.
J. W. Burgon, Lives of Twelve Good Men, 2 vols. (London, 1888), i. 1–115.
R. H. Darwall-Smith, ‘The Monks of Magdalen: 1688–1854’, from L. W. B. Brockliss (ed.), Magdalen College Oxford: A History (Oxford, 2008), pp. 253–386.
C. G. B. Daubeny, A Biographical Sketch of Rev. Dr. Routh (publisher unknown, c. 1855).
R. D. Middleton, Dr. Routh (Oxford, 1938).
Papers relating to Martin Routh in other collections include letters from him to Philip Bliss (BL Add. MSS 34657–34681), from him Sir Francis Burdett, Richard Heber and Sir Thomas Phillipps (all held in the Bodleian Library).
5 – Sections of the catalogue
Catalogued by Robin Darwall-Smith, December 2015.