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Memoirs of life at Oxford (1905)

Frederick Meyrick

(Dyfyniadau ynglŵn â bywyd Esgob William Basil Jones, a fu'n byw ym Mhlas Gwynfryn, Llangynfelyn.)   (Extracts concerning the life of Bishop William Basil Jones, who used to live in Plas Gwynfryn, Llangynfelyn.)

The senior scholar [at Trinity College, Oxford, in 1844] was W. Basil Jones, a very graceful scholar (he won the Ireland Scholarship) and a man of profound thought. He fell into a second class because he and others of the Trinity College scholars distained merely ‘to read for the schools,’ thinking that our work was rather to master our books and learn our philosophy without regard to the specialities of the University examination, an error which the schools resented and revenged upon us. He became a Fellow of University College, Archdeacon of York in the episcopate of Archbishop Thomson, and Bishop of St. David’s in succession to Bishop Thirlwall.

pp. 16-17

The next scholar [in Trinity College, Oxford, in 1844] was Edward Augustus Freeman, known afterwards as the historian of the Norman Conquest. He was a man of very singular manners as an undergraduate. He paid no regard at all to what people might think of him, and he was in the habit of repeating poetry to himself as he walked in the streets, and occasionally leaping into the air when the poem moved him to any enthusiasm. He was bitterly disappointed at falling into a second class, but in spite of that he began, immediately the examination was over, to read history steadily with a view to the future. He gave himself so many pages a day to read, one half of them being the same that he had read the day before, and the other half new matter. His knowledge of architecture was extensive and enthusiastic, but the great study of his life was history, and his lighter occupation was writing articles for the Saturday Review, in which he did not spare his rivals or opponents. He had entertained great hopes of the Chicheley Professorship of Modern History, to which Commander Burrows was elected. Failing that, he went into the country and lived near Wells in Somersetshire, till in 1884 he was recalled to Oxford by being nominated Regius Professor of Modern History. He was warmly attached to the cause of modern Greek liberty, and held the Turks in abhorrence, which led him to take part in a series of anti-Turk pamphlets edited by Sir Arthur Elton. He was one of the only five men, that I knew of, who from the beginning detested the Crimean War. The other four were Lord Lothian, Cannon Liddon, Lord Robert Cecil, and myself. He was a strong Liberal in politics, and failed to get into Parliament as a supporter of Mr. Gladstone. On his return to Oxford, however, he found that academic Liberalism had outstripped him, and he would often say, ‘Can’t they let it be as it was in our day?’ He died in 1892, in Spain, where he had gone chiefly to investigate some points of architecture. He had asked me to accompany him on his journey.

pp. 18-19

In 1846 Marriott, Norris, and myself, with G. E. Ranken, a scholar at University College, went on a long vacation reading-party to St. David’s. [...] Polehampton and several other Oxford men took the opportunity of our being at St. David’s to visit it. Among them was Basil Jones, afterwards Bishop of St. David’s. The old cathedral city, now sunk into a small village, had always appealed to him, and he had, with E. A. Freeman, written a valuable work on its history and antiquities. Hearing that I was going to St. David’s, he addressed the following lines to me:


‘And thou wilt wend to the West, my friend,
	To the happy sunset shore;
And thou wilt greet the hallowed seat
	Where saints have sat of yore:
Where hour by hour the Minster tower
	Watcheth a dreary land,
Till the golden sun, his course y-run,
	Kindles the broken strand:
Where the waters sleep full dark and deep
	Beneath the waves’ wild roll,
And giveth thee a token of peace unbroken
	That lies in the inner soul.

‘Oh, sweet to me are the shades that be
	Those thoughtful walls among*,			*At Oxford
And the sullen swell of the nightly bell,
	And the quiet vesper-song:
And sweet to me in mine own countrie
	Broad flood and mountain gray,
With the silvery gleams of the flashing streams,
	And the woodlands green and gay:
But I’d give them all for the lights that fall
	On that dreary shore at even, -
For the song of the sea is its melody,
	And its beauty the sheen of heaven!’

June 12, 1846.

Perhaps it was Basil Jones instigation, perhaps it was the very pitifulness of the scene that had been before our eyes for some weeks past, which made us write to the eminent architect, W. Butterfield, and ask him to come down and see if something could not be done towards the restoration of the cathedral. Mr. Butterfield came, and immensely interested both in the half-ruined building and in the zeal of a few penniless undergraduates who were set on restoring a cathedral, he lent us all his sympathy and help. When we had collected a little money, he gave us a design for the restoration of the screen – it was all that our purses would allow – and so began the restoration of St. David’s Cathedral, which has since been so happily carried out, the progress of which Basil Jones was able to watch as Bishop of the diocese.

pp. 33-35


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