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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury and the Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury People

What is the Bloomsbury Project?

The Leverhulme-funded UCL Bloomsbury Project was established to investigate 19th-century Bloomsbury’s development from swampy rubbish-dump to centre of intellectual life

Led by Professor Rosemary Ashton, with Dr Deborah Colville as Researcher, the Project has traced the origins, Bloomsbury locations, and reforming significance of hundreds of progressive and innovative institutions

Many of the extensive archival resources relating to these institutions have also been identified and examined by the Project, and Bloomsbury’s developing streets and squares have been mapped and described

This website is a gateway to the information gathered and edited by Project members during the Project’s lifetime, 1 October 2007–30 April 2011, with the co-operation of Bloomsbury’s institutions, societies, and local residents

Leonard Horner (1785–1864)

a summary of his Bloomsbury connections

He was born and educated in Edinburgh, where he met many of the Scottish born or educated men with whom he later worked when he was appointed Warden of the new University of London (later University College London) in 1827

This was the famous Whig circle of brilliant lawyers and medical men who included one of the most prominent founders of the University of London, its first President, Henry Brougham, as well as James Mill and George Birkbeck, who were also on the first Council of the new University from its inception in 1825

Horner had some experience of starting an educational establishment, having founded the Edinburgh School of Arts in 1821 and promoted the new Edinburgh Academy in 1823 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

His appointment by the University of London’s Council in 1827 to the post of general administrator, to which the name Warden was given, was an unhappy one, both for him and for the professors with whom he had to deal

Horner insisted on a salary of £1,000 pa with an additional £200 to pay the rent of the house taken for him at 12, Upper Gower Street (Council Minutes, vol. I, 2 June 1827, UCL Records Office)

The Council, though alarmed at the high cost of employing him, agreed to his demands

Meanwhile the Professors were guaranteed at most £300 for the first couple of years, and promised a proportion of the amount brought into the institution by student fees after that (which was invariably even less, since student numbers were disappointingly small in the early years)

In practice, the Professors could not manage on these small amounts, and many were made anxious by the lack of financial security which faced them after the early guarantee period ran out

Some therefore resigned after a year or two, while others took on teaching outside the University to top up their salaries

Horner’s correspondence with the Professors showed little sympathy with their plight (College Correspondence, UCL Special Collections)

The Professors objected not only to Horner’s inflated salary, but also to the high tone he adopted with them

Augustus De Morgan, the Professor of Mathematics, had a bad-tempered correspondence with Horner in March 1830 over whether Horner was in a position to “authorise” De Morgan to take action against obstructive students

De Morgan fired a letter at Horner on 13 March saying “Dear Sir, What am I to understand by the words ‘I have no hesitation in authorising you to use the threat of expulsion &c’ which are used in your letter to me of the 12th instant”

Horner’s reply claimed that he had been given the authority, to which De Morgan rejoined that he wished his request to be put to Council

Not getting satisfaction from Horner, De Morgan mobilised ten of his fellow Professors to sign a memorandum to Council on 25 March 1830 asking for clarification of “the nature of the Warden’s office in the University”

As far as the Professors were concerned, Horner was “merely the medium of communication between them and the Council” (1830 Disputes re Warden, 3350d, UCL Special Collections)

For his part, Horner thought he had been appointed to take decisions concerning the day-to-day working of the University, when in fact the Council—which through its lack of foresight was largely to blame for the troubles which quickly arose between Horner and the Professors—merely used him as a messenger, usually bearing bad news about their salaries and the University’s dire financial situation (Council Minutes, vols I and II, UCL Records Office)

Eventually, after the protracted mishandling by Horner of the case of Granville Sharp Pattison, Professor of Anatomy, against whom some of his medical colleagues campaigned and his students rebelled and who was finally removed from his professorship for incompetence in July 1831 with £200 compensation, Horner too resigned, feeling that Council had not supported him (Council Minutes, vol. II, 12 and 26 March 1831)

Horner’s resignation was not sufficient to stop three of the Professors, George Long (Greek), Frederick Rosen (Oriental Languages and Literatures), and De Morgan resigning in protest at the treatment of Pattison (Council Minutes, vol. II, 27 July 1831, 18 August 1831)

The loss of Horner was, however, a relief to the Council, which realised it had not managed his post well and took the opportunity to restructure the organisation, replacing Horner with a secretary (the erstwhile clerk Thomas Coates) at the more realistic salary of £200 (Council Minutes, vol. II, 10 August 1831, 4 June 1832)

The annual receipts of the University for the year 1829 illustrate the absurd mismatch between the institution’s available finances and the relative salaries paid to Horner and to the Professors

The guaranteed salaries of between £100 and £300 to the Professors - about twenty of them – amounted to £2,949 19s 8d for the year, while the Warden’s salary was £1,000, and the rent and taxes on the Upper Gower Street house taken for him came to an additional £200 (Annual Report, February 1830, UCL Records Office)

Horner resented his treatment by the University, with some justification, as it had appointed him at an inflated salary but had not made his duties clear and had looked on in passive anguish as he mishandled affairs

In a letter to his friend on Council, James Loch, another old friend from Edinburgh days, written after he had left London and gone to Bonn for a protracted visit, Horner complained about the “thankless toil” and “injustice” he had suffered at the University (Horner to Loch, 12 November 1831, Loch Papers, MS Add 131, UCL Special Collections)

On his return from Germany, Horner was appointed in 1833 to the Royal Commission on the Employment of Children, where he worked alongside Thomas Southwood Smith, who had briefly helped out at the University of London by taking over Charles Bell’s physiology classes in 1831 after Bell’s sudden resignation

Horner’s contribution to the improvement of conditions for children won him praise from Karl Marx in Das Kapital (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

For more general biographical information about Leonard Horner, see his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

This page last modified 7 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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