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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

Henry Morley (1822–1894)

a summary of his Bloomsbury connections

Though he did not live in Bloomsbury except for the years 1882–1889, when he was the last Principal of University Hall in Gordon Square, Morley’s connections with Bloomsbury were many

He collaborated on Charles Dickens’s weekly newspaper Household Words from 1851 to 1859, when Dickens lived in Tavistock House; in 1855 he proselytised for the first kindergarten in England run by Johannes and Bertha Ronge in Tavistock Placee; he held the Chair of English Language and Literature at University College London from 1865 until 1889; and he was Principal of University Hall from 1882 to 1889

Born in Hatton Garden, London, the son of a doctor, he attended from the ages of ten to twelve a Moravian school at Neuwied on the Rhine, where he was impressed by the kindness of the teachers and the lack of flogging (Henry Solly, The Life of Henry Morley, 1898)

He studied medicine at King’s College London from 1838 to 1843, and set up a partnership with another doctor in Shropshire, which was dissolved in 1848 when his partner proved to be unlicensed; Morley was left with £700 in legal debts which he took several years to pay off

He had been engaged to be married since 1843, but was unable to marry until 1852, when his finances were finally on a sound footing (Henry Solly, The Life of Henry Morley, 1898)

In 1849 he opened a day school, first in Manchester and then in Liverpool, on the humane principles of the Neuwied school he had attended, and during 1849 and 1850 he wrote on public health for John Forster’s Examiner newspaper and Dickens’s newly founded Household Words

In June 1851 Dickens invited him to come to London to be his regular assistant editor; Morley accepted and took lodgings in Camden Square until his wedding in April 1852

Morley was one of the first visitors to Tavistock House when Dickens moved there in November 1851

He described an evening party at Tavistock House in December 1851, noticing that Dickens had lined the door of his study with “bound backs of books which have no bodies or insides” and had invented a set of ludicrous titles for these non-books “such as ‘Godiva on the Horse’, ‘Hansard’s Guide to Refreshing Sleep’, ‘Teazer’s Commentaries’ (for Caesar’s), and so on” (Henry Solly, The Life of Henry Morley, 1898)

Among the scores of articles Morley wrote for Household Words was one on ‘ Infant Gardens’, published on 21 July 1855

In it, Morley described in detail the kindergarten system devised by Friedrich Froebel, with its then revolutionary method of teaching through play, and alludes to an educational exhibition held in St Martin’s Hall from July to September 1854, when the founders of the first English kindergarten, Froebel’s followers Johannes and Bertha Ronge, lectured on the system

He recommended the Ronges’ recently published book, A Practical Guide to the English Kinder Garten (1855) and told his readers that they “may see an Infant Garden in full work by calling on a Tuesday morning between the hours of ten and one on M. and Madame Ronge, at number thirty-two Tavistock Place, Tavistock Square” (Household Words, 21 July 1855)

In December 1865 Morley was appointed Professor of English Language and Literature at University College London

He was a popular lecturer, talking extempore instead of reading from notes, as his son-in-law and former student Henry Solly recalled, and presided over a huge increase in the numbers studying English from fifty-two in 1865 to a peak of 108 in 1872, and a further peak of 191 students in 1878, when women were first admitted to full degree status at University College London (Henry Solly, The Life of Henry Morley, 1898)

Morley gave up to twenty-two lectures a week at University College, held classes at various colleges and institutes on the outskirts of London, and from 1868 he also lectured up and down the country for the Ladies’ Educational Association, the forerunner of the University Extension Movement

In January 1870 he lectured at University College from Monday to Thursday, gave evening lectures on Thursday evening in Bradford, Friday morning lectures to ladies at Bradford’s Mechanics’ Institute, Friday afternoon lectures in York, Saturday morning in Huddersfield, returning home on Saturday evening (Henry Solly, The Life of Henry Morley, 1898)

During the 1870s the Ladies’ Educational Association also held classes at University College London until the admission of women to degrees in 1878; Morley was one of UCL’s strongest supporters of degrees for women (H. Hale Bellot, University College London 1826–1926, 1929)

Morley actively supported Annie Browne in 1882 when she opened 1 Byng Place as a residence for women students of University College London; by 1886 the two adjoining houses had been added and the title College Hall adopted (Henry Solly, The Life of Henry Morley, 1898)

In 1882 he was persuaded by the Trustees of Manchester New College, which had taken over the management of University Hall, to be Principal of the Hall

University Hall, which had begun in 1849 as a hall of residence for University College students run by Unitarians, had struggled to fill its rooms, even after Manchester New College had moved south in 1853 to share the building

With Morley in charge, numbers rose, and a separate building in the grounds at the back of the Hall was built in 1884 to take the extra residents, but by 1889 numbers had declined again and Manchester New College sold the building and moved to Oxford

Morley was bitterly disppointed that, despite his efforts as both Principal of the Hall and Professor of English at University College, the Trustees of the Hall refused University College’s offer of £10,000 for the building, preferring to sell it to Dr Williams’s Library (Henry Solly, The Life of Henry Morley, 1898)

At University College Morley founded, edited, and for the first few issues wrote the whole of the University College London Gazette, a fortnightly journal begun in October 1886

The Gazette carried articles on the history of University College itself and of University College Hospital, information about current building plans, notices of exhibitions at the Slade School and of meetings of societies, and from 1887 a series of memoirs by former students of ‘Past Worthies’ among the Professors, including accounts of Robert Liston and Robert Grant

On 22 October 1886, in an article entitled ‘Join Your Societies’, Morley exhorted students to be collegiate and to undertake sporting activities: “We want more not less of football and wholesome athletic sports. There is no fear here that we shall ever follow the bad precedent of those places of education [i.e. Oxford and Cambridge] that encourage bodily exercise to the neglect of intellectual ability” (University College London Gazette, vol. I, 22 October 1886, UCL Special Collections)

He encouraged contributions from students about all aspects of life at University College, attracting attention in the very first number with a letter purporting to be from the ghost of the medieval poet John Gower ‘To the General Committee of the University College Society’:

“Gentlemen, It is four hundred and seventy-eight years since I was buried, and though I live in as decent a tomb as ghost can desire, I have been more or less about the world in all these years. My haunts have chiefly been old libraries, and glimpses of me have been seen in College lecture-rooms. But now I have a street of my own, built specially to the design of a Ghost’s Walk. As it is kept in ghostly quiet by the College bar [i.e. the gate across Gower Street which stopped through traffic until it was removed in 1893], for this I am grateful, and I should like to do something to show my gratitude. I cannot subscribe to the University College Society as I have had no money since I came to this address, and cannot raise even the ghost of a shilling. But mind lives on, and my ruling passion for books and papers remains strong in death. Let me offer myself, therefore, as Editor or Contributor to the University College Gazette. I have had more than five hundred years of experience of life, and am a man of the world, though studious” (University College London Gazette, vol. I, 1 October 1886, UCL Special Collections)

When Morley retired from the English Professorship at University College in 1889, he was fulsomely thanked by the Council for “his constant attention to the welfare of the Students, for his efforts in the cause of University Education, and for his labours as Professor, member of the Senate…, as well as in other ways, for the promotion of the best interests of the College” (Council Minutes 1884-92, vol. VIII, UCL Records Office)

For more general information about Henry Morley, see his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography  

This page last modified 13 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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