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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

Frederick Rosen (né Friedrich August Rosen) (1805–1837)

a summary of his Bloomsbury connections

He was a German-born scholar of Sanskrit who was working in Paris when he was became one of the first appointments made by the Council of the University of London (later University College London)

In May 1828, at the age of 22, he was appointed Professor of Sanskrit, to which were soon added Arabic and Persian, and in 1829, after the resignation through ill health of the elderly John Borthwick Gilchrist, Hindustani

The University’s Education Committee agreed at its meeting of 26 November 1828 to ask Rosen to “equip himself” to teach Hindustani as soon as possible, since Gilchrist was too ill to give the classes (Committee Minutes 1828–1829, UCL Records Office)

In July 1828 he also offered to teach Latin until the vacancy was filled after the sudden resignation of the first appointee to the Chair of Latin (or Roman Language and Literature, as it was then called), Rev. John Williams, three months before the University was due to open to students

In fact, Rosen was not needed, as Thomas Hewitt Key had been swiftly appointed in Williams’s place (Council Minutes, vol. I, 18 and 24 July 1828, UCL Records Office)

In October 1830 Rosen did step in to help, this time by taking over the teaching of the Professor of German, Ludwig von Mühlenfels, who had asked for a leave of absence (Council Minutes, vol. II, 15 October 1830, UCL Records Office)

Though clearly one of the most distinguished appointments to the new university, Rosen was not well treated by his employer; he was the most glaring victim of the professorial salaries system adopted by the institution

The Council left it late to decide on the method and amount which Professors should be paid; money was tight, and the idea was that salaries should be a proportion of the fees paid by students, with a smaller proportion (one third) going to the University chest for general purposes

But the Council, though it overestimated the number of students who would eventually enrol, realised that in the early years a guaranteed salary would be required

It decided in July 1828, only two months before the opening of the University, that Professors should receive a guaranteed sum of £300 if the fees fell short of this amount, or £250 for staff in clinical medicine and surgery, as it was understood that they would earn from the outside work they already undertook in hospitals and other institutions (Council Minutes, vol. I, 10 July 1828, UCL Records Office)

These guarantees were kept in place for the first three years of the university’s existence, after which they were abandoned, leaving several Professors in severe financial difficulty

The language professors were even worse off, as they were not included in the original guarantee, it being assumed that they would “derive an income from private pupils” (Education Committee, 27 October 1828, Committee Minutes 1828–1829, UCL Records Office)

This was hardly the case for Rosen

In January 1830 two members of Council, Joseph Hume and James Loch, corresponded about the need for young men to be taught Oriental Languages before going to India and therefore the desirability that the East India Company, for which Hume had worked, should contribute towards the salary of Rosen

After all, Rosen had been “brought over from Prussia” by the University because he was known to be “the most celebrated man on the Continent, or in England, for the joint knowledge of Sanscrit [sic], Arabic & Persian, to what he has added, Hindustani” (Joseph Hume to James Loch, 17 January 1830, Loch Papers MS Add 131, UCL Special Collections)

Two months later the Education Committee recommended that Rosen be guaranteed the lowly sum of £150 a year in addition to his proportion of “the fees he may receive from his pupils”, which the committee must have known would be little or nothing (Council Minutes, vol. II, 27 March 1830, UCL Records Office)

Rosen stuck to his task on this meagre salary, but resigned with some other colleagues on a matter of principle in July 1830, in protest at the removal of the Professor of Anatomy, Granville Sharp Pattison

In 1834 he accepted the invitation to return as Professor of Oriental Languages, but died, poor and unmarried, in September 1837, days after his 32nd birthday (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, H. Hale Bellot, University College London 1826–1926, 1929)

In addition to his connections to University College London, Rosen was employed at the British Museum

In May 1834 he was engaged by the Museum“to assist in revising and correcting the Catalogue of the Syriac MSS, his remuneration to be 20/- for one day’s service in each week” (Committee Minutes, 10 May 1834, vol. XIII, British Museum Central Archive)

From April 1835 Rosen was employed on the catalogue three days a week (Committee Minutes, 11 April 1835, vol. XIV, British Museum Central Archive)

After his premature death in 1837, the Museum commissioned the sculptor Richard Westmacott to make a bust of him “that the same might be preserved in the British Museum in memory of the worth, services and learning of that much to be lamented gentleman” (Committee Minutes, 20 April 1839, vol. XVII, British Museum Central Archive)

A copy of the catalogue of Syriac manuscripts, on its completion in 1839, was ordered by the Trustees to be sent to Rosen’s father in Germany (Committee Minutes, 22 January 1839, vol. XVII, British Museum Central Archive)

Rosen was also a contributor to the Penny Cyclopaedia published by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Twelve letters from Rosen to Thomas Coates, Secretary of the SDUK, between 1829 and 1836 (as listed in Janet Percival, The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, 1826-1848: A Handlist of the Society’s Correspondence and Papers, 1978) are now lost from UCL Special Collections, and no further details of Rosen’s articles appear in Monica Grobel, ‘The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge 1826–1846’, unpub. MA thesis, University of London, 1933

However, Charles Knight, the SDUK’s publisher, wrote in his memoirs that Rosen had contributed to the Penny Cyclopaedia “all the articles on Oriental literature from ‘Abbasides’ to ‘Ethiopian Language’ ” (Charles Knight, Passages of a Working Life during Half a Century: With a Prelude of Early Reminiscences, vol. II, 1864)


This page last modified 7 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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