Ceremony Of Opening The Radcliffe Library
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
On Wednesday the lath inst. his Grace the Duke of Beaufort, the Right Hon. the Earl of Oxford, Sir Walter Wagstaff Bagot, and Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, Barts., and Edward Smith, Esq., Member of Parliament for the county of Leicester, trustees of the will of that most justly celebrated physician, the late Dr. Radcliffe, honoured the University of Oxford with their presence, in order to the opening of the library erected there, in pursuance of the doctor's will.
The university, on this occasion, thought proper to express their gratitude by granting (at the recommendation of the trustees) degrees in that faculty wherein Dr. Radcliffe so eminently excelled. Accordingly the solemnity began by conferring the degree of Doctor in Physick, by diploma, on the three following gentlemen, viz., Dr. Pitcairn, Dr. Conyers, and Dr. Kennedy.
At the same time the degree of Doctor in Civil Law was conferred by diploma upon that famous antiquarian, Brown Willis, Esq., grand-son of that skilful physician Dr. Willis, and himself a considerable benefactor to the university by his writings, and a large present of Saxon and English coins.
A great number of noblemen and gentlemen took this opportunity of showing their regard to the university by their attendance on this occasion, to whom, in return, the university testified its thankfulness by conferring on Wednesday an honorary degree of Doctor in the Civil Law upon many of them, viz., the Right Hon. the Lord Harley, Sir John Philips, Bart., Sir John Shaw, Bart., Peregrine Palmer, Esq., member for the University of Oxford ; Pennystone Powney, Esq., member for the county of Berks ; William Drake, Esq., member for Agmondesham ; John Willes, Esq., member for Banbury ; and Nor-bone Berkley, Esq., member for the county of Gloucester; and at the same time an honorary degree of Master of Arts was conferred on William Bagot, Esq., gentleman commoner of Magdalen College ; and also on James Gibbs, Esq., the celebrated architect of this library.
The trustees afterwards gave an entertainment to the Vice-Chancellor, heads of houses, the young noblemen, and the new-created doctors. In the evening the oratorio of "Esther " was performed in the theatre, to the satisfaction of a crowded audience.
On Thursday, the day appointed for opening the library, the Vice-Chancellor, heads of houses, young noblemen, doctors and proctors, Bachelors in Divinity, Law and Physic, and Masters of Arts, met in their respective habits at St. Mary's, and from thence went in procession to All Souls College Hall, to wait on the trustees, who returned with them in a solemn and more grand procession than has been known for many years to the Radcliffe Library ; where his Grace the Duke of Beaufort deliver'd the key to the Vice-Chancellor for the use of the university, who returned their thanks for the same, in a short, but elegant speech. From thence they walked in the same order to the theatre, where the honorary degree of Doctor in the Civil Law was conferred on the 'Right Hon. the Earl of Westmorland; the Right Hon. the Lord Vise. Burleigh, son of the Earl of Exeter; Sir Francis Dashwood, Bart., member for New Romney ; Sir Charles Sidley, Bart., member for the town of Nottingham ; Sir Roger Newdigate, Bart., Sir Lyster Holt, Bart., Sir John Tyrrel, Bart., and John Anstis, Esq., Garter King at Arms, being presented to the same by Dr. Brookes, Regius-Professor of the Civil Law.
After their admission, William Lewis, Doctor iin Physick, and student of Christ Church, made an elegant Latin oration upon the occasion of this solemnity, after which a fine piece of musick was performed, which being ended, Dr. King, principal of St. Mary's Hall, made another elegant oration. The Vice-Chancellor afterwards, in the name of the university, returned thanks to the trustees for their faithful execution of the trust reposed in them, in a very polite speech, which was succeeded by the following anthem :
"Let Thy hand be strengthened, and Thy right hand be exalted Let justice and judgment be the preparation of Thy seat. ; mercy and truth shall go before Thy face.
And the assembly were dismissed. The Vice-Chancellor afterwards entertained the trustees, heads of houses, and new created doctors at his lodgings ; and in the evening the oratorio of ` Samson' was performed in the theatre.
On Friday morning the Vice-Chancellor, the trustees, heads of houses and doctors, met in their scarlet robes in the theatre, where an honorary degree of Doctor in the Civil Law was conferred on the Right Hon. the Lord James Manners, brother to the Duke of Rutland ; Sir Robert Burdett, Bart., member for Tamworth ; Sir Charles Chester, Bart., Sir Robert Jenkinson, Bart., the Rev. Sir Philip Hobby, Bart., Sir Richard Atkyns, Bart., Nathaniel Curson, Esq., Wrightson Mun-day, Esq., member for the county of Leicester ; Francis Page, Esq., James Dawkins, Esq., John Rolle Walters, Esq., George Lucy, Esq., John Moreton, Esq., member for Abingdon ; John Robinson, Esq., and William Meredith, Esq., after which the worthy and ingenious University Professor in Music, Mr. Hayes, was created a Doctor in that Faculty ; and Mr. Hodges, a gentleman commoner of Magdalen College, was admitted to an honorary Degree of Master of Arts; and then the ceremony was concluded with the coronation anthem. In the evening the sacred oratorio was performed with great applause in the theatre
The right hon. and worthy trustees, and the other noblemen and gentlemen, shew'd great satisfaction in the conduct of the whole, and in the regularity and decency which appeared in the behaviour of all the scholars. The university on the other hand expressed as great joy, upon the honour they received in seeing so splendid an appearance of so many noblemen and eminent persons testifying their regard and affection to that learned body.
Having seen in your last magazine a print of the Radcliffe Library, but finding no description of it, if you will be pleased to insert in your next the following particulars, which I noted down when at Oxford last summer, it may be agreeable to the public, and you will particularly oblige.
Radcliffe's Library is an extraordinary grand building, the lower part forming an octagon, consisting of rustic work, piers, and arches, with handsome iron gates,* over which are placed, in a circular form, abundance of pillars, with their entablature of the Corinthian order, supporting a spacious gallery of stone, from which place there rises a dome, covered with lead, crowned with a lanthorn with a small gallery round it, and finished with a golden acorn at top. The inside is quite stately and superb : the magnificent oval geometrical staircase being wainscotted with mahogany, the doorway from which into the first story is grand, having a very fine statue of the founder over it. The floor is beautifully paved with polished marble of various colours. The ranges for the books, both of this and the second story, are Flanders oaks, as is the wainscotting, and carved in the most exquisite manner the fancy of the artist could reach, and grated with gilt wire. The dome is supported by eight piers, enriched with pilasters, and their entablature of the Ionic order, from which spring as many arches, and upon these runs all round at the foot of the dome a very grand modilion cornice, and from this hang down between the arches, tender and delicate festoons, composed of as great a variety of foliages and fruit as ever was seen in stonework ; the inside of the dome is enriched with fretwork and croket-work in a very elegant manner. The whole building is constructed of every-thing that can render it beautiful and delightful, by being interspersed with the greatest variety of carving, gilding, painting, etc.
We observed last month, that in this octagon are but seven iron gates, the place for the eighth being built up with stone, by which the staircase goes up ; and though we viewed the whole with pleasure, not being skilled enough to assign it propel terms, E. B.'s description above is very acceptable.