The Life of John Coleridge Patteson
Fellowship Of Merton. 1852--1854.
In the summer of 1852 Coleridge Patteson stood for a fellowship of Merton, obtained it,
and moved into rooms there. Every college has a distinctive character; and Merton, if not
actually the eldest, is at least one of the oldest foundations at Oxford, and is one of the
most unchanged in outward aspect. There is a peculiar charm in the beauty and seclusion
of the quadrangle, in the library, still mediaeval even to the fittings; and the church is
above all impressive in the extraordinary loveliness of the early decorated architecture,
and the space and loftiness of the choir. The whole, pre-eminently among the colleges,
gives the sense of having been unaltered for five hundred years, yet still full of life and
Coley attached himself to Merton, though he never looked to permanent residence there.
The Curacy in the immediate neighbourhood of his home was awaiting him, as soon as he
should be ordained; but though his purpose was unchanged and he was of full age for
Holy Orders, he wished for another year of preparation, so as to be able to study both
Hebrew and theology more thoroughly than would be possible when pastoral labour
should have begun. What he had already seen of Dresden convinced him that he could
there learn Hebrew more thoroughly and more cheaply than at home, and to this he
intended to devote the Long Vacation of 1852, without returning to Feniton. There the
family were settling themselves, having given up the house in Bedford Square, since
James Patteson had chambers in King's Bench Walk, where the ex-Judge could be with
him when needed in London. There had some notion of the whole family profiting by Sir
John's emancipation to take a journey on the Continent, and the failure of the scheme
elicited the following letter:--
'Merton: June 18.
'My dearest Fan,--I can, to a certain extent, sympathise with you thoroughly upon this
occasion; the mere disappointment at not seeing so many interesting places and things is
a sharp one, but in your instance this is much increased by the real benefit you hoped to
derive from a warmer climate; and no wonder that the disappearance of your hopes
coupled with bodily illness makes you low and uncomfortable. The weather too is trying
to mind and body, and though you try as usual to shake off the sense of depression which
affects you, your letter is certainly sad, and written like the letter of one in weak health.
Well, we shall see each other, please GOD, at Christmas now. That is better than passing
nearly or quite a year away from each other; and some other time I hope you will be able
to go to Italy, and enjoy all the wonders there, though a tour for health's sake cannot be
too soon. It is never too soon to get rid of an ailment....
'I find that I am getting to know the undergraduates here, which is what I wanted to do; it
is my only chance of being of any use. True, that I have to do it at the expense of two
half-days' cricketing, which I have quite ceased to care about, but I know that when I
went up to Balliol, I was glad when a Fellow played with us. It was a guarantee for
orderly conduct, and as I say, it gives me an opportunity of knowing men. I hope to leave