Trinity College

Trinity College. This image appears in “Dublin Illustrated,” the magazine’s article on Ireland’s capital city. Source: The Graphic 57-58 (17 August 1878): 172. Click on image to enlarge it.

Commentary from The Graphic

In the days of Elizabeth the broad distinctions between the Church and the Law now recognised had no existence. Archbishop Adam Loftus, to whom the University of Dublin is said to owe its origin, filled at different times the offices of Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Chancellor. This remarkable man, ancestor of the Marquises of Ely, came from England as Private Chaplain to Thomas, Earl of Sussex, Lord Deputy of Ireland in the early years of Elizabeth's reign. In the course of his long public career it was observed that he took a warm interest in a College which was at that time attached to St. Patrick's Cathedral, and to which scholars from many parts of Ireland came for their education. As the citizens had possession of the lands of the obsolete Priory of All Hallows, under grant of Henry VIII., the idea at length seized them that these lands could be applied to no better purpose than the establishment of a University, and with this object they offered them to Loftus. His lordship lost no time in making the desire of the people known to the sovereign, and in 1591, eight years after the foundation of Edinburgh University, the Charter was issued for the erection of Unum Collegium — Mater Universitatis, words which imply that other colleges were intended in time to be added to “Trinity.”

The College began its existence unostentatiously with Adam Loftus as Provost and three Fellows, James Fullerton, James Hamilton, and James Ussher, afterwards one of the greatest ornaments of the Church in Ireland. In some years which followed it was so poor that examinations for scholarships could not be held, at other times all educational work had to be suspended on account of the tide of war flowing through the city. When James II was assembling his forces in Dublin for his unfortunate campaign in the north, Trinity College became his arsenal, and was placed in a condition of defence. The chapel of that period became a magazine, and the library and chambers of the students were broken up and used as lodgings for the troops or as cells for His Majesty's prisoners. Again, when the Insurrections of 1798 and 1803 broke out, the entrances to the University bristled with the muzzles of cannon. Even as late as the time of the Fenian disturbances, the plan of utilising the College as a fort or barrack engaged the thoughts of the chiefs of the garrison, and on one particular evening in 1867 I remember well a troop of Hussars being brought within the College precincts, and that the bright uniforms of several officer guests were conspicuous that evening at the College ordinary amidst the sombre gowns of Fellows and Pensioners.

It is, indeed, the eventful character of her history, as well as the brilliant lustre her more distinguished scholars have shed upon the place of their education, which have made “Old Trinity,” a title to be mentioned only with pride and affection by Irishmen in whatever quarter of the globe they may be sojourners. That the scholars of Trinity whose fame has become European are not few in number is manifest when to the memory at once occur such names as Ussher, Berkeley (to whom Pope attributed every virtue under Heaven), Leland, the Magees, Swift, Butler, Goldsmith, Burke, Plunket, Curran, Moore, Malone (Editor of “Shakespeare”), Barry Yelverton, Lord O'Hagan, Todd, Lord Cairns, the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland (Ball), and Lecky.

The adversity which visited the University in her early days strengthened her, and, once her reputation became precious to the nation, benefactions flowed in from every quarter. Over and over again the English and Irish Parliaments have voted her magnificent grants in estates and money. King Charles, on his restoration, gave her all the lands in the southern countries forfeited by disloyal tenants. King William, in commemoration of the Battle of the Boyne, endowed her library, Queen Anne gave 5,000£. to build a new one, and one of the provosts, Dr. Baldwin, dying at the ripe age of ninety-two, bequeathed to the College the whole of his fortune of 80,000£. With these and a thousand other gifts, public and private, the University has increased century by century in wealth as well as usefulness. But with all her present wealth she is one of the most frugal of Colleges. This is shown. in a remarkable way by recent statistics, which place it beyond doubt that Trinity College is maintained, and accomplishes her work with eminently satisfactory results, with an income of little over 60,000£. a year, or one-tenth that of Oxford. The Fellows who sat round the old Provost to advise him in the Elizabethan days have since developed into a Senate, which comprises seven Senior and twenty-six Junior Fellows, all of whom, unlike their colleagues at Oxford and Cambridge, are allowed to take unto themselves wives, and, in order that they may support their wives in comfort and dignity, are permitted to hold their Fellowship till they die. There are thirty-one Professorships, including chairs for oratory, music, and the development of the Irish language, and all, save those for Divinity, are now open to candidates of every religious denomination.

Architecture of the College

The principal front of the University buildings is in College Green, and this, with the old Senate House, which is at right angles to it, gives to this open space a majestic appearance not to be rivalled by any other of the beautiful views in Dublin. Within the College boundaries are four quadrangles which extend backwards for more than a quarter of a mile. All of these contain lofty stone residences. Behind these, again, extending another quarter of a mile, is the College Park, wherein is held the famous Annual Athletic Meeting, always graced by the presence of the Lord Lieutenant and the fashionable world of Dublin. In the centre of the two front quadrangles is a beautiful campanile, raised through the munificence of Primate Beresford. The bells of this structure correspond in their boom with those of St. Paul’s, London. When the excavations were being made for the erection of this campanile, some stone coffins and part of the old priory were discovered. The human remains were re-interred beneath the cloisters in the present chapel, where also may be seen the coffins of nearly all the provosts.

Three picturesque structures, the Dining Hall, the Examination Hall, and the Chapel (the two last being in the Corinthian style) occupy positions in the Campanile Square, and here also is the Library, supported by a long Italian piazza. The work of stocking this institution with books was undertaken at the time when the Bodleian was being furnished, and as it is one of the libraries to which a copy of every volume published in the United Kingdom is sent, the collection is of the highest value. Probably the rarest curiosities are a gigantic map of Ireland, containing 1,500 sheets, and which is admitted to be one of the greatest geographical achievements in the world; the Book of Kells, beautifully illuminated by Irish monks of the earliest times; the Book of Armagh; the complete library of Baron Fingel, which was purchased by the University for 8000£.; Dugdale’s “History of the Churches and Abbeys of England" (an entire volume in this series is devoted to St. Paul’s Cathedral), and the “Antiquities of Mexico,” a work which cost the editor, Lord Kilfgsborough, 30,000£. to prepare. The galleries of the library are adorned with busts of the celebrities of the College. The Chapel and the Examination Hall contain portraits by old and modern masters of the same worthies, as well as of the illustrious foundress, and several of the chancellors.

Outside of the main buildings in a private garden to the right is a substantial classical-looking mansion used since the days of Hely-IIutchinson (the only lay Provost of the college) as the residences of the Provosts. The collection of paintings which are hung round the reception rooms here include works by Gainsborough, Guido, and Sir Thomas Lawrence. There are several museums within the college precincts, and also a gymnasium, a school of medicine, and a racquet court. The Medical School of Trinity College is the only one in the kingdom which enforces the taking out of a degree in arts as well as in medicine before the pupil can obtain his diploma.

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“Dublin Illustrated.” The Graphic (17 August 1878): 169-81. Internet Archive online version of a copy in the University of Illinois Library. Web. 14 August 2018.

Last modified 13 August 2018