Emily Davies

Letter from Emily Davies to Robert Seeley concerning women's higher education

14 January 1869


Emily Davies

Fol. 1 r.


17 Cunningham Place, N.W.

January 14th 1869


Dear Mr Seeley


I pointed out to Mr Kirby

at the meeting that the report

contained nothing explanatory,

especially [to] as to the teaching

of History. He said that was

esoteric, and we had better say

nothing about it at present.

I don't quite agree with him.

I think an explanation would

be more enticing than the bare

statement about subjects and

certificates, and would make students


Emily Davies

Fol. 1 v.


eager to come. It would I suppose

lay us open to attacks, but that

might not be an altogether bad

thing. Perhaps I had better see

what the others think, and let

you know. It occurred to me some

time ago that perhaps you would

be good enough to give a Lecture

to the Schoolmistresses on the general

question, which should not only

explain the College course but

instruct teachers as to what they

had better do with the girls by

way of preparation. I think this

would be very useful, but I was

afraid it might be making too

much of a demand upon you.

In any case I should think we

ought to have an understanding with


Emily Davies

Fol. 2 r.

the Executive Committee, as we

could not very well be saying

this means so and so, without their


I think I might be able to agree

with all that you say in favour

of our setting up a new attestation,

(we do agree about the education)

if I could persuade myself that

we are likely to have the sort of

influence you seem to expect.

Has it every been known in the

history of mankind that men have

followed any good example set

by women? It seems to me that

whatever results we obtained, there

would always be the rejoinder.

Yes, your method suits the female

mind, or character, or sphere. As the



Fol. 2 v.


Pall Mall would say: "It froters (sic) the

imagination and sympathetic faculties

which are the glory of women". Therefore

It is unsuitable for men.

I am rejoicing in the belief, I hope

it is not a delusion? that the

Conservative Cambridge graduates

will get all the advantages of the

progressive system, which they are to

share, with a little useless knowledge

thrown in – as I suppose the Poll does

not demand much of the matter

which is only useful to lexicographers.

I don't much mind being called

stationary, tho' to the untaught mind

the name would seem more appropriate

to the upholders of the traditional

female mind theories. I only hope the

Cambridge Conservatives will see that

giving us Degrees is part of their


Ever yours truly

Emily Davies