[James Simpson, educationalist, phrenologist and friend of Sir Walter Scott.] Autograph Letter Signed to geologist William Hutton of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, writing enthusiastically about his lectures around England on non-sectarian popular education.

James Simpson (1781-1853), Scottish advocate, educationalist, phrenologist, friend of Sir Walter Scott [William Hutton (1797-1860), geologist; Sir Thomas Wyse; Professor Dionysius Lardne]
Publication details: 
Bath; 30 August 1836.
SKU: 21457

The background to this letter is explained in Simpson's entry in the Oxford DNB which states that he 'took a deep interest in the movement for better elementary education. He was one of the founders of the Edinburgh modern infant school, in which he attempted to solve the problem of religious education by allowing parents to select religious instructors themselves. Failing to receive adequate support, however, the school was ultimately sold to the kirk session of New Greyfriars. Simpson continued devoted to the cause of non-sectarian education, and lectured on the subject throughout Britain. In 1837 he appeared as a witness before the House of Commons select committee on education, and his examination lasted seven days. He expressed his views on the need for educational reform in several publications including The Necessity of Popular Education as a National Object (1834), and The Philosophy of Education (1836).' The specific context of the letter is discussed in Stephen Tomlinson's 'Head Masters: Phrenology, Secular Education, and Nineteenth-Century Social Thought' (2013), which describes how Simpson, along with the Irish politician Sir Thomas Wyse (1791-1862), 'led a national campaign for a state-run system of public secular schooling'. (Wyse is mentioned in the letter, along with Professor Dionysius Lardner (1793-1859), the Irish populariser of science. There is also a reference to an 1836 dinner given to Simpson by the Friends of Education in Manchester, with Wyse in the chair. The recipient, William Hutton, had a humble background, and took a keen interest in popular education, being instrumental in setting up Mechanics' Institutes in the North of England.) 3pp, 4to. In good condition, lightly aged, with thin strip of paper from mount adhering to the reverse of the second leaf. The letter would appear to relate to an intended lecture for the Newcastle upon Tyne, Durham and Northumberland Educational Society. Simpson begins by stating that he has received Hutton's 'kind and encouraging letter of the 25th at Bristol'. He asks him convey his acceptance 'to the Mayor & the other very respectable Gentlemen who have signed the requisition for my visit', and says that he will go to Newcastle 'some time in October as shall be afterwards arranged'. He has 'a Note from Mr Turner, stating that he cannot tell when Dr Lardner is to be with you, but thinks it will be about the last week in September'. The note refers Simpson to Lardner himself, but Simpson 'had not the means and time to see him', and will 'therefore trust to another letter' from the recipient, 'mentioning his time both beginning and ending, when you learn it'. He continues: 'Nothing can be better than your mode of proceeding. I feel that I shall come most pleasantly to Newcastle. I have delivered one lecture here at the request of many members of the Association. You will see it mentioned in the Athenaeum of next Saturday. It produced a strong effect. The views are so new & yet felt to be true.' He has sent him 'a copy, by Mr Turner, of the Education Dinner Pamphlet at Manchester with MrWyse's speech. Some notice of it in the Papers may do good to my lectures.' He continues in good spirits: 'We have finished a brilliant meeting of the Association, & held a meeting where we established a plan to meet as friends to education, being members of the Association, wherever the Association meets, to diffuse knowledge of, and zeal for education all over the country.' In a postscript he urges the recipient to 'Think of a place & hour of Lecturing', adding: 'I shall be at Dr Maldens Worcester for a week after Wednesday week. He will forward my letters.'