[ Student Debt in Lewis Carroll's Oxford. ] 68 items relating to the debts of Vincent Hilton Biscoe, undergraduate of Christ Church, including letters from Henry Liddell and Richard James Spiers, and a mass of tradesmen's bills, letters and receipts.

[ Vincent Hilton Biscoe of Christ Church, Oxford; Sir Richard Harington of Ridlington, 11th Baronet; Henry Liddell, Dean of Christ Church; Richard James Spiers, Mayor of Oxford 1853/4
Publication details: 
Christ Church and other locations in Oxford. Between 1857 and 1863.
SKU: 19503

A marvellously evocative collection, giving a clear picture of the consequences of a profligate youth in the Oxford of Lewis Carroll (Biscoe would have been well-acquainted with Dodgson as a Fellow of Christ Church at his time there). Not only does the collection provide a large number of itemised tradesmen's bills, receipts and correspondence, for everything from confectionery, cigars, wine, boating, billiards and tennis, to hats, coats, shoes and the doing-up of Biscoe's rooms, but it also shows the efforts of his father, Rev. Robert Biscoe, Rector of Whitbourne, and his cousin, Richard Harington (1835-1911) – who in 1877 would succeed to the baronetcy of Ridlington, but at the time was a barrister in the Temple – to extricate 'Mr. Biscoe junior' from his financial difficulties. Among the highlights are a splendid letter from the Dean of Christ Church, Henry Liddell (father of Alice in Wonderland) to Biscoe's father, inveighing against the practices of the confectioner William Hinton ('This man is a pest to us.'), and another letter from the future Mayor of Oxford Richard James Spiers, apologising to Harington for the behaviour of his clerk Sylvester ('he gives me trouble sometimes: but he is a valuable servant and friend'). A draft of the letter which elicited this response is also present. The collection of 68 items is in good overall condition, with light signs of age and wear. The following description is divided into eight parts. ONE: Autograph Letter Signed from Henry Liddell (1811-1898), Dean of Christ Church and father of Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland' Alice Pleasance Liddell, to Biscoe's father Rev. Robert Biscoe of Whitbourne, Worcestershire. On Christ Church letterhead; 6 February 1862. 3pp., 12mo. Bifolium. A forthright and evocative letter: 'Have you had your Son's Bills looked over by a respectable Solicitor? I have very little doubt that if you sent your Worcester man of business over here, he could settle matters for you on better terms than you mention. Some of the creditors would have to be, & probably ought to be, paid in full. But probably the heaviest accounts would be very heavily taxed. Hinton's for example. - This man is a pest to us. He lives at the house nearest to Canterbury Gate, & most unfortunately is the only Confectioner of any note now in Oxford. We heave done all we can to check his

allowing us free use of the Kitchen to Undergraduates. But I have lately found that the Porter at Canterbury Gate, whom I dismissed for misconduct of various kinds, was in his pay, & I suspect the same is the case with one or two others of the Servts. I should be really glad to see the man lose part of his enormous account. If you have not submitted the Bills to an experienced Solicitor or accountant, I think it would be worth your while. This, with the positive threats of making an assignment under the Bankruptcy Act, would no doubt incline him to abate much of his charges.' TWO: Thirteen itemised tradesmen's bills, 1856-1860, on the various firm's letterheads. Heading the list are two bills, on pink paper, by Liddell's bugbear William Hinton, 'Confectioner and Fruiterer', 15 Oriel Street ('Interest at the rate of 5 per Cent. charged after 6 Months' Credit.'). The first (4pp., 4to), 1856-1860, ending with a balance of £95 13s 5d; the second (1p., 4to), 1859, £83 11s 5d. Other creditors are: John Bryant, 'Importer of Cigars', 286 Regent Street and Oriel Street, Oxford (on 50 x 19.5 cm piece of grey paper); Richard Badcock, 'Upholsterer, Cabinet Maker, Appraiser & Paper Hanger', 105 St. Aldate's Street (a three-page bill for work to Biscoe's rooms); Foster & Co., 'Robe Makers, Tailors, Hatters, Hosiers & Shirt Makers', 123 and 124 High Street; Edwin Butler, 'Importer of Wines & Spirits, and Dealer in East India Pale Ale, & Dublin & London Stout', Counting House & Vaults, Carfax ('Bills delivd. half yearly'); two from H. Reynolds, 'Tea, Coffee and General Provision Dealer, Guiness's Stout & Bass's Ale, Twining's finest Teas and Fresh Roasted Coffees | For Cash', 13 Oriel Street; Thomas Hall, 'Boat Builder, &c. &c. New and Second-hand Boats of every Description always on Hand. Gentlemen's Boats repaired at their Seats', Oxford Boat House; two from Samuel Tolley, University Racquet Courts, 36 Pembroke Street ('Credit given for one term only'); S. Tolley, 'For Billiards', Pembroke Street; John & Stephen Salter, 'Boat Builders, Oxford'; Joseph Vincent, 'Bookseller and Publisher', 90 High Street ('Interest at the rate of 5 P. Cent. P. annum charged after one Year's Credit'). In addition to the above thirteen bills on letterheads are two entirely in manuscript, one from Joseph Bicketon, for 'Tables', 'Meerschaum Pipe', 'Fireworks' and 'Cue'; the other from S. Hall, for tailoring. THREE: Manuscript 'Bond To secure £200', 'V. H. Biscoe Esq to Richard Harington Esq', 27 February 1862. 3pp., 8vo. With tax stamps, Biscoe's signature and seal, and signature of witness John Peacock. Binding Biscoe to Harington 'in the penal sum of four hundred pounds'. Explains that 'the above bounden Vincent Hilton Biscoe is largely indebted to divers persons in the University of Oxford and elsewhere And [...] the said Richard Harington hath […] advanced and paid unto the Reverend Biscoe Rector of Whitbourne in the County of Hereford the sum of two hundred pounds for the purpose and to the intent that the said Robert Biscoe should apply the same in or towards the payment or part payment of the debts of the said Vincent Hilton Biscoe (the said Robert Biscoe being the Father of the said Vincent Hilton Biscoe'. FOUR: Twenty-one communications from creditors, 1861-1862. Notable is a letter (4pp., 12mo) to Harington from Richard James Spiers (1806-1877; Mayor of Oxford 1853/4) of Spiers and Son, China and Glass Warehouse, 102 and 103 High Street, responding to a letter of Harington's the draft of which is also present (in FIVE below). Spiers begins: 'I regret very much that my clerk, Mr Sylvester, should have led you to suppose that he attributed any dishonorable conduct to your relative in regard to the non payment of our account of the Ch. Ch. Boat Club. As the contract was made by Mr. V. H. Biscoe, and as he collected the subscriptions, of course we looked to him for payment'. He describes Sylvester as 'an old servant of my family, having been uninterruptedly with us for 40 years, and his notions are very strict, insomuch that he gives me trouble sometimes: but he is a valuable servant and friend'. He expresses respect for Harington's family, stating that his 'recollection of your mother, would lead me to render any assistance rather than to interpose a hindrance'. Other communications by: Thomas Randall ('If you make an unconditional proposal to me I can entertain it. I cannot make one dependant on arrangements being entered into with others.'); John H. Turner, 45 Broad Street (I beg to inform you it is not my intention to accept your Offer of this morning & I must now refer you to | H. A. Pottinger Esqr. | 12 St. John Street | who informs me the Costs of Sequestration up to the present time amount to £3. 16. 6.'); Robinson & Maddox, 2 Serjeants Inn, to V. H. Biscoe, re 'Bickerton v Yourself'; Charles Wright, Oriel Street Oxford (two), on behalf of 'the Executrix of the late John Bryant', with two pages of accounts; J. G. Venables, Mitre Street; William Hinton (two); Frederick Symonds, 32 Beaumont Street; Edwin Butler (four), 'Counting House & Wine Vaults', Carfax; William Hunt, 106 St. Aldates, 'for Misses Bennett'; Balfour & Co., 39 St. James's Street, London; John Parsons, 134 High Street; John Dring, 134 High Street; Foster & Co., 123 High Street; W A Dicks for Mrs Leaver; C. A. Bennet Per Bennett & Co. FIVE: Two Autograph drafts of letters from Richard Harington, 2 Hare Court, Temple. Both dated 26 February 1862, and both 2pp., 12mo. One, to George Hitchings, begins: 'There is one misapprehension of fact in the letter which you wrote me at Oxford, which I wish to remove. I had had no communication either verbal or written with the Dean on the subject of the bill prior to the note of yesterday of which I sent you a copy | All that I had done, was to question Briscoe junior as to the circumstances under which he gave the bill, & to state the substance of the answers in a note to Mr. Biscoe senior'. The other is addressed to 'Gentlemen' (i.e. Spiers and Son, whose reply is in FOUR above). It begins: 'I have had an interview with Mr. Biscoe junior on the subject of your claim agst him as Secretary of the Ch. Ch. Boat club, & his explanation places the affair in a very different aspect to that in which your book keeper presented it to my notice. | I understood him to say that Mr Biscoe as Secretary had received subscriptions from the members of the boat club & had misapplied them to his own purposes, charging him in fact with something very nearly approaching embezzlement.' SIX: Twenty-four bills and receipts from various firms and individuals, 1857-1863. Thirteen of the receipts are signed over tax stamps. Creditors include: Thomas W. Sabin, 'Tennis and Fives Proprietor', Tennis Court, 6 Merton Street; William J. Richards, 'Bookseller', 104 High Street; John Salter, University Boat House; Charles Balfour; Thomas Randall; Edwin Butler; John Parsons; Richard Badcock; F. Bessant; C. A. Bennett; Spiers & Son; Joseph Tollit; Hawkins & Sylvester; C. J. Hawkins. SEVEN: Two money orders for payment by V. H. Biscoe to George Charles Henry Hitchings, both signed by Hitchings and countersigned by Biscoe. 28 January and 17 August 1861. EIGHT: Two slips of paper for attaching to bundles, with notes by Harington: 'V. H. Biscoe: | Oxford Debts' and '1862 | Settlement of V H Biscoe: | Oxford Bills'.