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A quest for a grandfather: Sir Philip Magnus, 1st Bart., Victorian educationalist

Ruth Sebag-Montefiore

<plain_text><page sequence="1">A quest for a grandfather: Sir Philip Magnus, ist Bart., Victorian educationalist^ RUTH SEBAG-MONTEFIORE The subject of this Magnus lecture is the eponymous founder of the series, my grandfather Sir Philip Magnus, a distinguished Victorian educationalist. He was a man of sharp contradictions. Behind an outwardly autocratic manner beat a tender Jewish heart. He was kind but contentious, opinionated but vulnerable to what others thought of him. His friends held him in high esteem but he was disliked by his colleagues at work. He cared passionately for the educational needs of the nation's young people but was a hard father to his own children. Was it nature or nurture that produced so complex a character? This is what I set out to discover in my quest for a grandfather I can only recall as a white-bearded, kindly but unapproachable old man. Among a plethora of family papers the most intriguing item to emerge was a letter written to me by my mother in i960. It concerns a visit she had received from Professor Foden, who worked for the City and Guilds of London Institute - the leading institution in the realm of technical education - which had been founded in 1878 and of which my grandfather was the first Director. Foden wanted to write a biography of my grandfather, and when my mother asked him why, he replied: 'I want to see justice done!' He wanted to know how it was that Sir Philip, who had been such an important pioneer in his field, had been so neglected and forgotten. In her letter to me, inspired by her talk with Foden, my mother wrote of her father-in-law's remarkable talents, which had led to his being chosen as Director of the Institute from a field of fifty-eight distinguished candidates: but, she went on, 'He made himself very unpopular. The City Companies wanted to direct him but he would have none of it. He could never see the other point of view and would not budge an inch. He was always right but he made enemies. He was not popular with his staff of whom he required a great deal - to work till ten at night if necessary, though he always remained himself too. Had he been less truculent a good deal of unpleasantness might have been avoided, for instance his lawsuit with the Plumbers' Company [concerning the Registration Bill of 1900] which he won. The Institute wanted to get rid of him but were unable to do so as there was no-one else capable of doing his job, but he was never liked'. My mother # An earlier version of this paper was presented to the Society on 30 May 1996. I4I</page><page sequence="2">Ruth Sebag-Montefiore concluded by telling me that she as well as Foden had been mystified that recent media publicity on technical education had made no mention of Sir Philip. Although reluctant, as all good Victorians were, to air family affairs in public, she was prepared to help Professor Foden in his task. So far as we know there was nothing in Philip's family history which destined him to become one of the outstanding educationalists of his generation. His great-grandfather, Simon Magnus, came to England from Cassel in Germany around 1760 and settled in King's Lynn. He married and had a son, Lazarus (born in 1776) who was a silversmith and navy agent at Chatham, where he also purchased some property. Among his children were two sons, Simon and Jacob. Simon lived on in Chatham and made a comfortable fortune (?90,000) carrying coal on the Medway. It was he who rebuilt and endowed the Magnus Memorial Synagogue, as it was then known, in memory of his only son, Lazarus Simon, who predeceased him. (Captain Lazarus Simon Magnus, of the 4th Kent Volun? teer Artillery which he had raised, and Mayor of Queensborough in 1858, died in January 1865 in his fortieth year.) Jacob was the father of Sir Philip. He was born in Chatham in 1805 and is described in the 1851 census return as a shipping agent living at 10 Berners Street, London. Notes left by my father about his forebears describe Jacob as a wine merchant, and hint he was something of a drifter. He married Caroline, daughter of Joel and Sarah Barnett of Plymouth, but the marriage, wrote my father, like many other ventures, did not turn out happily, and the couple eventually separated. Jacob died in 1888 and left an estate valued at ?6,800, around ?500,000 in today's currency. Apart from a few bequests to friends and charities his children were his main beneficiaries. So great was the antagonism between husband and wife that he bequeathed Caroline the sum of one shilling 'to be paid immediately after my decease'. To Philip, as executor, must have gone the uneviable task of con? veying the terms of his father's will to his mother. Five children grew up in this divided household, two daughters who died unmarried and three sons. The eldest, Laurie, was born in 1840, the youngest, Edward, emigrated as a youth to Australia. Philip, the second son, was born at the family home in Berners Street, then a street of private houses, in 1842. When he was eighty-seven, Philip wrote two vivid chapters about his childhood. He remembered his mother's fears that he and his brother Laurie might be attacked by Chartists when out walking with their nurse. An accident to his eye causing double vision was cured by the family doctor at home by a fortnight's application of leeches to the temple, four one week and two the next. And he remembered a pump at the corner of Berners Street from which the water, said to be spring water from an underground source, was frequently fetched by maids from the neighbouring houses. His own family often drank from it. However, after a severe outbreak of cholera in the neighbourhood the pump was removed and a black flag warned passers-by to keep their distance. 142</page><page sequence="3">A quest for a grandfather Laurie and Philip began their schooldays at the nearby Poland Street Academy where pupils learnt their lessons by rote. The teachers were often untrained (there were no training colleges until 1848) but, Philip commented, 'what we learnt we did not forget'. He added, however, that although it encouraged a habit of steady work, he doubted if this method could be considered in any way educational. Shortly before his twelfth birthday Philip joined his elder brother at University College School, which, together with London University, was one of the first educational establishments in Britain to admit Jewish and Nonconformist boys. Here they were fortunate to come under the influence of the dynamic and innovat? ive headmaster, Professor Thomas Hewitt Key. Key's interests were not confined to teaching: for instance, he was one of the twelve luminaries picked by Thomas Carlyle to serve on the first committee of the London Library. As a headmaster, his teaching methods were aeons ahead of their time. There were no compulsory subjects and no rigid form system. Key also encouraged his pupils to study current events. In a book entitled Fragments, published when he was ninety, Philip described how, in 1857, Key used the occasion of the Indian Mutiny to form a class of senior boys to study Indian History. In his characteristic style, Philip wrote: 'The knowledge thus gained of these stirring events connected with our occupation of India may have been, and probably was, the determining cause that induced so many of my fellow pupils to enter the newly opened Indian Civil Service'. Key also invited Professor Williams Ellis to give a series of talks on Political Economy and, wrote Philip, 'attended the course himself in order to assist those pupils who had failed to grasp the professors meaning'. (According to Paul Emden \Jfews of Britain, 1943] Moses Montefiore, then in his seventieth year, attended these lectures in 1853.) Laurie and Philip enjoyed their schooldays and each other's company. The two brothers took after their father in appearance: they were both over six feel tall, dark haired and with striking good looks. Laurie, after taking his degree at Univer? sity College London, had made a promising start as a civil engineer when he suddenly died of meningitis at the age of twenty-two. The death of his elder brother, the hourly companion of his first two decades, was a devastating blow to Philip and a grievous loss to his parents, though it did nothing to bring them together. Philip's recollections of his youth indicate that it was his mother who took the leading role in her children's upbringing. It is likely that her family was a notch or two higher in the social scale than Jacob's, and it was certainly more assimilated. Her cousin's sons, who had attended the Poland Street Academy with her own boys, went on to Harrow, which at that time did not admit practising Jews. She was a cultivated woman, much interested in the arts and literature, and saw to it that her children were well grounded in the Classics. Perhaps she was over ambitious for her sons, and perhaps also, as Philip himself admitted, he was too ambitious in working for prizes. The annual prize lists at University College 143</page><page sequence="4">Ruth Sebag-Montefiore School during the four years he spent there show that he won twenty prizes, seven of them 'firsts'. On one occasion he recalled going to Professor Key's room with a message from his mother complaining that he had not been placed in any literature class and was learning no English. 'Learning no English?' echoed the professor. 'Tell your mother that the best place for you to learn English is the playground!' Philip's school contemporaries included Sir Nathaniel Nathan, Chief Justice of Trinidad and Tobago, the artist William de Morgan, Richard Chamberlain MP, Sir Arundel Arundel of the Indian Civil Service, Numa Hartog and Sir Alfred Yarrow, a millionaire shipbuilder who became a lifelong friend. Yarrow gave an annual dinner party for all the old schoolfellows he could muster, the names and ages of those present being announced in The Times. The last of these gatherings took place in 1927 when the numbers had fallen to eight and the average age had risen to 84.4. Philip left school shortly before his seventeenth birthday and went straight to University College London, where he read Arts and Science. The serious school? boy became a solemn undergraduate. In his book Educational Aims and Efforts, published in 1910, he writes that his student days were enjoyable and the instruc? tion provided excellent. Though a heavy-going read today, Educational Aims and Efforts shows that much the same things were being said at the start of the century as are still being said at the end. Referring to the latest educational reforms, Philip warned that increasing dependence on the State would undermine the influence of parents and teachers. 'These reforms are unavoidable', he wrote, 'but for good or evil they have become part of our social system and will be multiplied as years roll on. We may well ask whether the old English character? istics of self-reliance and resourcefulness will continue unimpaired under an edu? cational system of perpetual legal regulations and uniform rules. We spend mil? lions of pounds annually on school training and seem at the same time to lose faith in its formative power.' Philip graduated in 1863 with a first class degree in Arts, and the following year with a first in Science. He was also twice awarded the Andrews Scholarship for Mathematics. His natural bent was for teaching, but, as he wrote in Aims and Efforts, it was a poorly paid profession and many were tempted away by the pro? spect of better posts in other fields. This may explain why he turned down the offer of a post as a teacher of mathematics at his old school. But he not only had his own living to earn, he also had to help support his mother and sisters. What was he to do? What he did was to spend the next three years in Germany, studying the Jewish Reform movement at Berlin University. He was joined there by his mother and sister Sarah. We have a glimpse of his life and plans for the future in a letter written from Berlin in July 1866 to his friend Murray Marks, a Bond Street antiques dealer. He wrote: 144</page><page sequence="5">A quest for a grandfather Plate i Philip Magnus (i842-1933), area 1868. Since I have heard from you I have received my appointment as Assistant Minister at Margaret Street. My salary is small - very small compared with my wants (?150 a year); but as my duties will be very slight I shall have plenty of time for tuition and shall hope to do more than double it-Have you seen anything of my father lately? I have written to him several times but have received no answer .... We expect to be in London about the end of August, but may consider wandering about in peaceful regions sometime before. We have led so strange a life during the last 15 months that we rather like to be always on the move. The Seven Weeks War between Prussia and Austria was then in progress, and Philip wrote to his friend that 'Mama is a Prussian through and through and Sarah an Austrian', giving a possible clue as to his mother's character. 145</page><page sequence="6">Ruth Sebag-Montefiore Philip was now aged 24. The idea of becoming a minister had been germinating in his mind for some time. In his induction sermon he told the congregation that he had been inspired to become a rabbi while listening to an aged preacher speaking from the very pulpit where he now stood who called on the rising genera? tion for assistance and support in his sacred calling. 'I then and there decided', said Philip, 'to devote my life, my energies and my means to God.' Three of his sermons survive. One, entitled 'The Immortality of the Soul', combines his intensive reading of Scripture with contemporary scientific know? ledge. For him-an ardent nature lover with a passion for planting trees - there was no conflict between science and faith. His doubts came later when Darwin's epoch-making thoughts on evolution influenced his enquiring mind and led to a correspondence with Darwin that was followed by friendship. One of his letters is still preserved in a glass case in Darwin's house at Down. Philip spent fourteen years as a Reform rabbi at the West London Synagogue, first in Margaret Street and later at its new premises in Upper Berkeley Street. As predicted in his letter to Murray Marks, he supplemented his salary by teaching and coaching students in applied mathematics, physics and mechanics. Among his earliest pupils were John Lubbock, son of the scientist Lord Avebury, Oswald D'Avigdor Goldsmid, and the philanthropic theologian Claude Montefiore. As his reputation for tutoring grew, so his outside commitments increased. He lec? tured at University College London, as well as at its School and Hospital, acquir? ing thereby a lifelong interest in medicine which was ultimately recognized by honorary membership of the BMA; he was also appointed a visiting lecturer on the Theory and Practice of Education at Stockwell Training College. In 1873 he was elected to the Annual Committee of the Convocation of London University, a great forum for educational debate, and in 1875, he wrote his first textbook, Lessons in Elementary Mechanics, which became a bestseller. One reviewer praised the author's insight into the muddled mind of the average schoolboy, a comment which would have delighted Professor Key, whose educational theories lived on in his former pupil. Teaching for Philip meant learning. He was constantly studying educational methods and making notes for improvement and reform. This preparation stood him in good stead when the chance came for a change of career, from that of minister to educationalist. His reputation as a tutor had brought him into contact with leaders in educational thought, such as Lord Avebury and Professor Huxley; and in 1880, in the face of fierce competition, he was appointed to the new post of Director and Organizing Secretary of the City and Guilds of London Institute for the Advancement of Technical Education. The Institute had been founded two years earlier by a group of leading City Livery Companies as a result of pressure on them from the Government, which did not yet fund technical education. It had three objectives: firstly, to set up a centre to train teachers in technical education along the lines of the German 146</page><page sequence="7">A quest for a grandfather Plate 2 Philip depicted in a 'Spy' cartoon, representing Technical Education in January 1891. Technische Hochschule-, secondly, to found a model technical college in London; and thirdly, to run world-wide examination programme in technical subjects (a role it still fulfils today). In her Centenary History of the Institute (1978) Jennifer Lang wrote of Philip's appointment: 'Too radical for the educational establishment and too interested 147</page><page sequence="8">Ruth Sebag-Montefiore in the problems of education to be content as a Jewish Minister, Magnus was, at thirty-eight, a gifted square peg trying to get out of a round hole. But his varied experience, which left him unfitted for a traditional educational career, was just the sort of background the Institute needed for the versatile and many diverse tasks of its Organising Secretary and Director, and in the City and Guilds of London Institute Magnus found the square hole for which he was looking.' Philip resigned from the synagogue two years after his appointment to the Institute. The curt reply from the secretary to his letter of resignation suggests that the wardens were upset by his short notice. Always quick to take offence, he promptly returned the offending letter to the President (David Mocatta) protesting that the Secretary had expressed no regret at his resignation, nor any thanks for his offer of gratuit? ous future services. Mocatta sent a soothing reply, but Philip, still seething with indignation, insisted that the whole matter be put before Council. This was not the first or the last time Philip felt driven to create a situation of this kind. A real or imagined slight produced a reaction out of all proportion to its cause. Outwardly he appeared self-assured but he was, in fact, extremely sensitive, his armour propre was easily offended, and, when roused, this brought out the contentious side of his nature. But he had his admirers as well as his critics. After his death Professor Richard Gottheil of Columbia University wrote to The Times Educational Supplement: 'He was a fine example of a British Jew, proud to be a British citizen and equally proud to be a Jew. He had a charming personality, and I am glad that I knew him.' It was his vanity, not his works, which handicapped this complicated man. At the next Council meeting of the synagogue a resolution was passed in recognition of his past services. He seemed unaware of the high price he paid for it in cordial relationships, in laughter and the love of friends. His devoted wife (of whom more later) used to say that her hands would be worn away smoothing out friction between Philip and his colleagues or relations. This quarrelsome gene may well have been inherited. Three days before their wedding Philip wrote to his fiancee: 'I am going to ask your brother to invite my father to stay the night he is in Portsmouth. He could not stay at the Hotel with the others and Mama. It is not a good thought.' That Philip should have resigned from his position at the West London Syn? agogue was hardly surprising, for his first years as Director of the Institute were intensely busy. One of his first tasks was to set up a new trade school to teach physics, chemistry, mechanics and applied art: the foundation stone of Finsbury Technical College, as it was called, was laid by Prince Leopold in 1881, and it was formally opened two years later. In his speech outlining its aims Philip stressed the importance of adding drawing, handicrafts and science to the old curriculum of elementary schools. He told his audience: 'A purely literary education is hardly the best preparation for the work of a weaver, a printer or a mathematical instru? ment maker. Linear drawing, sketching and drawing to scale is just as important a basis for technical education as the three Rs, yet seventy-four per cent of children are never taught this one basic subject in school.' 148</page><page sequence="9">A quest for a grandfather In the same year, Philip became one of six members of a Royal Commission set up by the Government to examine facilities for technical instruction abroad with a view to reform at home. He travelled throughout Europe, studying the educational systems of France, Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. 'Sir Philip' wrote his obiturist m John 0'London's Weekly, 'began by being a whole? hearted advocate of German methods, but he became convinced as time went on that England must evolve her own methods'. What was immediately evident from his fact-finding mission was the reluctance of successive British, as opposed to European, governments, to provide adequate funds for technical education. The Swiss were building new physical and chemical laboratories in Zurich at a cost of ?60,000, in addition to those already there. The Germans were spending large sums of money expanding and fitting out new laboratories to their polytechnics and were building a new laboratory in Bonn; they were in no doubt that this scientific training was responsible for the success they had achieved as engineers and chemists. The Commissioners, ruefully aware that Finsbury Technical Col? lege had been built at a cost of ?35,000, could but agree. As a result of their report - which showed that Britain lagged far behind those countries where technical education was supported by the state - Parliament passed the Technical Instruction Act of 1889, providing public funds for the first time. Four of the Commissioners were awarded knighthoods, and these included Philip, who was the first Englishman to be given an honour for purely educational services. Philip's success and recognition did not result in harmonious relations with the City Livery Companies who, through their representatives on the Council of the Institute, were his employers. No doubt some of the animosity he attracted was due to jealousy, caused not only by the speed of his ascent or on account of his knighthood, but also by his air of self-assurance. His arbitrary manner, unaccom? panied by modesty or the common touch, won him enemies, even though, or more probably because, he was usually in the right. He was incapable of following the excellent advice of Ogden Nash, which I paraphrase: To keep your colleagues brimming With thanks in the loving cup, Whenever you're wrong admit it, And when you're right - shut up. In 1887 Philip's relations with the City Livery Companies, already strained, came to a head over the trifling matter of where the business of the Institute ought to be transacted, whether for his own convenience in purpose-built premises in South Kensington or, as the Companies wanted, in two small rooms in the City. It was an argument over which Philip refused to give way and his adversaries were determined to be rid of him. He was demoted to the position of Educational Director only, while the rest of the work was to be dealt with by a committee consisting of the Honorary Secretaries of the Livery Companies and a new assist? ant. Jennifer Lang writes: 149</page><page sequence="10">Ruth Sebag-Montefiore If the Council hoped that by leaving Magnus out on a limb he would wither away from lack of nourishment they were mistaken ... all that happened was that Magnus's effective power grew greater and it was the Honorary Secretaries who, after a year, tendered their resignations because, they said: 'We find our position is rapidly becoming merely nominal'. However little the Governors might like it the Central was its natural headquarters. For political reasons, however, they were not able to face this logical conclusion. A second scheme of reorganisation was produced by a sub-committee which was adopted by the Executive Council: it was another attempt to subdue the magnetic effect of the Central by reducing the power of Philip Magnus still further.... He was invited to remain as Educa? tional Advisor with a reduction in salary. It would not have been surprising if Magnus had resigned and no doubt this was expected by those who found his overpowering influence disturbing. His reputation was high in educational circles. The part he had played on the Royal Commission had brought him a knighthood, and, doubtless, friends in Parliament. There was no need for him to cling to the Institute once his influential post had been reduced to an expensive sinecure. But he was genuinely and passionately dedicated to educational reform and believed that the best chance of achieving the kind of technical education the country needed lay with the City and Guilds of London Institute. He also knew he was indispensable. So he swallowed his pride and waited for the burden of work the reorganisation had laid upon new shoulders to grow too heavy for them. . .. The sub-committee was put to work once more to devise the best means of arranging the work of the Institute and concluded that Sir Philip Magnus should be reinstated as Superintendent of Technical Examinations. So within a year of his demotion Philip was once again doing the work he loved, and there he remained until his retirement in 1913, aged seventy-one, after thirty five years of official connection with the Institute. He had become widely regarded as the greatest authority in his field in England. As an article published in 1907 in The World Magazine declared: 'Thirty years ago, there was not a single technical school in the country, while now, largely through Sir Philip's influence, there is one in every large town in the Kingdom.' From 1906 to 1922, Philip represented London University as a Unionist MP, being the first Jew to sit in the House for one of the university seats. He was an active parliamentarian, speaking on subjects as diverse as the rights of British Jews resident in Palestine, to his lifelong passion, forestry. He retired from political life at the age of eighty. Among many other posts in his work for the community he was Chairman of the Jewish War Memorial Council, and a Vice-President of the Jewish Board of Deputies, the Anglo-Jewish Association and of Jews' College. He was also one of the eight representative Jewish leaders who were asked by Lord Hankey to give their views on the first draft of the Balfour Declaration. (Like many eminent British Jews before Hitler, Philip was not a Zionist, though he believed the Jewish settlers in Palestine deserved support.) He was a JP for Surrey and was much involved in that county's educational affairs. He was also a life president of the College of Preceptors, Chairman of the Royal Society of Arts, and briefly, of the London School Board. His baronetcy, awarded on his retirement from the Institute, rounded off his career and crowned his achievements. 150</page><page sequence="11">A quest for a grandfather Plate 3 Sir Philip Magnus, Bt. 151</page><page sequence="12">Ruth Sebag-Montefiore 152</page><page sequence="13">A quest for a grandfather It is time to bring his wife (in whose memory this lecture was founded) on stage; vivacious, articulate, with a forceful personality, she was never one to wait in the wings. She was his second cousin, Kate Emanuel, born in 1844, daughter of Alderman Emanuel Emanuel JP, the first Jew to be elected Mayor of Ports? mouth (1886-7). The Emanuels were a gifted family. Two of Katie's first cousins were the artists Frank and Charles Emanuel, still another was Walter Emanuel, the inventor of Charivaria, in Punch. They were all descended from Moses Eman? uel who came to England from Steinhardt, Bavaria, and took out British citizen? ship in 1801. Plate 5 Lady Magnus (1844-1924), in a miniature painted by her daughter, Lucy Franklin. (Now in the Jewish Museum.) 153</page><page sequence="14">Ruth Sebag-Montefiore Plate 6 Lady Magnus, nra* 1912. 154</page><page sequence="15">A quest for a grandfather The marriage took place under a chupah in the garden of her parents' home, Grove House, Southsea, in 1870. It was a happy marriage of opposites, each complementing the other. Philip was austere and conforming, Katie warmhearted and unconventional. Philip was prickly, and seemed on occasion to hug his griev? ances; Katie shrugged hers off philosophically. In his later years, Philip's faith was shaken by Darwinism. Katie's faith was of a kind no human perplexities could shake. The money she made from her books was spent on pretty objects for her drawing room; Philip liked his money to accumulate, pound by hard earned pound, in the bank. They understood each other perfectly and were blissfully happy for forty-four years. All through her engagement Katie poured out her most intimate thoughts to Philip's old friend Countess D'Avigdor, who became a second mother to her. She wrote on all topics but especially about her religious and philanthropic con? cerns. She knew she could count on Rachel D'Avigdor's help to support the causes closest to her heart. 'Thank you', she wrote in 1869, 'for being interested in the people and things I am.' She then put the case of a motherless child she wanted to have admitted to the Jews' Hospital. 'Perhaps', she suggested, 'you might care to speak to Miss Lucy Cohen, who might like to volunteer assistance.' 'After all', she added in her straightforward way, 'giving is one of the luxuries of the rich'. Lucy Cohen responded at once to this appeal, and Katie heard from Rachel D'Avigdor while on her honeymoon that a place had been found for the little girl. 'I wrote to the principal', she replied, 'that if she didn't get in it would spoil my enjoyment of the wedding tour.' This direct, simple-minded compassion for the underprivileged remained with Katie all her life. 'We are having the loveliest possible wedding tour', runs another honeymoon letter to Rachel D'Avigdor, 'everything is so nice and new, including Philip. The country is beautiful and though I'm not good at adjectives and adverbs I do enjoy it thoroughly and Philip's smiles are becoming more frequent.' Indeed Katie, who came from a large, happy family, brought gaiety into Philip's life and much more. Her cheerful nature was balm to his complicated one and he knew it. Into the copy of Pride and Prejudice he gave her he chose for his inscription Elizabeth Bennet's remark to Jane: 'To take the good of everybody's character and make it still better and say nothing of the bad - belong to you alone.' She never made the mistake of taking him too seriously. Answering a letter from Rachel D'Avigdor - who revered Philip - accusing her of showing a lack of proper deference to him Katie replied: 'Different people have different ways of loving and mine, I'm afraid, would never have been the simply affirmative and admiring, like a gold repeater watch or a note of admiration. And besides, with four brothers, I have had so much teasing all my life (love expressed that way) that I can't sometimes resist the opportunity of having my turn. Have I made my defence? Besides, you know, he is not so very humble minded that a little want of deference will hurt him.' She was a natural teacher. As a young girl she held 155</page><page sequence="16">Ruth Sebag-Montefiore Bible classes for the children of the Portsmouth Hebrew Congregation in her sitting room at Grove House. After the marriage she worked for the Jewish Deaf and Dumb Home, an interest she shared with Philip, and when only 22 she founded the Jewish Working Girls' Club in Leman Street, East London. It was a drab buidling, sparsely furnished, in a drab street, but the rooms were brightened by Katie's own accomplished watercolours, and she encouraged the girls to sew and paint while she read aloud to them. 'She was', wrote the Reverend Morris Joseph in a memoir after her death, 'the life and soul of the place'. Today these clubs, founded by a group of wealthy Jews, would be considered patronizing, politically incorrect, but they were right for their time. Before and after the First World War they kept hundreds of boys and girls off the streets and gave them entertainment and instruction. For some it was their first introduction to art and literature. Katie had her own room at the Club and would spend weekends there whenever time permitted. As an author she is best remembered for Outlines of Jewish History, first pub? lished in 1886, and updated by Cecil Roth in 1924 and Josephine Kamm in 1958. She also contributed regularly to the Spectator and other journals such as Good Words, Macmillan's Magazine and the Westminster Gazette. Her literary success delighted Philip. From the beginning he treated her as an intellectual equal - she would have settled for nothing less - but this attitude was not a universal one in those more chauvinistic days. Katie's quick wit could enchant, or on occasion offend, but it was only towards the pretentious that she aimed her verbal darts. Thus, when she addressed a young acquaintance of particular dullness by her first name without being invited to do so and was rebuked by the girl's mother: 'Miss Lucas to you', 'and likely to remain so', retorted Katie. A 'real' person, perhaps her most endearing qualities were her happy nature and an intense personal integrity. Throughout all the vicissitudes of her husband's career she remained simply, unpretentiously and vigorously herself. The eldest of the Magnus' three children, Lucy, was born in 1871. She married Frederic Franklin, a partner in the banking firm of Samuel Montagu. Laurie, my father, a distinguished man of letters, was born in 1872. He married Dora, eldest daughter of Sir Isidore Spielmann. Like his father, Laurie was active in communal affairs and education - he was Chairman of the Girls' Public Day School Trust - but literature was his first love. No stars danced when Leonard, the youngest by seven years, was born. Perhaps as a result of a lonely childhood and what he later claimed to have been his parents' 'indifference', he was handicapped by a crippling stammer. 'Every word he uttered', a colleague of his once told me, 'must have called for a fresh act of courage'. During the First World War he worked as a translator for foreign news for Mi7 and shortly afterwards left England to live in Moscow, where he died in September 1924. Careful management and frugal tastes enabled Philip to run two homes, a car and chauffeur, and sufficient indoor and outdoor staff to ensure he and his family 156</page><page sequence="17">A quest for a grandfather Plate 7 The Lodge, Tangley Hill, Chidworth, Surrey. lived in comfort. His country house, Tangley Hill, in a village near Guildford, was designed by his architect brother-in-law, Barrow Emanuel. It was a large Victorian villa, built to conform with the hideous taste of the early 1890s, but it was set in grounds of fifty acres and its position was superb: every window gave onto undulating views of the Surrey hills. It was here that Philip indulged his love of tree planting and showed the most human side of his nature. If a tree had to be felled, he would stroke its trunk and murmur: 'Sorry, old man'. Today the saplings he planted - fir, spruce, pine and birch - have grown into a thriving forest, a haven for nesting birds and native wild flowers. It was a paradise to us grandchildren. Sport of any kind was unknown at Tangley Hill. If my grandparents wanted fresh air and exercise they either walked or took the carriage. Indoors they had their own ways of relaxing, Katie at the piano or her easel and Philip at the bridge or billiards table with like-minded friends. In later life he developed a taste for giving and attending London dinner parties and public functions, a taste not shared by Katie who used her increasing deafness to avoid such occasions. But she enjoyed entertaining at Tangley Hill where she mixed all sorts and conditions of people from the worlds of politics and education, London's literati, the Jewish community, country neighbours and her club girls, who were invited to spend weekends there, two at a time, sleeping in an annexe attached to the lodge. Katie died in March 1924. 'In a sense', wrote a correspondent in the Jewish Guardian, '[she] did not possess the historical temperament; she could never endure laborious research, nor write with perfect objectivity; but against this 157</page><page sequence="18">Ruth Sebag-Montefiore Plate 8 Sir Philip's study at Tangley Hill. criticism must be set her gift of vividness, sincerity and power to vitalize. She had a wit of her own genre; it is clever, unexpected and never flippant.. . She would have been proud to think that her name will endure with those writings of hers which tell the story of a religion that she loved and honoured.' 'She had a rare personality', wrote Morris Joseph in the Jewish Chronicle y 'shall we call it magnetic? It was certainly uncommon .. . her faith was of the kind that moves mountains, but which is itself unmovable. She used to say: 'Not only do I believe the whale swallowed Jonah, but if the Bible had said so, I should believe that Jonah swal? lowed the whale' ... she was a brilliant conversationalist, her sudden flashes of wit were almost startling. Small in stature, she had a big brain and a forceful character. Who shall say how much of her husband's distinguished career in the service of the community and the state owed to her encouragement and inspiration?' Philip was the child of a broken marriage who made his own way. His achieve? ments were the more remarkable because he was always an outsider - a Jew working in a fraternity which was largely anti-Semitic and a rabbi in a Reform synagogue which was unrecognized by the Beth Din. Outsiders tend to develop abrasive traits of character which, on occasion, exasperate their colleagues. So it was with Philip Magnus. 158</page><page sequence="19">A quest for a grandfather A brilliant man of ideas, he was in many ways ahead of his time. He saw education as a continuous process from nursery school to university. He believed in the abolition of elementary school fees; in the certification of teachers and payment by results; in the introduction of new skills and craft subjects into the school curriculum; in a properly funded system of technical education; in City and Guilds qualifying examinations and in the higher education of women. Some of these aims he achieved in his lifetime, others were left to another generation to achieve after the Second World War. Yet others remain in the nation's pending file. Philip died at Tangley Hill, aged ninety, in 1933. From over fifty tributes in the national press, C. T. Millis's obituary in The Times Educational Supplement best sums up his long career and achievements as an educationalist. 'He retained his interest in the technical education of workmen to the last, and only those who know of the difficulties of the movement in the early days can realize how much of its success was due to his sympathy and help. He was a hard worker, thorough in detail, having no use for anyone on whom he could not depend, and he stuck to his opinions in educational matters, not sacrificing them for the fashion of the day. His name will always be remembered in connection with the development of the technological examinations of the City and Guilds of London, which gave great impetus to technical education throughout the country and stimulated the foundation of technical institutes.' 159</page></plain_text>