Trinity College, Dublin

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume I, Chapter VI-10 | Start of chapter

Trinity College and the Bank of Ireland, when viewed from Carlisle Bridge, have a very noble and imposing appearance; but the combined effect of their magnificence is seen to the greatest advantage from the south side of College Green. The centre of this area is adorned with an equestrian statue of King William III., erected in 1701 by the citizens of Dublin, to commemorate the Revolution of 1688. The Jacobites regarded this memorial of their defeat with no very amicable feelings, and from the time of its erection until very recently, the unoffending statue became a fruitful source of discord and ill-will between the Protestant and Roman Catholic inhabitants. The extensive and ornamental front of Trinity College forms the boundary of College Green on the east.

This university, as is generally known, was founded in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and richly endowed by that sovereign.[40] It is styled in the charter, "the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, near Dublin,"—though it is now almost in the centre of the city, so rapidly has it increased in size in little more than two centuries. The college is governed by a provost, vice-provost, senior and junior fellows. When a vacancy occurs amongst the senior fellows, the eldest of the juniors, if no objection lies against him, is elected by the provost and seniors to a senior fellowship within three days after the vacancy is reported; but the admission to a junior fellowship is obtained only by sustaining one of the severest trials of the human faculties of which we have any modern experience, or even knowledge from history. The examination is in Latin, and the days appointed for it are the four days immediately preceding Trinity Sunday. None but young men of the highest abilities ever think of standing for a fellowship: they generally read from fourteen to eighteen hours a day for a period of five, often of seven years, before venturing to undergo an examination. Such intense study has materially injured the constitution of hundreds—many have become blind—many have lost their lives from the fatal effects of such continued mental exertion; nor is there, perhaps, a solitary instance of a fellow whose health has not been injured and talents impaired by it.

The principal buildings of the college are comprehended in three spacious quadrangles: a description of them separately would considerably exceed our limits, but visitors will be much gratified by an inspection of the museum, the chapel, the dining-hall, the examination-hall, and the library. Of the latter interesting building, which strikes every stranger upon entering with its superb and lofty magnificence, we cannot forbear saying a few words. It is built of hewn stone, with an elegant Corinthian entablature, crowned with a balustrade and ornamented windows, and consists of an extensive centre, and two advanced pavilions. In the western pavilion are the librarians' apartments, and the grand staircase, from which, by folding-doors, you enter the library, by far the finest room in Europe applied to a similar purpose, and of whose magnificent proportions George IV. expressed his admiration. The galleries, which are of Irish oak, varnished, are adorned with the busts of many illustrious writers and celebrated characters, executed in white marble by able masters; and on the shelves are to be found an admirable collection of the best authors on every subject, in number exceeding one hundred and thirty thousand volumes, which are daily increasing. At the extremity of the great room is a smaller apartment, called the Fagel Library, containing the vast collection of books of the Fagel family in Holland, which were removed from that country upon the invasion of the French, and purchased by the University of Dublin for £8,000. The manuscript room over the Fagel Library contains a great number of Irish, Icelandic, and Oriental MSS. of inestimable value.


[40] The first stone of Trinity College was laid on the 13th of March, 1591; and students were admitted the 9th of January, 1593.