Founder’s Day Lecture 2012
Guests at the Founder’s Day Lecture 2012 saw two likenesses of Perse Headmaster William Wilkins (1804-06): the first of a young man lounging in “shades” as his Italian draughtsman captured a classical temple and the second a brooding marble bust of an eminent architect at the height of his powers.
Wilkins held the headship of The Perse as a sinecure while a Junior Fellow of Caius College and lecturer Dr Frank Salmon suggested his mind remained on his first love – classical architecture – throughout the two year interlude. It allowed him time to write The Antiquities of Magna Graecia, his scholarly assessment of the architectural principles of the Greek temples of Sicily, which he had studied on his Mediterranean tour of 1801-1803.
Wilkins had travelled to Europe on a college scholarship, a condition of which was monthly letters back in Latin describing his progress. He was a fine mathematician, too, and scrupulous in his measurements of classical remains, which he recorded to thousandths of an inch. He went on to design many important Greek revivalist buildings in Cambridge and London, including Downing College and the National Gallery.
Twenty OPS and their partners enjoyed the fascinating lecture by Dr Salmon, Head of Cambridge University’s History of Art Department. Prior to the talk a buffet lunch was held and afterwards prefects were on hand to give guided tours of the School.
The Perse is very grateful for the presentation of four books on the day. John Hicks OP, President of the Downing College Association, presented The Age of Wilkins and Committed to Classicism, The Building of Downing College Cambridge to Senior Tutor Bruce Kinsey, a fellow Downing man.
Paul Cornwell OP presented the School library with two of his own publications, Creative Playmaking in the Primary School and Only by Failure, a biography of theatrical producer and Taoist philosopher Terence Gray. The latter contains a number of Perse references.