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Shakespeare in the archives at King's

Frederick Furnivall (1825-1910)

photograph of Furnivall in a suit wearing a white beard standing by an upturned rowing shellFJ Furnivall, 1907A man of astonishing energy and accomplishments, after studying mathematics and science at Cambridge, Furnivall joined the Philological Society whose great project became the Oxford English Dictionary.

He was editor from 1861 until 1879, devoting his working life to unearthing and editing literary manuscripts to establish the history of English words.

To assist, he founded several literary societies, chief of which was the Early English Text Society (1864 - present) for which he produced 39 volumes.

The Furnivall archive includes papers relating to several of these societies.

photo showing Furnivall with white beard and black cap, his back to the camera in a boat facing eight women, all with double oarsFurnivall coxing a women's sculling-eight boatFurnivall was also closely involved in the creation of the Working Men’s College, and was throughout his life a keen oarsman. 

He founded the Hammersmith Girls Sculling Club (men were later admitted) in 1896, at the age of 71, and took an active part coxing the girls.

He cut a distinctive figure, with his pink ties, baggy suits and bushy white beard.  

Furnivall was reputedly the inspiration for Ratty in Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows – Grahame was an honorary secretary of the New Shakspere Society.

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