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The Mond Bequest at King's College London: A Celebration

The Arrival of the Bequest

Sketch of Israel GollanczSketch of Israel GollanczThe first approach to King’s came in a letter of 13 July 1923 to the then Principal of the College, Ernest Barker, from Mr A.E. Davies, Private Secretary to Sir Alfred Mond, Baronet.

This first letter offered the College the two statues alone; over the summer, the scope of the proposed bequest grew to include Mrs Mond’s collection of Goethe and Schiller memorabilia, as well as several further items that were strictly loans rather than outright gifts (book-cases, and a scale model of the Globe Theatre).

Delivery took place at the end of July, and a final confirmatory note was sent by Mr Davies on 4 August. The College’s formal thanks were conveyed in a letter of Principal Barker dated 27 September.

Offer letterOffer letterWhy was King’s chosen to benefit from this bequest? Careful reading of the correspondence, and of Mrs Mond's will, makes it clear that it was not because of any special connection of hers with the College, or any feelings towards it on her part.

The credit should evidently go instead to Professor Sir Israel Gollancz, who was both an intimate of the Mond family (a former protégé of Mrs Mond’s, married to the niece of her lifelong friend, Henrietta Hertz), and Professor of English Language and Literature at King’s from 1903 to 1930.

College thanking the Mond familyCollege thanking the Mond familyMr Davies’s first letter specifies that the bequest is offered ‘through the medium of Sir Israel Gollancz’; and in the aftermath, it was to Gollancz that Principal Barker wrote with special thanks: ‘you have set the College in your heart of hearts, and it owes very much to you.’

It seems that on Mrs Mond’s death, this part at least of her effects failed to arouse a corresponding enthusiasm in the younger generation of her family, whose own collecting of art and antiquities had already taken different directions and developed to a grander scale.

It was Sir Israel who, at her death, saw the opportunity to do two services at once: simultaneously to enrich and enhance his College, and to relieve the younger Monds of a parental collection which they themselves could now only see as a quaint monument to outdated tastes, to be disposed of as quickly and as painlessly as could be managed.

References:

  • King's College London Archives KAS/AC2/F191
  • Will of Frederike (Frida) Mond, Probate 4/08/1923
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