Samuel Savage Lewis

Samuel Savage Lewis (1836-91), Fellow and Librarian of the College
Samuel Savage Lewis,MA (Cantab), FSA (1836-91)

Samuel Savage Lewis, son of William Jonas Lewis, surgeon, was born at Spital Square, Bishopsgate, London. He was educated at the City of London School, then entered St John’s College, Cambridge, as a pensioner in 1854. His studies were interrupted by poor eyesight and he moved to Canada, farming from 1857-60. In 1864, with his sight improved through several operations, he re-entered St John’s College, moving in 1865 to Corpus Christi College. He was exhibitioner in 1866, then Mawson Scholar, taking BA in 1869 as ninth classic, and MA in 1872. He was made Fellow of Corpus in 1869, ordained deacon at Ely in 1872 and priest in 1873, and obtained FSA in 1872. From 1870 until his death, Lewis was College Librarian and from 1872-79, secretary of the Church Patronage Society.

Lewis travelled widely through Europe and the Middle East and was proficient in many languages. He was an antiquary and a collector, mainly of classical coins, gems and seals. He had a reputation as a kindly eccentric and was generally known as 'Satan Lewis' on account of his straggly black beard and unconventional dress.

Lewis married Agnes Smith [see below] on 12 December 1887, and they lived, along with Agnes’s twin sister, first in Harvey Road, then, from March 1890, at 'Castlebrae', Chesterton Lane. Lewis died suddenly, apparently of heart failure, on a train near Oxford, in 1891.

Samuel Savage Lewis presented many printed books to the Library at Corpus during his lifetime, and his collection of personal books after his death. His collection of classical items formed a museum in his college rooms, and is now on permanent loan to the Fitzwilliam Museum, where the items are regularly on public exhibition.

Agnes Smith Lewis, PhilD (Halle), LLD (St Andrews), DD (Heidelberg), LittD (Dublin) (1843-1926)

Agnes Smith Lewis (née Smith) and her twin sister, Margaret Dunlop Gibson (née Smith) were biblical scholars and pioneers in the Presbyterian Church of England. In 1899 they purchased a site at the north end of the Backs in Cambridge from St John's College, and endowed Westminster College, Cambridge, which had been founded in London in 1844, with that land.

Before her marriage to Samuel Savage Lewis in 1887, Agnes had written travel books and a novel. Already fine linguists, the two sisters mastered the Syriac and Arabic languages as well as Hebrew and ancient and modern Greek. They They were well travelled in the Middle East, and in 1892 an discovered a manuscript of the four gospels in Syriac dating from the 4th century. Between 1894 and 1913 Agnes published this translation of the four gospels, compiled a catalogue of ancient Syriac manuscripts on Mount Sina, compiled a Palestinian Syriac Lectionary, and wrote several other scholarly works.


Tall column surmounted by Celtic cross, on a two-tier pedestal, with kerbstones, the column elaborately carved and faceted [see illustration 2] on all four faces. The grave was carved by the Cambridge stonemason J Wiles.


on the east face of the column:
partway up, in Irish insular script, arranged as a lettersquare - see illustration 3:

'samuel | agnes'

at base of column:

'In loving memory'

on the pedestal, upper tier:

'of the Reverend Samuel Savage Lewis MA FSA'
Fellow and Librarian of Corpus Christ College
born July 13 1836 died Mar 31 1891'

on the pedestal, lower tier:

'and of his wife Agnes Smith Lewis LLD
born 11 January 1843 died 26 March 1926'

Sources: documents in Corpus Christi College Library (Samuel)
Janet Soskice: Sisters of Sinai (London: Chatto & Windus, 2009) (Agnes)

By Gill Cannell, Sub-Librarian, Parker Library (Samuel Savage Lewis)
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