This amusing exchange appears on the front pastedown of a 1794 edition of “The conduct of understanding” by John Locke. The inscriptions read: “C. Sturges K.C.C. Recommended by Dr Glynn 1794” and: “You lying scoundrell Sturges. Dr Glyn does not recommend any such book”
1794 was the year the book’s first owner, Charles Sturges (1776-1802) joined the college as an undergraduate, and, as a newly minted scholar, he appears to have been eager – perhaps too eager – to show that his book purchases were guided by the advice of his betters. Being labelled a “lying scoundrell” seems to have done him little harm, as he later became a fellow of the College and also a clergyman, acting between 1800 and 1802 as curate of St. Mary’s Church in Reading, where his father was the vicar.
The author of the second inscription is thought to have been Dr Glynn himself. Robert Glynn (1719-1800) was a colourful character in every respect.
A prominent and well respected Cambridge physician and a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, his habit of wearing a scarlet cloak and a three-cornered hat and carrying a gold-topped cane must have made him an easily recognisable figure around the town. A Kingsman, Glynn lived in College and ran his practice from his rooms there.
Described in the Rev. Augustus Austen Leigh’s history of the College as: “the most active, eccentric, and benevolent of doctors”, Glynn’s popularity stemmed in part from his generosity and kindness towards the people of the malaria-ridden fens, who were encouraged to come to him for free medical advice. Fees were also waived for Cornishmen (Glynn was Cornish by birth), clergymen and old Etonians. A man of firm opinions, Glynn always avoided prescribing opium, advocated fresh air as one of the best remedies, and never bled his patients, despite this being a common medical practice at the time. He avoided regular mealtimes, preferring to snack on cold mutton kept in his rooms.
Eccentric to the last, Glynn stipulated that he should be buried in the College chapel late at night, by torchlight, and that only College members were to attend. He is memorialised by a tablet on the wall of one of the side-chapels. The name Clobery was adopted by Glynn after he received a large inheritance from a maternal uncle.
The book made its way into the collection of George Thackeray (1777-1850), who was Provost of King’s between 1814 and 1850. Most of Thackeray’s books were passed to his daughter Mary Ann (1818-1879), who in turn bequeathed them to the College.
Sources: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, “King’s College” by Rev. A. Austen Leigh, and Venn’s “Alumni Cantabrigienses”