ABSTRACT

John Neville Keynes was born in Salisbury in 1852, the only son of a Nonconformist floriculturalist. At the age of 17 he left the small private boarding school which had inspired him to aim at an academic career, and took the advice of his father’s friend, Henry Fawcett, then Alfred Marshall’s predecessor as Professor of Political Economy at the University of Cambridge. Although he had already won a scholarship to University College, London (on the strength of his first-class performance in the matriculation examination), Neville’s long-term goal was an Oxbridge fellowship which could give him a modest income for life. Fawcett himself had followed what was virtually the only route into the University of Cambridge currently open to ambitious young men whose entry had not been lubricated either by one of the major public schools or by family wealth and influence. In his case it had led, via a first class in the Mathematical Tripos, to a Trinity Hall fellowship and later a chair-leaving him free to pursue an active political career as a Liberal MP and, ultimately, Postmaster-General. His advice and example encouraged J.N.K. to take up his scholarship, and while reading for a London B.Sc., to enter for one or more Cambridge open-scholarship competitions. Thus, after having won the top mathematical scholarship to Pembroke College, J.N.K. was admitted to Cambridge in October 1872 as an undergraduate in a relatively small college with strong Anglican traditions.