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Conflict over secretaryship Oxford University Press
Price, trying in his own way to modernize the Press against the resistance of its own historical inertia, had become overworked and by 1883 was so exhausted as to want to retire. Benjamin Jowett had become vice chancellor of the university in 1882. Impatient of the endless committees that would no doubt attend the appointment of a successor to Price, Jowett extracted what could be interpreted as permission from the delegates and headhunted Philip Lyttelton Gell, a former student acolyte of his, to be the next secretary to the delegates. Gell was making a name for himself at the publishing firm of Cassell, Petter and Galpin, a firm regarded as scandalously commercial by the delegates. Gell himself was a patrician who was unhappy with his work, where he saw himself as catering to the taste of "one class: the lower middle", and he grasped at the chance of working with the kind of texts and readerships OUP attracted.

Jowett promised Gell golden opportunities, little of which he actually had the authority to deliver. He timed Gell's appointment to coincide with both the Long Vacation (from June to September) and the death of Mark Pattison, so potential opposition was prevented from attending the crucial meetings. Jowett knew the primary reason why Gell would attract hostility was that he had never worked for the Press nor been a delegate, and he had sullied himself in the city with raw commerce. His fears were borne out. Gell immediately proposed a thorough modernising of the Press with a marked lack of tact, and earned himself enduring enemies. Nevertheless, he was able to do a lot in tandem with Frowde, and expanded the publishing programmes and the reach of OUP until about 1898. Then his health broke down under the impossible work conditions he was being forced to endure by the Delegates' non-cooperation. The delegates then served him with a notice of termination of service that violated his contract. However, he was persuaded not to file suit and to go quietly.

The delegates were not opposed primarily to his initiatives, but to his manner of executing them and his lack of sympathy with the academic way of life. In their view the Press was, and always would be, an association of scholars. Gell's idea of "efficiency" appeared to violate that culture, although subsequently a very similar programme of reform was put into practice from the inside.