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Title: Old Friends at Cambridge and Elsewhere
Author: Clark, J. Willis
Language: English
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                          Transcriber’s Note:

This version of the text cannot represent certain typographical effects.
Italics are delimited with the ‘_’ character as _italic_. The single
instance of blackletter font uses the ‘=’ as a delimiter.

The footnotes have been re-sequenced for uniqueness across the text, and
positioned to follow the paragraph in which they are referenced.
Footnote 95 (originally footnote 1 on p. 227) has two separate
references in the text, both of which are retained.

There were very few and minor typographical flaws in the copy from which
this version is derived. These have been corrected, with no further
notice.

                        Old Friends at Cambridge
                             and Elsewhere



[Illustration]



                        Old Friends at Cambridge
                             and Elsewhere

                                   by

                         J. Willis Clark, M.A.

               Registrary of the University of Cambridge
                   formerly Fellow of Trinity College


                                 London

                       Macmillan and Co. Limited
                     Cambridge: Macmillan and Bowes

                                  1900

                          All Rights reserved



                              ~Cambridge:~

                     PRINTED BY J. AND C. F. CLAY,
                        AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS.



                                PREFACE.


I have frequently been asked to write my _Memoirs_, or I should rather
say, my _Recollections_. I have serious doubts as to whether I recollect
anything of value; and, even if I do, I have no time at present to
commit it to paper. But, as the University, when I first knew it, was a
very different place from what it is now; and as it has fallen to my lot
to write several biographical notices of distinguished Cambridge men, in
the course of which I have noted incidentally a good many of the
constitutional and social changes of later years, I venture to republish
what I have written. Such compositions, many of which were dashed off on
the spur of the moment, under the influence of strong feeling, with no
opportunity for correction or amplification, are, I am aware, defective
as a serious record of lives which ought to have been told at greater
length. But, that they gain in sincerity what they lose in detail, will,
I hope, be conceded by those who take the trouble to read them.

Most of these articles are reprinted as they were written, with only
obvious and necessary corrections. The Life of Dr Whewell has been
slightly enlarged; and that of Bishop Thirlwall has been revised, though
not substantially altered. Any merit that this Life may possess is due
to the kindness of the late Master of my College, Dr Thompson. I myself
had never so much as seen Thirlwall, and undertook the article with
great reluctance. But my difficulties vanished as soon as I had
consulted Dr Thompson. He had been one of Thirlwall’s intimate friends,
and not only supplied me with information about him which I could not
have learnt from any other source, but revised the article more than
once when in type.

The article on Dr Luard is practically new. Soon after his death I
contributed a short sketch of his Life to the _Saturday Review_, and
afterwards another, in a somewhat different style, to a Trinity College
Magazine called _The Trident_. Out of these, with some additions, the
present article has been composed.

It has been suggested to me that an article on Richard Owen, in a series
devoted entirely, with that exception, to Cambridge men, needs
justification. I would urge in my defence that the Senate coopted Owen
by selecting him, in 1859, as the first recipient of an honorary degree
under the new statutes.

My cordial thanks are due to Dr Jackson, Fellow and Prælector of Trinity
College, for much valuable criticism, and assistance in preparing the
volume for the press.

I have also to thank the proprietors of the _Church Quarterly Review_,
and those of the _Saturday Review_, for their kindness in allowing me to
reprint articles of which they hold the copyright.

                                                  JOHN WILLIS CLARK.

 SCROOPE HOUSE, CAMBRIDGE.
        _1 January, 1900._



                               CONTENTS.

                                                               PAGE

     WILLIAM WHEWELL                                              1

                _Church Quarterly Review_, April, 1882.

     CONNOP THIRLWALL                                            77

                _Church Quarterly Review_, April, 1883.

     RICHARD MONCKTON MILNES, LORD HOUGHTON                     153

                _Church Quarterly Review_, July, 1891.

     EDWARD HENRY PALMER                                        201

                _Church Quarterly Review_, October,
                1883.

     FRANCIS MAITLAND BALFOUR                                   282

                _Saturday Review_, 29 July, 1882.

     HENRY BRADSHAW                                             292

                _Saturday Review_, 10 February, 1886.

     WILLIAM HEPWORTH THOMPSON                                  302

                _Saturday Review_, 9 October, 1886.

     COUTTS TROTTER                                             314

                _Saturday Review_, 10 December, 1887.

     RICHARD OKES                                               319

                _Saturday Review_, 1 December, 1888.

     HENRY RICHARDS LUARD                                       328

                _Saturday Review_, 9 May, 1891.

                _The Trident_, June, 1891.

     RICHARD OWEN                                               344

                _Church Quarterly Review_, July, 1895.



                          WILLIAM WHEWELL[1].


Full materials for the life of Dr Whewell are at last before the public.
We say ‘at last,’ because ten years elapsed from his death in 1866
before the first instalment of his biography appeared, and fifteen years
before the second. Haste, therefore, cannot be pleaded for any faults
which may be found in either of them. Nor, indeed, is it our intention
to carp at persons who have performed a difficult task as well as they
could. Far rather would we take exception to the strange resolution of
Dr Whewell’s executors and friends to have his life written in separate
portions. It was originally intended that there should be three of these
published simultaneously: (1) the scientific, (2) the academic, (3) the
domestic. As time went on, however, it was found impossible to carry out
this scheme; and Mr Todhunter published the first instalment before
anyone had been found to undertake either of the others. At last, after
repeated failures, the second and third portions were thrown together,
and entrusted to Mrs Stair Douglas, Dr Whewell’s niece by marriage. The
defects of such a method are obvious; events scarcely worth telling once
are told twice; documents that would have been useful to one biographer
appear in the work of the other, and the like. For this, however, the
authors before us deserve less blame than the scheme which they were
compelled to follow.

Few lives, we imagine, have been so many-sided as to need a double, not
to say a triple, narrative in order to set them fully before the public;
and we assert most distinctly that Dr Whewell was the last man whose
biography should have been so treated. His life, notwithstanding his
diverse occupations and his widespread interests, presented a singular
unity, due to his unflinching determination to subordinate his pursuits,
his actions, and his thoughts to what he felt to be his work in the
world, viz. the advancement, in the fullest sense the word can be made
to bear, of his College and his University. He himself made no attempt
to subdivide his time, so as to carry out some special work at the
expense of other occupations. He found time for everything. His
extraordinary energy, and his power of absorbing himself at a moment’s
notice in whatever he had to do, whether scientific research or
University business, enabled him to get through an astonishing amount of
work in a single day. Much of what he did must have been very irksome
and repulsive to him. He particularly disliked detail, especially that
relating to finance. ‘I hate these disgusting details,’ was his way of
putting aside, or trying to put aside, economical discussions at College
meetings; and it was often hard to make him understand the real
importance of these apparently small matters. Again, he always found
time to go into society; to keep himself well acquainted with all that
was going forward in politics, literature, art, music, science; and to
carry on a vast correspondence with relatives, friends, and men of
science in England and on the Continent. A considerable number of these
letters have of course perished; but the extent of the collection is
evident from Mr Todhunter’s statement that he had examined more than
3,500 letters written to Dr Whewell, and more than 1,000 written by him.
His opinion of the latter, after this wide experience, is well worth
quotation:

‘I do not think that adequate justice can be rendered to Dr Whewell’s
vast knowledge and power by any person who did not know him intimately,
except by the examination of his extensive correspondence; such an
examination cannot fail to raise the opinion formed of him by the study
of his published works, however high that opinion may be. The evidence
of his attainments and abilities which is furnished by the fact that he
was consulted and honoured by the acknowledged chiefs of many distinct
sciences is most ample and impressive. United with this intellectual
eminence we find an attractive simplicity and generosity of nature, an
entire absence of self-seeking and assertion, and a warm concern in the
fortunes of his friends, even when they might be considered in some
degree as his rivals.’

The academic side of Dr Whewell’s life has no doubt been imperfectly
related in both the works before us; and the due recognition of his
merits will have to wait until the intellectual history of the
University during the nineteenth century shall one day be written. On
the other hand, we owe our warmest thanks to Mrs Stair Douglas for
having brought prominently into notice, as only an affectionate woman
could do, the softer side of Dr Whewell’s character. No one who did not
know him as she did could have suspected the almost feminine tenderness,
the yearning for sympathy, which were concealed under that rough
exterior. These qualities, though much developed by his marriage, were
characteristic of him throughout his whole life. The following passage,
which has not before been printed, from a letter written in 1836 to the
Marchesa Spineto, his oldest and most valued Cambridge friend, while he
was busy writing his _History of the Inductive Sciences_, shows how
necessary female sympathy was to him even when he was most occupied:

‘It appears to me long since I have seen you, and I am disposed to write
as if your absence were a disagreeable and unusual privation; although
it is very likely that if you had been here I might have seen just as
little of you and might have felt just as lonely. And perhaps if I send
you this sheet of my ruminations, it will find you in the middle of a
new set of interests and employments, with only a little bit of your
thoughts and affections at liberty to look this way; and so I shall be
little the better for the habit you have taught me of depending upon you
for unvarying kindness and love. Perhaps you will tell me I am unjust in
harbouring such a suspicion, but do not be angry with me if I am; for
you know such thoughts come into my head whether I will or no; and then
go away the sooner for being put into words.’

University life changes with such rapidity, that no matter how great a
man may have been, it is inevitable that he should soon become little
more than a tradition to those who succeed him. Few of the present
Fellows of Trinity College can have even seen Dr Whewell; and though his
outward appearance has been handed down to posterity by a picture in the
Lodge, a bust in the Library, and a statue in the Chapel, neither canvas
nor marble, no matter how skilfully they may be handled, can convey the
impression which that king of men made upon his contemporaries. These
portraits give a fairly just idea of his lofty stature, broad shoulders,
and large limbs, but the features are inadequately rendered in all of
them. The proportions are probably correct, but the expression has been
lost. The artists have been so anxious to render the philosopher, that
they have forgotten the man. His expression, except on very solemn
occasions, was never so grave as they have made it. His bright blue eye
had nearly always a merry twinkle in it, and his broad mouth was ever
ready to break into a smile. His nature was essentially joyous; and he
dearly loved a good joke, a funny story, or a merry party of friends, in
which his laugh was always the loudest, and his pleasure the keenest.
Nor did he disdain the pleasures of the table; a good dinner, followed
by a good bottle of port, was not without its charm for him, though it
may be doubted whether he enjoyed these matters for their own sake so
much as for the society they brought with them. He could not bear to be
alone, and was not particular into what company he went, provided he
could get good conversation, and plenty of it. He used to say that he
liked to hear a dinner in ‘full cry’; and, if we may adopt his own
simile without offence to the memory of one whom we love and revere, he
was himself the leader of the pack. He could hardly be called a good
talker; he was too fond of the sound of his own loud cheery voice, and
engrossed the conversation too much. He would take up a subject started
by somebody else, and handle it in a masterly fashion, as if he were in
a lecture room, while the rest sat by and listened. He laid down the
law, too, in a style that did not admit of reply. We remember an
occasion when the conversation turned on Longfellow’s _Golden Legend_,
then just published, and Whewell was asked to say what he thought of it.
‘I think it is a bad echo of a bad original, Goethe’s _Faust_,’
thundered out the great man; after which, of course, there was a dead
silence. Again, he was no respecter of persons, nor was he too careful
to observe the ordinary rules of politeness. If anybody said a silly
thing, even if the person were a lady, and in her own house, he thought
nothing of crushing her with ‘Madam, no one but a fool would have made
that observation’; but his company was so delightful, his stores of
information so varied and so vast, his readiness to communicate them so
unusual, and his memory so retentive, that these eccentricities in
‘Rough Diamond,’ as a clever University _jeu d’esprit_ called him, were
readily forgiven. He was far too well aware of his own supremacy to be
afraid of unbending; and years after he became Master of Trinity he has
been seen to kneel down on the carpet to play with a Skye terrier. He
was a special favourite with young people, especially with young ladies,
from the heartiness with which he threw himself into their pursuits and
pleasures, talked with them, romped with them, wrote verses and riddles
and translated German poems for their amusement, and assisted
approvingly at the musical parties which were the fashion when he was a
young man. There were indeed several houses in Cambridge and its
neighbourhood in which we should have ventured to say that he was ‘a
tame cat,’ had there been anything feline in that rugged and vehement
nature.

Those who wish to draw for themselves a life-like portrait of Whewell in
his best days must take into account the fact that his health was always
excellent. There is a legend that as a boy he was delicate; but, if this
were ever the case, which we doubt, he put it aside with other childish
things. When he came to man’s estate no rebellious liver ever troubled
his repose, or made him look upon life with a jaundiced eye. It was his
habit to sit up late; but, notwithstanding, he appeared regularly at
morning chapel, then at 7 a.m., fresh and radiant, and ready for the
day’s work. This vigour of body enabled him to appreciate everything
with a keenness which age could not dull, nor the most poignant grief
extinguish, except for very brief intervals. He thoroughly appreciated
‘the mere joy of living’; and whatever was going forward attracted him
so powerfully that he was never satisfied until he had found out all
about it. He went everywhere: to public ceremonials and exhibitions; to
new plays, new music, new pictures; to London drawing-rooms and smart
country houses; to quiet parsonages and canonical residences; to foreign
cities and English cathedrals; always deriving the keenest enjoyment
from what he saw, and delighting in new experiences because they were
new. There was but one exception to the universality of his interests.
When he was a resident Fellow of Trinity, it was the fashion for College
Dons to dabble in politics, and more than one of his Trinity friends
made their fortune by their Liberal opinions. He did not imitate their
example. He always described himself as no politician. As a young man he
seemed inclined to take a Liberal line, for he opposed a petition from
the University against the Roman Catholic claims in 1821, and in the
following year voted against ‘our dear, our Protestant Bankes’ for the
same reason. But in those stormy days of the Reform Bill, when so many
ancient friendships were destroyed, he took no decided line; and
latterly he abstained from politics altogether. We do not mean that he
shut his eyes to what was going forward in the world—far from it, but he
seemed to consider that one Administration was as good as another, and
provided no violent change was threatened, he left the destinies of the
Empire to take care of themselves. As he grew older, his mind became
engrossed by thoughts of the suffering which even the most glorious
achievements must of necessity entail. The events of the Indian Mutiny,
for instance, were followed by him with the closest interest; but he was
more frequently heard to deplore the severity dealt out to the natives
than to admire the heroism of their victims.

Whewell’s natural good health was no doubt maintained by his love of
open air exercise. No matter how busy he was, or how bad the weather, he
rarely missed his daily ride. On most afternoons he might be seen on his
grey horse ‘Twilight,’ usually with his inseparable friend Dr Worsley,
either galloping across country, or joining quieter parties along the
roads. He was never a good rider, but a very bold one, as will be seen
from the following story, the accuracy of which we once tested by
reference to Sebright, the veteran huntsman of the Fitzwilliam hounds.
Whewell was staying with Viscount Milton, we believe in 1828. One
morning his host said to him at breakfast, ‘We are all going out
hunting; what would you like to do?’ He replied, ‘I have never been out
hunting, and I should like to go too.’ So he was mounted on a first-rate
horse, well up to his weight, and told to keep close to the huntsman.
Whewell did as he was bid, and followed him over everything. They had an
unusually good run across a difficult country, in the course of which
Sebright took an especially stout and high fence. Looking round to see
what had become of the stranger, he found him at his side, safe and
sound. ‘That, sir, was a rasper,’ he said. ‘I did not observe that it
was anything more than ordinary,’ replied Whewell. So on they went, till
at last his horse pulled up, quite exhausted, to Whewell’s great
indignation, who exclaimed, ‘I thought a hunter never stopped.’

We are not presumptuous enough to suppose that we can add any new facts
to those which have been already collected in the volumes before us; but
we think that even after their publication there is room for a short
essay, which shall bring into prominence certain points in Whewell’s
academic career, and attempt to determine the value of what he did for
science in general, and for his own College and University in
particular. His life divides itself naturally into three periods of
about equal length, the first extending from his birth in 1794 to his
appointment as assistant-tutor of Trinity College in 1818, the second
from 1818 to his appointment as Master in 1841, and the third from 1841
to his death in 1866.

Whewell came up to Cambridge at the beginning of the Michaelmas
Term, 1812. Those who are familiar with the exciting spectacle
presented by the splendid intellectual activity of the Cambridge of
to-day—accommodating itself with flexibility and readiness to
requirements the most diverse, appointing new teachers in
departments of study the most unusual and the most remote on the
bare chance of their services being required, flinging open its
doors to all comers, regardless of sex, creed, or nationality, and
thronged with students whose numbers are increasing year by year,
eager to take advantage of the instruction which their elders are
equally eager to supply them with—will find it difficult, if not
impossible, to imagine the totally different state of things which
existed at that time. Were we asked to express its characteristic by
a single word, we should answer, dulness. It must be remembered that
communication in those days was slow; news did not arrive until it
was stale; travelling, especially for passengers, was expensive, so
that, at least for the shorter vacations, many persons did not leave
Cambridge at all; and some remained there during the whole year—we
might say, in some cases, during their whole lives. For the same
reasons strangers rarely visited the University. The same people
dined and supped together day after day, with no novelty to
diversify their lives or their conversation. No wonder that they
became narrow, prejudiced, eccentric, or that their habits were
tainted with the grosser vices which there was no public opinion to
repudiate. The undergraduates, most of whom came from the upper
classes, were few. In the fifteen years between 1800 and 1815 the
yearly average of those who matriculated did not exceed 205: less
than one-fourth of those who now present themselves[2]. The only
road to the Honour Degree was through the Mathematical Tripos. The
amusements were as little varied as the studies. There was riding
for those who could afford it; and a few boated and played cricket
or tennis; but the majority contented themselves with a walk. With
the undergraduates, as with their seniors, the habit of hard
drinking was unfortunately still prevalent. But the great changes
through which the country passed between 1815 and 1834 produced a
totally different state of things. The old order changed; slowly and
almost imperceptibly at first, but still it changed. As the wealth
of the country increased, a new class of students presented
themselves for education; ideas began to circulate with rapidity;
old forms of procedure and examination were given up; academic
society was purified from its coarseness and vulgarity, and lost
much of its exclusiveness; new studies were admitted upon an all but
equal footing with the old ones; and, lastly, the new political
principles asserted themselves by gradually sweeping away, one after
another, all restrictive enactments. This last change, however, was
not consummated until 1871. The other changes with which what may be
called modern Cambridge was inaugurated are thus enumerated with
characteristic force by Professor Sedgwick in one of his ‘Letters to
the Editor of the _Leeds Mercury_,’ written in 1836, with which he
demolished that infamous slanderer of the University, Mr R. M.
Beverley:

‘It is most strange that in a letter on the present state of Cambridge
no notice should be taken of the noble institutions which have of late
years risen up within it; of the glories of its Observatory; of the
newly-chartered body, the Philosophical Society, organized among its
resident members in the year 1819, and now known to the world of science
by its “Transactions,” the records of many important original
discoveries; of the new Collections in Natural History; of the
magnificent new Press; of the new School and Museum of Comparative
Anatomy; of the noble extension of the collegiate buildings, made at
some inconvenience and much personal cost to the present Fellows, and
entailing on them and their successors the weight of an enormous debt;
of the general spirit of inquiry pervading the members of the academic
body, young and old; of the eight or nine _new courses_ of public
lectures (established within the last twenty-five years) both on the
applied sciences and the ancient languages; of the general activity of
the professors, and of their correspondence with foreign establishments
organized for objects like their own, whereby Cambridge is now, at
least, an integral part of the vast republic of literature and science;
of the crowded class at the lecture of Modern History [by Professor
Smyth]; of the great knowledge of many of our younger members in modern
languages; of the recent Professorship of Political Economy bestowed on
a gentleman [Mr Pryme] who had been lecturing for years, and was a firm
and known supporter of Liberal opinions.’

When Whewell came to the University these improvements had not been so
much as thought of. He was himself to be the prime mover in bringing
several of them about. It must be remembered, however, while we confess
to a special enthusiasm for our hero, that he did not stand alone as the
champion of intellectual development in the University. Indeed it will
become evident as we proceed that he was not naturally a reformer. He
had so strong a respect for existing institutions that he hesitated long
before he could bring himself to sanction any change, no matter how
self-evident or how salutary. As a young man, however, he found himself
one of a large body of enthusiastic workers, who, while they differed
widely, almost fundamentally, on the methods to be employed, were all
animated by the same spirit, and stimulated one another to fresh
exertions in the common cause. It was one of the most remarkable
characteristics of the period of which Professor Sedgwick has sketched
the results, that it was hardly more distinguished for the changes
produced than for the men who brought them about.

But to return to the special subject of our essay. Of Whewell’s boyhood,
school days, and undergraduateship, few details have been preserved. His
father was a master carpenter, residing at Lancaster, where William, the
eldest of his seven children, was born in 1794. His father is mentioned
as a man of probity and intelligence; but his mother, whom he
unfortunately lost when he was only eleven years old, appears to have
been a woman of superior talents and considerable culture, who enriched
the ‘Poet’s Corner’ of the weekly _Lancaster Gazette_ with occasional
contributions in verse. William was about to be apprenticed to his
father, when his superior intelligence attracted the attention of Mr
Rowley, curate of the parish and master of the grammar school. The
father objected at first: ‘He knows more about parts of my business than
I do,’ he said, ‘and has a special turn for it.’ However, after a week’s
reflection, he yielded, mainly out of deference to Mr Rowley, who
further offered to find the boy in books, and educate him free of
expense. Of his school experiences, Professor Owen, who was one of his
schoolfellows, has contributed some delightful reminiscences. After
mentioning that he was a tall, ungainly youth, he adds:

‘The rate at which Whewell mastered both English grammar and Latin
accidence was a marvel; and before the year was out he had moved upward
into the class including my elder brother and a dozen boys of the same
age. Then it was that the head-master, noting to them the ease with
which Whewell mastered the exercises and lessons, raised the tale and
standard. Out of school I remember remonstrances in this fashion: “Now,
Whewell, if you say more than twenty lines of Virgil to-day, we’ll
wallop you.” But that was easier said than done. I have seen him, with
his back to the churchyard wall, flooring first one, then another, of
the “walloppers,” and at last public opinion in the school interposed.
“Any two of you may take Whewell in a fair stand-up fight, but we won’t
have any more at him at once.” After the fate of the first pair, a
second was not found willing. My mother thought “it was extremely
ungrateful in _that boy Whewell_ to have discoloured both eyes of her
eldest so shockingly.” But Mr Rowley said, “Boys will be boys,” and he
always let them fight it fairly out.’

In after years Whewell spoke of the good training he had received in
arithmetic, geometry, and mensuration from Mr Rowley; but it is believed
that his recollections of his first school were not wholly agreeable;
and probably he was not sorry when he was removed to the grammar school
at Heversham, in Westmoreland. This took place in 1810. The reason for
it was that he might compete for an exhibition of 50_l._ per annum, at
Trinity College, which he was so fortunate as to obtain. At his second
school he paid great attention to classical studies, and practised
versification in Greek and Latin.

In October 1812 he commenced residence at Trinity College as a
sub-sizar. His first University distinction was the Chancellor’s gold
medal for English Verse, the subject being ‘Boadicea.’ In after years he
was fond of expressing the theory that ‘a prize-poem should be a
prize-poem’: by which he probably meant that the subject should be
treated in a conventional fashion, with no eccentric innovations of
style or metre. It must be admitted that his own work conformed exactly
to this standard. The poem was welcomed with profound admiration in the
family circle at home; but his old master took a different view of the
question. Professor Owen relates that Mr Rowley called one day at his
mother’s house, and began as follows:

‘“I’ve sad news for you, Mrs Owen, to-day. I’ve just had a letter from
Cambridge; that boy Whewell has ruined himself, he’ll never get his
Wranglership now!” “Why, good gracious, Mr Rowley, what _has_ Whewell
been doing?” “Why, he has gone and got the Chancellor’s gold medal for
some trumpery poem, ‘Boadicea,’ or something of that kind, when he ought
to have been sticking to his mathematics. I give him up now. Taking
after his poor mother, I suppose.”’

The letters which he wrote home give us some pleasant glimpses of his
College life, which he evidently thoroughly enjoyed. For the first time
in his life he had access to a good library—that of Trinity College—and
he speaks of ‘an inconceivable desire to read all manner of books at
once,’ adding that at that very moment there were two folios and six
quartos of different works upon his table. The success which he
afterwards achieved is a proof that he entered heartily into the studies
of the place; and among his friends were men who were studious then, and
afterwards became eminent. Among these we may mention Mr, afterwards Sir
John, Herschel, Mr Richard Jones, Mr Julius Charles Hare, and Mr Charles
Babbage. A correspondent of his, writing so late as 1841, recalls the
‘Sunday morning philosophical breakfasts,’ at which they used to meet in
1815; and there are indications in the letters of similar feasts of
reason and flows of soul. It must, on the other hand, be admitted that a
few indications of an opposite character may be produced. He admits, in
a half-bantering, half-serious way, that he had laid himself open to the
charge of idleness; and he describes the diversions of himself and his
friends during the long vacation of 1815 as ‘dancing at country fairs,
playing billiards, tuning beakers into musical glasses,’ and the like.
It need be no matter of surprise that a young man of high spirits and
strong bodily frame, brought up in the seclusion of Lancashire, should
have taken the fullest advantage of the first opportunity which
presented itself of appreciating the lighter and brighter side of
existence. This, however, was all. Whewell knew perfectly well where to
stop. No scandal ever attached itself to his name; and he ‘wore the
white flower of a blameless life’ through a period when the customs
prevalent in the University were such as are more honoured in the breach
than in the observance.

He proceeded to the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1816, when he was
second Wrangler and second Smith’s Prize-man. On both occasions he was
beaten by a Mr Jacob, of Caius College, who was his junior by two years.
It is a Cambridge tradition that Mr Jacob’s success was a surprise to
everybody, for he had intentionally affected to be an idle man, and
showed himself on most days riding out in hunting costume, the truth
being that he kept his books at a farm-house, where he pursued his
studies in secrecy and quiet. He was a young man of the greatest
promise; and it was expected that he would achieve a conspicuous success
at the Bar. But his lungs were affected, and he died of consumption at
an early age. As Mr Todhunter remarks, his fame rests mainly on the fact
that he twice outstripped so formidable a competitor as the future
Master of Trinity. Whewell mentions him as ‘a very pleasant as well as a
very clever man,’ and adds, ‘I had as soon be beaten by him as by
anybody else.’

The labours of reading for the degree over, Whewell had leisure to turn
his studies in any direction whither his fancy led him. No doubt he
fully appreciated the, to him, unusual position, for he tells his sister
that few people could be ‘more tranquilly happy than your brother, in
his green plaid dressing-gown, blue morocco slippers, and with a large
book before him.’ The time had come, however, when he was to experience
the first of the inevitable inconveniences of a College life. Two of his
most intimate friends, Herschel and Jones, left Cambridge, and he
bitterly deplores their loss. Indeed it probably needed all the
attachment to the place, which he proclaims in the same letter, to
prevent his following their example. He appears at one time to have
thought seriously of going to the Bar. He began, however, to take
pupils: an occupation which becomes a singularly absorbing one,
especially when the tutor takes the interest in them which apparently he
did. One of those with whom he spent the summer of 1818, in Wales, Mr
Kenelm Digby, afterwards author of the _Broadstone of Honour_, who
admits that he was so idle that his tutor would take no remuneration
from him, has recorded that—

‘I had reason to regard Whewell as one of the most generous,
open-hearted, disinterested, and noble-minded men that I ever knew. I
remember circumstances that called for the exercise of each of those
rare qualities, when they were met in a way that would now seem
incredible, so fast does the world seem moving away from all ancient
standards of goodness and moral grandeur.’

This testimony is important, if only for comparison with the far
different feelings with which his more official pupils regarded him in
after years. In these occupations he spent the two years succeeding his
degree; for the amount of special work done for the Fellowship
Examination was probably not great. He was elected Fellow in October
1817; and in the summer of the following year was made one of the
assistant-tutors. With this appointment the first part of his University
career ends, and the second begins.

His connexion with the educational staff of Trinity College, first as
assistant-tutor, then as sole tutor, lasted for just twenty years. These
were the most occupied of his busy life; and in justification of what we
said at the outset of the multifarious nature of his occupations, we
proceed to give a rapid chronological sketch of them. His career as an
author began, in 1819, with an _Elementary Treatise on Mechanics_. It
went through seven editions, in each of which, as Mr Todhunter says,
‘the subject was revolutionized rather than modified; and the preface to
each expounded with characteristic energy the paramount merits of the
last constitution framed.’ The value of the work was greatly impaired by
these proceedings, for an author can hardly expect to retain the
unwavering confidence of his readers while his own opinions are in
constant fluctuation. In 1820 he was Moderator, and travelled abroad for
the first time. In 1821 he was working at geology seriously, and took a
geological tour in the Isle of Wight with Sedgwick, who had been made
Woodwardian Professor three years before. Later in the year he explored
the Lake Country, and was introduced to Mr Wordsworth. Their
acquaintance subsequently ripened into a friendship, which appears in
numerous letters, and notably in the dedication prefixed to the
_Elements of Morality_. A _Treatise on Dynamics_ was published in 1823,
which was treated in much the same fashion as its fellow on _Mechanics_.
The summer vacation was spent in a visit to Paris for the first time,
and an architectural tour in Normandy with Mr Kenelm Digby. In 1824 he
took a prominent part in the resistance to the Heads of Colleges in
their attempt to nominate to the Professorship of Mineralogy; and later
in the year he went again to Cumberland with Sedgwick, ‘rambling about
the country, and examining the strata’; visiting Southey and Wordsworth;
and, in the intervals of geology, seeing cathedrals and churches. In
1825, as the chair of Mineralogy was about to be vacated by Professor
Henslow, promoted to that of Botany, Whewell announced himself a
candidate; and by way of preparation spent three months in Germany,
studying crystallography at the feet of Professor Mohs, of Freiburg: a
subject on which he had already made communications to the Royal Society
and to the Cambridge Philosophical Society. This was his first
introduction to Germany, in whose language and literature he
thenceforward took the greatest interest. He even modified his way of
writing English in accordance with German custom, as is shown by the
plentiful scattering of capitals through his sentences, and by a certain
ponderosity of style which savours of German originals. The dissensions
as to the mode of election to the Mineralogical chair caused it to
remain vacant for three years; so that Whewell, about the choice of whom
there never seems to have been any doubt, had no immediate opportunity
of turning to account his newly-acquired knowledge. He therefore, with
even more than characteristic energy, turned his attention to two most
opposite subjects, Theology, and the Density of the Earth.

In the summer of 1826 he commenced a series of investigations on the
latter subject at Dolcoath Mine, Cornwall, in conjunction with Mr Airy.
The essential part of the process was to compare the time of vibration
of a pendulum at the surface of the earth with the time of vibration of
the same pendulum at a considerable depth below the surface.
Unfortunately the experiments, which were renewed in 1828, failed to
lead to any satisfactory result, partly through an error in the
construction of the pendulum, partly through a singular fatality, by
which, on both occasions, they were frustrated by a serious accident.
The account he gives of himself, and of the way in which the researches
were regarded by the Cornishmen, is too amusing not to be quoted. It is
contained in a letter to his friend Lady Malcolm, and is dated
‘Underground Chamber, Dolcoath Mine, Camborne, Cornwall, June 10, 1826:

‘I venture to suppose that you never had a correspondent who at the time
of writing was situated as your present one is. I am at this moment
sitting in a small cavern deep in the recesses of the earth, separated
by 1,200 feet of rock from the surface on which you mortals tread. I am
close to a wooden partition which has been fixed here by human hands,
through which I ever and anon look, by means of two telescopes, into a
larger cavern. That larger den has got various strange-looking machines,
illumined here and there by unseen lamps, among which is visible a clock
with a face most unlike common clocks, and a brass bar which swings to
and fro with a small but never-ceasing motion. I am clad in the garb of
a miner, which is probably more dirty and scanty than anything you may
have happened to see in the way of dress. The stillness of this
subterranean solitude is interrupted by the noise, most strange to its
walls, of the ticking of my clock, and the chirping of seven watches.
But besides these sounds it has noises of its own which my ear catches
now and then. A huge iron vessel is every quarter of an hour let down
through the rock by a chain above a thousand feet long, and in its
descent and ascent dashes itself against the sides of the pit with a
violence and a din like thunder; and at intervals, louder and deeper
still, I hear the heavy burst of an explosion when gunpowder has been
used to rend the rock, which seems to pervade every part of the earth
like the noise of a huge gong, and to shake the air within my prison. I
have sat here for some hours, and shall sit five or six more, at the end
of which time I shall climb up to the light of the sky in which you
live, by about sixty ladders, which form the weary upward path from
hence to your world. I ought not to omit, by way of completing the
picturesque, that I have a barrel of porter close to my elbow, and a
miner stretched on the granite at my feet, whose yawns at being kept
here so many hours, watching my inscrutable proceedings, are most
pathetic. This has been my situation and employment every day for some
time, and will be so for some while longer, with the alternation of
putting myself in a situation as much as possible similar, in a small
hut on the surface of the earth. Is not this a curious way of spending
one’s leisure time? I assure you I often think of Sir John’s favourite
quotation from Leyden, “Slave of the dark and dirty mine! What vanity
has brought thee here?” and sometimes doubt whether sunshine be not
better than science.

‘If the object of my companion and myself had been to make a sensation,
we must have been highly gratified by the impression which we have
produced upon the good people in this country. There is no end to the
number and oddity of their conjectures and stories about us. The most
charitable of them take us to be fortune-tellers; but for the greater
part we are suspected of more mischievous kinds of magic. A single loud,
insulated, peal of thunder, which was heard the first Sunday after our
arrival, was laid at our door; and a staff which we had occasion to
plant at the top of the cliff, was reported to have the effect of
sinking all unfortunate ships which sailed past.

‘I could tell you many more such histories; but I think this must be at
least enough about myself, if I do not wish to make the quotation from
Leyden particularly applicable.’

Whewell had been ordained priest on Trinity Sunday, 1826, and this
circumstance had probably directed him to a more exact study of theology
than he had previously attempted. The result was a course of four
sermons before the University in February 1827. The subject of these,
which have never been printed, may be described as the ‘Relation of
Human to Divine Knowledge.’ They attracted considerable attention when
delivered; and it was even suggested that the author ought to devote
himself to theology as a profession, and try to obtain one of the
Divinity Professorships; but the advice was not taken. A theological
tone may, however, be observed in most of his scientific works; he loved
to point out analogies between scientific and moral truths, and to show
that there was no real antagonism between science and revealed religion.

In 1828 the new Professor of Mineralogy entered upon his functions, and
after his manner rushed into print with an _Essay on Mineralogical
Classification and Nomenclature_, in which there is much novelty of
definition and arrangement. He was conscious that he had been somewhat
precipitate; for he writes to his friend, Mr Jones, who was trying to
make up his mind on certain problems of political economy, and declined
to print until he had done so:

‘I avoid all your anxieties about authorship by playing for lower stakes
of labour and reputation. While you work for years in the elaboration of
slowly-growing ideas, I take the first buds of thought and make a
nosegay of them without trying what patience and labour might do in
ripening and perfecting them[3].’

At the beginning of the year 1830 there appeared an anonymous
publication entitled _Architectural Notes on German Churches, with
Remarks on the Origin of Gothic Architecture_. The author need not have
tried to conceal his name; in this, as in other similar attempts, his
style betrayed his identity at once. The work went through three
editions, in each of which it was characteristically altered and
enlarged, so that what had appeared as an essay of 118 pages in 1830,
was transformed into a work of 348 pages in 1842. Architecture had been
from the first one of Whewell’s favourite studies. In a letter to his
sister in 1818 he speaks of a visit to Lichfield and Chester for the
purpose of studying their cathedrals; many of his subsequent tours were
undertaken for similar objects; and his numerous note-books and
sketch-books (for he was no mean draughtsman) contain ample evidence of
the pains he bestowed on perfecting himself in architectural details.
The theory, or ‘ground-idea,’ as his favourite Germans would have called
it, which he puts forward, is, that the pointed arch, even if it was
really introduced from the East, which he evidently doubts, was improved
and developed through the system of vaulting, which the Gothic builders
learnt from the Romans. This theory has not been generally accepted; but
the mere statement of it may have been of value, as the author suggests,
‘in the way of bringing into view relations and connexions which really
exerted a powerful influence on the progress of architecture’; and the
sketch of the differences between the classical and the Gothic styles is
certainly extremely good. It has been sometimes suggested that the whole
book was written in a spirit of rivalry to the _Remarks on the
Architecture of the Middle Ages_, by Professor Willis. A glance at the
dates of publication is enough to refute this view; for the work of
Professor Willis was published in 1835, the first edition of Dr
Whewell’s in 1830. In the course of this summer he made an architectural
tour with Mr Rickman in Devon and Cornwall; and, as if in order that his
occupations might be as sharply contrasted as possible, investigated
also the geology of the neighbourhood of Bath.

In 1831 we find Whewell reviewing three remarkable books: Herschel’s
_Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy_; Lyell’s _Principles of
Geology_, vol. i.; and Jones _On the Distribution of Wealth_. As Mr
Todhunter remarks, scarcely any person but himself could have ventured
on such a task. These reviews are not merely critical; they contain much
of the author’s own speculations, much that went beyond the interest of
the moment, and might be considered to possess a permanent value.
Herschel was delighted with his own share. He writes to Whewell,
thanking him for ‘the splendid review,’ and declaring that he ‘should
have envied the author of any work, if a stranger, which could give
occasion for such a review.’ Lyell wrote in much the same strain; and we
are rather surprised that he did so; for his reviewer not only
stubbornly refused to accept his theory of uniformity of action, in
opposition to the cataclysmic views of the Huttonians, but treated the
whole question in a spirit of good-humoured banter, in which even
Herschel thought that he had gone too far. The article on his friend Mr
Jones’ work—which appeared in the _British Critic_—is rather an
exposition of his views, which were original, than a criticism. It was
Whewell’s first appearance in print on any question of political
economy, except a short memoir in the Transactions of the Cambridge
Philosophical Society, called a _Mathematical Exposition of some
Doctrines of Political Economy_; and therefore marks a period when he
had added yet one more science to those which he had already mastered.
In this year he gave much time to a controversy which was agitating the
University on the question of the best plans to be adopted for a new
Public Library; and contributed a bulky pamphlet to the literature of
the subject, in opposition to his friend Mr Peacock. The whole question
is a very interesting one; but our space will not allow us to do more
than mention it, as another instance of the diversity of Whewell’s
interests.

The next year (1832) was even a busier one than its predecessor; he was
occupied in revising some of his mathematical text-books; in drawing up
a Report on Mineralogy for the British Association, described as ‘an
example of the unrivalled power with which he mastered a subject with
which his previous studies had had but little connexion’; and in writing
one of the Bridgewater Treatises, a work which, with most men, would
have been enough to occupy them fully during the whole of the three
years which had elapsed since the President of the Royal Society had
selected him as one of the eight writers who should carry out the
intentions of the Earl of Bridgewater. The subject of his treatise is
_Astronomy and General Physics considered with reference to Natural
Theology_. It is one of Whewell’s most thoughtful and justly celebrated
works, on which he must have bestowed much time. During the intervals,
however, of its composition, he had not only written the reviews we have
mentioned, and others also, to which we can only allude, but had
commenced those researches on the Tides, which are embodied in no fewer
than fourteen memoirs in the Transactions of the Royal Society, and for
which he afterwards received the Royal Medal. No wonder that even he
began to feel overworked, and resigned the Professorship of Mineralogy
early in the year. He writes to his friend Mr Jones, whom he was always
striving to inspire with some of his own restless activity of thought
and composition:

‘I am plunging into term-work, hurried and distracted as usual; the only
comfort is the daily perception of what I have gained by giving up the
Professorship. If I can work myself free so as to have a little command
of my own time, I think I shall be wiser in future than to mortgage it
so far. Quiet reflexion is as necessary as fresh air, and I can scarcely
get a breath of it.’

His friend must have smiled as he read this, for he probably knew what
such resolutions were worth. Whewell might have said, with Lord Byron—

                                         ‘I make
               A vow of reformation every spring,
               And break it when the summer comes about’;

for, notwithstanding these promises and many others like them, we shall
find that in future years he took upon himself a greater rather than a
less amount of work, which he did not merely _get through_ in a
perfunctory fashion, but discharged with a thoroughness as rare as it is
marvellous.

The Bridgewater Treatise appeared in 1833, a year in which he delivered
an address to the British Association, at its meeting at Cambridge;
contributed a paper _On the Use of Definitions_ to the Philological
Museum; and increased his stock of architectural and geological
knowledge by tours with Messrs Rickman, Sedgwick, and Airy. He was now
generally recognized as the first authority on scientific language; and
we find Professor Faraday deferring to him on the nomenclature of
electricity. In 1834 he invented an _anemometer_, or instrument for
measuring the force and direction of the wind; it was employed for some
time at York, by Professor Phillips, but has since been superseded by
more convenient contrivances.

The real meaning of his longing for leisure soon became manifest. In
July 1834 he expounds to his friend Mr Jones the plan of the _History
and Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences_, which he was prosecuting
vigorously. This great work occupied him, _almost_ to the exclusion of
other matters, for the whole of 1835 and 1836. We say _almost_, because,
even at this time, with his usual habit of taking up some new subject
just before he had completed an extensive labour on an old one, he was
beginning to study systematic morality, and in 1835 published a preface
to Sir James Mackintosh’s _Dissertation on the Progress of Ethical
Philosophy_, a subject which he further considered in 1837, when he
preached before the University _Four Sermons on the Foundation of
Morals_. In this year he succeeded Mr Lyell as President of the
Geological Society, an office which must have been given to him rather
in recognition of his general scientific attainments and the work he had
done in the kindred science of mineralogy, than on account of any
special publications on geology. He seems to have made an excellent
President. Sir Charles Lyell[4] speaks of him with enthusiasm, and
points out his sacrifices of time, not only in attending the meetings of
the Society, but in supervising the details of its organization. The
extra work which the office involved is thus described in a letter to
his sister, dated November 18, 1837:

‘My old complaint of being overwhelmed with business, especially at this
time of year, is at present, I think, rather more severe than ever. For,
besides all my usual employments, I have to go to London two days every
fortnight as President of the Geological Society, and am printing a book
which I have not yet written, so that I am obliged often to run as fast
as I can to avoid the printers riding over me, so close are they at my
heels. I am, in addition to all this, preaching a course of sermons
before the University; but this last employment, though it takes time
and thought, rather sobers and harmonizes my other occupations than adds
anything to my distraction.’

In this same year (1837) the _History of the Inductive Sciences_ was
published, to be followed in less than three years by the _Philosophy_
of the same. This encyclopædic publication—for the two books must be
considered together—marks the conclusion of that part of his life which
had been devoted, in the main, to pure science; and it gives the reason
for his having thrown himself into occupations so diverse. It was not
his habit to write on that which he had not completely mastered; and he
therefore thought, wrote, and published on most of the separate sciences
while tracing their history and developing their philosophy.

In this rapid sketch we have not been able to do more than indicate the
principal works which Whewell had had in hand. It must not be forgotten
that at the same time he was engaged in a large and ever-increasing
correspondence; writing letters—which, as he used to say himself, ought
to be ‘postworthy’—not merely to scientific men, as we know from Mr
Todhunter’s book, but—as we now know from Mrs Stair Douglas—to his
sisters and other ladies, on all sorts of subjects which he thought
would interest them. Then he was a wide reader, as is proved by notes he
made on the books which he had read from 1817 to 1830: ‘books in almost
all the languages of Europe; histories of all countries, ancient or
modern; treatises on all sciences, moral and physical. Among the notes
is an epitome of Kant’s _Kritik der reinen Vernunft_, a work which
exercised a marked influence on all his speculations in mental
philosophy.’ Whatever he read, he read thoroughly. Mr Todhunter
illustrates this by a story given on the authority of one of his oldest
friends. He was found reading Henry Taylor’s _Philip van Artevelde_,
which then had just appeared. Not content with the poem alone, however,
he had Froissart by his side, and was carefully comparing the modern
drama with the ancient chronicle. Lastly—and we put the subject we are
now about to mention last, not because it was least, but because it was,
or ought to have been, the most important of all his occupations—he held
the office of tutor of one of the three _sides_, as they were called,
into which Trinity College was then divided, first alone, and next in
conjunction with Mr Perry, from 1823 to 1838.

At that time the College was far smaller than it is at present, and a
tutor was able, if he chose, to see much more of his pupils, to form
some appreciation of their tastes and capacities, and personally to
direct their studies. A man who combines the varied qualities which a
thoroughly good tutor ought to possess is not readily found. It is a
question of natural fitness rather than of training. In the first place,
he must be content to forego all other occupations, and to be at the
beck and call of his pupils and their parents whenever they may choose
to come to him. Secondly, he must never forget that the dull, the idle,
and the vicious demand even more care and time than the clever and the
industrious. It may seem almost superfluous to mention that nothing
which concerns his pupils must be beneath his notice. Petty details
which concern their daily life, their rooms, their bills, their domestic
relations, their amusements, have all to be referred to the tutor; and
the most trivial of these may not seldom be of the greatest importance
in giving occasion for exercising influence or administering advice. We
are sorry to have to admit that Whewell was hardly so successful as he
ought to have been in discharging these arduous duties. The period of
his tutorship was, as we have shown, precisely that during which he was
most occupied with his private studies; he threw his energies into them,
and disposed of his College work in a perfunctory fashion. His letters
are full of such passages as: ‘I have got an infinitude of that trifling
men call business on my hands’; ‘During the last term I have been almost
too busy either to write or read. I took upon myself a number of
employments which ate up almost every moment of the day’; and the like;
and his delight at having transferred the financial part of the work to
his colleague Mr Perry, in 1833, was unbounded. The result was
inevitable; he could not give the requisite time to his pupils, and, in
fact, hardly knew some of them by sight. A story used to be current
about him which is so amusing that we think it will bear repeating. We
do not vouch for its accuracy; but we think that it would hardly have
passed current had it not been felt to be applicable. One day he gave
his servant a list of names of certain of his pupils whom he wished to
see at a wine-party after Hall, a form of entertainment then much in
fashion. Among the names was that of an undergraduate who had died some
weeks before. ‘Mr Smith, sir; why he died last term, sir!’ objected the
man. ‘You ought to tell me when my pupils die,’ replied the tutor
sternly; and Whewell could be stern when he was vexed. Again, his
natural roughness of manner was regarded by the undergraduates as
indicating want of sympathy. They thought he wanted to get rid of them
and their affairs as quickly as possible. Those who understood him
better knew that he was really a warm-hearted friend; and we have seen
that with his private pupils he had been exceedingly popular; but those
who came only occasionally into contact with him regarded him with fear,
not with affection. On the other hand, he was inflexibly just, whatever
gossip or malevolence may have urged to the contrary. He had no
favourites. No influence of any kind could make him swerve from the
lofty standard of right which he had prescribed for himself.

                  *       *       *       *       *

We left Whewell completing the _Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences_;
and for the future we shall find him turning his attention
exclusively—so far as he could be said to do anything exclusively—to
Moral Philosophy. In 1838 he was elected to the Knightbridge
Professorship, founded in 1677 by the Rev. John Knightbridge, who
directed his Professor of ‘Moral Theology or Casuistical Divinity,’ as
he termed it, to read five lectures in the Public Schools in every term,
and, at the end of it, to deliver them, fairly written out, to the
Vice-Chancellor. Various pains and penalties were enjoined against those
who failed to perform these duties; but, notwithstanding, the office had
remained a sinecure for more than a century; indeed we are doubtful
whether it had ever been anything else. The suggestion that Whewell
should become a candidate for it was made by his old friend, Dr Worsley,
Master of Downing, who was Vice-Chancellor in that year, and, by virtue
of his office, one of the electors. Whewell determined to inaugurate a
new era, and at once commenced a course of lectures, which were
regularly continued in subsequent years. We have seen that he had
prepared himself for these pursuits by previous studies; and his letters
show that he had made up his mind to devote himself to them for some
years to come. In 1845 he produced his _Elements of Morality_, wherein
the subject is treated systematically; and subsequently he wrote, or
edited, works devoted to special parts of it, as _Lectures on the
History of Moral Philosophy in England_; _Grotius de Jure Belli et
Pacis_; and the _Platonic Dialogues for English Readers_. The permanent
influence which Grotius exercised upon his mind is marked by his
munificent foundation of a Professorship and Scholarships in
International Law, in connexion with two additional courts for Trinity
College, one of which was built during his life-time, while for the
other funds were provided by his Will. The most sober-minded of men may
sometimes be a visionary; and the motto _Paci sacrum_, which Whewell
placed on the western façade of his new buildings, would seem to prove
that he seriously believed that his foundation would put an end to war,
and inaugurate ‘a federation of the world.’

As time went on, and Whewell approached his fiftieth year, he began to
feel that ‘College rooms are no home for declining years.’ His friends
were leaving, or had left; he did not make new ones; and he was
beginning to lead a life of loneliness which was very oppressive to him.
In 1840 he thought seriously of taking a College living, but his friend
Mr Hare dissuaded him; and the letters that passed between them on this
subject are among the most interesting in Mrs Stair Douglas’ volume. In
1841 he made up his mind to settle in Cambridge as a married man, with
his Professorship and his ethical studies as an employment. The lady of
his choice was Miss Cordelia Marshall. They were married on October 12,
1841, and on the very same day, Dr Wordsworth, Master of Trinity, wrote
to him at Coniston, where he was spending his honeymoon, announcing his
intention of resigning, ‘in the earnest _desire_, _hope_, and _trust_,
that _you_ may be, and _will_ be, my successor.’ The news, which seems
to have been quite unexpected, spread rapidly among the small circle of
Whewell’s intimate friends; and succeeding posts brought letters from Dr
Worsley and others, urging him ‘not to linger in his hymeneal Elysium,’
but to go up to London at once, and solicit the office from the Prime
Minister, Sir Robert Peel. Dr Whewell describes himself as ‘vehemently
disturbed’; most probably he was unwilling to comply with what seems to
us to have been extraordinary advice. He did comply, however, and went
to London, where he found a letter from Sir Robert, offering him the
Mastership. It is pleasant to be able to record that the offer was made
spontaneously, before any solicitations had reached the Minister.
Whewell accepted it on October 18; had an interview with Sir Robert on
the 19th; returned to Coniston by the night mail; and on the 23rd
(according to Mr Todhunter) had sufficiently recovered from his
excitement to sit down to compose the first lecture of a new course on
Moral Philosophy.

The appointment was felt to be a good one, though it must be admitted
that there were dissentient voices. It was notorious that Dr Wordsworth
had resigned soon after the fall of Lord Melbourne’s administration, in
order to prevent the election of either Dean Peacock or Professor
Sedgwick, both of whom were very popular with the Fellows. The feeling
in College, therefore, was rather against the new Master than with him.
Nor was he personally popular. We now know, from the letters which, in
reply to congratulations, he wrote to Lord Lyttelton, Bishop Thirlwall,
Mr Hare, and others, how diffident he was of his fitness for the office,
and how anxious to discharge its high duties becomingly. Mr Hare had
evidently been giving advice with some freedom, as was his wont, for
Whewell replies:

‘I perceive and feel the value of the advice you give me, and I have no
wish, I think, either to deny or to defend the failings you point out.
In a person holding so eminent a station as mine will be, everything
impatient and overbearing is of course quite out of place; and though it
may cost me some effort, my conviction of this truth is so strong that I
think it cannot easily lose its hold. As to my love of disputation, I do
not deny that it has been a great amusement to me; but I find it to be
so little of an amusement to others that I should have to lay down my
logical cudgels for the sake of good manners alone.’

The writer of these sentences was far too straightforward not to have
meant every word that he wrote; and we feel sure that he tried to carry
out his good intentions. We are compelled, however, to admit that he
failed. He _was_ impatient and he _was_ overbearing; or he was thought
to be so, which, so far as his success as a Master went, came to the
same thing. He had lived so long as a bachelor among bachelors—giving
and receiving thrusts in argument, like a pugilist in a fair fight—that
he had become somewhat pachydermatous. It is probable, too, that he was
quite ignorant of the weight of his own blows. He forgot those he
received, and expected his antagonist to have an equally short memory.
Again, the high view which he took of his position as Master laid him
open to the charge of arrogance. We believe the true explanation to be
that he was too conscientious, if such a phrase be admissible; too
inflexible in exacting from others the same strict obedience to College
rules which he imposed upon himself. There are two ways, however, of
doing most things; and he was unlucky in nearly always choosing the
wrong one. For instance, his hospitality was boundless; whenever
strangers came to Cambridge, they were entertained at Trinity Lodge;
and, besides, there were weekly parties at which the residents were
received. The rooms are spacious, and the welcome was intended to be a
warm one; but the parties were not successful. Even at those social
gatherings he never forgot that he was Master; compelling all his guests
to come in their gowns, and those who came only after dinner to wear
them during the entire evening. Then an idea became current that no
undergraduate might sit down. So far as this notion was not wholly
erroneous, it was based on the evident fact that the great drawing-room,
large as it is, could not contain more than a very limited number of
guests, supposing them all to sit; and that the undergraduates were
obviously those who ought to stand. A strong feeling against anybody,
however, resembles a popular panic; argument is powerless against it;
and the victim of it must be content to wait until his persecutors are
weary with fault-finding. In Dr Whewell’s case it seemed to matter very
little what he did, or what he left undone; he was sure to give offence.
The inscription commemorating himself on the restored oriel window of
the Lodge[5]; the motto, _Lampada tradam_, which he adopted for his
arms; his differences with Her Majesty’s judges about their
entertainment at the Lodge; his attempts to stop the disorderly
interruptions of undergraduates in the Senate House; and a hundred other
similar matters, were all made occasions for unfavourable comment both
in and out of College. The comic literature of the day not unfrequently
alluded to him as the type of the College Don and the University Snob;
and in 1847, when he actively promoted the election of the Prince
Consort as Chancellor, a letter in the _Times_ newspaper, signed
‘Junius,’ informed Prince Albert that he had been made ‘the victim
chiefly of one man of notoriously turbulent character and habits. Ask
how HE is received by the University whenever he appears,’ &c.; and a
second letter, signed ‘Anti-Junius,’ affecting to reply to these
aspersions, described in ironical language, with infinite humour, ‘the
retiring modesty, the unfeigned humility, the genuine courtesy’ of the
‘honoured and beloved Whewell[6].’ We are happy to be able to say that
he outlived much of this obloquy; his temper grew gradually softer—a
change due partly to age, partly to the genial influence of both his
wives; and before the end came he had achieved respect, if not
popularity. The notion that he was arrogant and self-asserting may still
be traced in the epigrams to which the essay on _The Plurality of
Worlds_ gave occasion. Sir Francis Doyle wrote:

    ‘Though you through the regions of space should have travelled,
    And of nebular films the remotest unravelled,
    You’ll find, though you tread on the bounds of infinity,
    That God’s greatest work is the Master of Trinity.’

Even better than this was the remark that ‘Whewell thinks himself a
fraction of the universe, and wishes to make the denominator as small as
possible.’ These, however, were harmless sallies, at which he was
probably as much amused as any one.

No one who knew Whewell well can avoid admitting, as we have done, that
there was much in his manner and conduct that might with advantage have
been different. But what we wish to maintain is that these defects were
not essential to his character: that they arose either from a too
precise adherence to views that were in themselves good and noble, or
from a certain vehemence and impulsiveness that swept him away in spite
of himself, and landed him in difficulties over which he had to repent
at leisure. And in this place let us draw attention to one of his most
pleasing traits—his generosity. We do not merely refer to the numerous
cases of distress which he alleviated, delicately and secretly, but to
the magnanimity of temperament with which he treated those from whom he
had differed, or whose conduct he had condemned. He had no false notions
of dignity. If he felt that he had said what he had better have left
unsaid, or overstepped the proper limits of argument, he would sooth the
bruised and battered victims of his sledgehammer with some such words as
these: ‘I am afraid that I was hasty the other day in what I said to
you. I am very sorry.’ He never bore a grudge, or betrayed remembrance
of a fault, or repeated a word of scandal. There was nothing small or
underhand about him. He would oppose a measure of which he disapproved,
fairly and openly, by all legitimate expedients; but, when beaten, he
cordially accepted the situation, and never alluded to the subject
again.

His conduct at the contested election for a University Representative in
1856 affords a good illustration of what we have here advanced. The
candidates were Mr Walpole and Mr Denman; and it was decided, after
conference with their rival committees, that the poll should extend over
five days, on four of which votes were to be taken in the Public Schools
from half-past seven to half-past eight in the evening, in addition to
the usual hours in the Senate House, namely, from ten to four. The
proceedings excited an unusual interest among the undergraduates, who on
the first morning occupied the galleries of the Senate House in force,
and made such a noise that the University officers could not hear each
others’ voices, and the business was transacted in dumb show. In
consequence they represented to the Vice-Chancellor that they could not
do their work unless he ‘took effectual means for the prevention of this
inconvenience.’ Whewell hated nothing so much as insubordination, and
had on former occasions addressed himself to the repression of this
particular form of it. It is therefore probable that he was not
indisposed to take the only step that, under the circumstances, seemed
likely to be effectual, namely, to exclude the undergraduates from the
Senate House for the rest of the days of polling. On the second and
third days peace reigned within the building, but, when the
Vice-Chancellor appeared outside, he was confronted by a howling mob,
through which he had to make his way as best he could. He was advised to
go by the back way; but, with characteristic pluck, he rejected this
counsel, and went out and came in by the front gate of his College. A
few Masters of Arts acted as a body-guard; but further protection was
thought necessary, and on the third afternoon the University beheld the
extraordinary spectacle of the Vice-Chancellor proceeding along Trinity
Street with a prize-fighter on each side of him. On the evening of that
day Mr Denman withdrew from the contest, a step which probably averted a
serious riot. When the excitement had subsided a little Whewell drew up
a printed statement, which, though marked _Private_, is in fact an
address to the undergraduate members of the University. He points out
the necessity for acting as he had done, both as regards the business in
hand and because it was his duty to enforce proper behaviour in a public
place as a part of education. He concludes with the following passage:

‘I the more confidently believe that the majority of the
Undergraduates have a due self-respect, and a due respect for just
authority temperately exercised, because I have ever found it so, both
as Master of a College, and as Vice-Chancellor. One of the happiest
recollections of my life is that of a great occasion in my former
Vice-Chancellorship[7], when I had need to ask for great orderliness
and considerable self-denial on the part of the Undergraduates. This
demand they responded to with a dignified and sweet-tempered obedience
which endeared them to me then, as many good qualities which I have
seen in successive generations of students have endeared them to me
since. And I will not easily give up my trust that now, as then, the
better natures will control and refine the baser, and that it will be
no longer necessary to put any constraint upon the admission of
Undergraduates to the Galleries of the Senate-house.’

After the poll had been declared the Proctors brought him a list of the
rioters. He said, ‘The election is over, they will not do it again,’ and
threw the record into the fire. Not long afterwards he went, as was his
frequent custom, to a concert of the University Musical Society. The
undergraduates present rose and cheered him. Whewell was so much
affected, that he burst into tears, and sat for some time with his face
hidden in the folds of his gown.

Those who recollect Whewell, or even those who know him only by his
portraits, will smile incredulously at an assertion we are about to
make. But it is true, no matter how severely it may be criticised.
Whewell was, in reality, an extremely humble-minded man, diffident of
himself, and sure of his position only when he had the approval of his
conscience for what he was doing. Then he went forward, regardless of
what might bar his passage, and too often regardless also of those who
chanced to differ from him. The few who were admitted to the inner
circle of his friendship alone knew that he really was what his enemies
called him in sarcastic mockery, modest and retiring. If he appeared to
be, as one virulent pamphlet said he was, an ‘imperious bully[8],’ the
manner which justified such a designation was manner only, and due not
to arrogance but to nervousness. He disliked praise, even from his best
friends, if he thought that it was not exactly merited. For instance,
when Archdeacon Hare spoke enthusiastically of his condemnation of
‘Utilitarian Ethics’ in the _Sermons on the Foundation of Morals_, and
exclaimed: ‘May the mind which has compast the whole circle of physical
science find a lasting home, and erect a still nobler edifice, in this
higher region! May he be enabled to let his light shine before the
students of our University, that they may see the truth he utters[9],’
Whewell requested that the passage might be altered in a new edition. He
wrote (26 February, 1841):

‘You have mentioned me in a manner which I am obliged to say is so
extremely erroneous that it distresses me. The character which you have
given of me is as far as possible from that which I deserve. You know, I
think, that I am very ignorant in all the matters with which you are
best acquainted, and the case is much the same in all others. I was
always very ignorant, and am now more and more oppressed by the
consciousness of being so. To know much about many things is what I
never aspired at, and certainly have not succeeded in. If you had called
me a persevering framer of systems, or had said that in architecture, as
in some other matters, by trying to catch the principle of the system, I
had sometimes been able to judge right of details, I should have
recognised some likeness to myself; but what you have said only makes me
ashamed. You will perhaps laugh at my earnestness about this matter, for
I am in earnest; but consider how you would like praise which you felt
to be the opposite of what you were, and not even like what you had
tried to be[10].’

It would be unbecoming to intrude domestic matters into an essay like
the present, in which we have proposed to ourselves a different object;
but we cannot wholly omit to draw attention to the painful, but deeply
interesting, chapters in which Mrs Stair Douglas describes her uncle’s
grief at the loss of his first wife in 1855, and of his second wife in
1865. His strong nature had recovered after a time from the first of
these terrible shocks, under which he had wisely distracted his mind by
the composition of his essay on _The Plurality of Worlds_, and by again
accepting the Vice-Chancellorship. The second, however, fell upon him
with even greater severity. He was ten years older, and therefore less
able to bear up against it. Lady Affleck died a little before midnight
on Saturday, April 1, 1865; and her heart-broken husband, true to his
theory that the chapel service ought to be regarded as family prayers,
appeared in his place at the early service on Sunday morning, not
fearing to commit to the sympathies of his College ‘the saddest of all
sights, an old man’s bereavement, and a strong man’s tears[11].’ We can
still recall the look of intense sorrow on his face; a look which,
though he tried to rouse himself, and pursue his usual avocations, never
completely wore off. He survived her for rather less than a year, dying
on March 6, 1866, from injuries received from a fall from his horse on
February 24 previous. It was at first hoped that these, like those he
had received on many similar occasions, for he used to say that he had
measured the depth of every ditch in Cambridgeshire by falling into it,
were not serious; but the brain had sustained an injury, and he
gradually sank. His last thoughts were for the College. On the very last
morning he signified his wish that the windows of his bedroom might be
opened wide, that he might see the sun shine on the Great Court, and he
smiled as he was reminded that he used to say that the sky never looked
so blue as when framed by its walls and turrets. Among the numerous
tributes to his memory which then appeared, none we think are more
appropriate than the following lines, the authorship of which we believe
we are right in ascribing to the late Mr Tom Taylor[12]:

       ‘Gone from the rule that was questioned so rarely,
         Gone from the seat where he laid down the law;
       Gaunt, stern, and stalwart, with broad brow set squarely
         O’er the fierce eye, and the granite-hewn jaw.

       ‘No more the Great Court shall see him dividing
         Surpliced crowds thick round the low chapel door;
       No more shall idlers shrink cowed from his chiding,
         Senate-house cheers sound his honour no more.

       ‘Son of a hammer-man: right kin of Thor, he
         Clove his way through, right onward, amain;
       Ruled when he’d conquered, was proud of his glory,—
         Sledge-hammer smiter, in body and brain.

       ‘Sizar and Master,—unhasting, unresting;
         Each step a triumph, in fair combat won—
       Rivals he faced like a strong swimmer breasting
         Waves that, once grappled with, terrors have none.

       ‘Trinity marked him o’er-topping the crowd of
         Heads and Professors, self-centred, alone:
       Rude as his strength was, that strength she was proud of,
         Body and mind, she knew all was her own.

       ‘“Science his strength, and Omniscience his weakness,”
         So _they_ said of him, who envied his power;
       Those whom he silenced with more might than meekness,
         Carped at his back, in his face fain to cower.

       ‘Milder men’s graces _might_ in him be lacking,
         Still he was honest, kind-hearted, and brave;
       Never good cause looked in vain for his backing,
         Fool he ne’er spared, but he never screened knave.

       ‘England should cherish all lives from beginning
         Lowly as his to such honour that rise;
       Lives, of fair running and straightforward winning,
         Lives, that so winning, may boast of the prize.

       ‘They that in years past have chafed at his chiding,
         They that in boyish mood strove ’gainst his sway,
       Boys’ hot blood cooled, boys’ impatience subsiding,
         Reverently think of “the Master” to-day.

       ‘Counting his courage, his manhood, his knowledge,
         Counting the glory he won for us all,
       Cambridge—not only his dearly loved College—
         Mourns his seat empty in chapel and hall.

       ‘Lay him down here—in the dim ante-chapel,
         Where NEWTON’S statue looms ghostly and white,
       Broad brow set rigid in thought-mast’ring grapple,
         Eyes that look upward for light—and more light.

       ‘So should he rest—not where daisies are growing:
         NEWTON beside him, and over his head
       Trinity’s full tide of life, ebbing, flowing,
         Morning and evening, as he lies dead.

       ‘Sailors sleep best within boom of the billow,
         Soldiers in sound of the shrill trumpet call:
       So his own Chapel his death-sleep should pillow,
         Loved in his life-time with love beyond all.’

We have not thought it necessary to go through the events of Whewell’s
Mastership in order, because progressive development of thought and
occupation had by that time ended, and his efforts were chiefly directed
towards establishing in the University the changes which his previous
studies had led him to regard as necessary, and which, from the
vantage-ground of that influential position, he was enabled to enforce.
In his own College, so far as its education was concerned, he had little
to do except to maintain the high standard which already existed. As
tutor he had been successful in increasing the importance of the paper
of questions in Philosophy in the Fellowship Examination; and
subsequently he had introduced his _Elements of Morality_, his preface
to Mackintosh’s _Ethical Philosophy_, and his edition of Butler’s _Three
Sermons_ into the examination at the end of the Michaelmas Term. None,
however, of those fundamental measures which have achieved for Trinity
College its present position of pre-eminence will in the future be
associated with his name, unless the abolition of the Westminster
Scholars be thought sufficiently important to be classed in this
category. On the contrary, it is remarkable what slight influence he
exerted on the College while Master. He saw but little of any of the
Fellows, and became intimate with none. In theory he was a despot, but
in practice he deferred to the College officers; and, with the exception
of certain domestic matters, such as granting leave to studious
undergraduates to live in College during the Long Vacation, and the
formation of a cricket-ground for the use of the College, to which he
and Lady Affleck both contributed largely, he originated nothing. As
regards the constitution of the College, he was strongly opposed to
change. The so-called Reform of the Statutes in 1842 amounted to nothing
more than the excision of certain obsolete usages, and the accommodation
in some few other points of the written law to the usual practice of the
College. The proposals for a more thorough reform brought forward by
certain of the Fellows in 1856, when called together in accordance with
the Act of Parliament passed in that year, met with his vehement
disapproval. It was a mental defect with him that he could never be
brought to see that others had as much right as himself to hold special
views. If he saw no defect in a statute or a practice, no one else had
any right to see one. Here is a specimen of the language he used
respecting the junior Fellows, all, it must be remembered, men of some
distinction, whom he himself had had a hand in electing:

‘It is a very sad evening of my College life, to have the College pulled
in pieces and ruined by a set of schoolboys. It is very nearly that kind
of work. The Act of Parliament gives all our Fellows equal weight for
certain purposes, and the younger part of them all vote the same way,
and against the Seniors. Several of these juveniles are really boys,
several others only Bachelors of Arts, so we have crazy work, as I think
it[13].’

As regards the University, as distinct from the College, he deserves
recognition as having effected important educational changes. These
range over the whole of his life, commencing with the novelties which he
introduced, in conjunction with Herschel, Peacock, and Babbage, into the
study of mathematics, so early as 1819. It was his constant endeavour,
whatever office he held—whether Moderator, Examiner, or College
lecturer—to keep the improvement and development of the Mathematical
Tripos constantly before the University. But, before we enumerate the
special improvements or developments with which he may be credited, let
us consider what was his leading idea. He held that every man who was
worth educating at all, had within him various faculties, such as the
mathematical, the philological, the critical, the poetical, and the
like; and that the truly liberal education was that which would develop
all of these, some more, some less, according to the individual nature.
A devotion to ‘favourite and selected pursuits’ was a proof, according
to him, of ‘effeminacy of mind.’ We are not sure that he would have been
prepared to introduce one or more classical papers into the Mathematical
Tripos, though he held that a mere mathematician was not an educated
man; but he was emphatic in wishing to preserve the provisions by which
classical men were obliged to pass certain mathematical examinations. He
did not want ‘_much_ mathematics’ from them, he said, writing to
Archdeacon Hare in 1842; ‘but a man who either cannot or will not
understand Euclid, is a man whom we lose nothing by not keeping among
us.’ He was no friend to examinations. He ‘repudiated emulation as the
sole spring of action in our education,’ but did not see his way to
reducing it. It was probably this feeling that made him object to
private tuition so strongly as he always did. In opposition to private
tutors, he wished to increase attendance at Professors’ lectures; and
succeeded in ‘connecting them with examinations,’ as he called it; in
other words, in making attendance at them compulsory for precisely those
men who were least capable of deriving benefit from the highest teaching
which the University can give, namely, the candidates for the Ordinary
Degree.

The first definite novelty in the way of public examinations which he
promoted was the examination in Divinity called, when first established,
the Voluntary Theological Examination. Whewell was a member of the
Syndicate which recommended it, in March, 1842; and subsequently, he
took a great interest in making it a success. As Vice-Chancellor, he
brought it under the direct notice of the Bishops. Subsequently, in
1845, he advocated, in his essay _Of a Liberal Education in General_,
the establishment of ‘a General Tripos including the Inductive Sciences,
or those which it was thought right by the University to group together
for such a purpose.’ The basis of University education was still to be
the Mathematical Tripos; but, after a student had been declared a Junior
Optime, he was free to choose his future career. He might become a
candidate either for the Classical Tripos, or for the suggested new
Tripos, or for any other Tripos that the University should subsequently
decide to establish. With these views it was natural that Whewell should
be in favour of the establishment of a Moral Sciences Tripos (to include
History and Law), and of a Natural Sciences Tripos; and in consequence
we find him not only a member of the Syndicate which suggested them, but
urging their acceptance upon the Senate (1848). Further, he offered two
prizes of £15 each, so long as he was Professor, to be given annually to
the two students who shewed the greatest proficiency in the former
examination. It is worth noticing that he did not insist upon a
candidate becoming a Junior Optime before presenting himself for either
of these new Triposes, but was satisfied with the Ordinary Degree. He
wished to encourage, by all reasonable facilities, the competition for
Honours in them; but when the Senate (in 1849) threw open the Classical
Tripos to those who had obtained a first class in the examination for
the Ordinary Degree, he deplored it as a retrograde step. Before many
years, however, had passed, he had modified his views to such an extent
that he could sign (in 1854) a Report which began by stating ‘that much
advantage would result from extending to other main departments of
study, generally comprehended under the name of Arts, the system which
is at present established in the University with regard to Candidates
for Honours in the Mathematical Tripos’; and proceeded to advocate the
establishment of a Theological Tripos, and the concession, with
reference to the Classical Tripos, the Moral Sciences Tripos, and the
Natural Sciences Tripos, that in and after 1857 students who obtained
Honours in them should be entitled to admission to the degree of
Bachelor of Arts. We may therefore claim Whewell as one of the founders
of the modern system of University education.

Whewell’s wish to develop Professorial tuition has been already alluded
to. It may be doubted if he would have been so earnest on the subject
had he foreseen the development of teaching by the University as opposed
to teaching by the colleges, which a large increase in the number of
Professors was certain to bring about. So far back as 1828, he had
brought before the University the want of proper lecture-rooms and
museums; and, as a matter of course, he promoted the erection of the
present museums in 1863. We are justified, therefore, in claiming for
him no inconsiderable share in that development of natural science which
is one of the glories of Cambridge; and when we see the crowds which
throng the classes of the scientific professors, lecturers, and
demonstrators, we often wish that he could have been spared a few years
longer to enter into the fruit of his labours.

As regards the constitution of the University he earnestly deprecated
the interference of a Commission. He held that ‘University reformers
should endeavour to reform by efforts within the body, and not by
calling in the stranger.’ He therefore worked very hard as a member of
what was called the ‘Statutes Revision Syndicate,’ first appointed in
1849, and continued in subsequent years. His views on these important
matters have been recorded by him in his work on a Liberal Education. It
is worth remarking that while he was in favour of so advanced a step as
making College funds available for University purposes, he strenuously
maintained the desirability of preserving that ancient body, the
_Caput_. One of the most vexatious provisions of its constitution was
that each member of it had an absolute veto on any grace to which he
might object. As the body was selected, the whole legislative power of
the University was practically vested in the Heads of Houses, who are
not usually the persons best qualified to understand the feeling of the
University. Dr Whewell has frequently recorded, in his correspondence,
his vexation when graces proposed by himself were rejected by this body;
and yet, though he knew how badly the constitution worked, his
attachment to existing forms was so great, that he could not be
persuaded to yield on any point except the mode of election.

We have spoken first of Whewell’s work in his College and University,
because it was to them that he dedicated his life. We must now say a
word or two on his literary and scientific attainments. He wrote an
excellent English style, which reflects the personality of the writer to
a more than usual extent. As might be expected from his studies and tone
of mind, he always wrote with clearness and good sense, though
occasionally his periods are rough and unpolished, defects due to his
habit of writing as fast as he could make the pen traverse the paper.
But, just as it was not natural to him to be grave for long together, we
find his most serious criticisms and pamphlets—nay, even his didactic
works—lightened by good-humoured banter and humorous illustrations. On
the other hand, when he was thoroughly serious and in earnest, his style
rose to a dignified eloquence which has rarely been equalled, and never
surpassed. For an illustration of our meaning we beg our readers to turn
to the final chapters of the _Plurality of Worlds_. He was always fond
of writing verse; and published more than one volume of poems and
translations, of which the latter are by far the most meritorious. Nor
must we forget his valiant efforts to get hexameters and elegiacs
recognized as English metres. Example being better than precept, he
began by printing a translation of Goethe’s _Hermann und Dorothea_, in
the metre of the original, which he at first circulated privately among
his friends; but subsequently he discussed the subject in several
papers, in which he laid down the rules which he thought were required
for successful composition of the metre. His main principle is to pay
attention to accent, not to quantity, and to use trochees where the
ancients would have used spondees; in other words, where according to
the classical hexameter we should have two strong syllables, we are to
have a strong syllable followed by a weak one. Here is a short specimen
from the _Isle of the Sirens_:

  ‘Over the broad-spread sea the thoughtful son of Ulysses
  Steered his well-built bark. Full long had he sought for his father,
  Till hope, lingering, fled; for the face of the water is trackless.
  Then rose strong in his mind the thought of his home and his island;
  And he desired to return; to behold his Ithacan people,
  Listen their just complaints, restrain the fierce and the lawless.’

Mrs Stair Douglas has acted wisely in reprinting the elegiacs written
after the death of Mrs Whewell. We cannot believe that the metre will
ever be popular; but in the case of this particular poem eccentricities
of style will be forgiven for the sake of the dignified beauty of the
thoughts. With the exception of _In Memoriam_, we know of no finer
expression of Christian sorrow and Christian hope. We will quote a few
lines from the first division of the poem, in which the bereaved husband
describes the happiness which his wife had brought to him:

 ‘Blessed beyond all blessings that life can embrace in its circle,
   Blessed the gift was when Providence gave thee to me:
 Gave thee, gentle and kindly and wise, calm, clear-seeing, thoughtful,
   Thee to me as I was, vehement, passionate, blind:
 Gave me to see in thee, and wonder I never had seen it,
   Wisdom that shines in the heart dearer than Intellect’s light;
 Gave me to find in thee, when oppressed by loneliness’ burden,
   Solace for each dull pain, calm from the strife of the storm.
 For O, vainly till then had I sought for peace and contentment,
   Ever pursued by desires, yearnings that could not be still’d;
 Ever pursued by desires of a heart’s companionship, ever
   Yearning for guidance and love such as I found them in thee.’

It is painful to be obliged to record that Whewell’s executors found
that the copyright of his works had no mercantile value. He perhaps
formed a true estimate of his own powers when he said that all that he
could do was to ‘systematize portions of knowledge which the consent of
opinions has brought into readiness for such a process[14].’ His name
will not be associated with any great discovery, or any original theory,
if we except his memoir on Crystallography, which is the basis of the
system since adopted; and his researches on the Tides, which have
afforded a clear and satisfactory view of those of the Atlantic, while
it is hardly his fault if those of the Pacific were not elucidated with
equal clearness[15]. It too often happens that those who originally
suggest theories are forgotten in the credit due to those who develop
them; and we are afraid that this has been the fate of Whewell. Even as
a mathematician he is not considered really great by those competent to
form a judgment. He was too much wedded to the geometrical fashions of
his younger days, and ‘had no taste for the more refined methods of
modern analysis[16].’ In science, as in other matters, his strong
conservative bias stood in his way. He was constitutionally unable to
accept a thorough-going innovation. For instance, he withstood to the
last Lyell’s uniformity, and Darwin’s evolution[17]. Much, therefore, of
what he wrote will of necessity be soon forgotten; but we hope that some
readers may be found for his _Elements of Morality_, and that his great
work on the Inductive Sciences may hold its own. It is highly valued in
Germany; and in England Mr John Stuart Mill, one of the most cold and
severe of critics, who differed widely from Whewell in his scientific
views, has declared that ‘without the aid derived from the facts and
ideas contained in the _History of the Inductive Sciences_, the
corresponding portion of his own _System of Logic_ would probably not
have been written.’

We have felt it our duty to point out these shortcomings; but it is a
far more agreeable one to turn from them, and conclude our essay by
indicating the lofty tone of religious enthusiasm which runs through all
his works. As Dr Lightfoot pointed out in his funeral sermon, ‘the world
of matter without, the world of thought within, alike spoke to him of
the Eternal Creator the Beneficent Father; and even his opponent, Sir
David Brewster, who more strongly than all his other critics had
denounced what he termed the paradox advanced in _The Plurality of
Worlds_, that our earth may be ‘the oasis in the desert of the solar
system,’ was generous enough to admit that posterity would forgive the
author ‘on account of the noble sentiments, the lofty aspirations, and
the suggestions, almost divine, which mark his closing chapter on the
future of the universe.’



                         CONNOP THIRLWALL[18].


Until a few years ago biographies of Bishops were remarkable for that
decent dullness which Sydney Smith has noted as a characteristic of
modern sermons. The narrative reproduced, with painful fidelity, the
oppressive decorum and the conventional dignity; but kept out of sight
the real human being which even in the Georgian period must have existed
beneath official trappings. But in these matters, as in others, there is
a fashion. The narratives which describe the lives of modern Bishops
reflect the change that has come over the office. As now-a-days ‘a
Bishop’s efficiency is measured, in common estimation, by his power of
speech and motion[19],’ his biography, if he has overtopped his brethren
in administration, or eloquence, or statesmanship, becomes an
entertaining, and sometimes even a valuable, production. It reflects the
ever-changing incidents of a bustling career; it is spiced with good
stories; and it reveals, more or less indiscreetly, matters of high
policy in Church and State, over which a veil has hitherto been drawn.
In a word, it is the portrait of a real person, not of a lay figure:
and, if the artist be worthy of his task, a portrait which faithfully
reproduces the original. The life of Bishop Thirlwall could not have
been treated in quite the same way as the imaginary biography we have
just indicated; but, in good hands, it might have been made quite as
entertaining, and much more valuable. Dr Perowne has told us that his
life was not eventful. It was not, in the ordinary sense of that word.
He rarely quitted his peaceful retreat at Abergwili; but, paradoxical as
it sounds, he was no recluse. He took part in spirit, if not in bodily
presence, in all the important events, political, religious, and
literary, of his time; and when he chose to break silence, in speech or
pamphlet, no one could command a more undivided attention, or exercise a
more powerful influence.

What manner of man was this? By what system of education had his mind
been developed? What were his tastes, his pursuits, his daily life? To
these questions, which are surely not unreasonable, the editors of the
five volumes before us vouchsafe no adequate reply, for the meagre
thread of narrative which connects together the _Letters Literary and
Theological_, may be left out of consideration. Thirlwall’s life, as we
understand the word, has yet to be written; and we fear that death has
removed most of those who could perform the task in a manner worthy of
the subject. For ourselves, all that we propose to do is to try to set
forth his talents and his character, by the help of the materials before
us, and of such personal recollections as we have been able to gather
together.

Connop Thirlwall was born February 11, 1797. His father, the Rev. Thomas
Thirlwall, minister of Tavistock Chapel, Broad Court, Long Acre,
Lecturer of S. Dunstan, Stepney, and chaplain to the celebrated Thomas
Percy, Lord Bishop of Dromore, resided at Mile End. We can give no
information about him except the above list of his preferments; and of
Connop’s mother we only know that her husband describes her as ‘pious
and virtuous,’ and anxious to ‘promote the temporal and eternal welfare’
of her children. She had the satisfaction of living long enough to see
her son a bishop[20]. Connop must have been a fearfully precocious
child. In 1809 the fond father published a small duodecimo volume
entitled ‘_Primitiæ; or, Essays and Poems on Various Subjects,
Religious, Moral, and Entertaining_. By Connop Thirlwall, eleven years
of age.’ The first of these essays is dated ‘June 30, 1804. Seven years
old’; and in the preface the father says:

‘In the short sketch which I shall take of the young author, and his
performance, I mean not to amuse the reader with anecdotes of
extraordinary precocity of genius; it is, however, but justice to him to
state, that at a very _early_ period he read English so well that he was
taught Latin at three years of age, and at four read Greek with an ease
and fluency which astonished all who heard him. From that time he has
continued to improve himself in the knowledge of the Greek, Latin,
French, and English languages. His talent for composition appeared at
the age of seven, from an accidental circumstance. His mother, in my
absence, desired his elder brother to write his thoughts upon a subject
for his improvement, when the young author took it into his head to ask
her permission to take the pen in hand too. His request was of course
complied with, without the most remote idea he could write an
intelligible sentence, when in a short time he composed that which is
first printed, “On the Uncertainty of Life.” From that time he was
encouraged to cultivate a talent of which he gave so flattering a
promise, and generally on a Sunday chose a subject from Scripture. The
following essays are selected from these lucubrations.’

We will quote a passage from one of these childish sermons, written when
he was eight years old. The text selected is, ‘Behold, I will add unto
thy days fifteen years’ (Isaiah xiii. 6); and, after some commonplaces
on the condition of Hezekiah, the author takes occasion from the day,
January 1, 1806, to make the following reflections:

‘I shall now consider what resolutions we ought to form at the beginning
of a new year. The intention of God in giving us life was that we might
live a life of righteousness. The same ever is His intention in
preserving it. We ought, then, to live in righteousness, and obey the
commandments of God. Do we not perceive that another year is come, that
time is passing away quickly, and eternity is approaching? and shall we
be all this while in a state of sin, without any recollection that the
kingdom of heaven is nearer at hand? But we ought, in the beginning of a
new year, to form a resolution to be more mindful of the great account
we must give at the last day, and live accordingly: we ought to form a
resolution to reform our lives, and walk in the ways of God’s
righteousness; to abhor all the lusts of the flesh, and to live in
temperance; and resolve no more to offend and provoke God with our sins,
but repent of them. In the beginning of a new year we should reflect a
little: although we are kept alive, yet many died in the course of last
year; and this ought to make us watchful[21].’

There is not much originality of thought in this; indeed, it is
impossible to avoid the suspicion that the paternal sermons, to which
the author doubtless listened every Sunday, suggested the form, and
possibly the matter, of these essays. What meaning could a child of
eight attach to such expressions as ‘the lusts of the flesh,’ or
‘repentance,’ or ‘eternity’? Still, notwithstanding this evident
imitation of others in the matter, the style has a remarkable
individuality. Indeed, just as the portrait of the child which is
prefixed to the volume recalls forcibly the features of the veteran
Bishop at seventy years of age, we fancy that we can detect in the style
a foreshadowing of some of the qualities which rendered that of the man
so remarkable. There is the same orderly arrangement of what he has to
say, the same absence of rhetoric, the same logical deduction of the
conclusion from the premisses. As we turn over the pages of the volume
we are struck by the extent of reading which the allusions suggest. The
best English authors, the most famous men of antiquity, are quoted as if
the writer were familiar with them. The themes, too, are singularly
varied. We find ‘An Eastern Tale,’ which, though redolent of _Rasselas_,
is not devoid of originality, and has considerable power of description;
an ‘Address’ delivered to the Worshipful Company of Drapers at their
annual visit to Bancroft’s School, which is not more fulsome than such
compositions usually are; and, lastly, half a dozen poems, which are by
far the best things in the book. Let us take, almost at random, a few
lines from the last: ‘Characters often Seen, but little Marked: a
Satire.’ A young lady, called Clara, is anxious to break off a match,
and lays her plot in the following fashion:

          ‘The marriage eve arrived, she chanced to meet
          The unsuspecting lover in the street;
          Begins an artful, simple tale to tell.
          “I’m glad to see your future spouse so well,
          But I just heard—” “What?” cries the curious swain.
          “You may not like it; I must not explain.”
          “What was the dear, delusive creature at?”
          “Oh! nothing, nothing, only private chat.”
          “A pack of nonsense! it cannot be true!
          As if, dear girl, she could be false to you[22]!”’

Here, again, there may not be much originality of thought, but the
versification is excellent, and the whole piece of surprising merit,
when we reflect that it was written by a child of eleven. Yet, whatever
may be the worth of this and other pieces in the volume before us as a
promise of future greatness, we cannot but pity the poor little fellow,
stimulated by the inconsiderate vanity of his parents to a priggish
affectation of teaching others when he ought to have been either
learning himself or at play with his schoolfellows; and we can
thoroughly sympathize with the Bishop’s feelings respecting the book.
The lady to whom the _Letters to a Friend_ were written had evidently
asked him for a copy, and obtained the following answer:

‘I am sure that if you knew the point in my foot which gives me pain you
would not select that to kick or tread upon; and I am equally sure that
if you had been aware of the intense loathing with which I think of the
subject of your note you would not have recalled it to my mind. When Mrs
P——, in the simplicity of her heart, and no doubt believing it to be an
agreeable topic to me, told me at dinner on Thursday that she possessed
the hated volume, it threw a shade over my enjoyment of the evening, and
it was with a great effort that, after a pause, I could bring myself to
resume the conversation. If I could buy up every copy for the flames,
without risk of a reprint, I should hardly think any price too high. Let
me entreat you never again to remind me of its existence[23].’

In 1809 young Thirlwall was sent as a day-scholar to the Charterhouse,
the choice of a school having very likely been determined by the fact
that his father resided at the east end of London. The records of his
school days are provokingly incomplete; nay, almost a blank. We should
like to know whether he was ever a boy in the ordinary sense of the
word; whether he played at games[24], or got into mischief, or obtained
the distinction of a flogging. As far as his studies were concerned, he
was fortunate in going to the Charterhouse when that excellent scholar
Dr Raine was head master, and in being the contemporary of several boys
who afterwards distinguished themselves, among whom may be specially
mentioned his life-long friend, Julius Charles Hare, and George Grote,
with whom, in after years, he was to be united in a common field of
historical research. His chief friend, however, at this period was not
one of his schoolfellows, but a young man named John Candler[25], a
Quaker, resident at Ipswich. Several of the letters addressed to him
during the four years spent at Charterhouse have fortunately been
preserved. When we remember that these were written between the ages of
twelve and sixteen, they must be regarded as possessing extraordinary
merit. They are studied and rather stilted compositions, evidently the
result of much thought and labour, as was usual in days when postage
cost eightpence; but they reveal a wonderfully wide extent of reading,
and an interest in passing events not usual in so ardent a student as
the writer evidently had even then become. Young Candler was ‘a friend
to liberty,’ and an admirer of Sir Francis Burdett. His correspondent
criticizes with much severity the popular hero and the mob, who, ‘after
having broken the ministerial windows and pelted the soldiers with
brickbats, have gone quietly home and left him to his meditations upon
Tower Hill.’ Most thoughtful boys are fond of laying down the lines of
their future life in their letters to their schoolfellows; but how few
there are who do not change their opinions utterly, and end by adopting
some profession wholly different from that which at first attracted
them! This was not the case with Thirlwall. We find him writing at
twelve years old in terms which he would not have disdained at fifty. ‘I
shall never be a bigot in politics,’ he says; ‘whither my reason does
not guide me I will suffer myself to be led by the nose by no man[26].’
‘I would ask the advocates for confining learning to the breasts of the
wealthy and the noble, in whose breasts are the seeds of sedition and
discontent most easily sown? In that of the unenlightened or
well-informed peasant? In that of a man incapable of judging either of
the disadvantages of his station or the means of ameliorating it?...
These were long since my sentiments[27].’ And, lastly, on the burning
question of Parliamentary Reform: ‘Party prejudice must own it rather
contradictory to reason and common sense that a population of one
hundred persons should have two representatives, while four hundred
thousand are without one. These are abuses which require speedy
correction[28].’ He had evidently been taken to see Cambridge, and was
constantly looking forward to his residence there. His anticipations,
however, were not wholly agreeable. At that time he did not care much
for classics. He thought that they were not ‘objects of such infinite
importance that the most valuable portion of man’s life, the time which
he passes at school and at college, should be devoted to them.’ In
after-life he said that he had been ‘injudiciously plied with Horace at
the Charterhouse,’ and that, in consequence, ‘many years elapsed before
I could enjoy the most charming of Latin poets[29].’ He admits, however,
that he is looking forward ‘with hope and pleasing anticipation to the
time when I shall immure myself’ at Cambridge; and he makes some really
admirable reflections, most unusual at that period, on University
distinctions and the use to be made of them:

‘There is one particular in which I hope to differ from many of those
envied persons who have attained to the most distinguished academical
honours. Several of these seem to have considered the years which they
have spent at the University, not as the time of preparation for studies
of a more severe and extended nature, but as the term of their labours,
the completion of which is the signal for a life of indolence,
dishonourable to themselves and unprofitable to mankind. Literature and
science are thus degraded from their proper rank, as the most dignified
occupations of a rational being, and are converted into instruments for
procuring the gratification of our sensual appetites. This will not, I
trust, be the conduct of your friend. Sorry indeed should I be to accept
the highest honours of the University were I from that time destined to
sink into an obscure and useless inactivity[30].’

An English translation of the _Pensées_ of Pascal had fallen in his way;
and, in imitation of that great thinker, he had formed a resolution, of
which he begs his friend to remind him in future years, to devote
himself wholly to such studies (among others to the acquisition of a
knowledge of Hebrew) as would fit him for the clerical profession. We
shall see that he never really faltered from these intentions; for,
though he was at one time beset with doubts as to his fitness to perform
the practical duties of a clergyman, he was from first to last a
theologian, and only admitted other studies as ancillary to that central
object.

Thirlwall left Charterhouse in December 1813, and proceeded to Trinity
College, Cambridge, in October of the following year. How he spent the
interval has not been recorded: possibly, like many other boys educated
at a purely classical school, he was doing his best to acquire an
adequate knowledge of mathematics, to his deficiency in which there are
frequent references. He was so far successful in his efforts that he
obtained the place of 22nd senior optime in 1818, when he proceeded in
due course to his degree. Meanwhile, however great his distaste for the
classics might have been at school, he had risen to high distinction in
them; for he obtained the Craven University scholarship when only a
freshman, as well as a Bell scholarship, and in the year of his degree
the first Chancellor’s medal[31]. In the autumn of the same year he was
elected Fellow of his college. It is provoking to have to admit that our
history of what may be termed the first part of his Cambridge career
must begin and end here. Of the second portion, when he returned to his
college and became assistant tutor, we shall have plenty to say
hereafter; but of his undergraduate days no record has been preserved.
He had the good fortune to know Trinity College when society there was
exceptionally brilliant; among his contemporaries were Sedgwick,
Whewell, the two Waddingtons, his old friend Hare, who gained a
Fellowship in the same year as himself, and many others who contributed
to make that period of University history a golden age. We can imagine
him in their company ‘moulding high thought in colloquy serene,’ and
taking part in anything which might develop the general culture of the
place; but beyond the facts that he was secretary to the Union Society
in 1817, when the ‘debate was interrupted by the entrance of the
proctors, who laid on its members the commands of the Vice-Chancellor to
disperse, and on no account to resume their discussions[32],’ and that
he had acquired a high reputation for eloquence as a speaker there[33],
we know nothing definite about him. He does not appear to have made any
new friends; but as Julius Hare was in residence during the same period
as he was, the two doubtless saw much of each other; and it is probably
to him that Thirlwall owed the love of Wordsworth which may be detected
in some of his letters, his fondness for metaphysical speculation, and
his wish to learn German. The only letters preserved are addressed to
his old correspondent Mr Candler, and to his uncle Mr John Thirlwall,
and they give us no information relevant to Cambridge. In writing to the
latter he dwells on his fondness for ancient history, on his preference
for that of Greece over that of Rome; he records the addition of the
Italian and German languages to his stock of acquirements; and he
describes with enthusiasm his yearning for foreign travel, which each
year grew stronger:

‘I certainly was not made to sit at home in contented ignorance of the
wonders of art and nature, nor can I believe that the restlessness of
curiosity I feel was implanted in my disposition to be a source of
uneasiness rather than of enjoyment. Under this conviction I peruse the
authors of France and Italy, with the idea that the language I am now
reading I may one day be compelled to speak, and that what is now a
source of elegant and refined entertainment may be one day the medium
through which I shall disclose my wants and obtain a supply of the
necessaries of daily life. This is the most enchanting of my day dreams;
it has been for some years past my inseparable companion. And, apt as
are my inclinations to fluctuate, I cannot recollect this to have ever
undergone the slightest abatement[34].’

The letter from which we have selected the above passage was written to
his uncle in 1816; in another, written a few months later to his friend
Mr Candler, he enters more fully into his difficulties and prospects.
The earlier portion of the letter is well worth perusal for the insight
it affords into the extent of his reading and the originality of his
criticisms; but it is the concluding paragraph which is specially
interesting to a biographer. We do not know to what influences the
change was due, but it is evident that his mind was passing through a
period of unrest; his old determinations had been, at least for the
moment, uprooted, and he looked forward with uncertain eyes to an
unknown future. ‘My disinclination to the Church,’ he says, ‘has grown
from a motive into a reason.’ The Bar had evidently been suggested to
him as the only alternative, and on that dismal prospect he dilates with
unwonted bitterness. It would take him away from all the pursuits he
loved most dearly, and put in their place ‘the routine of a barren and
uninteresting occupation,’ in which not only would the best years of his
life be wasted, but—and this is what he seems to have dreaded most—his
loftier aspirations would be degraded, and, when he had become rich
enough to return to literature, he would feel no inclination to do so.

The Fellowship examination of 1818 having ended in Thirlwall’s election,
he was free to go abroad, and at once started alone for Rome. At that
time Niebuhr was Prussian Envoy there, and Bunsen his Secretary of
Legation. Thirlwall was so fortunate as to bring with him a letter of
introduction to Madame Bunsen, who had been a Miss Waddington, cousin to
Professor Monk, and had married Bunsen about a year before Thirlwall’s
visit. The following amusing letter from Madame Bunsen to her mother
gives an interesting picture of Thirlwall in Rome:

‘_March 16, 1819._—Mr Hinds and Mr Thirlwall are here.... My mother has,
I know, sometimes suspected that a man’s abilities are to be judged of
in an _inverse ratio_ to his Cambridge honours; but I believe that rule
is really not without exception, for Mr Thirlwall is certainly no dunce,
although, as I have been informed, he attained high honours at Cambridge
at an earlier age than anybody except, I believe, Porson. In the course
of their first interview Charles heard enough from him to induce him to
believe that Mr Thirlwall had studied Greek and Hebrew in good earnest,
not merely for _prizes_; also, that he had read Mr Niebuhr’s Roman
History proved him to possess no trifling knowledge of German; and, as
he expressed a wish to improve himself in the language, Charles ventured
to invite him to come to us on a Tuesday evening, whenever he was not
otherwise engaged, seeing that many Germans were in the habit of calling
on that day. Mr Thirlwall has never missed any Tuesday evening since,
except the _moccoli_ night and one other when it rained dogs and cats.
He comes at eight o’clock, and never stirs to go away till everybody
else has wished good night, often at almost twelve o’clock. It is
impossible for any one to behave more like a man of sense and a
gentleman than he has always done—ready and eager to converse with
anybody that is at leisure to speak to him, but never looking fidgety
when by necessity left to himself; always seeming animated and
attentive, whether listening to music, or trying to make out what people
say in German, or looking at one of Goethe’s songs in the book, while it
is sung. And so there are a great many reasons for our being _very much_
pleased with Mr Thirlwall; yet I rather suspect him of being very cold,
and very dry; and although he seeks, and seeks with general success, to
understand everything, and in every possible way increase his stock of
ideas, I doubt the possibility of his understanding anything that is to
be _felt_ rather than _explained_, and that cannot be reduced to a
system. I was led to this result by some most extraordinary questions
that he asked Charles about _Faust_ (which he had borrowed of us, and
which he greatly admired nevertheless, attempting a translation of one
of my favourite passages, which, however, I had not pointed out to him
as being such), and also by his great fondness for the poems of
Wordsworth, two volumes of which he insisted on lending to Charles.
These books he accompanied with a note, in which he laid great stress
upon the necessity of reading the author’s _prose essays on his own
poems_, in order to be enabled to relish the latter. Yet Mr Thirlwall
speaks of Dante in a manner that would seem to prove a thorough taste
for his poetry, as well as that he has really and truly studied it; for
he said to me that he thought no person who had taken the trouble to
understand the whole of the _Divina Commedia_ would doubt about
preferring the “Paradiso” to the two preceding parts, an opinion in
which I thoroughly agree[35].

‘As Mr Thirlwall can speak French sufficiently well to make himself
understood, and as he has _something to say_, Charles found it very
practicable to make him and Professor Bekker acquainted, though
Professor Bekker has usually the great defect of _never_ speaking but
when he is prompted by his own inclination, and of never being _inclined
to speak_ except to persons whom he has long known—that is, to whose
faces and manners he has become accustomed, and whose understanding or
character he respects or likes.... In conclusion, I must say about Mr
Thirlwall, that I was prepossessed in his favour by his having made up
in a marked manner to Charles, rather than to myself. I had no
difficulty in getting on with him, but I had all the advances to make;
and I can never think the worse of a young man, just fresh from college
and unused to the society of women, for not being at his ease with them
at first[36].’

It is vexatious that Thirlwall’s biographers should have failed to
discover—if indeed they tried to discover—any information about his
Roman visit, to which he always looked back with delight, occasioned as
much by the friends he had made there as by ‘the memorable scenes and
objects’ he had visited[37]. So far as we know, the above letter is the
only authority extant. We should like to have heard whether Thirlwall
had, or had not, any personal intercourse with Niebuhr, whom we have
reason to believe he never met; and to what extent Bunsen influenced his
future studies. We find it stated in Bunsen’s life that he determined
Thirlwall’s wavering resolutions in favour of the clerical
profession[38]. This, as we shall presently shew, is clearly a mistake;
but, when we consider the strong theological bias of Bunsen’s own mind,
it does seem probable that he would direct his attention to the modern
school of German divinity. We suspect that Thirlwall had been already
influenced in this direction by the example, if not by the direct
precepts, of Herbert Marsh, then Lady Margaret’s Professor of Theology
at Cambridge[39], who had stirred up a great controversy by translating
Michaelis’ _Introduction to the New Testament_, and by promoting a more
free criticism of the Gospels than had hitherto been thought
permissible. However this may be, it is certain that the friendship
which began in Rome was one of the strongest and most abiding influences
which shaped Thirlwall’s character, and just half a century afterwards
we find him referring to Bunsen as a sort of oracle in much the same
language that Dr Arnold was fond of employing.

We must pass lightly and rapidly over the next seven years of
Thirlwall’s life. He entered as a law student at Lincoln’s Inn in
February 1820, and in 1827 returned to Cambridge. In the intervening
period he had given the law a fair trial; but the more he saw of it the
less he liked it. It is painful to think of the weary hours spent over
work of which he could say, four years after he had entered upon it, ‘It
can never be anything but loathsome to me[40]’; ‘my aversion to the law
has not increased, as it scarcely could, from the first day of my
initiation into its mysteries’; or to read his pathetic utterances to
Bunsen, describing his wretchedness, and the delight he took in his
brief excursions out of law into literature, consoling himself with the
reflection that perhaps he gained in intensity of enjoyment what he lost
in duration. With these feelings it would have been useless for him to
persevere; but we doubt if the time spent in legal work was so entirely
thrown away as he imagined. It might be argued that much of his future
eminence as a bishop was due to his legal training. As a friend has
remarked, ‘he carried the temper, and perhaps the habit, of Equity into
all his subsequent work’; and to the end of his life he found a special
delight in tracking the course of the more prominent _causes célèbres_
of the day, and expressing his judgment upon them[41]. Even in these
years, however, law was not allowed to engross his whole time. From the
beginning he had laid this down as a fixed principle. He spent his
vacations in foreign travel, and every moment he could snatch from his
enforced studies was devoted to a varied course of reading, of which the
main outcome was a translation of Schleiermacher’s _Critical Essay on
the Gospel of S. Luke_[42], to which his friend Hare had introduced him.
Why should Thirlwall have selected, as a specimen of the new school of
German theology, a work which, at this distance of time, does not appear
to be specially distinguished for merit or originality[43]? It is
evident, from what he says in his _Introduction_, that he had a sincere
admiration for the talents of Dr Schleiermacher, whom he describes as
‘this extraordinary writer,’ whose fate it has been ‘to open a new path
in every field of literature he has entered, and to tread all alone.’
But the real motive for the selection is to be found, we think, in the
opportunity it afforded him for studying the whole question of the
origin and authorship of the synoptic Gospels, and, as the title page
informs us, for dealing with the contributions to the literature of the
subject which had appeared since Bishop Marsh’s _Dissertation on the
Origin and Composition of our three first Canonical Gospels_, published
in 1801. In this direct reference to Marsh’s work we find a confirmation
of our theory that Thirlwall owed to him his position as a critical
theologian, though we can hardly imagine a greater difference than that
which must have existed in all other matters between the passionate
Toryism of the one and the serene Liberalism of the other.

Thirlwall’s gallant attempt to follow an uncongenial profession could
have but one termination; and we can imagine his friends watching with
some curiosity for the moment and the cause of the final rupture. The
moment was probably determined by the prosaic consideration that his
fellowship at Trinity College would terminate in October 1828, unless he
were in Priest’s Orders. We do not mean that he became a clergyman in
order to secure a comfortable yearly income; but, that having decided in
favour of the clerical profession, joined to those literary pursuits
which his position as a fellow of Trinity College would allow, he took
the necessary steps in good time. He returned to Cambridge in 1827, and,
having been ordained deacon in the same year, and priest in the year
following, at once undertook his full share of college and University
work[44]. His friend Hare had set the example in 1822 by accepting a
classical lectureship at Trinity College at the urgent request of Mr
Whewell, then lately appointed to one of the tutorships[45], and
Thirlwall had paid visits to him in the Long Vacations of 1824 and 1825.
It is probable that at one of these visits the friends had planned their
translation of Niebuhr’s _History of Rome_, for the first volume was far
advanced in 1827, and was published early in 1828. The second did not
appear until 1832. The publication of what Thirlwall rightly terms ‘a
wonderful masterpiece of genius’ in an English dress marked an epoch in
historical and classical literature in this country. Yet,
notwithstanding its pre-eminent excellence, the work of the translators
was bitterly attacked in various places, and particularly in a note
appended to an article in the _Quarterly Review_, a criticism which
would long ago have been forgotten if it had not called forth a reply
which we have heard described as ‘Hare’s bark and Thirlwall’s bite[46].’
The pamphlet consists of sixty-three pages, of which sixty belong to the
former, and a ‘Postscript,’ of little more than two, to the latter. It
is probable that Hare’s elaborate vindication of his author, his brother
translator, and himself, had but little effect on any one; Thirlwall’s
indignant sarcasms—worthy of the best days of that controversial style
in which he subsequently became a master—are still remembered and
admired. We will quote a few sentences, of an application far wider than
the criticism to which they originally referred. The reviewer had
expressed pity that the translators should have wasted ‘such talents on
the drudgery of translation.’ Thirlwall took exception to the phrase,
and pointed out that their intellectual labour did not deserve to be so
spoken of.

‘On the other hand, intellectual labour prompted and directed by no
higher consideration than that of personal emolument appears to me to
deserve an ignominious name; nor do I think such an employment the less
illiberal, however great may be the abilities exerted, or the advantages
purchased. But I conceive such labour to become still more degrading,
when it is let out to serve the views and advocate the opinions of
others. It sinks another step lower in my estimation, when, instead of
being applied to communicate what is excellent and useful, it ministers
to the purpose of excluding from circulation all such intellectual
productions as have not been stampt with the seal of the party to which
it is itself subservient. But when I see it made the instrument of a
religious, political, or literary proscription, forging or pointing
calumny and slander to gratify the malice of hotter and weaker heads
against all whom they hate and fear, I have now before me an instance of
what I consider as the lowest and basest intellectual drudgery. I leave
the application of these distinctions to the QUARTERLY REVIEWER.’

In 1831 the two friends started the publication of the _Philological
Museum_. It had a brief but glorious career. Only six numbers were
published, but they contained ‘more solid additions to English
literature and scholarship’ than had up to that time appeared in any
journal. We are glad to see that seven of Thirlwall’s contributions have
been republished, and that among them is the well-known essay _On the
Irony of Sophocles_. Those who read these articles, and still more those
who turn to the volumes from which they have been extracted, and look
through the whole series of Thirlwall’s contributions, will be as much
impressed by the writer’s erudition as by his critical insight; and, if
a translation from the German should fall under their notice, they will
not fail to remark the extraordinary skill with which he has turned that
difficult language into sound English. Thirlwall would have smiled with
polite incredulity had any one told him that he was setting an example
in those writings of his which would bear fruit in years to come; but we
maintain that this is what really happened. More than one of his
successors in the field of classics at Cambridge was directly stimulated
by what he had done to undertake an equally wide course of reading; and
it may be argued with much probability that the thoroughness and breadth
of illustration with which classical subjects are treated by the
lecturers in Trinity College is derived from his initiative.

In 1832, when Hare left Cambridge, his friend succeeded him as assistant
tutor, to give classical lectures to the undergraduates on Whewell’s
‘side.’ For a time all went well. His lectures were exceedingly popular
with those capable of appreciating them, as was shown by the large
attendance not only of undergraduates, but of the best scholars in the
college, men who had already taken their degrees, and who were working
for the Fellowship Examination or for private improvement. They were
remarkable for translations of singular excellence, and for an
exhaustive treatment of the subject, as systematic as Hare’s had been
desultory, as we learn from traditions of them which still survive, and
from two volumes of notes which now lie before us, taken down at a
course on the Ethics of Aristotle. Moreover Thirlwall was personally
popular. He was the least ‘donnish’ of the resident Fellows, and sought
the society of undergraduates, inviting the men who attended his
lectures to walk with him or to take wine at his rooms after Hall. He
delighted in a good story, and used to throw himself back in his chair,
his whole frame shaking with suppressed merriment, when anything struck
his fancy as especially humorous. He had one habit which, had it been
practised with less delicacy, might have marred his popularity. He was
fond of securing an eager but inconsiderate talker, whom he drew out, by
a series of subtle questions, for the amusement of the rest. So well
known was this peculiarity among his older friends that after one of his
parties a person who had not been present has been heard to inquire from
another who had just left his rooms, ‘Who was fool to-day?’

In 1834 Thirlwall’s connection with the educational staff of the college
was rudely severed by a controversy respecting the admission of
Dissenters to degrees. This debate has been long since forgotten in the
University; but the influence which it exercised on Thirlwall’s future
career, as well as its own intrinsic interest, point it out for
particular notice. We had occasion in a recent article[47] to sketch the
changes which took place in the University between 1815 and 1830. It
will be remembered that the stormy period of our political history which
is associated with the first Reform Bill fell between those dates. It
was hardly to be expected that Cambridge should escape an influence by
which the country was so profoundly affected. Indeed, it may be cited as
a sign of the absorbing interest of that question, that it did affect
the University very seriously; for there is ample evidence that in the
previous century external events, no matter how important, had made but
little impression. In 1746 we find the poet Gray lamenting that his
fellow academicians were so indifferent to the march of the Pretender;
and even the French Revolution excited but a languid enthusiasm, though
Dr Milner, the Vice-Chancellor, and his brother Heads, did their best to
draw attention to it by expelling from the University Mr Frend, of Jesus
College, for writing a pamphlet called _Peace and Union_, which
advocated the principles of its leaders. With the Reform Bill of 1830,
however, the case was very different. Sides were eagerly taken;
discussions grew hot and angry; old friends became estranged; and, years
afterwards, when children of the next generation asked questions of
their parents about some one whose name was mentioned in their hearing,
but with whom they were not personally acquainted, it was not unusual
for them to be told: ‘That is Mr So-and-so; he used to be very intimate
with us before the Reform Bill; but we never speak now.’

One of the grievances then discussed was the exclusion of Dissenters
from participation in the advantages of the Universities. The propriety
of imposing tests at matriculation, and on proceeding to degrees,
especially to degrees in the faculties of law and physic, had been from
time to time debated, both in the University and in the House of
Commons. The ancient practice had, notwithstanding, been steadily
maintained. On one occasion, in 1772, the House had even gone so far as
to decline, by a majority of 146, to receive a petition on the subject.
In December 1833, however, Professor Pryme offered Graces to the Senate
for appointing a Syndicate to consider the abolition or the modification
of subscription on graduation. The ‘Caput[48]’ rejected them. In
February of the following year, Dr Cornwallis Hewett, Downing Professor
of Medicine, offered a similar Grace to consider the subject with
special reference to the faculty of medicine. This also was rejected by
the ‘Caput’ on the veto of the Vice-Chancellor, Dr King, President of
Queens’ College. These two rejections, following so closely upon each
other, made it evident that the authorities of the University were not
disposed so much as to consider the subject. It was therefore determined
to extend the field of the controversy, and at once to apply to the
Legislature. A meeting was held at Professor Hewett’s rooms in Downing
College, at which it was agreed to present an identical petition to both
Houses of Parliament. The document began by stating the attachment of
the petitioners to the Church of England, and to the University as
connected therewith; and further, their belief ‘that no civil or
ecclesiastical polity was ever so devised by the wisdom of man as not to
require, from time to time, some modification from the change of
external circumstances or the progress of opinion.’ They then
suggested—this was the word employed—

‘“That no corporate body, like the University of Cambridge, can exist in
a free country in honour and safety unless its benefits be communicated
to all classes as widely as may be compatible with the Christian
principles of its foundation”; and urged “the expediency of abrogating
by legislative enactment every religious test exacted from members of
the University before they proceed to degrees, whether of Bachelor,
Master, or Doctor, in Arts, Law, or Physic.”’

This petition was signed by sixty-two resident members of the Senate.
Among them were two Masters of Colleges, Dr Davy, of Caius, and Dr Lamb,
of Corpus Christi; and nine Professors, Hewett, Lee, Cumming, Clark,
Babbage, Sedgwick, Airy, Musgrave, Henslow; some of whom were either
Conservatives, or very moderate Liberals. It was presented to the House
of Lords by Earl Grey, and to the House of Commons by Mr Spring-Rice,
member for the town of Cambridge. As might have been expected, it was
met, after an interval of about ten days, by a protest, signed by 110
residents; which was shortly followed by a counter-petition to
Parliament, signed by 258 members of the Senate, mostly non-residents—a
number which would no doubt have been greatly enlarged had there been
more time for collecting signatures[49]. These expressions of opinion,
however, which showed that even resident members of the University were
not unanimous in desiring the proposed relief, while non-residents were
probably strongly opposed to it, did not prevent the introduction of a
Bill into the House of Commons to make it ‘lawful for all his Majesty’s
subjects to enter and matriculate in the Universities of England, and to
receive and enjoy all degrees in learning conferred therein (degrees in
Divinity alone excepted), without being required to subscribe any
articles of religion, or to make any declaration of religious opinions
respecting particular modes of faith and worship.’ The third reading of
this Bill was carried by a majority of 89; but it was rejected in the
House of Lords by a majority of 102.

It will easily be imagined that these proceedings were watched with the
greatest interest at Cambridge. Public opinion had risen to fever-heat,
and a plentiful crop of pamphlets was the result. It is difficult
nowadays to read without a smile these somewhat hysterical productions,
with their prophecies of untold evils to come, should the fatal measure
suggested by the petitioners ever pass into the Statute-book. Among
these pamphlets that which most concerns our present purpose was by Dr
Thomas Turton, then Regius Professor of Divinity, and afterwards Lord
Bishop of Ely, entitled, _Thoughts on the Admission of Persons, without
regard to their Religious Opinions, to certain Degrees in the
Universities of England_. Dr Turton was universally respected, and his
pamphlet attracted great attention on that account, and also from the
ability and ingenuity of the argument. He adopted the comparative
method; and endeavoured to prove that evils would ensue from the
intercourse of young men who differed widely from one another in
theological beliefs, by tracing the history of the Theological Seminary
for Nonconformists, commenced by the celebrated Dr Doddridge, in 1729,
at Northampton, and subsequently removed to Daventry in 1751. The
gauntlet thus thrown down was taken up by Thirlwall, who lost but little
time in addressing to him a _Letter on the Admission of Dissenters to
Academical Degrees_. After stating briefly that what he was about to say
would be said on his own responsibility, and that he did not come
forward as ‘the organ or advocate’ of those who had taken the same side
as himself, many of whom, he thought, would not agree with him, he
proceeded to attack the analogy between Cambridge and Daventry which Dr
Turton had attempted to establish. ‘Our colleges,’ he boldly asserted,
‘are not theological seminaries. We have no theological colleges, no
theological tutors, no theological students.’ The statement was
literally true; it might even be said to be as capable of demonstration
as any simple mathematical proposition; but uttered in that way, in a
controversial pamphlet, in support of a most unpopular cause, it must
have sounded like the blast of a hostile trumpet. This, however, was not
all. Dr Turton had claimed for the Universities the same privilege which
was enjoyed by Nonconformists, viz. the possession of colleges where
‘those principles of religion alone are taught which are in agreement
with their own peculiar views.’ Thirlwall, therefore, proceeded to
inquire whether the colleges, though not theological seminaries, might
be held to be schools for religious instruction. This question again he
answered in the negative; and his opponent having placed in the foremost
rank among the privileges long exercised by the Universities (1) the
relation of tutor to pupil, (2) the chapel services, (3) the college
lectures, he proceeded to examine whether these could ‘properly be
numbered among the aids to religion which this place furnishes.’ To him
it appeared impossible, under any circumstances, to instil religion into
men’s minds against their will. ‘We cannot even prescribe exercises, or
propose rewards for it, without killing the thing we mean to foster.’
The value of the three aids above enumerated had been, he thought,
greatly exaggerated; and compulsory attendance at chapel—‘the constant
repetition of a heartless, mechanical service’—he denounced as a
positive evil.

‘My reason for thinking that our daily services might be omitted
altogether, without any material detriment to religion, is simply that,
as far as my means of observation extend, with an immense majority of
our congregation it is not a religious service at all, and that to the
remaining few it is the least impressive and edifying that can well be
conceived[50].’

He had no fault to find with the decorum of the service, but he
criticised it as follows:

‘If this decorum were to be carried to the highest perfection, as it
might easily be, if it should ever become a mode and a point of honour
with the young men themselves, the thing itself would not rise one step
in my estimation. I should still think, that the best which could be
said of it would be, that at the end it leaves every one as it found
him, and that the utmost religion could hope from it would be to suffer
no incurable wounds.

‘As to any other purposes, foreign to those of religion, which may be
answered by these services, I have here no concern with them. I know
that it is sometimes said that the attendance at chapel is essential to
discipline; but I have never been able to understand what kind of
discipline is meant: whether it is a discipline of the body, or of the
mind, or of the heart and affections. As to the first, I am very
sensible of the advantage of early rising; but I think this end might be
attained by a much less circuitous process; and I suppose that it will
hardly be reckoned among the uses of our evening service, that it
sometimes proves a seasonable interruption to intemperate gaiety. But I
confess that the word discipline, applied to this subject, conveys to my
mind no notions which I would not wish to banish: it reminds me either
of a military parade, or of the age when we were taught to be _good_ at
church[51].’

As a remedy for the existing state of things he suggested a weekly
service, ‘which should remind the young men of that to which they have,
most of them, been accustomed at home.’ Such a service as this, he
thought, ‘would afford the best opportunity of affording instruction of
a really religious kind, which should apply itself to their situation
and prospects, and address itself to their feelings.’

Next he took the college lectures in divinity, and proceeded to show,
that, for the most part, they had no claim to be called theological.
This part of his pamphlet excited even greater dissatisfaction than the
other; and it must be admitted that it was by far the weakest part of
his case. His statements under this head were presently examined, and
completely refuted, by Mr Robert Wilson Evans, then a resident Fellow of
Trinity, who published a detailed account of the lectures on the New
Testament which he had given during the past year in his own college.

Up to this time Mr Whewell had taken no part in the controversy, because
he had felt himself unable ‘fully to agree with either of the contending
parties.’ But his position as tutor of the college whence the
denunciation of the existing system had emanated—for the system of
Trinity College was practically the system of all the other colleges in
the University also—compelled him, though evidently with the greatest
reluctance, to break silence. He argued that Thirlwall’s opinion, that
we cannot prescribe exercises or propose rewards for religion without
killing that which we fain would foster, strikes at the root of all
connexion between religion and civil institutions, such as an
Established Church and the like; that external influences have always
been recognized by Christian communities, and must have been used even
in the case of those services at home which his opponent approved.
Chapel service is nothing more than family prayers. If, therefore, we
teach our students that compulsion is destructive of all religion, shall
we not make them doubt the validity of the religion which was instilled
into their minds at home? The aim of such ordinances and safeguards is
to throw a religious character over all the business of life; to bind
religious thought upon us by the strongest of all constraints—the
constraint of habit. He admitted that all was not perfect in the chapel
services as they existed; and lamented that the task of those who wished
to make the undergraduates more devout would henceforward be harder than
it had ever been before, through their consciousness of a want of
unanimity among their instructors. A stated method is of use in religion
as it is in other studies. What would become of men under the voluntary
system? It is interesting to remark that in a subsequent pamphlet
written a few months later—in September 1834—he spoke in favour of such
a change in the Sunday service as Thirlwall had suggested. Towards the
close of his Mastership this change was effected, and a sermon was
introduced at the second of the two morning services on Sundays. We are
not aware, however, that the movement which resulted in this alteration
was regarded with any special favour by the Master[52].

Thirlwall’s pamphlet is dated May 21, 1834; Whewell’s four days later.
On the 26th the Master, Dr Wordsworth, wrote to Mr Thirlwall, calling
upon him to resign the assistant-tutorship. The words used were:

‘I trust you will find no difficulty in resigning the appointment of
assistant-tutor which I confided to you somewhat more than two years
ago. Your continuing to retain it would, I am convinced, be very
injurious to the good government, the reputation, and the prosperity of
the college in general, to the interests of Mr Whewell in particular,
and to the welfare of the young men, and of many others.’

In another passage he went further still:

‘With respect to the letter itself, I have read it with some attention,
and, I am sorry to say, with extreme pain and regret. It appears to me
of a character so out of harmony with the whole constitution and system
of the college that I find some difficulty in understanding how a person
with such sentiments can reconcile it to himself to continue a member of
a society founded and conducted on principles from which he differs so
widely.’

The Heads of Houses of that day regarded themselves as seated upon an
academic Olympus, from whose serene heights they surveyed the common
herd beneath them with a sort of contemptuous pity; and they not only
exacted, but were commonly successful in obtaining, the most precise
obedience from their subjects. In Trinity College, however, at least
since the days of Dr Bentley, the Master had usually been in the habit
of consulting the Seniors before taking any important step; but, on this
occasion, it is quite clear that the Seniors were not consulted. The
Master probably thought that as he appointed the assistant-tutors he
could also remove them. We believe, however, that even in those days the
Master usually consulted the tutors before appointing their
subordinates; and common courtesy would have suggested a similar course
of action before dismissing a distinguished scholar[53].

Thirlwall lost no time in obeying the Master’s commands, and then issued
a circular to the Fellows of the college, enclosing a copy of the
Master’s letter, in order that they might learn what was ‘the power
claimed by the Master over the persons engaged in the public instruction
of the college, and the manner in which it has been exercised;’ and,
secondly, that he might learn from them how far they agreed with the
Master as to the propriety of his continuing a member of the Society. On
this point he entreated each of them to favour him with a ‘private,
explicit, and unreserved declaration’ of his opinions. It is needless to
say that one and all desired to retain him among them; and the Master’s
conduct was condemned by a large majority. It must not, however, be
supposed that Thirlwall’s own conduct was held to be free from fault. He
was much blamed for having resigned so hastily, without consulting any
one, as it would appear, except Whewell and Perry. Moreover, many of the
Fellows, among whom was Mr Hare, condemned the Master’s action, and
censured Thirlwall’s rashness in publishing such sentiments while
holding a responsible office, with almost equal severity. This feeling
explains, as we imagine, the very slight resistance made to an act
which, under any other circumstances, would have caused an explosion.
The Fellows felt that the victim had put himself in the wrong; and that,
much as they regretted the necessity of submission, it was the only
course to be taken. Thirlwall mentions in a letter to Professor Pryme
that when he showed the Masters communication to Whewell, the latter
‘expressed great regret,’ but ‘did not intimate that there could be any
doubt as to our connexion being at an end.’

It has often been said that Whewell did not exert himself as he might
have done to avert the catastrophe. We are glad to know, as we now do
most distinctly, from a letter written by him to Professor Sedgwick[54],
full of grief at what had happened, and of apprehension at its probable
consequences, that he had done all in his power to stay the Master’s
hand. He does not say, in so many words, that the Master had consulted
him _before_ he sent the letter; but he does say that ‘the Master’s
request to him (Mr Thirlwall) to resign the tuition I entirely
disapprove of, and expressed my opinion against it to the Master as
strongly as I could.’ If Thirlwall felt some resentment against Whewell
at first—as we believe he did—the feeling soon died away, and towards
the end of September he wrote him a long letter which ended with the
following passage:

‘Besides the explanations which I desired, your letter has afforded me a
still higher satisfaction, in shewing me that I am indebted to you for
an obligation on which I shall always reflect with pleasure and
gratitude—in the attempt which you made to avert the evil which my
imprudence had drawn upon me. And as this is the strongest proof you
could have given of the desire you felt to continue the relation in
which we stood with one another, so it encourages me to hope that I may
still find opportunities, before I leave this place, of co-operating
with you, though in a different form, for the like ends. But at all
events I shall never cease to retain that esteem and regard with which I
now remain yours most truly,

                                                  C. THIRLWALL[55].’

In reviewing the whole controversy at a distance of more than half a
century, with, we must admit, a strong bias in Thirlwall’s favour, it is
impossible not to admit that he had made a mistake. In all questions of
college management it is most important that the authorities should
appear, at any rate, to be unanimous; and the words ‘my imprudence,’
which occur in the passage quoted above from his letter to Whewell,
indicate that by that time he had begun to take the same view himself.
It is easy to see how he had been drawn into an opposite course. He had
never considered that he had anything to do with the chapel discipline;
he had agreed to attend himself, but he did not consider that such
attendance implied approval of the system. His own attendance, as we
learn from a contemporary, was something more than formal; he was rarely
absent, morning or evening; and his behaviour was remarkable for
reverence and devotion. With him, religion had nothing to do with
discipline; and it was infinitely shocking to his pure and thoughtful
mind to defile things heavenly with things earthly. The far too rigorous
rules of attendance which were then in force had exasperated the
undergraduates, and their behaviour, without being absolutely profane,
was careless and irreverent. Talking was very prevalent, especially on
surplice nights, when the service is choral. Thirlwall probably knew,
from the friendly intercourse which he maintained with the younger
members of the College, what their feelings were, and determined to do
his best to get a system altered which produced such disastrous results.
It must be remembered that at that time the Act of Uniformity prevented
any shortening of the service. Whewell’s mind was a very different one.
Without being a bigot, he had a profound respect for the existing order
of things; shut his eyes to any defects it might have, even when they
were pointed out to him; and regarded attempts to subvert it, or even to
weaken it, as acts of profanity.

It will be readily conceived that these events rendered Cambridge no
pleasant place of residence for Thirlwall, deprived of his occupation as
a teacher and unsupported by any particularly strong force of liberal
opinion in the University. Yet he had the courage to make the experiment
of continuing to live in college. He went abroad for the Long Vacation
of 1834, and returned at the beginning of the October term. In a few
weeks, however, the course of his life was changed by an unexpected
event. Lord Melbourne’s first Ministry broke up, and just as Lord
Chancellor Brougham was regretting that Sedgwick and Thirlwall were the
only clergymen who had deserved well of the Liberal party for whom he
had been unable to provide, came the news of the death of a gentleman
who was both canon of Norwich and rector of Kirby Underdale, a valuable
but very secluded living in Yorkshire. He at once offered the canonry to
Sedgwick and the rectory to Thirlwall. Both offers were accepted, we
believe, without hesitation; and both appointments, though evidently
made without regard to the special fitness of the persons selected, were
thoroughly successful. Sedgwick threw himself into the duties of a
cathedral dignitary with characteristic vigour; and Thirlwall, whose
only experience of parochial work had been at Over, in Cambridgeshire, a
small village without a parsonage, of which he was vicar for a few
months in 1829, became a zealous and popular parish priest. We are told
that ‘the recollection still survives of regular services with full and
attentive congregations, including incomers from neighbouring villages;
of the frequent visits to the village school; of the extempore prayers
with his flock, of which the larger number were Dissenters; of the
assiduous attentions to the sick and poor.’ And his old friend Hare,
writing to Whewell in 1840, describes his work in his parish as
‘perfect,’ and holds up his example as ‘an encouragement’ to his
correspondent to go and do likewise[56].

Thirlwall did not revisit Cambridge until 1842, when he stayed in
Trinity College for two days during the installation of the Duke of
Northumberland as Chancellor. Such an occasion, however, does not give
much opportunity for judging of the real state of the University. He
paid a similar visit in 1847, when Prince Albert was installed. After
this he did not see Cambridge again until the spring of 1869, when he
stayed at Trinity Lodge with his old friend Dr Thompson, and on
Whitsunday, May 16, preached before the University in Great S. Mary’s
Church. He has himself recorded that he was never so much pleased with
the place since he went up as a freshman, and has given an amusing
description of a leisurely stroll round the backs of the colleges and
through part of the town[57], which, he might have added, he insisted
upon taking without a companion. Those who conversed with him on that
occasion remember that he was much struck by the changes which had taken
place in the University since he had left it; and that he observed with
pleasure the increased numbers of the undergraduates, and the movement
and activity which seemed to reign everywhere.

It was at Kirby Underdale that Thirlwall wrote the greater part of the
work on which his reputation as a scholar and a man of letters will
chiefly rest—his _History of Greece_—of which the first volume had been
published before he finally left Cambridge[58]. It is, perhaps,
fortunate for the world that he had bound himself to produce the volumes
at regular intervals[59], and that his editor, Dr Dionysius Lardner
(whom he used to call ‘Dionysius the Tyrant’), was not a man to grant
delays; for, had the conditions been easier, parochial cares and new
interests might have retarded the production of it indefinitely, or even
stopped it altogether. From the first Thirlwall had applied himself to
the work with strenuous and unremitting energy. At Cambridge he used to
work all day until half-past three o’clock in the afternoon, when he
might be seen leaving his rooms for a half-hour’s rapid walk before
dinner in Hall, then served at four o’clock; and in the country he is
said to have spent sixteen hours of the twenty-four in his study. We do
not know what was the original design of the work, as part of the
_Cabinet Cyclopædia_, but we have it on Thirlwall’s own authority that
it was ‘much narrower than that which it actually reached[60],’ and
before long it was further expanded into eight goodly octavos. The first
of these was scarcely in the hands of the public when Grote’s _History
of Greece_, published, like its predecessor, volume by volume, began to
make its appearance. It was mentioned above that Grote and Thirlwall had
been school-fellows; but, though they met not unfrequently in London
afterwards, Thirlwall knew so little of his friend’s intentions that he
had been heard to say, ‘Grote is the man who ought to write the History
of Greece.’ When it did appear, he at once welcomed it with enthusiasm.
‘High as my expectations were of it,’ he writes to Dr Schmitz, ‘it has
very much surpassed them all, and affords an earnest of something which
has never been done for the subject either in our own or any other
literature[61]’; and to Grote himself, when the publication of four
volumes had enabled him to form a maturer judgment, he not only used
stronger words of praise, but contrasted it with his own History in
terms which for generosity and sincerity can never be surpassed. After
alluding to ‘the great inferiority’ of his ‘own performance,’ he
concludes as follows: ‘I may well be satisfied with that measure of
temporary success and usefulness which has attended it, and can
unfeignedly rejoice that it will, for all highest purposes, be so
superseded[62].’ It would be beside our present purpose to attempt a
comparison of the relative merits of these two works, which, by a
curious coincidence, had been elaborated simultaneously. They have many
points of resemblance. Both originated in a desire to apply to the
history of Greece those principles of criticism which Niebuhr had
applied so successfully to the history of Rome; both were intended to
counteract the misrepresentations of Mitford; both were the result of
long and careful preparation. Grote has a decided advantage in point of
style; he writes vigorous, ‘newspaper’ English, as might be expected
from a successful pamphleteer; while Thirlwall’s periods are laboured
and somewhat wooden. Grote has infused animation into his work by being
always a partisan. We do not mean that he wilfully misrepresents facts;
he certainly does not; but he unconsciously finds ‘extenuating
circumstances’ for those with whom he sympathizes, and condemns
remorselessly those whose springs of action are alien to his own.
Thirlwall, on the contrary, holds the judicial balance with a firm hand.
In estimating character his serene intellect is never warped by
partisanship, or by a wish to present old facts under a new face; while
from his scholarship and critical power there is no appeal.

After a residence of five years at Kirby Underdale Thirlwall was
unexpectedly made Bishop of S. David’s by Lord Melbourne. Lord Houghton,
an intimate friend of both the Bishop and the Minister, has recorded
that Lord Melbourne was in the habit not merely of reading, but of
severely judging and criticising the writings of every divine whom he
thought of promoting. By some accident the translation of
Schleiermacher’s essay had fallen in his way soon after it appeared; he
had formed a high opinion of Thirlwall’s share in the work, and so far
back as 1837 had done his best to send the author to Norwich instead of
Dr Stanley. On this occasion the bishops whom the Minister consulted
regarded the orthodoxy of the views sustained in the essay as
questionable, and Thirlwall’s promotion was deferred. In 1840, however,
Lord Melbourne got his way, and the bishopric of S. David’s was offered
in due form to the Rector of Kirby Underdale. His first impulse was to
refuse; but his friends persuaded him to go to London, and at least have
an interview with Lord Melbourne. We do not vouch for the literal
accuracy of the following scene, but it is too amusing not to be
related. The time is the forenoon; the place, Lord Melbourne’s bedroom.
He is supposed to be in bed, surrounded by letters and newspapers. On
Thirlwall’s entrance he delivers the following allocution:

‘Very glad to see you; sit down, sit down. Hope you are come to say you
accept? I only wish you to understand that I don’t intend, if I know it,
to make a heterodox bishop. I don’t like heterodox bishops. As men they
may be very good anywhere else, but I think they have no business on the
bench. I take great interest,’ he continued, ‘in theological questions,
and I have read a good deal of those old fellows,’ pointing to a pile of
folio editions of the Fathers. ‘They are excellent reading, and very
amusing. Some time or other we must have a talk about them. I sent your
edition of Schleiermacher to Lambeth, and asked the Primate (Howley) to
tell me candidly what he thought of it; and look, here are his notes in
the margin. Pretty copious, you see. He does not concur in all your
opinions, but he says there is nothing heterodox in your book. Had he
objected I would not have appointed you[63].’

We should like to know how Thirlwall answered this strange defender of
the faith; but tradition is silent on the point. Before leaving,
however, the offer was accepted; and, with as little delay as possible,
the Bishop removed to his diocese and entered upon his duties.

Thirlwall’s life as a bishop did not differ much, at least in its
outward surroundings, from his life as a parish clergyman. The palace at
S. David’s having been allowed to fall to ruin, the Bishop is compelled
to live at Abergwili, a small village near Carmarthen, distant nearly
fifty miles from his cathedral. Most persons would have regretted the
isolation of such a position, but to Thirlwall the enforced solitude of
Abergwili was thoroughly congenial. There he could read, as he delighted
to do, ‘literally from morning till night.’ Except in summer time he
rarely quitted ‘Chaos,’ as he called his library, where books lined the
walls and shared with papers and letters the tables, chairs, and floor.
It is curious that a man with so orderly a mind should have had such
disorderly habits. His letters are full of references to lost papers;
and when offers to arrange his drawers were made he would answer
regretfully, ‘I can find nothing in them now, but if they were set to
rights for me I should certainly find nothing then.’ Books accompanied
him to his meals; and when he went out for a walk or a drive he read
steadily most of the time. He does not seem to have had any favourite
authors; he read eagerly new books in all languages and on all subjects.
We believe that he took no notes of what he read; but his singularly
powerful memory enabled him to seize all that he wanted, and, as may be
seen from the collection of his writings which is now before us, to
retain it until required for use. His charges, essays, and serious
correspondence reveal his mastery of theological literature, both past
and present; the charming _Letters to a Friend_ give us very pleasant
glimpses of the gentler side of his character. We find from them that he
took a keen interest in the general literature of England and the
Continent, whether in philosophy, science, history, biography, fiction,
poetry; and, as he and his young correspondent exchanged their
sentiments without restraint, we can enjoy to the full his criticisms,
now serious, now playful, on authors and their productions, his generous
appreciation of all that is noble in life or art. We must find room for
one passage on George Eliot’s last story, written in 1872, when he was
seventy-five years old.

‘I suppose you cannot have read _Middlemarch_, as you say nothing about
it. It stands quite alone. As one only just moistens one’s lips with an
exquisite liqueur to keep the taste as long as possible in one’s mouth,
I never read more than a single chapter of _Middlemarch_ in the evening,
dreading to come to the last, when I must wait two months for a renewal
of the pleasure. The depth of humour has certainly never been surpassed
in English literature. If there is ever a shade too much learning that
is Lewes’s fault[64].’

But there was another reason for his enjoyment of Abergwili. Student as
he was, he delighted in the sights, the sounds, the air of the country.
He never left it for his annual migration to London without regret,
partly because it was so troublesome to move the mass of books without
which he could not bear to leave home, but still more because the bustle
and dust of London annoyed him; and in the midst of congenial society,
and the enjoyment of music and pictures, his thoughts reverted with
longing regret to his trees, his flowers, and his domestic pets. He had
begun his social relations with dogs and cats in Yorkshire, and an
amusing story is told of the way in which the preparations for his
formal reception when he came home after accepting the bishopric of S.
David’s, were completely disconcerted by the riotous welcome of his
dogs, who jumped on his shoulders and excluded all human attentions[65].
At Abergwili he extended his affections to birds, and kept peacocks,
pheasants, canaries, swans, and tame geese, which he regularly fed every
morning, no matter what the weather might be. They treated him with easy
familiarity, for they used to seize his coattails with their beaks to
show their welcome. His flowers had to yield to the tastes of his
four-footed friends. One day his gardener complained, ‘What am I to do,
my Lord? The hares have eaten your carnations.’ ‘Plant more carnations,’
was his only reply. Fine summer weather would draw him out of ‘Chaos’
into the field or garden; and one of his letters gives a delicious
picture of his enjoyment of a certain June, sitting on the grass while
the haymakers were at work in the field beyond, reading _The Earthly
Paradise_, and watching the movements of ‘a dear horse’ who paced up and
down with a ‘system of hay rakes behind him to toss it about and
accelerate its maturity[66].’

It must not, however, be supposed that Bishop Thirlwall lived the life
of an indolent man of letters. No bishop ever performed the duties of
his position more thoroughly, or with greater sacrifice of personal ease
and comfort. His first care was to learn Welsh, and in a little more
than a year he could read prayers and preach in that language. In his
large and little-known diocese locomotion was not easy, and
accommodation was often hard to obtain. Yet he visited every part of it,
personally inspected the condition of the schools and churches
(deplorable enough in 1840), and regularly performed the duties of
confirmation, preaching, and visitation. In the charge of 1866 he
reviewed the improvements which had been accomplished up to that time,
and could mention 183 churches to the restoration of which the Church
Building Society had made grants, and more than thirty parishes in which
either new or restored churches were in progress. Besides these, there
were some which had been restored by private munificence; others,
including the cathedral, by public subscription; many parsonages had
been built, livings had been augmented, and education had been largely
increased[67]. To all these excellent objects he had himself been a
munificent contributor, and we believe that between the beginning and
the end of his episcopate he had spent nearly £40,000 in charities of
various kinds[68]. Yet with all these claims on the gratitude of the
clergy we are sorry to have to admit that he was not personally popular.
It would have been more wonderful perhaps had he been so. The Welsh
clergy forty years ago were a rough and uncultivated body of men,
narrow-minded and prejudiced, and with habits hardly more civilized than
those of the labourers around them. They were ill at ease with an
English man of letters. He was to them an object of curiosity, possibly
of dread. The new Bishop intimated his wish that the clergy should come
to his house without restraint, and when there should be treated as
gentlemen and equals. This was of itself an innovation. In his
predecessor’s time when a clergyman called at Abergwili he entered by
the back door, and if he stayed to dinner he took that meal in the
housekeeper’s room with the upper servants. Thirlwall abolished these
customs, and entertained the clergy at his own table. This was excellent
in intention, but impossible in practice. The difference in tastes,
feelings, manners, between the entertainer and the entertained made
social intercourse equally disagreeable to both parties; and the Bishop
felt obliged to substitute correspondence for visits, so far as he
could, reserving personal intercourse for the archdeacons, or those
clergymen whose education enabled them to appreciate his friendship[69].
Again, the peculiar tone of his mind must be remembered. He was nothing
if not critical; and, further, as one of his oldest friends once said in
our hearing, ‘he was the most thoroughly veracious man I ever knew.’ He
could not listen to a hasty, ill-considered, remark without taking it to
pieces, and demonstrating, by successive questions, put in a slow,
deliberate tone of voice, the fallacy of the separate parts of the
proposition, and, by consequence, of the whole. Hence he was feared and
respected rather than beloved; and those who ought to have been proud of
having such a man among them wreaked their small spite against him by
accusing him of being inhospitable, of walking out attended by a dog
trained to know and bite a curate, and the like. These slanders, of
which we hope he was unconscious, he could not answer; those who
attacked him in public he could and did crush with an accuracy of
exposition, and a power of sarcasm, for which it would be hard to find a
parallel. We need only refer to his answers to Sir Benjamin Hall, M.P.
for Marylebone, on the general question of the condition of the churches
in his diocese, appended to his charge for 1851, and on the special case
of the Collegiate Church of Brecon, in two letters to the Archbishop of
Canterbury; or to the _Letter to the Rev. Rowland Williams_, published
in 1860. Mr Williams had published some sermons, entitled _Rational
Godliness_, the supposed heterodoxy of which had alarmed the clergy of
his diocese, seventy of whom had signed a memorial to the Bishop,
praying him to take some notice of the book; in other words, to remove
the author from the college at Lampeter, of which he was vice-principal.
The Bishop had declined to interfere, and in his charge of 1857 had
discussed the question at length, considering it, as was his manner,
from all points of view, and, while he found much to blame, defending
the author’s intentions, on the ground of the high opinion of his
personal character which he himself held. This, however, did not satisfy
Mr Williams. We cannot help suspecting that he was longing for a
martyr’s crown; and, indignant at not having obtained one, he addressed
the Bishop at great length in what he called _An Earnestly Respectful
Letter on the Difficulty of bringing Theological Questions to an Issue_.
He described the charge as ‘a miracle of cleverness,’ but deplored its
indefiniteness; he drew a picture of ‘a preacher in our wild mountains’
who came to seek counsel from his bishop and got only evasive
answers—‘in all helps for our guidance Abergwili may equal Delphi in
wisdom, but also in ambiguity[70]’—and entreated the Bishop to declare
plainly his own opinion on the questions raised. For once Bishop
Thirlwall’s serenity was fairly ruffled. Stung by the ingratitude of a
man whom he had steadily befriended, and whose aim was, as he thought,
to draw him into admissions damaging to himself, he struck with all his
might and main, and, as was said at the time, ‘you may hear every bone
in his adversary’s body cracking.’ One specimen of the remarkable power
of his reply must suffice. On the comparison of himself to the Delphic
oracle he remarked:

‘Even if I had laid claim to oracular wisdom I should have thought this
complaint rather unreasonable; for the oracle at Delphi, though it
pretended to divine infallibility, was used to wait for a question
before it gave a response. But I wish above all things to be sure as to
the person with whom I have to do. I remember to have read of one who
went to the oracle at Delphi, “ex industriâ factus ad imitationem
stultitiæ”; and I cannot help suspecting that I have before me one who
has put on a similar disguise. The voice does not sound to me like that
of a “mountain clergyman”; while I look at the roll I seem to recognize
a very different and well-known hand. The “difficulties” are very unlike
the expression of an embarrassment which has been really felt, but might
have been invented in the hope of creating one. They are quite worthy of
the mastery which you have attained in the art of putting questions, so
as most effectually to prevent the possibility of an answer[71].’

But if Thirlwall’s great merits were not fully appreciated in his own
diocese, there was no lack of recognition of them in the Church at
large. His seclusion at Abergwili largely increased his influence. It
was known that he thought out questions for himself, without consulting
his episcopal brethren or his friends, and without being influenced in
any way, as even the most conscientious men must be, in despite of
themselves, by the opinions which they hear expressed in society. Hence
his utterances came to be accepted as the decisions of a judge; of one
who, standing on an eminence, could take ‘an oversight of the whole
field of ecclesiastical events[72],’ and from that commanding position
could distinguish what was of permanent importance from that which
possessed a merely controversial interest as a vexed question of the
day. We have spoken of the advantages which he derived from his secluded
life; it must be admitted that it had also certain disadvantages. The
freshness and originality of his opinions, the judicial tone of his
independent decisions, gave them a permanent value; but his want of
knowledge of the opinions of those from whom he could not wholly
dissociate himself, and, we may add, his indifference to them, caused
him to be not unfrequently misunderstood, and to be charged with holding
views not far removed from heresy. ‘I will not call him an unbeliever,
but a misbeliever,’ said a very orthodox bishop, whose love of epigram
occasionally got the better of his charity. His brother bishops, like
the Welsh clergy, feared him more than they loved him; they knew his
value as an ally, but they knew also that he would never, under any
circumstances, become a partisan, or adopt a view which he could not
wholly approve, merely because it seemed good to his Order to exhibit
unanimity. It was probably for this reason, as much as for his eloquence
and power, that he had the ear of the House of Lords on the rare
occasions when he addressed it. The Peers knew that they were listening
to a man who had the fullest sense of the responsibilities of the
episcopate, but who would neither defend nor oppose a measure because
‘the proprieties’ indicated the side on which a bishop would be expected
to vote. Two only of his speeches are republished in the collection
before us—on the Civil Disabilities of the Jews (1848), and on the
Disestablishment of the Irish Church (1869). We should like to have had
added to these that on the grant to the Roman Catholic College of
Maynooth (1845), which seems to us to be equally worth preserving. On
these occasions Bishop Thirlwall took the unpopular side at periods of
great excitement; his arguments were listened to with the utmost
attention; and in the case of the Irish Church it has been stated that
no speech had a greater effect in favour of the measure than his.

In all Church matters he was a thorough Liberal. His view of the Church
of England cannot be better stated than by quoting a passage from one of
his _Letters to a Friend_. He had been reading Mr Robertson’s sermons;
and after saying that their author was specially recommended to him by
the hostility of the _Record_, ‘which I consider as a proof of some
excellence in every one who is its object,’ he thus proceeds:

‘He was certainly not orthodox after the _Record_ standard, but might
very well be so after another. For our Church has the advantage—such I
deem it—of more than one type of orthodoxy: that of the High Church,
grounded on one aspect of its formularies; that of the Low Church,
grounded on another aspect; and that of the Broad Church, striving to
take in both, but in its own way. Each has a right to a standing-place,
none to exclusive possession of the field. Of course this is very
unsatisfactory to the bigots of each party—at the two extremes. Some
would be glad to cast the others out; and some yearn after a Living
Source of Orthodoxy, of course on the condition that it sanctions their
own views. To have escaped that worst of evils ought, I think, to
console every rational Churchman for whatever he finds amiss at
home.’[73]

Had the Bishop added that he wished each of these parties to have fair
play, but that none should be exalted at the expense of the others, we
should have had a summary of the principles which regulated his public
life. Let it not, however, be supposed that he was an indifferent
looker-on. He held that truth had many sides; that it might be viewed in
different ways by persons standing in different positions; but still it
was to him clear, and definite, and based upon a rock which no human
assailant could shake. This, we think, is the keynote which is struck in
every one of those eleven most remarkable Charges which are now for the
first time collected together. We would earnestly commend them to the
study of all who are interested in the history of the Church of England
during the period which they cover. Every controversy which agitated
her, every measure which affected her welfare, is discussed by a master;
the real question at issue is carefully pointed out; the trivial is
distinguished from the important; moderation and charity are insisted
upon; angry passions are allayed; and, while the liberty of the
individual is perpetually asserted, the duty of maintaining her
doctrines is strenuously inculcated. As illustrations of some of these
characteristics we would contrast his exhaustive analysis of the
Tractarian movement or the Gorham controversy, with his conduct
respecting _Essays and Reviews_. In the former cases he hesitated to
condemn; he preferred to allay the terror with which his clergy were
evidently inspired. In the latter, though always ‘decidedly opposed to
any attempt to narrow the freedom which the law allows to every
clergyman of the Church of England in the expression of his opinion on
theological subjects,’ he joined his brother bishops in signing the
famous ‘Encyclical,’ which we now know was the composition of Bishop
Wilberforce, because he thought that in this case the principles
advocated led to a negation of Christianity.

Thirlwall’s position towards theological questions has been called
‘indefinable[74].’ In a certain sense this statement is no doubt true.
It was quite impossible to label him as of this or that party or
faction; or to predict with any approach to certainty what he would do
or say on any particular occasion. He had no enthusiasm (in the ordinary
sense of the word) and no sentiment, and therefore, when a question was
submitted to him, he did not decide it in the light of previous
prejudices, or welcome it as a point gained towards some cherished end.
He considered it as if it were the only question in the world at that
moment, and as if he had never heard of it, or anything like it, before;
he looked all round it, and balanced the arguments for and against it
with the accuracy of a man of science in a laboratory. As a result of
this process he frequently came to no resolution at all, and frankly
told his correspondent that he would leave the matter referred to him to
the decision of others. But, if what he held to be truth was assailed,
or the conduct of an individual unjustly called in question, Thirlwall’s
hesitation vanished. We have already mentioned his conduct in the House
of Lords; but it should never be forgotten that he was one of the four
Bishops who dissented from the resolution to inhibit Bishop Colenso from
preaching in the various dioceses of England; and that he stood alone in
withholding his signature from the address requesting him to resign his
see. Again, when Mr J. S. Mill was a candidate for Westminster in 1865,
and his opponents circulated on a placard some lines from his
_Examination of Sir W. Hamilton’s Philosophy_ intended to shock the
minds of the electors as irreverent if not blasphemous,—a proceeding
which was eagerly followed up by the _Record_ and the _Morning
Advertiser_ in leading articles—Thirlwall at once wrote to the
_Spectator_, maintaining that this passage contained “the utterance of a
conviction in harmony with ‘the purest spirit of Christian morality’;
that nothing but ‘an intellectual and moral incapacity worthy of the
‘Record’ and its satellite could have failed to recognise its truth’;
and that it ‘thrilled’ him ‘with a sense of the ethical sublime’[75].”

There were many other duties besides the care of the diocese of S.
David’s to which the Bishop devoted himself, but these we must dismiss
with a passing notice. We allude to his work as a member of the Ritual
Commission, as chairman of the Old Testament Revision Company, and in
Convocation. Gradually, however, as years advanced, his physical powers
began to fail, and he resolved to resign his bishopric. This resolution
was carried into effect in 1874. He retired to Bath, where he was still
able to continue many of his old pursuits, and, by the help of his
nephew and his family, notwithstanding blindness and deafness, to
maintain his old interests. He died rather suddenly, July 27, 1875, and
was buried in Westminster Abbey, where, by a singularly felicitous
arrangement, his remains were laid in the same grave as those of George
Grote.

Regret has been often expressed that Bishop Thirlwall did not write
more. We do not share this feeling. Had he written more he would have
thought less, studied less, possessed in a less perfect degree that
‘_cor sapiens et intelligens ad discernendum judicium_[76]’ which was
never weary of trying to impart to others a portion of its own serenity.
At seventy-six years of age, just before his resignation, he could say,
‘I should hesitate to say that whatever is is best; but I have strong
faith that it is _for_ the best, and that the general stream of tendency
is toward good’; and in the last sentence of his last charge he bade his
clergy remark that even controversies were ‘a sign of the love of truth
which, if often passionate and one-sided, is always infinitely
preferable to the quiet of apathy and indifference.’

-----

Footnote 1:

  1. _William Whewell, D.D., Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. An
  Account of his Writings, with Selections from his Literary and
  Scientific Correspondence._ By I. TODHUNTER, M.A., F.R.S., Honorary
  Fellow of S. John’s College. 2 vols., 8vo. (London, 1876.)

  2. _The Life and Selections from the Correspondence of William
  Whewell, D.D., late Master of Trinity College, Cambridge._ By Mrs
  STAIR DOUGLAS. 8vo. (London, 1881.)

Footnote 2:

  In the fifteen years from 1800-1814 inclusive the average was 205;
  from 1815-1829 it was 402; and from 1830-1844 it was 433; from
  1845-1859 it was 444; from 1859-1874 it was 545.

Footnote 3:

  Todhunter’s _Life_, ii. 91.

Footnote 4:

  _Life and Letters of Sir C. Lyell_, ii. 38. In the same letter he
  expresses his astonishment at finding that Whewell, while writing one
  of his papers on the Tides, was passing through the press _four other
  works_.

Footnote 5:

  The inscription runs: munificentia · fultus · Alex. J. B. Hope,
  generosi · hisce · ædibus · antiquam · speciem · restituit. W.
  Whewell. Mag. Collegii. A. D. MDCCCXLIII. Mr Hope gave £1000, and the
  Master himself £250; but the liberality of the College, which spent
  some £4000 before the work was finished, is unrecorded. It was on this
  occasion that somebody wrote a parody on _The House that Jack Built_,
  beginning:

                 This is the House that Hope built.
                 This is the Master, rude and rough,
                 Who lives in the House that Hope built.
                 These are the Seniors, greedy and gruff,
                 Who toady the Master, rude and rough,
                 Who lives in the House that Hope built.

Footnote 6:

  The _Times_, February 25 and 26, 1847. Mrs Stair Douglas, p. 285,
  prints a letter from Archdeacon Hare, who had been disturbed by
  reports of the Vice-Chancellor’s vehemence.

Footnote 7:

  The visit of Queen Victoria to the University in 1843.

Footnote 8:

  _A Letter to the Rev. W. Whewell, B.D., Master of Trinity College,
  etc. By an Undergraduate._ 8vo. London, 1843.

Footnote 9:

  _The Victory of Faith, and other Sermons._ By J. C. Hare, M. A. 8vo.
  Cambridge, 1840, p. x.

Footnote 10:

  Mrs Stair Douglas, p. 216.

Footnote 11:

  Dr Lightfoot’s Sermon, preached in the College Chapel on Sunday, March
  18, 1866.

Footnote 12:

  They appeared in _Punch_ for March 17, 1866.

Footnote 13:

  The letter is dated 30 October, 1857.

Footnote 14:

  Mrs Stair Douglas, p. 208.

Footnote 15:

  Memoir by Sir John Herschel, _Proceedings of Royal Society_, XVI., p.
  lvi.

Footnote 16:

  Bishop Goodwin’s article in _Macmillan’s Magazine_ for December, 1881,
  p. 140.

Footnote 17:

  We are not sure that he ever allowed the _Origin of Species_ to be
  admitted into the College Library. It was certainly refused more than
  once, being probably dismissed with the expression which he was fond
  of using when, as Chairman of the Seniority, he read the list of books
  proposed—‘a worthless publication.’

Footnote 18:

  1. _Remains, Literary and Theological, of Connop Thirlwall, late Lord
  Bishop of S. David’s._ Edited by J. J. STEWART PEROWNE, D.D. Vol. 1:
  Charges delivered between the years 1842 and 1860. Vol. 2: Charges
  delivered between the years 1863 and 1872. 8vo. (London, 1877.)

  2. _Essays, Speeches, and Sermons._ By CONNOP THIRLWALL, D.D., late
  Lord Bishop of S. David’s. Edited by J. J. STEWART PEROWNE, D.D. 8vo.
  (London, 1880.)

  3. _Letters to a Friend._ By CONNOP THIRLWALL, late Lord Bishop of S.
  David’s. Edited by the Very Rev. ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, D.D. 8vo.
  (London, 1881.)

  4. _Letters, Literary and Theological, of Connop Thirlwall, late Lord
  Bishop of S. David’s._ Edited by the Very Rev. J. J. STEWART PEROWNE,
  D.D., Dean of Peterborough, and the Rev. LOUIS STOKES, B.A. Corpus
  Christi College, Cambridge. With Annotations and Preliminary Memoirs
  by the Rev. LOUIS STOKES. 8vo. (London, 1881.)

  5. _Letters to a Friend._ New Edition. (London, 1882.)

Footnote 19:

  Dr Perowne’s Preface to _Letters_, &c., p. vi.

Footnote 20:

  _Letters_, &c., p. 177.

Footnote 21:

  _Primitiæ_, p. 52. The essay is endorsed: ‘Composed 1st January, 1806.
  Eight years old.’

Footnote 22:

  _Primitiæ_, p. 224. The piece is dated October 28, 1808.

Footnote 23:

  _Letters to a Friend_, p. 155. As a matter of fact the Bishop did buy
  and destroy all the copies that he could.

Footnote 24:

  Dean Perowne mentions (Preface, p. viii.) that ‘at school he did not
  care to enter into the games and amusements of the other boys, but was
  to be seen at play-hour withdrawing himself into some corner with a
  pile of books under his arm.’

Footnote 25:

  Candler was seven years older than Thirlwall. He was junior assistant
  in a draper’s shop at Ipswich, and afterwards set up in business on
  his own account at Chelmsford, where he became a leading member of the
  Society of Friends. He died, nearly eighty years of age, in 1872. We
  have not been able to ascertain how he became acquainted with
  Thirlwall.

Footnote 26:

  _Letters_, &c., p. 7.

Footnote 27:

  _Letters_, &c., p. 17.

Footnote 28:

  _Ibid._ p. 8.

Footnote 29:

  _Letters to a Friend_, p. 225.

Footnote 30:

  _Letters_, &c., p. 21. The letter is dated December, 1813, when the
  writer was sixteen years old.

Footnote 31:

  Professor Monk, who had examined Thirlwall on one of these occasions,
  was so much struck with the vigour and accuracy of his translations
  that he remarked to a friend, who had also had experience of his worth
  as a scholar, ‘Had I been sitting in my library, with unlimited access
  to books, I could not have done better.’ ‘Nor so well,’ was the reply.

Footnote 32:

  Cooper’s _Annals of the Town and University of Cambridge_, iv. 516.
  The words between inverted commas in our text are from a pamphlet
  entitled ‘A Statement regarding the Union, an Academical Debating
  Society, which existed at Cambridge from February 13, 1815, to March
  24, 1817, when it was _suppressed by the Vice-Chancellor_.’ The
  ‘statement’ is evidently official, and is thoroughly business-like and
  temperate. The Vice-Chancellor was Dr Wood, Master of S. John’s
  College; the officers of the society were: Mr Whewell, _President_; Mr
  Thirlwall, _Secretary_; Mr H. J. Rose, _Treasurer_. The late Professor
  Selwyn, in a speech at the opening of the new Union building, October
  30, 1866, stated that on the entrance of the proctors the President
  said, ‘Strangers will please to withdraw, and the House will take the
  message into consideration.’

Footnote 33:

  _Autobiography of John Stuart Mill_, p. 125. Mill is describing a
  debate at ‘a society of Owenites called the Co-operation Society,’ in
  1825. ‘It was a _lutte corps à corps_ between Owenites and political
  economists, whom the Owenites regarded as their most inveterate
  opponents; but it was a perfectly friendly dispute.... The speaker
  with whom I was most struck, though I dissented from nearly every word
  he said, was Thirlwall, the historian, since Bishop of S. David’s,
  then a Chancery barrister, unknown except by a high reputation for
  eloquence acquired at the Cambridge Union before the era of Austin and
  Macaulay. His speech was in answer to one of mine. Before he had
  uttered ten sentences, I set him down as the best speaker I had ever
  heard, and I have never since heard anyone whom I placed above him.’

Footnote 34:

  _Letters_, &c., p. 31.

Footnote 35:

  An old friend of Bishop Thirlwall informs us that he retained his
  preference for the ‘Paradiso’ in after years.

Footnote 36:

  _Life and Letters of Frances Baroness Bunsen_; by Augustus J. C. Hare.
  8vo. Lond. 1882: i. 138.

Footnote 37:

  Letter to Bunsen, November 21, 1831, _Letters_, &c., p. 99.

Footnote 38:

  _Memoirs of Baron Bunsen_, i. 339.

Footnote 39:

  Marsh was professor from 1807 to 1839. The first volume of his
  translation of Michaelis had appeared in 1793.

Footnote 40:

  _Letters_, &c., p. 55.

Footnote 41:

  _Edinburgh Review_, April, 1876, p. 291.

Footnote 42:

  _A Critical Essay on the Gospel of S. Luke._ By Dr Frederick
  Schleiermacher. With an introduction by the Translator, containing an
  account of the controversy respecting the origin of the first three
  Gospels since Bishop Marsh’s dissertation. 8vo. London: 1825.

Footnote 43:

  F. D. Maurice writes, 25 February, 1848: ‘The Bishop of S. David’s
  very injudiciously translated, about twenty years ago,
  Schleiermacher’s book on S. Luke—the one of all, perhaps, which he
  ever wrote the most likely to offend religious people in England, and
  so mislead them as to his real character and objects.’ _Life of F. D.
  Maurice_, i. 454.

Footnote 44:

  Between 1827 and 1832 he held the college offices of Junior Bursar,
  Junior Dean, and Head Lecturer. In 1828, 1829, 1832, and 1834 he was
  one of the examiners for the Classical Tripos.

Footnote 45:

  See Dean Stanley’s Memoir of Archdeacon Hare, prefixed to the third
  edition of _The Victory of Faith_. 1874.

Footnote 46:

  _A Vindication of Niebuhr’s ‘History of Rome’ from the Charges of the
  ‘Quarterly Review.’_ By Julius Charles Hare, M.A. Cambridge, 1829. The
  passage commented on will be found in the _Quarterly Review_ for
  January 1829 (vol. xxxix. p. 8). The first edition of Niebuhr’s own
  work had been highly praised in an article in the same _Review_ for
  June 1825 (vol. xxxii. p. 67).

Footnote 47:

  On the Life of Dr Whewell, printed above. It was originally called
  ‘Half a Century of Cambridge Life,’ and appeared in the _Church
  Quarterly Review_, April 1882.

Footnote 48:

  The _Caput Senatus_ consisted of five persons, viz. a Doctor of
  Divinity, a Doctor of Laws, a Doctor of Physic, a non-regent Master,
  and a regent Master. These persons held office for a year. They were
  elected by the votes of the Heads of Colleges, the Doctors in all
  faculties, and the Scrutators. Each member had the right to veto any
  proposal of which he disapproved. The _Caput Senatus_ was established
  by the Statutes of Elizabeth, 1570, Cap. xli, and abolished by the
  University Act, 1856.

Footnote 49:

  The first petition was presented to the House of Lords on March 21,
  1834; the protest is dated April 3; and the counter-petition was
  presented on April 21 in the same year.

Footnote 50:

  _A Letter_ etc., p. 20.

Footnote 51:

  _A Letter_ etc., pp. 21, 22.

Footnote 52:

  When the ‘Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Undergraduates’
  tabulated the weekly attendance of the Fellows at Chapel in the Lent
  Term of 1838, and finally published a list, like the class list at the
  end of an examination, Whewell was placed in the middle of the second
  class, having obtained only 34 marks. The Deans, being obliged, in
  virtue of their office, to attend twice daily, were disqualified from
  obtaining the prize—a Bible—which the Society gave to Mr Perry,
  afterwards Bishop of Melbourne, who had obtained 66 marks.

Footnote 53:

  It has been said that the Master was advised to take the course he did
  by Mr Hugh James Rose, who was in the University at the time, and on
  Whitsunday, May 18, had preached a sermon at Great S. Mary’s on the
  ‘Duty of Maintaining the Truth,’ from S. Matt. x. 27: ‘What ye hear in
  the ear, that preach ye upon the house-tops.’ Thirlwall’s letter,
  however, was not published before May 21, so that, unless the nature
  of it had been known beforehand, it is clear that anything which Mr
  Rose had said in his sermon could not have referred to it. That
  Thirlwall believed that there was some connexion between the sermon,
  or at any rate the preacher, and his dismissal, is evident from the
  fact that after showing the Master’s letter to one of the junior
  Fellows, who expressed indignant surprise that such a course could
  have been taken, he remarked: ‘Ah! let this be a warning to you to
  preach truth, if need be, upon the house-tops, but never under any
  circumstances to preach error.’ Thirlwall was a regular attendant at
  Great S. Mary’s, and no doubt heard the sermon in question.

Footnote 54:

  The letter, dated 27 May, 1834, is printed by Mrs Stair Douglas, _Life
  of Dr Whewell_, p. 163.

Footnote 55:

  The letter, dated 23 September 1834, is printed in _Letters of Bishop
  Thirlwall_, p. 124; and by Mrs Stair Douglas, _Life of Dr Whewell_, p.
  168. Dr Wordsworth’s action was noticed with disapproval beyond the
  limits of Trinity College, for Professor Babington records in his
  Diary:

  _Nov. 17 [1834]\._ Attended a meeting at Mr Bowstead’s rooms at
  Corpus, to vote an address to Mr Connop Thirlwall expressive of our
  sorrow at his being prevented from acting as tutor, and of our
  disapprobation of the discussion of things not forming part of the
  duties of tuition being made a cause for depriving a tutor of his
  office.

  _Nov. 29._ A meeting was called for 28th to take into consideration
  the address to Thirlwall. Laing, Henslow, and I supposed that it was
  this day, and went, and found that the meeting was over and the
  address, much to our sorrow burnt. (_Memorials, etc. of Charles
  Cardale Babington_, 8vo. Camb. 1897, p. 33). Professor Mayor (_Ibid._
  265) conjectures, with much probability, that the address was
  destroyed at Thirlwall’s own suggestion. It is curious that his
  friends should have deferred their action for so many months.

Footnote 56:

  _Life of Dr Whewell_, by Mrs Stair Douglas, p. 211.

Footnote 57:

  _Letters to a Friend_, p. 191.

Footnote 58:

  The preface to the first edition of vol. i. is dated ‘Trinity College,
  June 12, 1835.’ He was instituted to Kirby Underdale, 13 February,
  1835 (_Letters_, p. 136), but he did not take up his residence there
  till July following (_Ibid._ p. 137). The dates of the subsequent
  volumes are ii. iii., 1836; iv., 1837; v., 1838; vi., 1839; vii.,
  1840; viii., 1844.

Footnote 59:

  _Letters_, &c. p. 138.

Footnote 60:

  Preface to the second edition, dated ‘London, May 1845.’

Footnote 61:

  _Letters_, &c. p. 194. The letter is dated April 9, 1846.

Footnote 62:

  _The Personal Life of George Grote._ By Mrs Grote, p. 173.

Footnote 63:

  _Memoirs of Viscount Melbourne._ By W. M. Torrens, M.P. Vol. ii. p.
  332. Lord Houghton in the _Fortnightly Review_, February 1878.

Footnote 64:

  _Letters to a Friend_, p. 278.

Footnote 65:

  _Letters_, &c. p. 161.

Footnote 66:

  _Letters_, &c. p. 292.

Footnote 67:

  _Charges_, vol. ii. pp. 90-100.

Footnote 68:

  In his charge for 1851 (_Charges_, vol. i. p. 150) he announced his
  intention to devote the surplus of his income to the augmentation of
  small livings, and in 1866 he pointed out that the fund had up to that
  time yielded £24,000 (_Ibid._ vol. ii. p. 98).

Footnote 69:

  He particularly disliked gossip. At Kirby Underdale the old sexton
  used to relate how Mr Thirlwall said, ‘I never ’ears no tales’; and
  the following story shows that he maintained the same wise discretion
  after he became a bishop. One of his archdeacons thought it right to
  tell him that a certain clergyman in the diocese, who was a clever
  mimic, was fond of entertaining his friends with imitations of the
  Bishop. Thirlwall listened, and then inquired, ‘Does he do me well?’
  ‘I am sure I cannot say, my Lord,’ replied the informer; ‘I was never
  present myself at one of these disgraceful exhibitions.’ ‘Ah! I should
  like to know, because he does _you_ admirably,’ replied the Bishop. It
  is needless to say that no more stories were carried to his ears.

Footnote 70:

  _An Earnestly Respectful Letter_, 8vo. 1860, pp. 20-23. See also _The
  Life and Letters of Rowland Williams, D.D._, London, 1874, chap. xv.,
  where his determination to make the Bishop declare himself, under the
  belief that he really agreed with him, is expressly stated.

Footnote 71:

  _A Letter to the Rev. Rowland Williams_, 8vo. 1860, p. 19.

Footnote 72:

  Dean Stanley’s preface to the _Letters to a Friend_, p. xi.

Footnote 73:

  _Letters to a Friend_, p. 54.

Footnote 74:

  Review of ‘The letters of Bishop Thirlwall,’ _The Times_, 23 November,
  1881.

Footnote 75:

  _The Edinburgh Review_, for April, 1876, p. 292.

Footnote 76:

  These words are inscribed upon Bishop Thirlwall’s grave.



                        RICHARD MONCKTON MILNES,
                           LORD HOUGHTON[77].


It is much to be regretted that Lord Houghton did not write his own
biography. Those who know his delightful _Monographs, Social and
Personal_, can form some idea of how he would have treated it. From his
early years he lived in society—not merely the society to which his
birth naturally opened the door, but a varied society of his own
creating. He had an insatiable curiosity. It is hardly too much to say
that in his long life he was present at every ceremony of importance,
from the Eglinton Tournament to the Œcumenical Council; he knew
everybody who was worth knowing, both at home and abroad—not merely as
chance acquaintances, but as friends with whom he maintained a
correspondence; he was both a politician and a man of letters, a friend
of the unwashed and the associate of princes. What a book might have
been written by such a man on such a subject! But, alas! though he often
spoke of writing his own life, he died before he had leisure even to
begin it; and, instead, we have to content ourselves with the volumes
before us. They are good—unquestionably good; they abound with amusing
stories and brilliant witticisms; but we confess that we laid them down
with a sense of disappointment which it is hard to define. Perhaps it
was beyond the writer’s ability to draw so complex a character—a man of
many moods, a creature of contradictions, a master of what _not_ to do
and _not_ to say, as a lady of fashion told him to his face; perhaps he
was overweighted by a wish to bring into prominence those solid
qualities in his hero which society often failed to discover, while
judging only ‘the man of fashion, whose unconventional originality had
so far impressed itself upon the popular mind that there was hardly any
eccentricity too audacious to be attributed to him by those who knew him
only by repute[78].’ We are not so presumptuous as to suppose that we
can paint a portrait of Lord Houghton that will satisfy those who were
his intimate friends; but we hope to present to our readers at least a
faithful sketch of one for whom we had a most sincere admiration and
respect.

Richard Monckton Milnes was born in London, June 19, 1809. His father,
Robert Pemberton Milnes, then a young man of twenty-five, and M.P. for
the family borough of Pontefract, had just flashed into sudden celebrity
in the House of Commons by a brilliant speech in favour of Mr Canning,
which saved the Portland Administration, and would have made Mr Milnes’s
political fortune, had he been so minded. But when Mr Perceval offered
him a seat in the Cabinet, either as Chancellor of the Exchequer or as
Secretary of War, he exclaimed, ‘Oh, no: I will not accept either; with
my temperament, I should be dead in a year.’ That he had entered
Parliament with high hopes, and confidence in his own powers to win
distinction there, is plain from the well-known story (which his son
evidently believed) that he laid a bet of 100_l._ that he would be
Chancellor of the Exchequer in five years. But, when the time came, he
declined to ‘take occasion by the hand,’ and sat down under the oaks of
Fryston to spend the rest of his life, just half a century, in the
placid uniformity of a country gentleman’s existence. His abandonment of
public life, and his refusal to return to it in any form, even when,
late in life, Lord Palmerston offered him a peerage, were unsolved
riddles to his contemporaries. Those who read these volumes will have
but little difficulty in finding the answer to it. He was endowed with a
proud independence of judgment which could never bind itself to any
political party, and a critical fastidiousness which made him hesitate
over every question presented to him. These two qualities of mind were
conspicuous in his son, and barred to some extent his advancement, as
they had barred his father’s. It must not, however, be imagined that the
elder Milnes was an indolent man. Far from it. He was a daring rider to
hounds, a scientific agriculturist, an active magistrate, a stimulator
of the waning Toryism of Yorkshire by speeches which showed what the
House of Commons had lost when he left it, and ardently curious about
men of note and events of interest—another characteristic which
descended to his son. Occasionally, too, he yielded to a love of
excitement which Yorkshire could not gratify, and revisited London, to
tempt the fickle goddess who presides over high play—a taste which cost
him dear, for it compelled him to pass several years of his life in
comparative obscurity abroad, while the rents in his fortune, due to his
own and his brother’s extravagance, were being slowly repaired. We have
been told, by one who knew him late in life, that he was a singularly
loveable person—the delight of children and young people—full of jokes,
and fun, and _persiflage_. ‘You could never be sure whether he spoke in
jest or in earnest,’ said our informant. Here again one of the most
obvious characteristics of his son makes its appearance.

The boyhood of Richard Milnes may be passed over in a sentence. A
serious illness when he was ten years old put an end to his father’s
intention of sending him to Harrow, and he was educated at home, or near
it, till he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1827. He
was entered as a fellow-commoner—a position well suited to the training
he had received, for it gave him the society of men older than himself,
while he was looking out for congenial friends among men of his own age.
His college tutor was Mr Whewell, and it was doubtless at his suggestion
that he went to read classics with Thirlwall, then one of the resident
Fellows. On one of his later visits to Cambridge Lord Houghton told an
interesting story of their relations as pupil and instructor. After a
few days’ trial Thirlwall said to him: ‘You will never be a scholar. It
is no use our reading classics together. Have you ever read the Bible?’
‘Yes, I have read it, but not critically,’ was the reply. ‘Very well,’
said Thirlwall, ‘ then let us begin with Genesis.’ And so the rest of
the term was spent in the study of the Old Testament. Mr Reid is, no
doubt, right in saying that, for ‘the making of his mind,’ Milnes was
more deeply indebted to Thirlwall than to any other man. But Thirlwall
was not merely the Gamaliel at whose feet Milnes was willing to sit; he
became the chosen friend of his heart. Lord Houghton was once asked to
name the most remarkable man whom he had known in his long experience.
Without a moment’s hesitation he replied ‘Thirlwall’; and the numerous
letters which Mr Reid has printed show that the friendship was equally
strong on both sides.

The most picturesque of Roman historians said of one of his heroes that
he was _felix opportunitate mortis_; it might be said of Milnes, with
regard to Cambridge, that he was _felix opportunitate vitæ_. It would be
difficult, if not impossible, to find a period in which so many men who
afterwards made their mark in the world have been gathered together
there; and, with a happy facility for discovering and attracting to
himself whatever was eminent and worth knowing, it was not long before
he became intimate with the best of them. Nearly forty years afterwards,
in 1866, on the occasion of the opening of the new rooms of the Union
Society, he commemorated these friends of his early years in a speech of
singular beauty and sincerity:

‘There was Tennyson, the Laureate, whose goodly bay-tree decorates our
language and our land; Arthur, the younger Hallam, the subject of _In
Memoriam_, the poet and his friend passing, linked hand in hand,
together down the slopes of fame. There was Trench, the present
Archbishop of Dublin, and Alford, Dean of Canterbury, both profound
Scriptural philologists who have not disdained the secular muse. There
was Spedding, who has, by a philosophical affinity, devoted the whole of
his valuable life to the rehabilitation of the character of Lord Bacon;
and there was Merivale, who—I hope by some attraction of repulsion—has
devoted so much learning to the vindication of the Cæsars. There were
Kemble and Kinglake, the historian of our earliest civilization and of
our latest war—Kemble as interesting an individual as ever was portrayed
by the dramatic genius of his own race; Kinglake, as bold a man-at-arms
in literature as ever confronted public opinion. There was Venables,
whose admirable writings, unfortunately anonymous, we are reading every
day, without knowing to whom to attribute them; and there was Blakesley,
the “Hertfordshire Incumbent” of the _Times_. There were sons of
families which seemed to have an hereditary right to, a sort of habit
of, academic distinction, like the Heaths and the Lushingtons. But I
must check this throng of advancing memories, and I will pass from this
point with the mention of two names which you would not let me omit—one
of them, that of your Professor of Greek, whom it is the honour of Her
Majesty’s late Government to have made Master of Trinity; and the other,
that of your latest Professor, Mr F. D. Maurice, in whom you will all
soon recognize the true enthusiasm of humanity’ (vol. ii. p. 161).

Mr Reid tells us that Tennyson sought Milnes’s acquaintance because ‘he
looks the best-tempered fellow I ever saw.’ Hallam proclaimed him to be
‘a kindhearted fellow, as well as a very clever one, but vain and
paradoxical.’ Milnes himself put Hallam at the head of those whom he
knew. ‘He is the only man of my standing,’ he wrote, ‘before whom I bow
in conscious inferiority in everything.’

It was hardly to be expected that Milnes, with his taste for the general
in literature rather than the particular, would achieve distinction in
the Cambridge of 1830. We have seen how Thirlwall disposed of his
classical aspirations, and in mathematics he fared no better. He read
hard, and hoped for distinction in the college examination. But he had
overtaxed his energies; his health gave way, and he was forced to give
up work altogether for some days. Happily, the benefit a man derives
from his three years at a university need not be measured by his
honours, and we may be sure that the experience of men and books that
Milnes gained there was of greater service to him than a high place in
any Tripos would have been. He roamed in all directions over the fields
of knowledge; phrenology, anatomy, geology, political economy,
metaphysics, by turns engaged his attention; he dabbled in periodical
literature; he acted Beatrice in _Much Ado about Nothing_, and Mrs
Malaprop in _The Rivals_; he made an excursion in a balloon with the
celebrated aeronaut, Mr Green; he wrote two prize-poems, _Timbuctoo_ and
_Byzantium_, but only to be beaten by Tennyson and Kinglake; he obtained
a second prize for an English declamation, and a first prize for an
English essay, _On the Homeric Poems_; he became a member of the club
known as ‘The Apostles,’ in which he maintained a kindly interest to the
end of his life; and last, but by no means least, he was a constant
speaker at the Union.

It is impossible, at a distance of just sixty years, to form an exact
estimate of the success of Milnes in those debates. But that it was
something more than ordinary, is, we think, certain; for otherwise he
would not have ventured to present himself at the Oxford Union in
December 1829, in the character of a self-selected missionary, who hoped
to carry light and leading into the dark places of the sister
University. As this expedition has been twice described by Milnes
himself, first in a letter to his mother soon after his return to
Cambridge, and secondly in a speech at the opening of the new building
of the Cambridge Union Society in 1866; and also, more or less fully, by
four of his contemporaries, Sir Francis Doyle, Mr Gladstone, Cardinal
Manning, and Dean Blakesley, it is clear that it was regarded by himself
and his friends, both at the time and afterwards, as something uncommon
and remarkable, and we feel sure that we shall be excused if we try to
give a connected narrative of what really took place.

Doyle had ‘brought forward a motion at the Oxford Union that Shelley was
a greater poet than Byron[79].’ According to Blakesley, ‘the respective
moral tendency of the writings of Shelley and Byron[80]’ was the subject
under debate. Doyle states that he acted ‘under Cambridge influences’;
and that his motion was ‘an echo of Cambridge thought and feeling,’
words which probably refer to the then recent reprint of Shelley’s
_Adonais_ at Cambridge. The debate, he proceeds, ‘was attended by three
distinguished members of the Cambridge Union, Arthur Hallam, Richard
Milnes, and Sunderland’; or, to use the words of what may be called his
second account, taken from a lecture on Wordsworth delivered forty-three
years afterwards, ‘friends of mine at Cambridge took the matter up and
appeared suddenly on the scene of action.’ That this was the true state
of the case, and that there was little or no premeditation about the
excursion, is made still clearer by Milnes’ first account. After
mentioning that he had been to Oxford, he proceeds:

‘I wanted much to see the place and the men, and had no objection to
speak in their society; so, as they had a good subject for debate (the
comparative merits of Shelley and Byron), and Sunderland and Hallam were
both willing to go—and the Master, when he heard what was our purpose,
very kindly gave us an _Exeat_—we drove manfully through the snow,
arriving in time to speak that evening....

‘Sunderland spoke first after Doyle, who opened, then Hallam, then some
Oxonians, and I succeeded. The contrast from our long, noisy, shuffling,
scraping, talking, vulgar, ridiculous-looking kind of assembly, to a
neat little square room, with eighty or ninety young gentlemen, sprucely
dressed, sitting on chairs or lounging about the fire-place, was enough
to unnerve a more confident person than myself. Even the brazen
Sunderland was somewhat awed, and became tautological, and spoke what we
should call an inferior speech, but which dazzled his hearers. Hallam,
as being among old friends, was bold, and spoke well. I was certainly
nervous, but, I think, pleased my audience better than I pleased
myself[81].’

In his second account, written thirty-six years afterwards, Milnes gives
greater prominence to the Union Society than, we think, is consistent
with the facts. It might easily be argued, after reading it, that the
three Cambridge undergraduates had been selected by the Society to
represent it. This exaggeration of the part played by the Union was
perhaps only natural on an occasion when the speaker must have felt
almost bound to magnify the influence of that Society on all departments
of Cambridge life. After mentioning Arthur Hallam and Sunderland, he
says:

‘It was in company with Mr Sunderland and Arthur Hallam that I formed
part of a deputation sent from the Union of Cambridge to the Union of
Oxford; and what do you think we went about? Why, we went to assert the
right of Mr Shelley to be considered a greater poet than Lord Byron. At
that time we in Cambridge were all very full of Mr Shelley. We had
printed the _Adonais_ for the first time in England, and a friend of
ours suggested that as Shelley had been expelled from Oxford, and
greatly ill-treated, it would be a very grand thing for us to go to
Oxford and raise a debate upon his character and powers. So, with full
permission of the authorities[82] we went....

We had a very interesting debate ... but we were very much shocked, and
our vanity was not a little wounded, to find that nobody at Oxford knew
anything about Mr Shelley. In fact, a considerable number of our
auditors believed that it was Shenstone, and said that they only knew
one poem of his, beginning, “My banks are all furnished with bees.” We
hoped, however, that our apostolate was of some good...[83].’

Sir Francis Doyle is provokingly brief in his account of the
performances of his Cambridge allies. Sunderland, he tells us, ‘spoke
with great effect, though scarcely, I believe, with the same fire that
he often put forth on more congenial subjects. Then followed Hallam,
with equal if not superior force.’ Of Milnes he says but little. After
recounting the discomfiture of a speaker from Oriel, who while
declaiming against Shelley suddenly caught sight of him, he adds: ‘Lord
Houghton then stood up, and showed consummate skill as an advocate....
After him there was silence in the Union for several minutes, and then
Mr Manning of Baliol rose.’ He was on the side of Byron; and when the
votes were taken the members present agreed with him.

Mr Gladstone, in a conversation with the author of the life of Cardinal
Manning, has given a rather different account of the matter:

‘There was an invasion of barbarians among civilized men, or of
civilized men among barbarians. Cambridge men used to look down upon us
at Oxford as prim and behind the times. A deputation from the Society of
the Apostles at Cambridge, consisting of Monckton Milnes and Henry
[Arthur] Hallam, and Sunderland, came to set up among us the cult of
Shelley; or at any rate, to introduce the School of Shelley as against
the Byronic School at Oxford—Shelley that is, not in his negative, but
in his spiritual side. I knew Hallam at Eton, and, I believe, was the
intermediary in bringing about the discussion[84].’

This view, that the commission of the three knights-errant emanated from
the Apostles, and not from themselves, or from the Union Society, is
borne out to some degree by Blakesley’s account. But for this we have no
space. We will conclude with Manning’s admirable description of the
scene. It occurs in a letter dated 3 November, 1866—just after Lord
Houghton had made his speech at the Cambridge Union.

‘I do not believe that I was guilty of the rashness of throwing the
javelin over the Cam. It was, I think, a passage of arms got up by the
Eton men of the two Unions. My share, if any, was only as a member of
the august committee of the green baize table. I can, however, remember
the irruption of the three Cambridge orators. We Oxford men were
precise, orderly, and morbidly afraid of excess in word or manner. The
Cambridge oratory came in like a flood into a mill-pond. Both Monckton
Milnes and Henry [Arthur] Hallam took us aback by the boldness and
freedom of their manner. But I remember the effect of Sunderland’s
declaration and action to this day. It had never been seen or heard
before among us; we cowered like birds, and ran like sheep.... I
acknowledge that we were utterly routed. Lord Houghton’s beautiful
reviving of those old days has in it something fragrant and sweet, and
brings back old faces and old friendships, very dear as life is drawing
to its close.’

Mr Milnes had always wished that his son should become distinguished in
that House of Commons where he had himself made so brilliant a _début_.
With this object in view, he had urged him to cultivate speaking in
public, and probably the only part of his Cambridge career which he
viewed with complete satisfaction was his interest in, and success at,
the Union Debating Society. But even in this they did not quite agree.
Mr Milnes urged his son to take a decided line, and to lead the Union.
But the only answer he could get was, ‘If there is one thing on which I
have ever prided myself, it is on having no politics at all, and judging
every measure by its individual merits. A leader there must be a violent
politician and a party politician, or he must have a private party. I
shall never be the one or have the other.’ Again, they were at variance
on the burning question of the day, the Reform Bill. Mr Milnes, though a
Conservative, was in favour of it; his son described it as ‘the curse
and degradation of the nation.’ Further, while exhorting his son to
prepare himself for public life, with a singleness of purpose that, if
adhered to, would have excluded other and more congenial pursuits, Mr
Milnes warned him that his circumstances would not allow him to enter
parliament. No wonder, therefore, that the young man became perplexed
and melancholy, and more than ever anxious to find a refuge for his
aspirations in literature.

While these questions were pending between father and son, the pecuniary
embarrassments to which we have already alluded entered upon an acute
stage, and in 1829 the whole family left England for five years. If Mr
Milnes ever submitted his own actions to the test of rigorous
examination, he must have concluded that he had himself brought about
the very result which he was most anxious to prevent; for it was this
enforced residence on the Continent which, more than any other
influence, shaped the character of his son. Mr Milnes evidently wished
him to become a country gentleman like himself, and, if he must write,
to be ‘a pamphleteer on guano and on grain.’ Instead of this, while he
kept his loyalty to England with unbroken faith, he divested himself of
English narrowness, and acquired that intimate knowledge of the other
members of the European family, and, we may add, that catholicity of
taste, for which he was so conspicuous. Probably no public man of the
present century understood the Continent so well as Milnes. In many ways
he was a typical Englishman; but he was also a citizen of the world.

The first resting-place of the family was Boulogne, and there Milnes
made his first acquaintance with Frenchmen and their literature. The
romantic school was beginning to engross public attention, and Victor
Hugo—then, as afterwards, the ‘stormy voice of France’—became his
favourite French poet. But, great as was the interest which Milnes felt
in France, he was too eager for knowledge to be content with one
language and one literature, and, rejecting his father’s suggestion that
he should spend some time in Paris, he spent most of the summer and
autumn of 1830 at Bonn, in order to learn German. We suspect that he
must have taken this step at the suggestion of Thirlwall, for it was he
who introduced him to Professor Brandis, and probably also to the
veteran Niebuhr. Thence, his family having migrated to Milan, he crossed
the Alps, and made his first acquaintance with Italy, which became, we
might almost say, the country of his adoption. He felt a deep sympathy
for the Italian people in their aspirations for liberty, and though, as
was natural at his age, he enjoyed the society of the Austrian
vice-regal Court, he longed to see the foreigner expelled from Italy.
Other Italian cities were visited in due course, and, lastly, Rome.
Where-ever he went, he managed, with a skill that was peculiarly his
own, to know the most interesting people, and to be welcomed with equal
warmth by persons of the most opposite opinions. It was no small feat to
have known both Italians and Austrians at Milan; but at Rome, besides
his English acquaintances, he formed lasting friendships with the
Chevalier Bunsen and his family, and with Dr Wiseman, M. Rio, M.
Montalembert, and other catholics of distinction. The Church of Rome
must always have great attractions for a young man of deep feeling and
with no settled principles of faith, and we gather that Milnes was at
one time not indisposed to join it. His feelings in that time of unrest
and perplexity are well indicated in the following lines, written at
Rome in 1834:

      ‘To search for lore in spacious libraries,
        And find it hid in tongues to you unknown;
      To wait deaf-eared near swelling minstrelsies,
        Watch every action, but not catch one tone;
      Amid a thousand breathless votaries,
        To feel yourself dry-hearted as a stone—
      Are images of that which, hour by hour,
      Consumes my heart, the strife of Will and Power.

      ‘The Beauty of the past before my eyes
        Stands ever in each fable-haunted place,
      I know her form in every dark disguise,
        But never look upon her open face;
      O’er every limb a veil thick-folded lies,
        Showing poor outline of a perfect grace,
      Yet just enough to make the sickened mind
      Grieve doubly for the treasures hid behind.

      ‘O Thou! to whom the wearisome disease
        Of Past and Present is an alien thing,
      Thou pure Existence! whose severe decrees
        Forbid a living man his soul to bring
      Into a timeless Eden of sweet ease,
        Clear-eyed, clear-hearted—lay thy loving wing
      In death upon me—if that way alone
      Thy great creation-thought thou wilt to me make known[85].’

An interesting picture of Milnes at about this period has been drawn by
Mr Aubrey de Vere, whom he visited in Ireland during one of his brief
absences from Italy.

‘He remained with us a good many days, though when he left us they
seemed too few. We showed him whatever of interest our neighbourhood
boasts, and he more than repaid us by the charm of his conversation, his
lively descriptions of foreign ways, his good-humour, his manifold
accomplishments, and the extraordinary range of his information, both as
regards books and men. He could hardly have then been more than
two-and-twenty, and yet he was already well acquainted with the
languages and literatures of many different countries, and not a few of
their most distinguished men, living or recently dead. I well remember
the vivid picture which he drew of Niebuhr’s profound grief at the
downfall of the restored monarchy in France, at the renewal of its
Revolution in 1830. He was delivering a series of historical lectures at
the time, and Milnes was one of the young men attending the course. One
day they had long to wait for their Professor; at last the aged
historian entered the lecture-hall, his form drooping, and his whole
aspect grief-stricken. ‘Gentlemen,’ he said, ‘I have no apology for
detaining you; a calamity has befallen Europe which must undo all the
restorative work recently done, and throw back her social and political
progress—perhaps for centuries. The Revolution has broken out again’
(vol. i. p. 115).

One episode of these foreign experiences deserves a separate notice. In
1832 Milnes spent some months in Greece with his friend Mr Christopher
Wordsworth, a scholar whose _Athens and Attica_ has long been a
classical text-book. But Milnes was more powerfully attracted by the
sight of Grecian independence than by the relics of her ancient glory.
The volume which he published on his return, called _Memorials of a Tour
in some parts of Greece, chiefly Poetical_ (his first independent
literary venture, it may be remarked), contains but scanty references to
antiquity. He was keenly interested in the efforts of Greece to obtain a
settled government of her own, and through all the drawbacks and
discomforts which, as a traveller, he had to endure from the Greeks, he
firmly adhered to the cause of freedom. He even advocated the immediate
restoration of the Elgin marbles to the Parthenon. But Milnes had a mind
which was singularly free from prejudice, and even in those early days
he had learnt to consider both sides of every question, and to keep his
sympathies controlled by his judgment. He probably approached Greece
with the enthusiasm for a liberated nation which had so deeply stirred
even the most indifferent in England; but he left it ‘with an affection
for the Turkish character which he never entirely lost, and which
enabled him in very different days, then far distant, to understand the
political exigencies of the East better than many politicians of more
pretentious character and fame.’

We have dwelt on Milnes’s early years at some length, because their
history throws considerable light on his subsequent career, and accounts
for most of the difficulties that he experienced when he made his first
entrance into London society. ‘Conceive the man,’ said Carlyle: ‘a most
bland-smiling, semi-quizzical, affectionate, high-bred, Italianised
little man, who has long olive-blonde hair, a dimple, next to no chin,
and flings his arm round your neck when he addresses you in public
society!’ If the rough Scotch moralist was not in an unusually bad
humour when he wrote these words, it is not to be wondered at that
Milnes was regarded for a time as a dangerous person, ‘anxious to
introduce foreign ways and fashions into the conservative fields of
English life.’ But this dislike of him was very transient, and in less
than a year after his return to England he had ‘made a conquest of the
social world.’ That he was still looked upon as an oddity seems certain,
and even his intimate friend Charles Buller could exclaim: ‘I often
think how puzzled your Maker must be to account for your conduct;’ but
people soon became willing to accept him on his own terms for the sake
of his wit and brilliancy, and, we may add, of his kind heart. Some
nicknames that survived long after their application had lost its point,
are worth remembering as illustrations of what was once thought of him;
perhaps still more for the sake of the letter which Sydney Smith wrote
on being accused, quite groundlessly, of having invented them.

‘DEAR MILNES,—Never lose your good temper, which is one of your best
qualities, and which has carried you hitherto safely through your
startling eccentricities. If you turn cross and touchy, you are a lost
man. No man can combine the defects of opposite characters. The names of
“Cool of the evening,” “London Assurance,” and “In-I-go Jones,” are, I
give you my word, not mine. They are of no sort of importance; they are
safety-valves, and if you could by paying sixpence get rid of them, you
had better keep your money. You do me but justice in acknowledging that
I have spoken much good of you. I have laughed at you for those follies
which I have told you of to your face; but nobody has more readily and
more earnestly asserted that you are a very agreeable, clever man, with
a very good heart, unimpeachable in all the relations of life, and that
you amply deserve to be retained in the place to which you had too
hastily elevated yourself by manners unknown to our cold and phlegmatic
people. I thank you for what you say of my good-humour. Lord Dudley,
when I took leave of him, said to me: “You have been laughing at me for
the last seven years, and you never said anything that I wished unsaid.”
This pleased me.

                                                ‘Ever yours,

‘SYDNEY SMITH[86].’

When we read that Milnes ‘made a conquest of society,’ it must not be
supposed that he was a mere pleasure-seeker. On the contrary, as Mr Reid
says in another place, ‘he had too great a reverence for what was good
and pure and true, too consuming a desire to hold his own with the best
intellects of his time, and, above all, too deep a sympathy with the
suffering and the wronged to allow him to fall a victim to these
temptations.’ From the first, then, he ‘sought to combine the world of
pleasure and the world of intellect.’ A list of his friends would
contain the names of the best-known men of the day, but, at the same
time, men who had but little in common: Carlyle, Sterling, Maurice,
Spedding, Thackeray, Tennyson, Landor, Hallam, Rogers, Macaulay, Sydney
Smith. ‘He became an intimate member of circles differing so widely from
each other as those of Lansdowne House, Holland House, Gore House, and
the Sterling Club’; and as a host he was notorious for mingling together
the most discordant social elements. Disraeli sketched him in _Tancred_
under a disguise so thin that nobody could fail to penetrate it:

‘Mr Vavasour saw something good in everybody and everything, which is
certainly amiable, and perhaps just, but disqualifies a man in some
degree for the business of life, which requires for its conduct a
certain degree of prejudice. Mr Vavasour’s breakfasts were renowned.
Whatever your creed, class, or merit—one might almost add, your
character—you were a welcome guest at his matutinal meal, provided you
were celebrated. That qualification, however, was rigidly enforced. He
prided himself on figuring as the social medium by which rival
reputations became acquainted, and paid each other in his presence the
compliments which veiled their ineffable disgust’ (vol. i. p. 337).

When some one asked if a celebrated murderer had been hanged, the reply
he got was: ‘I hope so, or Richard will have him at his breakfast-table
next Thursday;’ and Thirlwall, when his friend was on the brink of
marriage, thus alludes to past felicity:

‘It is very likely, nay certain, that you will still collect agreeable
people about your wife’s breakfast-table; but can I ever sit down there
without the certainty that I shall meet with none but respectable
persons? It may be an odd thing for a Bishop to lament, but I cannot
help it’ (vol. i. p. 448).

After all it seems probable that Milnes himself, and not the lion of the
hour, was the chief attraction at those parties. He delighted in the
best sort of conversation—that which he called ‘the rapid counterplay
and vivid exercise of combined intelligences,’ and he did his best to
revive the practice of that almost forgotten art—_l’art de causer_. As
Mr Reid says:

‘How brilliant and amusing he was over the dinner-table or the
breakfast-table was known to all his friends. Overflowing with
information, his mind was lightened by a bright wit, whilst his immense
stores of appropriate anecdotes enabled him to give point and colour to
every topic which was brought under discussion’ (vol. i. p. 189).

At the same time he did not fall into the fatal error of taking the talk
into his own hands, and delivering a monologue, as too many social
celebrities have done before and since. He had the happy art of making
his guests talk, while he listened, and threw in a remark from time to
time, to give new life when the conversation seemed to flag. Carlyle, in
a letter written to his wife during his first visit to Fryston, gives us
a lifelike portrait of Milnes when thus engaged:

‘Richard, I find, lays himself out while in this quarter to do
hospitalities, and of course to collect notabilities about him, and play
them off one against the other. I am his trump-card at present. The
Sessions are at Pontefract even now, and many lawyers there. These last
two nights he has brought a trio of barristers to dine, producing
champagne, &c.... Last night our three was admitted to be a kind of
failure, three greater blockheads ye wadna find in Christendee. Richard
had to exert himself; but he is really dexterous, the villain. He pricks
you with questions, with remarks, with all kinds of fly-tackle to make
you bite, does generally contrive to get you into some sort of speech.
And then his good humour is extreme; you look in his face and forgive
him all his tricks’ (vol. i. p. 256).

As a pendant to this we will quote Mr Forster’s description of Milnes
and Carlyle together:

‘Monckton Miles came yesterday and left this morning—a pleasant,
companionable little man—delighting in paradoxes, but good-humoured
ones; defending all manner of people and principles in order to provoke
Carlyle to abuse them, in which laudable enterprise he must have
succeeded to his heart’s content, and for a time we had a most amusing
evening, reminding me of a naughty boy rubbing a fierce cat’s tail
backwards, and getting in between furious growls and fiery sparks. He
managed to avoid the threatened scratches’ (vol. i. p. 387).

Milnes entered Parliament in 1837 as Conservative member for Pontefract.
His friends were rather surprised at his selection of a party, for even
then his views on most subjects were decidedly Liberal. Thirlwall, for
instance, wrote:

‘I can hardly bring myself now to consider you a Tory, or indeed as
belonging to a party at all; and although I am aware how difficult, and
even dangerous, it is for a public man to keep aloof from all parties,
still my first hope as well as expectation as to your political career
is that it may be distinguished by some degree of originality’ (vol. i.
p. 199).

These hopes were realized to an extent that none of Milnes’s friends
would have expected or perhaps desired. From the outset he maintained an
independence of thought and action which did him the utmost credit as a
man of honour, but which ruined his chances of obtaining that success
which is measured by the attainment of official dignity. And yet, as Mr
Reid tells us, he was more ambitious of political than of literary
distinction. But the fates were against him. In the first place, his
oratorical style did not suit the House, though as an after-dinner
speaker he was conspicuously successful. He ‘had modelled himself on the
old style of political oratory, and gave his hearers an impression of
affectation.’ Then he would not vote straight with his party. He took a
line of his own about Canada and the Ballot; he voted on the opposite
side to Peel on the question of a large remission of capital
punishments; and he wrote _One Tract More_, ‘an eloquent and earnest
plea for toleration for the Anglo-Catholic enthusiasm,’ which shocked
the Protestants in general, and the electors of Pontefract in
particular. Perhaps he was too much in earnest; perhaps he was not a
sufficiently important person to be silenced by office; perhaps, as Mr
Reid says, ‘public opinion in England always insists upon drawing a
broad line of demarcation between the man of letters and the man of
affairs;’ but, whatever might be the reason, Sir Robert Peel passed him
over when forming his Administration in 1841—nay, rather, appears never
to have turned his thoughts in his direction. Milnes was grievously
disappointed, but with characteristic lightheartedness set at once to
work to make himself more thoroughly fit for the post he specially
coveted, the Under-Secretaryship of Foreign Affairs. He went to Paris,
got intimate with Guizot, De Tocqueville, Montalembert—‘that English
aristocrat foisted into the middle of French democracy’—and other
leading statesmen. Through them, and by help of his natural gift of
knowing everybody he wished to know, he managed to include Louis
Philippe among those by whom he was accepted as a sort of unaccredited
English envoy. He kept Peel informed of the views of Guizot and the
King, and Peel replied with a message to the former in a letter which
shows that he was quite ready to make use of Milnes, though not to
reward him. On his return he gave Peel a general support on the Corn
Laws, while regretting that his ‘measures were not of a more liberal
character;’ he interested himself in the passing of the Copyright Bill,
a measure in respect of which he was accepted as the representative of
men of letters; and he travelled in the East, no doubt to study Oriental
politics on the spot. A letter he wrote to Peel from Smyrna is full of
shrewd observation and far-reaching insight into the Eastern Question;
but, on his return, he published a volume of poems called _Palm Leaves_.
Now Peel, like a certain Hanoverian monarch who hated ‘boetry and
bainters,’ hated literature; and, as Milnes’s father told him, ‘every
book he wrote was a nail in his political coffin.’ Again, Milnes was in
favour of the endowment of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, and had
written a pamphlet called _The Real Union of England and Ireland_, on
which, we may note, in passing, Mr Gladstone’s remark, that he had ‘some
opinions on Irish matters that are not fit for practice.’ With these
views he supported Peel’s grant to Maynooth, a step which brought him
into such disgrace at Pontefract that he thought seriously of giving up
parliamentary life altogether. In fact he applied for a diplomatic post,
but without success. Before long we find him again running counter to
his chief’s policy, supporting Lord Ashley against the Government, and
seconding a motion of Charles Buller’s against Lord Stanley. After this
it cannot excite surprise that Peel passed him over when he rearranged
his Administration in 1845. With his second disappointment Milnes’s
career as a professional politician came to an end. Ten years later
Palmerston offered him a lordship of the Treasury, but he declined it.
As he said himself in a letter written shortly afterwards:

‘_Via media_ never answers in politics, and somehow or other I never can
get out of it. My Laodicean spirit is the ruin of me. From having lived
with all sorts of people, and seen good in all, the broad black lines of
judgment that people usually draw seem to me false and foolish, and I
think my own finer ones just as distinct, though no one can see them but
myself’ (vol. i. p. 360).

Before long Milnes found a more congenial position on the opposite side
of the House. But it must not be supposed that he rushed into sudden and
rancorous opposition to his old leader. So long as Peel remained in
office, he allowed no personal considerations to interfere with his
support of him; and he steadily refused to join those who rebelled when
he announced his conversion to Free Trade. Meanwhile, his interest in
the burning question of the day being little more than formal, he turned
his attention to a social question in which he had long been interested,
and introduced a Bill for the establishment of reformatories for
juvenile offenders. Among the many combinations of opposite tastes and
tendencies with which Milnes was fond of startling the world, could one
more curious be imagined than this—the literary exquisite and the
criminal unwashed? But in fact this is only a single instance out of
many which could be produced to show that the cynical selfishness he
affected was only a mask which hid his real nature; perhaps assumed for
the sake of concealing from his left hand what his right hand was doing
so well. The proposal, we are told, ‘was scoffed at by many politicians
of eminence when it was first put forward.’ But Milnes was not to be
daunted by rebuffs, and ‘he persevered with his proposal, until he had
the great happiness of seeing reformatories established under the
sanction of the law, and of becoming himself the president of the first
and greatest of these noble institutions, that at Redhill.’ His very
genuine sympathy with the poor and the unfortunate, especially when
young, is testified to by one of his intimate friends, Miss Nightingale:

‘His brilliancy and talents in tongue or pen—whether political, social,
or literary—were inspired chiefly by good-will towards man; but he had
the same voice and manners for the dirty brat as he had for a duchess,
the same desire to give pleasure and good. Once, at Redhill, where we
were with a party, and the chiefs were explaining to us the system in
the court-yard, a mean, stunted, villainous-looking little fellow crept
across the yard (quite out of order, and by himself), and stole a dirty
paw into Mr Milnes’s hand. Not a word passed; the boy stayed quite quiet
and quite contented if he could but touch his benefactor who had placed
him there. He was evidently not only his benefactor, but his friend’
(vol. ii. p. 7).

Milnes had been called a Liberal-Conservative during the first ten years
of his parliamentary life. He now became a Conservative-Liberal; but the
transposition of the adjective made little, if any, change in his
political conduct. He was as insubordinate in the latter position as he
had been in the former. He took Lord Palmerston as his leader and chosen
friend; but he did not always side with him. In the debates on the
Conspiracy Bill, after the attempt of Orsini to assassinate Napoleon
III., Milnes spoke and voted against his chief; and on the measure for
abolishing the East India Company he was equally indifferent to the
claims of party. As time went on, he drifted out of party politics
altogether; and both in the House of Commons and the House of Lords,
which he entered in 1863, it was to measures of a private character, or
to measures of social reform, that he gave his attention. He advocated
help to Lady Franklin in her expedition to clear up the mystery of her
husband’s fate; he was in favour of female suffrage; of the abolition of
public executions; and he led the agitation for legalising marriage with
a deceased wife’s sister. At the same time he cordially supported the
Liberal party on all great occasions. Speaking of the abortive Reform
Bill of 1866, Mr Reid remarks:

‘Houghton held strongly to the Liberal side throughout the movement, and
again afforded proof of the fact that his elevation to the House of
Lords had strengthened, rather than weakened, his faith in the people
and in popular institutions. Early in April he presided at one of the
great popular meetings in favour of Reform. The scene of the meeting was
the Cloth Hall at Leeds—a spot famous in the political history of the
West Riding—and Lord Houghton’s speech was as advanced in tone as the
most thoroughgoing Reformer could have wished it to be. He was, indeed,
one of the very few peers who took an open and pronounced part in the
agitation of the year’ (vol. ii. p. 151).

This is only one instance, out of many that could be adduced. It would
be interesting to know what he would have thought of some of the later
developments of his party. It is almost needless to say that he never
regarded Lord Beaconsfield as a serious politician. On the eve of his
return from Berlin in 1878, he writes: ‘I hope to be in my place on
Thursday, to see the reception of the Great Adventurer. Whether from
knowing him so well, or from the sarcastic temperament of old age, the
whole thing looks to me like a comedy, with as much relation to serious
politics as Punch to real life.’ At the same time he had not been a
thoroughgoing supporter of Mr Gladstone’s agitation against the Turks,
and he had warned that statesman so far back as 1871, that ‘a demon, not
of demagoguism, but of demophilism, is tempting you sorely.’

Advancing years and disappointed hopes caused no abatement in his
interest in foreign affairs. The events of 1848 had been specially
interesting to him; and at the close of that year he produced what Mr
Reid well describes as ‘a striking and instructive’ pamphlet, entitled
_A Letter to the Marquis of Lansdowne_. The author reviews the events of
the year, and supports the thesis that ‘the Liberals of the Continent
had not proved themselves unworthy of the sympathy of England.’ We have
no room for an analysis of this masterly work, but we cannot refrain
from quoting one remarkable passage in which he foreshadows French
intervention in Italy. After describing measures by which Austria
intended to make the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom a second Poland, he
proceeds:

‘And France, whatever be her adventures in government, will not easily
have so dulled her imagination or quelled her enthusiasm as to be
unmoved by appeals to the deeds of Marengo and Lodi, and to suffer an
expiring nation at her very door to cry in vain for help and protection,
not against the restraints of an orderly authority, but against fierce
invaders intent upon her absolute destruction’ (vol. i. p. 413).

This pamphlet made a great sensation. In England it was received, for
the most part, with dislike and apprehension. Carlyle was almost alone
in praising it. ‘Tell him,’ he said, ‘it is the greatest thing he has
yet done; earnest and grave, written in a large, tolerant, kind-hearted
spirit, and, as far as I can see, saying all that is to be said on
_that_ matter.’ But the strongest proof of the power of the pamphlet is
the fact that the Austrians stopped the writer on the Hungarian frontier
when travelling with his wife in 1851, as a person who could not breathe
that revolutionary atmosphere without danger to the empire. In his later
years foreign travel became almost a necessity to Lord Houghton; and as
he had then fewer ties to bind him to England, his absences were more
frequent and more prolonged. He travelled in France, no longer as an
envoy without credentials, but for his private information, or to be the
guest of Guizot and De Tocqueville; he became the friend of the
accomplished Queen of Holland; he represented the Geographical Society
at the opening of the Suez Canal; he made a triumphal progress through
the United States; and only three years before his death he went again
to Egypt and Greece.

Throughout his life Milnes approached public events with a singular
sobriety of judgment. He was never led away by popular clamour, but
formed his opinions, on principle, after mature deliberation. It is
almost needless to add that he generally found himself on the unpopular
side. When England went mad over the Crimean war, Milnes wrote calmly:
‘For my own part I like neither of the combatants, though I prefer a
feeble and superannuated despotism as less noxious to mankind than one
young and vigorous, and assisted by the appliances of modern
intelligence.’ During the American civil war, he ‘broke away from his
own class, and ranged himself on the side of the friends of the North,
with an earnestness not inferior to that of Mr Bright and Mr Forster.’
Mr Reid tell us that this conduct won for Milnes that popularity with
the masses, especially in Yorkshire and Lancashire, which all his
previous efforts had failed to obtain, and that he found himself, to his
great surprise, one of the popular idols. In 1870, again, he was on the
unpopular side: ‘I am Prussian to the backbone,’ he wrote, ‘which is a
pure homage to principle, as they are the least agreeable people in the
world.’

We have been at pains to set forth Milnes’s political acts and
convictions in some detail, because he has been frequently represented
as a gay _farceur_, who took up politics as a pastime. It is not,
however, as a politician that he will be remembered, but as a man of
letters. In his younger days he achieved distinction as a writer of
verse, and Landor hailed him as ‘the greatest poet now living in
England.’ This judgment may nowadays provoke a smile; but, though it is
not to be expected that his poems will recover their former popularity,
they hardly deserve to have fallen into complete neglect. As Mr Reid
says:

‘A great singer he may not have been; a sweet singer with a charm of his
own he undoubtedly was; nor did his charm consist alone in the melody of
which he was a master. In many of his poems real poetic thought is
linked with musical words; whilst in everything that he wrote, whether
in verse or in prose, one may discern the brightest characteristics of
the man himself: the catholicity of his spirit; the tenderness of his
sympathy with weakness, suffering, mortal frailty in all its forms; the
ardour of his faith in something that should break down the artificial
barriers by which classes are divided, and bring into the lives of all a
measure of that light and happiness which he relished so highly for
himself’ (vol. ii. p. 438).

For his prose works, or at least for some of them, we predict a very
different fate. We do not like even to think of an age that will refuse
to admire the charming style, the real dramatic power, the exquisite
tact, and the fine taste which distinguish his _Life of Keats_, and his
_Monographs_, to which we have already alluded. Other essays, probably
of equal merit, lie scattered in Reviews and Magazines. We hope that
before long we may see the best of these collected together. Such a
series, which would cover a period of nearly sixty years, would form a
most important chapter in the history of English literature.

Besides his reputation as a writer, Milnes occupied an unique position
towards the world of letters, which it is not quite easy to define. It
is not enough to say that he was a Mæcenas, though he knew and
entertained the whole literary community both in London and at Fryston—a
house which, as Thackeray said, ‘combined all the graces of the château
and the tavern’; or that he was always ready to lend a helping hand to
those in distress, though he spent a fortune in generously and
delicately assisting others. His peculiar characteristics were a rare
gift in detecting merit, and an untiring energy in bringing it out, and
setting it in a position where it could bloom and flourish and be
recognized by other people. In effecting this he spared no pains, and
shrank from no annoyance. Often, indeed, he must have risked his own
popularity by his importunity for favours to be conferred on others. Mr
Reid describes at length the amusing scene between him and Sir Robert
Peel, when he solicited and obtained pensions for Tennyson and Sheridan
Knowles, of neither of whom the Minister had ever heard; and to Milnes
must also be allowed the credit of having been the first, or nearly the
first, to bring into prominent recognition the merits of Mr John
Forster. He possessed, too, in a very high degree, the gift of sympathy,
and, as a consequence, of influence. ‘Ever since I knew you,’ said his
friend Macarthy, ‘you have been the chief person in my life; a friend
and brother and confessor—the end and aim of all my actions and hopes’;
and Robert Browning, in a long and most interesting letter, written to
ask Milnes to use his interest to get him appointed secretary to the
minister whom England, as he then believed, ‘must send before the year
ends to this fine fellow, Pio Nono[87],’ admits that his own interest in
Italy was due in the first instance to Milnes’s influence. ‘One gets
excited,’ he says, ‘at least here on the spot, by this tiptoe strained
expectation of poor dear Italy, and yet, if I had not known you, I
believe I should have looked on with other bystanders.’ We have said
that he was charitable; but to say this is to give an imperfect idea of
the efforts he would make for literary men in difficulties. When Hood
was in distress he found that he ‘preferred to receive assistance in the
shape of gratuitous literary work for his magazine rather than in
money.’ Milnes not only contributed himself, but ‘canvassed right and
left among his friends for contributions.’ Nor was his help confined to
the person whose work he valued. ‘The interest and friendship which the
genius had aroused,’ says Mr Reid, ‘was extended to his or her friends
and connexions. Many a widow and many an orphan had occasion to be
thankful that the husband or father had during his lifetime excited the
admiration of Milnes. Years after the death of Charlotte Brontë we find
him trying to smooth the path of her father, and to secure preferment in
the Church for her husband.’ This is only one instance out of many that
might be adduced. Again, he seemed to regard his critical faculty as a
trust for the benefit of others, and was never more congenially employed
than in drawing attention to some young poet who had no influential
friends. In proof of this we will only refer our readers to the touching
story of poor David Gray, whom he nursed with almost feminine
tenderness, and whose poem, _The Luggie_, he edited; and to his early
recognition of the genius of Mr Swinburne, to whose merits he drew
attention by an article in the _Edinburgh Review_. In close connexion
with this kind help to men of whom he knew little or nothing may be
mentioned his interest in the Newspaper Press Fund. The formation of
such a fund was strenuously resisted, we are told, by the most
influential members of the Press; but Milnes, from the first, brought
the whole weight of his social influence to its support, and
contributed, more than any other man, to its permanent and successful
establishment.

Nor should his kindness to young men be forgotten. He may have sought
their society in the first instance from the pleasure he took in all
that was bright, and entertaining, and unaffected; but, as we have
already tried to point out, his motives were commonly underlaid by some
serious purpose which it was not always easy to discover. We do not
maintain that he was specially successful in drawing young men out, for
his own talk was often scrappy, anecdotical, and difficult to follow;
still less do we mean that he tried to influence them in any particular
direction by improving conversation, or the enunciation of any special
opinions in politics or literature. But he certainly made his juniors
feel sure of his sympathy and his good-will.

Of Milnes’s religious opinions it is difficult to give any positive
account. His family had been Unitarian; at college he became an
Evangelical; soon afterwards he fell under the influence of Irving, whom
he proclaimed to be ‘the apostle of the age.’ Then, during his residence
in Italy, as we have already mentioned, he chose Dr Wiseman for his
intimate friend, and the higher Roman Catholic clergy had hopes of his
conversion. ‘Mezzofanti,’ wrote one of his friends in 1832, ‘is full of
hopes that you will return to the bosom of her whom Carlyle calls “the
slain mother”.’ But, during this same period, while passing through what
he calls ‘the twilight of his mind,’ he was the friend of Sterling and
Maurice and Thirlwall, under whose influence he was hardly likely to
submit to an infallible Church. He himself said that he was prevented
from joining the Church of Rome by the uprising of a Catholic school in
the Church of England. To this movement, as we have seen, he was deeply
attached, and both spoke and wrote in its defence. In one of his
commonplace books he called himself a Puseyite sceptic; sometimes he
said he was a crypto-Catholic, and to the last he never entirely shook
off the impressions of his youth. But Mr Reid is probably right in
describing him as ‘a tolerant, liberal-minded man, apt to look at
religion from many different points of view.’ We are not aware that he
ever took part in any directly religious movement, or ever declared his
allegiance to the Church of England except as a political organization.
Partly from a love of paradox, partly from a habit of looking round a
question rather than directly at it, he would have had something to say
in defence of almost any system of religion, while his unfeigned charity
would induce him to adopt that which recognized most fully the claims of
suffering humanity.

Lord Houghton died at Vichy, August 11, 1885. He had been in failing
health for some time, but the end was sudden and unexpected. Only a few
hours before it came he had been entertaining a mixed company at the
_table d’hôte_ by the brilliancy and variety of his conversation. It
might almost be said that he died, as he had lived, in society.

We have tried to eliminate what we believe to have been the real Milnes
from a cloud of misrepresentations and erroneous judgments—for both of
which, it must be remembered, he was himself directly responsible. We
leave to our readers the task of passing sentence on a singularly
amiable, if eccentric, personality. Some opinions expressed by those who
understood him and valued him will appropriately close this article.
When he was young his friends recognized in him what Dr Johnson would
have called the potentiality of greatness, though they doubted whether
he would have sufficient steadiness of purpose to achieve it. ‘Your gay
and airy mind,’ wrote Tennyson in 1833, ‘must have caught as many
colours from the landscape you moved through as a flying soap-bubble—a
comparison truly somewhat irreverent, yet I meant it not as such.’ ‘I
think you are near something very glorious,’ said Stafford O’Brien, ‘but
you will never reach it.’ Mr Aubrey de Vere decided that ‘he had not
much solid ambition. The highlands of life were not what interested him
much; its mountains cast their shadows too far and drew down too many
clouds.’ But, if Milnes’s well-wishers were compelled to abandon their
hopes of any great distinction for their friend, they recognized, with
one accord, his charity and his sincerity. If they did not admire him,
they loved him. ‘You are on the whole a good man,’ said Carlyle, ‘though
with terrible perversities.’ Forster declared that he himself had ‘many
friends who would be kind to him in distress, but only one who would be
equally kind to him in disgrace.’ A distinguished German said of him,
‘Is it possible that an Englishman can be so loveable?’ and Mr Sumner
described him as ‘a member of Parliament, a poet and a man of fashion, a
Tory who does not forget the people, and a man of fashion with
sensibilities, love of virtue and merit among the simple, the poor, and
the lowly.’ Lastly, let us cite his own whimsical character of himself,
which, though expressed in the language of paradox, is probably, in the
main, nearer to the truth than one drawn by any critic could be:

‘He was a man of no common imaginative perceptions, who never gave his
full conviction to anything but the closest reasoning; of acute
sensibilities, who always distrusted the affections; of ideal
aspirations and sensual habits; of the most cheerful manners and of the
gloomiest philosophy. He hoped little and believed little, but he rarely
despaired, and never valued unbelief, except as leading to some larger
truth and purer conviction’ (vol. ii. p. 491).



                        EDWARD HENRY PALMER[88].



A dramatist who undertakes to write a play which is to be almost devoid
of incident, and to depend for interest on the development of an
eccentric character, with only a single strong situation, even though
that situation be one of surpassing power, is considered by those
learned in such matters to be almost courting failure. Such a work is
therefore rarely attempted, and is still more rarely successful. Yet
this is what Mr Besant has had to do in writing the Life of Edward Henry
Palmer; and we are glad to be able to say at once that he has discharged
a delicate and difficult task in a most admirable fashion. For in truth
he had a very unpromising subject to deal with. It is always difficult
to interest the general public in the sayings and doings of a man of
letters, even when he has occupied a prominent position, and thrown
himself with ardour into some burning question of the day, political or
social. Palmer, however, was not such a man at all. He did ‘break his
birth’s invidious bar,’ but alas! it was never given to him, until the
end was close at hand, ‘to grasp the skirts of happy chance,’ or to rise
into a position where he could be seen by the world. It is melancholy
now to speculate on what might have been had he returned in safety from
the perilous enterprise in which he met his death, for it is hardly
likely that the Government would have failed to secure, by some
permanent appointment, the services of a man who had proved, in so
signal a manner, his capacity for dealing with Orientals. As it was,
however, with the exception of the journeys to the Sinaitic Peninsula
and the Holy Land, he lived a quiet student-life; not wholly retired,
for he was no book-worm, and enjoyed, after a peculiar fashion of his
own, the society of his fellow-men; but still a life which did not
really bring him beyond the narrow circle of the few intimate friends
who knew him thoroughly, and were proportionately devoted to him. He
took no part in any movement; he was not ‘earnest’ or ‘intense.’ He did
not read new books, or any of the ‘thoughtful’ magazines; nor had he any
particular desire to alter the framework of society. The world was a
good world so far as he was concerned; and men were strange and
interesting creatures whom it was a pleasure to study, as a naturalist
studies a new species; why alter it or them? The interest which attaches
to such a life depends wholly on the way in which the central character
is presented to the public. That Mr Besant should have succeeded where
others would have failed need not surprise us. The qualities which have
made him a delightful novelist are brought to bear upon this prose _In
Memoriam_, with the additional incentives of warm friendship and
passionate regret. It is clear that he realized all the difficulties of
his task from the outset; and he has treated his materials accordingly,
leading the reader forward with consummate art, chapter by chapter, to
the final catastrophe, which is described with the picturesqueness of a
romance, and the solemn earnestness of a tragedy. Such a book is almost
above criticism. A mourner by an open grave, pronouncing the funeral
oration of his murdered friend, has a prescriptive right to apportion
praise and blame in what measure he thinks fit; and we should be the
last to intrude upon his sacred sorrow with harsh and inconsiderate
criticism. But we should be failing in our duty if we did not draw
attention to one point. It has been Mr Besant’s object to show the
difficulties of all kinds against which his hero had to
contend—ill-health, heavy sorrows, debt—and how he came triumphant
through them all, thanks to his indomitable pluck and energy; and
further, as though no element of interest should be wanting, he has
represented him as smarting under a sense of unmerited wrong done to him
by his University, which ‘went out of the way to insult and neglect’
him. This is no mere fancy of Mr Besant’s; we know from other sources
that Palmer himself thought he had not been treated at Cambridge as he
ought to have been, and that he was glad to get away from it. We shall
do our best to show that this was a misconception on his part, and we
regret that his biographer should have given such prominence to it. But,
though Mr Besant may have been zealous overmuch on this particular
point, his book is none the less fascinating, and we venture to predict
that it will live, as a permanent record of a very remarkable man. We
are sensible that much of its charm will disappear in the short sketch
which we are about to give, but if our remarks have the effect of
sending our readers to the original, we shall not have written in vain.

Edward Henry Palmer was born in Green Street, Cambridge, 7 August, 1840.
His father died when he was an infant, and his mother did not long
survive her husband. Her place was supplied to some extent by an aunt,
then unmarried, who took the orphan child to her own home and educated
him. She was evidently a person who combined great kindness with great
good sense. Palmer, we read, ‘owed everything to her,’ and ‘never spoke
of her in after years without the greatest tenderness and emotion.’ Of
his real mother we do not find any record; but the father, who kept a
small private school, was ‘a man of considerable acquirements, with a
strong taste for art.’ We do not know whether any of Palmer’s peculiar
talents had ever been observed in the father, or whether he can be said
to have inherited anything from his family except a tendency to asthma
and bronchial disease. From this, of which the father died before he was
thirty, the son suffered all his life. He grew out of it to a certain
extent, but it was always there, a watchful enemy, ready to start forth
and fasten upon its victim.

The beginning of Palmer’s education was of the most ordinary
description, and little need be said about it. He was sent in the first
instance to a private school, and afterwards to the Perse Grammar
School. There he made rapid progress, arriving at the sixth form before
he was fifteen; but all we hear about his studies is that he
distinguished himself in Greek and Latin, and disliked mathematics. By
the time he was sixteen he had learnt all that he was likely to learn at
school, and was sent to London to earn his living. He became a junior
clerk in a house of business in East-cheap, where he remained for three
years, and might have remained for the term of his natural life, had he
not been obliged to resign his situation on account of ill-health.
Symptoms of pulmonary disease manifested themselves, and he got worse so
rapidly that he was told that he had little hope of recovery. He
returned to Cambridge, with the conviction that he had but a few weeks
to live, and that he had better die comfortably among his relations,
than miserably among strangers. But after a few weeks of severe illness
he recovered, suddenly and strangely. Mr Besant tells a curious story,
which Palmer is reported to have believed, that the cure had been
effected by a dose of _lobelia_, administered by a herbalist. That
Palmer swallowed the drug—of which, by the way, he nearly died—is
certain, and that he recovered is equally certain; but that the dose and
the recovery can be correlated as cause and effect is more than we are
prepared to admit. We are rather disposed to accept a less sensational
theory, expressed by a gentleman who at that period was one of his
intimate friends:

‘Careful watchfulness on the part of his aunt, open air, exercise, and
freedom from restraint, were the principal means of patching him up. He
had frequent attacks of blood-spitting afterwards, and was altogether
one of those wonderful creatures that defy doctors and quacks alike, and
won’t die of the disease which is theirs by inheritance. How little any
of us thought that he would die a hero!’

Palmer’s peculiar gift of acquiring languages had manifested itself even
before he went to London. Throughout his whole career his strength as a
linguist lay in his extraordinary aptitude for learning a spoken
language. The literature came afterwards. We are not aware that he was
ever what is called a good scholar in Latin or in Greek, simply for the
reason, according to our view, that those languages are no longer spoken
anywhere. He did not repudiate the literature of a language; far from
it. Probably few Orientalists have known the literatures of Arabia and
Persia better than he knew them; but he learnt to speak Arabic and
Persian before he learnt to read them. In this he resembled Cardinal
Mezzofanti, who had the same power of picking up a language for speaking
purposes from a few conversations—learning some words, and constructing
for himself first a vocabulary and then a grammar. When Palmer was still
a boy at school he learnt Romany. He learnt it, says Mr Besant, ‘by
paying travelling tinkers sixpence for a lesson, by haunting the tents,
talking to the men, and crossing the women’s palms with his pocket-money
in exchange for a few more words to add to his vocabulary. In this way
he gradually made for himself a Gipsy dictionary.’ In time he became a
proficient in Gipsy lore, and Mr Besant tells several curious stories
about his adventures with that remarkable people. We will quote the
narrative supplied to him by Mr Charles Leland—better known as Hans
Breitmann—Palmer’s intimate friend and brother in Romany lore.

‘In one respect Palmer was truly remarkable. He combined plain common
sense, clear judgment, and great quickness of perception into all the
relations of a question, with a keen love of fun and romance. I could
fill a volume with the eccentric adventures which we had in common,
particularly among the gipsies. To these good folk we were always a
first-class mystery, but none the less popular on that account. What
with our speaking Romany “down to the bottom crust,” and Palmer’s
incredible proficiency at thimble-rig, “ringing the changes,” picking
pockets, card-sharping, three-monté, and every kind of legerdemain,
these honest people never could quite make up their minds whether we
were a kind of Brahmins, to which they were as Sudras, or what. Woe to
the gipsy sharp who tried the cards with the Professor! How often have
we gone into a _tan_ where we were all unknown, and regarded as a couple
of green Gentiles! And with what a wonderful air of innocence would
Palmer play the part of a lamb, and ask them to give him a specimen of
their language; and when they refused, or professed themselves unable to
do so, how amiably he would turn to me and remark in deep Romany that we
were mistaken, and that the people of the tent were only miserable
“mumpers” of mixed blood, who could not _rakker_! Once I remember he
said this to a gipsy, who retaliated in a great rage, “How could I know
that you were a gipsy, if you come here dressed up like a _gorgio_ and
looking like a gentleman?”

‘One day, with Palmer, in the fens near Cambridge, we came upon a
picturesque sight. It was a large band of gipsies on a halt. As we
subsequently learned, they had made the day before an immense raid in
robbing hen-roosts and poaching, and were loaded with game, fowls, and
eggs. None of them knew me, but several knew the Professor as a lawyer.
One took him aside to confide as a client their late misdoings. “We have
been,” said he——

‘“You have been stealing eggs,” replied Palmer.

‘“How did you know that?”

‘“By the yolk on your waistcoat,” answered the Professor in Romany. “The
next time you had better hide the marks[89].”’

These experiences among the gipsies took place in 1874 or 1875, when
Palmer had perfected himself in their language, and we must go back for
a moment to the period spent in London. There, in his leisure hours, he
managed to learn Italian and French, by a process similar to that by
which he had previously acquired the rudiments of Romany.

‘The method he pursued is instructive. He found out where Italians might
be expected to meet, and went every evening to sit among them and hear
them talk. Thus, there was in those days a _café_ in Titchborne Street
frequented by Italian refugees, political exiles, and republicans. Here
Palmer sat and listened and presently began to talk, and so became an
ardent partisan of Italian unity. There was also at that time—I think
many of them have now migrated to Hammersmith—a great colony of Italian
organ-grinders and sellers of plaster-cast images in and about Saffron
Hill. He went among these worthy people, sat with them in their
restaurants, drank their sour wine, talked with them, and acquired their
_patois_. He found out Italian waiters at restaurants and talked with
them; at the docks he went on board Italian ships, and talked with the
sailors; and in these ways learned the various dialects of Genoa,
Naples, Nice, Livorno, Venice, and Messina. One of his friends at this
time was a well-known Signor Buonocorre, the so-called “Fire King,” who
used to astonish the multitude nightly at Cremorne Gardens and elsewhere
by his feats. For Palmer was always attracted by people who run shows,
“do” things, act, pretend, persuade, deceive, and in fact are
interesting for any kind of cleverness. However, the first result of
this perseverance was that he made himself a perfect master of Italian,
that he knew the country speech as well as the Italian of the schools,
and that he could converse with the Piedmontese, the Venetian, the
Roman, the Sicilian, or the Calabrian, in their own dialects, as well as
with the purest native of Florence.

‘Also while he was in the City he acquired French by a similar process.
I do not know whether he carried on his French studies at the same time
with the Italian, but I believe not. It seems certainly more in
accordance with the practice which he adopted in after life that he
should attempt only one thing at a time. But as with Italian so with
French; he joined to a knowledge of the pure language a curious
acquaintance with _argot_; also—which points to acquaintance made in
_cafés_—he acquired somehow in those early days a curious knowledge and
admiration of the French police and detective system[90].’

The illness which compelled Palmer to give up London had evidently been
very serious, and his convalescence was tedious. Nor, when supposed to
be well, did he feel any inclination to resume work as a clerk. So he
stayed in Cambridge at his aunt’s house, with no definite aim in life,
but taking up now one thing, now another, after the manner of clever
boys when they are at home for the holidays. He did a little literature
in the way of burlesques, one of which, _Ye Hole in ye Walle_, a legend
told after the manner of Ingoldsby, was afterwards published by Messrs
Macmillan; he wrote a farce, which was acted in that temple of Thespis,
once dear to Cambridge undergraduates, the old Barnwell Theatre; he
acted himself with considerable success, and for a week or so thought of
adopting the stage as a profession; he tried conjuring, in which in
after years he became an adept, and ventriloquism, where he failed; he
took up various forms of art, as wood-engraving, modelling, drawing,
painting, photography; in all of which, except the last, he arrived at
creditable results. His aunt is reported to have borne her nephew’s
changeable tastes with exemplary patience, until photography came to the
front; but ‘the waste of expensive materials, the damage to clothes,
stair carpets—he could always be traced—his disreputable piebald
appearance,’ and (last, but not least!) ‘the results on glass,’ were too
much for even her good-nature. The camera was banished, and the artist
was bidden to adopt some pursuit less annoying to his neighbours. The
one really useful study of this period was shorthand-writing; and in
after years, when he practised as a barrister, he found the usefulness
of it.

Up to this time—the year 1860—he had never turned his attention to
Oriental literature, and very likely had never seen an Oriental
character. The friend whose reminiscences we have quoted more than once
already says that he remembers ‘going one morning into his bedroom (he
was a very late riser) and finding him looking at some Arabic
characters. They interested him; he liked the look of them; it was an
improvement on shorthand; he would find it all out; and so he did!’ He
set to work without delay to find somebody he could talk to about his
new fancy, and, as the supply of Oriental scholars is necessarily
limited even at one of the Universities, he was led at once to the only
two persons competent to instruct him—the Rev. George Skinner, and a
Mohammedan named Syed Abdullah. The former was a Master of Arts of the
University, who had published a translation of the Psalms; the latter
was a native of Oudh, who had resided in England since 1851, and who
about this time came to Cambridge to prepare students for the Civil
Service of India. Under the guidance of these gentlemen, Palmer plunged
into Oriental languages with the same enthusiasm with which he had
followed the various pursuits we have mentioned above. There was this
difference, however, between the new love and the old; there was no
turning back; the day of transient fancies was over; that of serious
work had begun. His ardour now knew no abatement; he is said to have
worked at this time eighteen hours a day. This may well be doubted; but
without pressing such a statement too closely, we may admit that he gave
himself up to his new studies with unwonted perseverance, and that his
progress was rapid. Mr Skinner used to take him out for walks in the
country, and discourse to him on Hebrew grammar. Hebrew, however, was a
language which did not attract him greatly, and in after years he used
to say that he did not know it. Syed Abdullah gave him more regular and
systematic instruction in Urdú, Persian, and Arabic. Palmer was
‘constantly writing prose and verse exercises for him.’ They became
intimate friends; and it was probably through his representations that
Palmer was allowed to give up all thoughts of resuming work as a clerk,
and to take up Oriental languages and literature as a profession.
Through him, too, he was introduced to the Nawab Ikbal ud Dawlah, son of
the late Rajah of Oudh, who took a very warm interest in Palmer’s
studies, allowed him to live in his house when he pleased, and gave him
the assistance of two able native instructors. Next he struck up a
friendship with a Bengalee gentleman named Bazlurrahim, with whom he
spent some time, composing incessantly under his supervision in Persian
and Urdú. Besides these he was on terms of intimacy with other Orientals
resident at that time in England, and also with Professor Mir Aulad Ali,
of Trinity College, Dublin, ‘who was constantly his adviser, critic,
teacher, friend, and sympathizer.’ Hence, as Mr Besant points out, we
may see that he had no lack of instructors; and may at once dismiss from
our minds two common misconceptions about him—first that Oriental
languages ‘came natural’ to him; and, secondly, that he was a poor,
friendless, solitary student, burning the midnight lamp in a garret, and
learning Arabic all alone. On the contrary, he never felt any pressure
of poverty, and was helped, sympathized with, encouraged, by all those
with whom he came in contact. His progress was rapid, and in 1862 he was
able to send a copy of original Arabic verses to the Lord Almoner’s
Reader in that language, who described them as ‘elegant and idiomatic.’

Up to this time Palmer does not appear to have known much of University
men, or to have thought of becoming a member of the University himself.
He would probably have never joined S. John’s College had he not been
accidentally ‘discovered,’ as Mr Besant happily puts it, by two of the
Fellows. The result of this discovery was that he was invited to become
a candidate for a sizarship in October 1863, and in the interval
prepared himself for the examination by reviving his former studies in
classics, and in working at mathematics. He was assisted in this
preparation by one of the Fellows, who tells us that, though he declared
that he knew no mathematics at all, he ‘always did what I set him,
passed the examinations very easily, and presumably obtained his
sizarship on it.’ His known proficiency in Oriental languages was
evidently not taken into account at the outset of his University career,
but some two years afterwards, in 1865 or 1866, a scholarship was given
to him on that account only. He took his degree in 1867, and, as there
was no Oriental Languages Tripos in those days, he presented himself for
the Classical Tripos, in which he obtained only a third class. Such a
place cannot, as a general rule, be considered brilliant; but in his
case it should be regarded as a distinction rather than a failure, for
it shows that he must have possessed a more than respectable knowledge
of Latin and Greek, and, moreover, have been able to write composition
in those languages. At the time of his matriculation (November 1863) he
could have known but little of either; and during the succeeding three
years he had been much occupied with vigorous prosecution of his
Oriental studies, with taking pupils in Arabic, and with making
catalogues of the Oriental manuscripts in the libraries of the
University, of King’s College, and of Trinity College. But he always had
a surprising power of getting through an enormous quantity of work
without ever seeming to be in a hurry. A friend tells us that Palmer

‘Did not strike one as a man of method, as an economist of time, as
moving about wrapped in thought. You met him apparently lounging along,
ready for a talk, perhaps in company with a rather idle man; yet when
you came to measure up his work you were puzzled to know how any one man
could do it.’

Palmer’s proficiency in Oriental languages at this time, 1867—only seven
years, it should be remembered, after he had begun to study them—is
abundantly attested by a very remarkable body of testimonials[91] which
he obtained when a candidate for the post of interpreter to the English
embassy in Persia. His old friend the Nawab said:

‘Notwithstanding the fact that he has never visited any Eastern kingdom,
or mixed with Oriental nations, he has yet, by his own perseverance,
application, and study, acquired such great proficiency, fluency, and
eloquence, in speaking and writing three Oriental tongues—to wit, Urdú
(Hindoostani), Persian, and Arabic—that one would say he must have
associated with Oriental nations, and studied for a lengthened period in
the Universities of the East.’

We have no room for quotations from the curious and flowery compositions
in which numerous learned Orientals held up his excellencies of every
sort to admiration; but we will cite a short passage from what was said
by Mr Bradshaw, Librarian to the University of Cambridge, who had
naturally seen a great deal of him while working at the manuscripts:

‘What was at once apparent was the radical difference of his knowledge
of these languages [Arabic and Persian] from that of any other
Orientalist I had met. It was the difference between native knowledge
and dictionary knowledge; between one who uses a language as his own and
one who is able to make out the meaning of what is before him with more
or less accuracy by help of a dictionary.’

In the autumn of 1867, a fellowship at S. John’s College being vacant,
the then Master, Dr Bateson, knowing Palmer’s reputation as an
Orientalist, asked Professor Cowell, then recently made Professor of
Sanskrit, to examine him. Professor Cowell writes:

‘I undertook to examine him in Persian and Hindustani, as I felt that my
knowledge of Arabic was too slight to justify my venturing to examine
him in that language. I well remember my delight and surprise in this
examination. I had never had any intercourse with Palmer before, as I
had been previously living in India; and I had no idea that he was such
an Oriental scholar. I remember well that I set him for translation into
Persian prose a florid description from Gibbon’s chapter on Mohammed.
Palmer translated it in a masterly way, in the true style of Persian
rhetoric, every important substantive having its rhyming doublet, just
as in the best models of Persian literature. In fact, his vocabulary
seemed exhaustless. I also set him difficult pieces for translation from
the Masnaví, Khondemir, and I think Saudá; but he could explain them all
without hesitation. I sent a full report to the Master, and the college
elected him at once to the vacant fellowship[92].’

It has now become an understood thing at Cambridge that a man who is
really distinguished in any branch of study has a good chance of a
fellowship; but twenty years ago this was not the case, and we believe
that Palmer was the first, at least in the present century, to obtain
that blue ribbon of Cambridge life for proficiency in other languages
than those of Greece and Rome. Such a distinction meant more to him than
it would have meant to most men. No further anxieties on the score of
money need trouble him for the future; he need no longer be dependent on
the generosity of relations who were not themselves overburdened with
the goods of this world. He might study Oriental languages to his
heart’s content without let or hindrance from anybody; and it was more
than probable that one piece of good fortune would be the parent of
another—a distinction so signal would bring him into notice, and obtain
for him the offer of something which would be worth accepting. He had
not long to wait. In less than a year a post was offered to him which
presented, in delightful combination, study, travel, some emolument, and
a reasonable prospect of fame and fortune if he worked hard and was
successful. At the suggestion of the Rev. George Williams, then a
resident Fellow of King’s College, he was asked to take part in the
exploration of the Holy Land, and to accompany an expedition then about
to start for the survey of Sinai and the neighbourhood. He was to
investigate the names and traditions of the country, and to copy and
decipher the inscriptions with which the rocks in the so-called ‘Written
Valley’ and in other places are covered. He accepted without hesitation,
and left England in November 1868.

The results of this expedition will be found in _The Desert of the
Exodus_[93], a delightful book, in which Palmer has narrated in a
pleasing style the daily doings of the surveyors, and the conclusions at
which they arrived. His own proceedings are kept modestly in the
background; but a careful reader will soon discover that, in addition to
his appointed task as collector of folk-lore, he did his full share of
topographical investigation, in which he evidently took a keen and
growing interest, all the more remarkable as he could have had but
little previous preparation for it. A detailed analysis of the results
achieved would occupy far more space than we have at our disposal. We
will only mention that the investigations of the expedition ‘materially
confirmed and elucidated the history of the Exodus’; that objections
founded on the supposed incapacity of the peninsula to accommodate so
large a host as that of Israel were disposed of by pointing out abundant
traces of ancient fertility; that the claims of Jebel Musa to be the
true Sinai were vindicated by a comparison of its natural features with
the Bible narrative, and by the collection of Arab and Mohammedan
traditions; and, lastly, that the site of Kibroth Hattaavah was
determined, partly on geographical grounds, partly on the traditions
still current among the Towarah Bedouin, whose language Palmer mastered,
and of whose manners and customs he has drawn up a very full and
interesting account. The intimate acquaintance which he thus formed with
one of these tribes stood him in good stead in the following year, when
he took a far more responsible journey. The ease with which he spoke the
Arab language was, however, one of the least of his many gifts: he
thoroughly understood Arab character, and was generally successful, not
merely in making the natives do what he wanted, but, what is far more
wonderful, in making them speak the truth to him. He thus sums up his
method of dealing with them:

‘An Arab is a bad actor, and with but a very little practice you may
infallibly detect him in a lie; when directly accused of it, he is
astonished at your, to him, incomprehensible sagacity, and at once gives
up the game. By keeping this fact constantly in view, and at the same
time endeavouring to win their confidence and respect, I have every
reason to believe that the Bedawín gave us throughout a correct account
of their country and its nomenclature.

‘When once an Arab has ceased to regard you with suspicion, you may
surprise a piece of information out of him at any moment; and if you
repeat it to him a short time afterwards, he forgets in nine cases out
of ten that he has himself been your authority, and should the
information be incorrect will flatly contradict you and set you right,
while if it be authentic he is puzzled at your possessing a knowledge of
the facts, and deems it useless to withhold from you anything
further[94].’

The survey of Sinai had been completed but a few months when Palmer left
England again, for a second journey of exploration. It is evident that
he must have taken a more prominent part in the management of the first
expedition than the precise terms of his engagement with the explorers
would have led us to expect, and that he had thoroughly satisfied those
responsible for it, for this second expedition was practically entrusted
to him to arrange as he pleased. He was instructed in general terms to
clear up, first, certain disputed points in the topography of Sinai;
next, to examine the country between the Sinaitic Peninsula and the
Promised Land—the ‘Desert of the Wanderings’; and, lastly, to search for
inscriptions in Moab. He determined to take with him a single companion
only, Mr Charles Tyrwhitt-Drake, of Trinity College, Cambridge, who had
had already some experience of the East, and who proved himself in every
way to be the man of men for rough journeys in unknown lands; to travel
on foot, without dragoman, servant, or escort; and to take no more
baggage than four camels could carry. The two friends started from Suez
on December 16, 1869, and reached Jerusalem in excellent health and
spirits on February 26, 1870. They had performed a feat of which anybody
might well be proud. They had traversed ‘the great and terrible desert,’
the Desert of El Tih, and the Negeb, or ‘south country’ of Palestine,
exactly as they had proposed to do—on foot, with no attendants except
the owners of the baggage-camels. They had walked nearly 600 miles; but
this fact, though it says much for their endurance, gives but little
idea of the real fatigues of such a journey. The mental strain must have
been far more exhausting than the physical fatigue. They were not
tourists, but explorers, whose duty it was to observe carefully, to
record their observations on the spot, to make plans and sketches, and
to collect such information as could be extracted from the inhabitants.
These various pursuits—in addition to their domestic arrangements—had to
be carried on in the midst of an Arab population always suspicious, and
sometimes openly hostile, who worried them from daybreak until far into
the night, and against whom their only weapons were incessant
watchfulness, tact, and good humour. Readers of Palmer’s narrative will
not be surprised to find him hinting, not obscurely, that the only way
to solve the ‘Bedouin question’ is to adopt what was called a few years
afterwards, with reference to another not wholly dissimilar race, ‘the
bag and baggage policy.’ This deliberate opinion, expressed by one who
knew the Arabs well, and who had obtained singular influence over them,
is worthy of careful attention, as, indeed, are all the chapters in the
second part of _The Desert of the Exodus_, where this journey is fully
described and illustrated. After reading that narrative no one can be
surprised that the mission which ended so triumphantly and so fatally
twelve years afterwards should have been entrusted to Palmer.

After a brief repose in Jerusalem they started afresh, and, passing
again through the South Country by a different route, travelled eastward
of the Dead Sea through the unknown lands of Edom and Moab. They made
numerous observations of great value to Biblical students; but they
failed to find what they had come to seek—inscriptions—though they
succeeded in inspecting every known ‘written stone’ in the country; and
the conclusion at last forced itself upon them, ‘that, _above ground_ at
least, there does not exist another Moabite stone[95].’ It will be
remembered that the famous inscription of King Mesha was found built
into a wall of late Roman work, the ancient Moabite city being buried
some feet below the present surface of the ground. This fact induced
Palmer to adopt the following opinion:

‘If a few intelligent and competent men, such as those employed in the
Jerusalem excavations, could be taken out to Moab, and certain of the
ruins be excavated, further interesting discoveries might be made. Such
researches might be made without difficulty if the Arabs were well
managed and the expedition possessed large resources; but it must be
remembered that the country is only nominally subject to the Turkish
Government, and is filled with lawless tribes, jealous of each other and
of the intrusion of strangers, and all greedily claiming a property in
every stone, written or unwritten, which they think might interest a
Frank.

‘That many treasures do lie buried among the ruins of Moab there can be
but little doubt; the Arabs, indeed, narrated to us several instances of
gold coins and figures having been found by them while ploughing in the
neighbourhood of the ancient cities, and sold to jewellers at Nablous,
by whom they were probably melted up[95].’

But, though there was no inscription to bring home as visible evidence
of what had been done, the expedition was not barren of results. In the
first place, the possibility of exploring the little-known parts of
Palestine at a comparatively trifling cost had been demonstrated; and,
secondly, numerous sites had been discovered where further research
would probably yield information of the greatest value. It is a
misfortune that Palmer was not able in after years to give undivided
attention to these interesting problems of Biblical topography. Unless
we are much mistaken, he would have made a revolution in many of them,
and notably in the architectural history of the city of Jerusalem, upon
which he did throw new light from an unexpected quarter—the Arab
historians. He would, in fact, have pursued for the Temple area at
Jerusalem the method which Professor Willis pursued so successfully for
some of our own cathedrals; he would have marshalled in chronological
order the notices of the Arab works there; and then, by comparing the
historical evidence with the existing structures, have assigned their
respective dates with certainty to each of them.

Palmer returned to England in the autumn of 1870, and soon afterwards
became a candidate for the Professorship of Arabic in the University of
Cambridge. He was unsuccessful, and we should have contented ourselves
with recording the fact without comment, had not Mr Besant stated the
whole question in a way reflecting so unfavourably on the electors, and
through them on the University, that we feel compelled to investigate
the circumstances in detail. This is what he says:

‘In the same year Palmer experienced what one is fully justified in
calling the most cruel blow ever dealt to him, and one which he never
forgot or forgave.

‘The vacancy of the Professorship of Arabic in 1871 seemed to give him
at last the chance which he had been expecting.... He became a candidate
for the vacant post; the place in fact _belonged to him_; it was his
already by a right which it is truly wonderful could have been contested
by any—the right of Conquest. The electors were the Heads of the
colleges.

‘Consider the position: Palmer by this time was a man known all over the
world of Oriental scholarship; he was not a single untried student and
man of books; he had proved his powers in the most practical of all
ways, viz. by relying on his knowledge of the language for safety on a
dangerous expedition; he had written, and written wonderfully well, a
great quantity of things in Persian, Urdú, and Arabic; he was known to
everybody who knew anything at all about the subject; he had been
greatly talked about by those who did not; he was a graduate of the
University and Fellow of S. John’s, an honour which, as was well known,
he received solely for his attainments in Oriental languages; he had a
great many friends who were ready to testify, and had already testified,
in the strongest terms, to his extraordinary knowledge; he was, in fact,
the only Cambridge man who could, with any show of fairness justice at
all, be elected. He was also young, and full of strength and enthusiasm;
if Persian and Arabic lectures and Oriental studies could be made useful
or attractive at the University, he would make them so. What follows
seems incredible.

‘On the other hand, the electing body consisted, as stated above, of the
Heads of colleges. It is in the nature of things that the Heads, who are
mostly men advanced in years, who have spent all their lives at the
University, should retain whatever old prejudices, traditions, and
ancient manner of regarding things, may be still surviving. There
were—it seems childish to advance this statement seriously, and yet I
have no doubt it is true and correct—two prejudices against which Palmer
had then to contend. The first was the more serious. It was at that
time, even more than it is now, the custom at Cambridge to judge the
abilities of every man entirely with regard to his place in one of the
two old Triposes; and this without the least respect or consideration
for any other attainments, or accomplishments, or learning. Darwin, for
instance, whose name does not occur in the Honour list at all, never
received from his college the slightest mark of respect until his death.
Long after he had become the greatest scientific man in Europe the
question would have been asked—I have no doubt it was often asked—what
degree he took. Palmer’s name did occur in the Classical Tripos—but
alas! in the third class. Was it possible, was it probable, that a
third-class man could be a person worthy of consideration at all?
Third-class men are good enough for assistant-masters in small schools,
for curacies, or for any other branch of labour which can be performed
without much intellect. But a third-class man must never, under any
circumstances, consider that he has a right to learn anything or to
claim distinction as a scholar. I put the case strongly; but there is no
Cambridge man who will deny the fact that, in whatever branch of
learning distinction be subsequently attained, the memory of a second or
third class is always prejudicial. Palmer, therefore, went before the
grave and reverend Heads with this undeniable third class against a
whole sheaf of proofs, testimonials, letters, opinions, statements, and
assertions of attainments extraordinary, and, in some respects,
unrivalled. To be sure they were only letters from Orientals and
Oriental scholars. What could they avail against the opinion of the
Classical Examiners of 1867 that Palmer was only worth a third class?

‘As I said above, it seems childish. But it is true. And this was the
first prejudice.

‘The second prejudice was perhaps his youth. He was, it is true, past
thirty, but he had only taken his degree three or four years, and
therefore he only ought to have been five-and-twenty. He looked no more
than five-and-twenty; he still possessed—he always possessed—the
enthusiasm of youth; his manners, which could be, when he chose, full of
dignity even among his intimates, were those of a man still in early
manhood; he had been talked about in connection with his adventures in
the East; and stories were told, some true and some false, which may
have alarmed the gravity of the Heads. There must be no tincture of
Bohemianism about a Professor of the University. Perhaps rumours may
have been whispered about the gipsies and the tinkers, or the
mesmerizing, or the conjuring; but I think the conjuring had hardly yet
begun.

‘In speaking of this election, I beg most emphatically to disclaim any
comparison between the most eminent and illustrious scholar who was
elected and the man who was rejected. I say that it is always the
bounden duty of the University to give her prizes to her own children if
they have proved themselves worthy of them. Not to do so is to
discourage learning and to drive away students. Now, the Professorship
of Arabic was vacant; the most brilliant Oriental scholar whom the
University has produced in this century—perhaps in any century—became a
candidate for it; he was the only Cambridge man who could possibly be a
candidate; the Heads of Houses passed him by and elected a scholar of
wide reputation indeed, but not a member of the University.

‘There were other circumstances which made the election more
disappointing. It was known, before the election, that Dr Wright had
been spoken to on the subject; it was also known that he would not stand
because the stipend of the post, only 300_l._ a year, was not sufficient
to induce him to give up the British Museum. It seemed, therefore, that
the result of Palmer’s candidature would be a walk over. But the day
before the election the Master of Queens’—then Dr Phillips, who was
himself a Syriac scholar—went round to all the electors, and informed
them that Dr Wright would be put up on the following day. He was put up;
he was elected; and very shortly afterwards was made a Fellow of Queens’
probably in consequence of an understanding with Dr Phillips that, in
the event of his election to the Professorship, an election to a Queens’
Fellowship should follow. Of course, one has nothing to say against the
Fellowship. Probably a Queens’ Fellowship was never more honourably and
usefully bestowed; but yet the man who ought to have obtained the
Professorship, the man to whom it belonged, was kept out of it. Palmer
was the kindest-hearted and most forgiving of men, and the last to think
or speak evil; but this was a deliberate and uncalled-for injustice, an
insult to his reputation which could never be forgotten. It embittered
the whole of his future connexion with the University: it never was
forgotten or forgiven[96].’

We notice two errors of fact in the above narrative. The election did
not take place in 1871, but in 1870; and secondly, the Professorship was
then worth only £70 a year. The stipend was not raised to £300 until the
following November. The second of these errors is not of much
importance; but the first is very material, as we shall show presently.

We will next give an exact narrative of what actually took place.
Professor Williams, who had held the Arabic chair since 1854, died in
the Long Vacation of 1870, and on October 1 the Vice-Chancellor
announced the vacancy, and fixed the day of election for Friday, October
21. The only candidates who presented themselves in the ordinary way
were Palmer and the Rev. Stanley Leathes, M.A., of Jesus College, a
gentleman who had obtained the Tyrwhitt Hebrew Scholarship in 1853. It
was thought that his merits were little known, and that he would not
prove a formidable opponent; and Palmer, as Mr Besant rightly states,
looked upon the Professorship as as good as won. However, on the day
before, or the day but one before, the election, the President of
Queens’ College left a card on each of the electors, to say that Dr
Wright would be voted for. One of these cards was given to Palmer, we do
not know by whom. He showed it to a friend, who asked, ‘What does it
mean?’ ‘It means that it is all up with me,’ was Palmer’s reply; and
events proved that he was right in his forebodings. When the electors
met, the Masters of Trinity Hall and Emmanuel were not present, and the
Master of Gonville and Caius declined to vote. The remaining fourteen
voted in the following way:—for Dr Wright, eight; for Mr Palmer, five;
for Mr Leathes, one. Dr Wright, therefore, was declared to be elected.

It will be seen from what is here stated—and the accuracy of our facts
is, we know, beyond question—that it was not the Heads of Houses in
their collective capacity who rejected Palmer, but less than half of
them. Again, we submit that there is no evidence that those who voted
against him were actuated by either of the prejudices which Mr Besant
imputes to them. A high place in a tripos is no longer regarded at
Cambridge as indispensable, unless the candidate be trying for a post
the duties of which are in direct relation to the tripos in which he has
sought distinction. Four years afterwards, the resident members of the
Senate chose as Woodwardian Professor of Geology a gentleman who had
taken an ordinary degree, in opposition to one who had been placed
thirteenth in the first class of the mathematical tripos, on the ground
that they believed him to be a better geologist than his opponent. It
will be said they were not the Heads of Colleges; but we would remark
that, even in the election we are discussing, the case against them
breaks down on this point; for the successful candidate was not even a
member of the University, and surely an indifferent degree is better
than no degree at all. As to the second prejudice against Palmer, we
simply dismiss it with contempt. We never heard of a Cambridge elector
who was influenced by hearsay evidence; and, as a matter of fact, Palmer
was supported by the Master of his own College, who must have known more
about his habits than all the other Heads put together. If we consider
the result arrived at by the light of subsequent events, it is natural
for those who, like his biographer and ourselves, are strongly
prepossessed in Palmer’s favour, to regret that he was unsuccessful; and
we are delighted to find Mr Besant asserting, as he does, that
University distinctions ought to be given, _ceteris paribus_, to
University men. But if we try to put ourselves in the position of the
electors, and survey the two candidates as they surveyed them, there is,
we feel bound to assert, ample justification for the selection they
made, having regard to the particular post to be filled at that time.
They had, in fact, to choose between a tried and an untried man. Dr
Wright was known to have received a regular education in Oriental
languages in Germany and in Holland, and to be thought highly of by the
most competent judges in those countries. He had given proof of sound
scholarship in various publications, and it was considered by several
scholars in the University that the studies to which he had given
special attention, viz.—Syriac, Samaritan, Ethiopic, and the Semitic
group of languages generally—would be specially useful there. He had
held a Professorship in Trinity College, Dublin, where he had been
distinguished as a teacher; he was personally known in Cambridge, not
merely to Dr Phillips, but to the University at large, at whose hands he
had received the honorary degree of Doctor of Law in 1868. Moreover, he
was already an honorary Fellow of Queens’ College, and therefore it was
not strange that a Society which had already gone so far should signify
to him their intention of proceeding a step further, in the event of his
consenting to come and reside at Cambridge as a Professor. He was
accordingly elected Fellow January 5, 1871[97].

Palmer, on the other hand, had submitted to the electors testimonials
which testified to his wonderful knowledge of Hindustani, Persian, and
Arabic as spoken languages; he was known to have given special attention
to the languages of India; he had catalogued the Oriental MSS. in the
Libraries of the University, of King’s College, and of Trinity College;
he had translated Moore’s _Paradise and the Peri_ into Arabic verse; and
he had published a short treatise on the Sufistic and Unitarian
Theosophy of the Persians. But here the direct evidence of his
acquirements ceased; and it is at this point that the date of the
election becomes material. None of his more important works had as yet
appeared. The official Report of his journeys in the East was not
published until January 1871; and the preface to his _Desert of the
Exodus_ is

dated June of the same year[98]. The Heads, therefore, could not know
that he ‘had relied on his knowledge of the language for safety in a
dangerous expedition.’

After a disappointment so severe as the loss of the much-coveted
professorship, it might have been expected that Palmer’s connexion with
Cambridge would soon have been severed; that he would have sought and
obtained a lucrative appointment elsewhere. On the contrary, it was
written in the book of fate, as one of his favourite Orientals would
have said, that he should not only remain at Cambridge, but remain there
in connexion with Oriental studies. Cambridge has two chairs of Arabic:
a Professorship founded by Sir Thomas Adams in 1632; and a Readership,
founded by King George I. in 1724, at the instance of Lancelot
Blackburn, Bishop of Exeter and Lord Almoner. It is endowed with an
income of £50 a year, paid out of the Almonry bounty, but reduced by
fees to £40. 10_s._ If, however, the income be small the duties are
none—or, rather, none are attached to the office as such; and moreover
the Reader is technically regarded as a Professor, and has a Professor’s
privilege of retaining a College Fellowship for life as a married man.
The previous holder of the office, the Rev. Theodore Preston, Fellow of
Trinity College, had regarded it as a sinecure, and moreover had
generally been non-resident. On his resignation in 1871, the Lord
Almoner for the time being, the Hon. and Rev. Gerald Wellesley, Dean of
Windsor, gave the office to Palmer. At last, therefore, he seemed to
have obtained his reward—congenial occupation in a place which had been
the first to find him out and help him, where he had many devoted
friends, and where he was now enabled to establish himself as a married
man; for on the very day after he received his appointment he married a
lady to whom he had been engaged for some years.

Palmer took a very different view of his duties as Reader in Arabic from
what his predecessor had done. He delivered his inaugural lecture on
Monday, 4 March, 1872, choosing for his subject ‘The National Religion
of Persia; an Outline Sketch of Comparative Theology[99],’ and during
the Easter and Michaelmas terms he lectured on six days in each week,
devoting three days to Persian and three to Arabic. To these subjects
there was subsequently added a course in Hindustani. In consequence of
this large amount of voluntary work the Council of the Senate
recommended (February 24, 1873)[100] ‘that a sum of £250 per annum
should be paid to the present Lord Almoner’s Reader out of the
University Chest,’ and that he should be authorized to receive a fee of
£2. 2_s._ in each term for each course of lectures from every student
attending them, provided he declared in writing his readiness to
acquiesce in certain regulations, of which the first was: ‘That it shall
be his ordinary duty to reside within the precincts of the University
for eighteen weeks during term time in every academical year, and to
give three courses of lectures—viz. one course in Arabic, one in
Persian, and one in Hindustani.’ The Senate accepted this proposal March
6, 1873, and Palmer signed the new regulations five days afterwards. In
recording this transaction Mr Besant remarks: ‘It must be acknowledged
that the University got full value for their money.’ We reply to this
sneer that the University asked no more from Palmer than it asked from
every other professor whose salary was augmented. The clause imposing
residence had been accepted in the same form by all the other
professors; and one course of lectures in each term is surely the very
least that a teaching body can require from one of its staff. It must
also be remembered that the Lord Almoner’s Readership is an office to
which the University does not appoint, which therefore it cannot
control, and which, until Palmer held it, had been practically useless.
He, however, being disposed to reside, and to discharge his self-imposed
duties vigorously, the University came forward with an offer which was
meant to be generous, in recognition of his personal merits; for the
whole arrangement, it will be observed, had reference to the _present_
Reader only—that is, to himself. The precise amount offered, £250, was
evidently selected with the intention of placing the Lord Almoner’s
Reader on the same footing as a professor, for the salaries of nearly
all the professorial body had been already raised to £300; and, if a
comparison between the Reader and the Professor of Arabic be inevitable,
it may be remarked that while the University offered £250 to the former,
they offered only £230 to the latter. The intention, we repeat, was
generous, and we protest with some indignation against Palmer’s bitter
words: ‘The very worst use a man can make of himself is to stay up at
Cambridge and work for the University.’ The truth is that University
life did not suit him, and though he tried hard for ten years to believe
that it did, the attempt ended in failure, and it is much to be
regretted that it was ever made.

We must pass rapidly over the next ten years. They were years of
incessant labour, labour which must have been often most painful and
irksome, for it had to be undertaken in the midst of heavy sorrow,
ill-health, pecuniary difficulties—everything, in short, which damps a
man’s energies and takes the heart out of his work. His married life
began brightly enough: he had an assured income of nearly £600 a year,
which he could increase at pleasure, and we know did increase, by
literary work. In 1871 he entered at the Middle Temple, probably with
the intention of practising at the Indian bar at some future time; but
after he had given up all thoughts of India he joined the Eastern
Circuit, and attended assizes and quarter sessions regularly. He had a
fair amount of business, and is said to have made a good advocate,
though he could have had little knowledge of law, and, in fact, regarded
his legal work as a relaxation from severer studies. These he pursued
without intermission. Besides his lectures, which he gave regularly, he
produced work after work with amazing rapidity. In 1871, in addition to
the _Desert of the Exodus_, he published a _History of Jerusalem_,
written in collaboration with his friend Mr Besant; in 1873 he undertook
to write an Arabic Grammar, which appeared in the following year; in
1874 he wrote _Outlines of Scripture Geography_, and a _History of the
Jewish Nation_, for the Christian Knowledge Society, and began a Persian
Dictionary, of which the first part was published in 1876; in 1876—77 he
edited the works of the Arabian poet Beda ed din Zoheir for the Syndics
of the University Press, the text appearing in 1876 and the translation
in 1877; and during the next few years he was at work upon a _Life of
Haroun Alraschid_, a new translation of the Koran, and a revision of
Henry Martyn’s translation of the New Testament into Persian. Besides
this vast amount of solid work it would be easy to show that he produced
nearly as great a quantity of that other literature which, when we
consider the labour which it entails upon him who writes it, it is
surely a misnomer to call ‘light.’ Professor Nicholls, of Oxford, gives
an account, in a most interesting appendix to Mr Besant’s book, of the
quantity of Persian, Arabic, and Hindustani which Palmer was continually
writing. In the last-mentioned language there were a poem on the
marriage of the Duke of Edinburgh, and a wonderful account of the visit
of the Shah to England, which occupied thirty-six columns of the
_Akhbar_, a space equivalent to about twenty columns of the _Times_;
and, although Palmer admitted that ‘the writing of such things is a
laborious and artificial task to me, as I am not as familiar with the
Urdú of everyday life as I am with the Persian,’ he still went on
writing them. How familiar he was with Arabic and Persian is shown by
the curious fact that whenever he was under strong emotion he would
plunge abruptly into one or other language, sometimes writing a whole
letter in it, sometimes only a sentence or two, or a few verses. Besides
these Oriental ‘trifles’ as he would probably have called them, we find
continual contributions to English periodical literature, and three
volumes of poetry: _English Gipsy Songs in Romany_ (1875); the _Song of
the Reed, and other Pieces_ (1876); and _Lyrical Songs_, &c. by John
Ludwig Runeberg (1878). In the first of these he collaborated with Mr
Leland, whom we mentioned before, and Miss Janet Tuckey; and in the last
with Mr Magnusson; but the second is entirely his own. We regret that we
cannot find room for a specimen of these graceful verses. Those who have
leisure to look into the _Song of the Reed_, or the translation of
Zoheir, will find themselves introduced to a new literature by one who,
if not a poet, was unquestionably, as Mr Besant says, a versifier of a
high order, and in the very front rank of translators.

We have said that most of this work—were it grave or gay, it mattered
not—had to be got through in the midst of serious anxieties. Mrs
Palmer’s health began to fail before they had been married long, and it
soon became evident that her lungs were affected. It was necessary that
she should leave Cambridge. In the spring of 1876, Wales was tried, with
results which were so reassuring that it was decided to complete her
cure (as it was then believed) by a winter in Paris. There, however, she
got worse instead of better, and early in the following year her husband
began to realize that she would die. In the autumn of 1877, they
returned home to try Wales once more, and then, as a last resource,
Bournemouth. There, in the summer of 1878, Mrs Palmer died. The expenses
of so long an illness, added to journeyings to and fro, and the cost of
keeping up two establishments (for he was obliged to continue his
Cambridge lectures all the while), crippled his resources, and produced
embarrassments from which he never became wholly free. His own health,
too, never strong, gave way under his fatigues and worries, and he
became only not quite so ill as his wife. Yet he never complained; never
said a word about his troubles to any of his friends. Those who were
most with him at this dreary time have recorded that he always met them
with a smiling face, and went about his work as calmly as if he had been
well and happy.

It was fortunate for him that he had a singularly joyous nature, which
could never be saddened for long together. He was always surrounded by a
pleasant atmosphere of cheerfulness, which not only did good to those
about him, but had a salutary effect upon himself, enabling him to
maintain his elasticity and vigour, even in the face of sorrow and
ill-health. Most things have their comic side, if only men are not blind
to it; and he could see the humorous aspect of the most melancholy or
the most perilous situation. To the last he was full of life and fun.
Though he no longer, as of old, wrote burlesques, he could draw clever
caricatures of his friends and acquaintances; tell stories which
convulsed his hearers with laughter; and sing comic songs—especially a
certain Arab ditty, in which he turned himself into an Arab minstrel
with really wonderful power of impersonation. Again, whatever he came
across—especially in great cities like London or Paris—was full of
interest for him. Without being a philanthropist, or, indeed, having a
spark of humanitarian sentiment in his nature, he took a pleasure in
investigating his fellow-creatures, talking to men and finding out all
about them. He was endowed in the highest degree with the gift of
sympathy; and this, while it made him the most loveable of friends, made
him also a singularly acute investigator, and gave him a power of
influencing others which was truly wonderful. He possessed, too, great
manual dexterity, and took a pleasure in finding out how all those
things were done which depend for their success upon sleight of hand;
and in all such he became a proficient himself. He was a first-rate
conjuror, and besides doing the tricks, ordinary and extraordinary, of
professed conjurors, he took much satisfaction in reproducing the most
startling phenomena of spiritualism, which he regarded as a debased form
of conjuring—‘a swindle of the most palpable and clumsy kind.’ It was in
such pursuits that he found the recreation which other men find in hard
exercise. Of this he took very little. Even in his younger days he did
not care for games, and his one attempt at cricket was nearly fatal to
the wicket-keeper, whom he managed to hit on the head with his bat; but
he was an expert gymnast, and loved boating and fishing in the Fens, to
which he used to retire from time to time with one of his friends. It
may be doubted whether he cared about the sport and the fresh air so
much as the absolute repose; the old-world character of that curious
corner of England; the total absence of convention. There he could dress
as he pleased; and he took full advantage of his liberty. It is recorded
that once, as he was coming home to College, he happened to meet the
Master, Dr Bateson, who, casting his eye over the water-boots and
flannels, stained with mud and weather, in which the learned Professor
had encased himself, remarked, ‘This is Eastern costume, I suppose.’
‘No, Master; Eastern Counties costume,’ was the reply.

It is pleasant to be able to record that the happiness which had been so
long delayed came at last. In about a year after his wife’s death he
married again. His choice was fortunate, and for the last three years of
his life he was able to enjoy that greatest of all luxuries—a thoroughly
happy home. He stood sorely in need of such consolation, for in other
directions he had plenty to distress and worry him. His pecuniary
difficulties pressed upon him as hardly as ever, and his relations with
the University began to be somewhat strained. He had had the
mortification of seeing Professor Wright’s salary raised to £500 a year,
with no hint of any corresponding proposition being made for him[101];
and when the Commissioners promulgated their scheme his office was not
included in it, a suggestion for raising his salary which had been made
by the Board of Oriental Studies being wholly disregarded by them.
Moreover, the undertaking to deliver three courses of lectures in each
year turned out to be infinitely more laborious than he had expected.
Candidates for the Indian Civil Service increased in number; and the
pupils of any given term were pretty sure to want to go on with their
work in the next, when he was teaching a different language, so that he
was compelled in practice to give, not one, but two, or even three,
courses in each term. Moreover, the elementary nature of much of this
instruction—the ‘teaching boys the Persian alphabet,’ as he called
it—became every year more and more irksome. We are not surprised that he
got disgusted with the University; but at the same time we cannot agree
with Mr Besant that the University was wholly to blame. They were in no
wise responsible for the conduct of the Commissioners; in fact, all that
could be done to make them take a different view was done. Had Palmer
resided continuously in the University, and pressed his own claims,
things might have been very different. But this he had been unable to
do, for reasons which, as we have seen, were beyond his own control, and
for which, therefore, he is not to be blamed; but the fact cannot be
denied that for some years he had been practically non-resident. There
was also another cause which has to be taken into consideration—his own
disposition. The life of a University is a peculiar life, which does not
suit everybody, and certainly did not suit him. He felt ‘cabined,
cribbed, confined,’ in it; and he said afterwards that ‘he never really
began to live till he was emancipated from academic trammels.’ Our
wonder is, not that he left Cambridge when he did, but that he remained
so long connected with it. The final break took place in 1881, when he
voluntarily rescinded the engagement which he had made to lecture, and,
retaining the Readership and the Fellowship at S. John’s College—neither
of which he could afford to resign—took up his abode in London, where he
obtained a place on the staff of the _Standard_ newspaper. He readily
adapted himself to this new life, and soon became a successful writer.
One of the assistant-editors at that time, Mr Robert Wilson, has
recorded that

‘Palmer considered his career as a journalist in London, short as it
was, one of the pleasantest episodes of his life. Those who were
associated with him in that career professionally can say that they
reckoned his companionship one of the brightest and happiest of their
experiences. He was

               The dearest friend to me, the kindest man,
               The best-conditioned and unwearied spirit
               In doing courtesies;

and what he was to me he was to all who worked with him.’

It will be well, before we relate the heroic achievement with which the
career of our friend closed, to try to estimate his position as an
Oriental scholar, for as such he will be remembered, especially in
Cambridge. For this purpose Mr Besant has, most judiciously, supplied
ample materials to those competent to use them, by printing an essay by
Professor Nicholls, of Oxford, which we have already quoted, and a paper
by Mr Stanley Lane Poole. The former points out Palmer’s extraordinary
facility in the use of Persian and Arabic, and gives a minute, and in
the main highly laudatory, criticism of some of his performances, which
ends with these words: ‘In him England loses her _greatest_ Oriental
linguist, and _readiest_ Oriental scholar.’ From the latter we will
quote a few sentences:

‘Palmer was a scholar of the kind that is born, not made. No amount of
mere teaching could develop that wonderful instinct for language which
he possessed. He stood in strongly-marked contrast to the other scholars
of his time. Most of them were brought up on grammars and dictionaries;
he learned Arabic by the ear and mouth. Others were careful about their
conjugations and syntax; Palmer dashed to the root of all grammatical
rules, and spoke or wrote so and so because it would not be spoken or
written any other way. To him strange idioms that a book-student could
not understand were perfectly clear; he had used them himself in the
Desert again and again[102].’

He then proceeds to examine Palmer’s principal Arabic works, and decides
that while the edition of Zoheir is the most finished of them, and the
translation represents the original with remarkable skill, the version
of the Koran ‘is a very striking performance.’

‘It has the grave fault of immaturity; it was written, or rather
dictated, at great speed, and is consequently defaced by some oversights
which Palmer was incapable of committing if he had taken more time over
the work. But, in spite of all the objections that may be urged against
it, his translation has the true Desert ring in it; we may quarrel with
certain renderings, puzzle over occasional obscurities, regret certain
signs of haste or carelessness; but we shall be forced to admit that the
translator has carried us among the Bedawí tents, and breathed into us
the strong air of the Desert, till we fancy we can hear the rich voice
of the Blessed Prophet himself as he spoke to the pilgrims on
Akabah[103].’

Lastly, Mr Poole points out the peculiar excellence of Palmer’s Arabic
Grammar, which is arranged on the Arab system, in bold defiance of the
usual custom of treating Arabic in the same way that one treats Latin.
To these favourable criticisms of works beyond our powers of
appreciation we should like to add a word of praise of our own for the
historical introduction to the Koran, in which the career of Mahomet is
sketched in a few bold, vigorous lines, and the scope and object of the
work are analysed and explained. We regret that Palmer was not able to
devote more time to history; the above _Introduction_, and the _Life of
Haroun Alraschid_, seem to us to show that he would have excelled in
that style of composition. He could read the native authorities with
facility, and he knew how to put his materials to a good use. But alas!
all these peaceful studies were to be closed for ever by an enterprise
as masterly in its execution as it was terrible in its conclusion.

The suppression of Arabi’s revolt in Egypt created the greatest
enthusiasm in this country. The British Public dearly loves a war, and
every event in which our troops were concerned was eagerly read and
proudly commented on by enthusiastic sympathizers. But there were
probably not many who so much as read the scanty paragraphs which noted,
first, the anxiety respecting the fate of some Englishmen who had gone
into the Desert on a certain day in August 1882; and, subsequently, the
certainty of their murder. Palmer’s wonderful achievement has been told
for the first time by Mr Besant with a fulness of detail, a vividness of
descriptive power, and, we may add, a bitterness of grief, that only
those who read it carefully more than once can appreciate as such a
piece of work deserves to be appreciated. We shall try to set before our
readers the principal circumstances of those eventful days, treading in
his steps, and often using his very words.

Early in the month of June 1882, when it became evident that the
Egyptian revolt must be put down by force, two great causes of anxiety
arose: (1) the safety of the Suez Canal; (2) the amount of support which
Arabi was likely to receive, and the allies on whom he could depend.
These two questions were of course closely connected with each other;
and it is now known that as regards the second of them, Arabi hoped to
obtain the support of the Arabs of the Desert on both sides of the
Canal, and by their aid to seize, and, if possible, to destroy, the
Canal itself. These Arabs, it is important to recollect, rise or remain
quiet at the command of their sheikhs. The sheikhs, therefore, had to be
won over. This he hoped to accomplish by the assistance of the governors
of the frontier castles of El Arish on the Mediterranean, Kulat Nakhl,
Suez, Akabah, and Tor on the west coast of the Sinaitic Peninsula, all
of whom, at the beginning of the rebellion, were his frantic partisans.
He had therefore an easy means of access to the Bedouin sheikhs. The
number of men whom they could put into the field was estimated by Palmer
himself at about 50,000; but this was not all. It was feared that if a
single tribe joined Arabi, it would be followed by all the others, and
that the Bedouin of the Syrian and Sinaitic deserts might presently be
joined by their kinsfolk of Arabia and the Great Desert, a countless
multitude.

It was on the evening of Saturday, June 24, that Captain Gill, whose
unhappy fate it was to perish with Palmer on the expedition which they
planned together, was sent to him from the Admiralty, to ask him for
information respecting ‘the character, the power, the possible movement,
of the Sinai Arabs.’ The interview was short, but long enough for Palmer
to sketch the position of affairs, and to convince Gill that a man whom
the Government could thoroughly trust must be sent out to arrange
matters personally with the sheikhs. When Gill had left, Palmer said to
his wife, ‘They must have a man to go to the Desert for them; and they
will ask me, because there is nobody else who can go.’ On Monday Captain
Gill came again, and the whole question was carefully talked over.

‘It was agreed that no time ought to be lost in detaching the tribes
from Arabi, in preventing any injury to the Canal, and in quieting
fanaticism, which might assume such proportions as to set the whole East
aflame. It now became perfectly evident to Gill that Palmer was the only
man who knew the sheikhs, and could be asked to go, and could do the
work; it was also perfectly evident to Palmer that he would be urged to
undertake this difficult and delicate mission; he had, in fact, already
laid himself open by speaking of the ease with which these people may be
managed by one who can talk with them. When Gill left him on that Monday
morning he was already more than half-persuaded to accept the mission.’

It is evident that after this interview Captain Gill returned to the
Admiralty, and gave a glowing account to his superiors of the man whom
he had discovered, and the information he had obtained; for in the
course of the same afternoon Palmer received an invitation to breakfast
with Lord Northbrook on the following morning, Tuesday, June 27, which
he accepted. The interest which he had already excited is proved by the
fact

‘that all the notes and reports which Gill had made during the
interviews on the subject were already set up in type and laid on the
table. The whole conversation at breakfast was concerning the tribes,
and how they might be prevented from giving trouble. Palmer stated again
his belief that the sheikhs might, if some one could be got to go, be
persuaded to sit down and do nothing, if not to take an active part
against the rebels.’

At this point it is material to notice that the Government did not send
for Palmer and ask him to undertake a certain mission to the East;
neither did Palmer communicate with the Government and volunteer, in the
ordinary sense of that word; but that in the course of three successive
interviews it became evident to the Government that the mission must be
undertaken by somebody; and to Palmer, that if he did not go himself the
chance would be lost. No one equally fit for such a mission was
available at that moment; no one knew the sheikhs personally as he did,
and could travel among them as an old friend, for it must always be
remembered that the country he was about to visit was the same which he
had traversed with Drake in 1869-70. He did not exactly wish to go; he
was too fondly devoted to his wife and children to find any pleasure in
courting dangers of which he was fully sensible; but he seems to have
felt that his duty to his country demanded the sacrifice; and perhaps
the thought may have crossed his mind that, if he ran the risk and came
out of it safe and successful, his fortune would be made; and therefore,
when Lord Northbrook inquired, ‘Do you know anyone who would go?’ he
replied, ‘I will go myself.’

This decision was not arrived at until Thursday, June 29. On the
following evening he left London, and on Tuesday, July 4, he was on
board the _Tanjore_, between Brindisi and Alexandria, writing to his
wife:

‘I am sure this trip will do me an immense deal of good, for I wanted a
change of air and complete rest from writing, and now I have got both.
Of course, the position is not without its anxieties, but I have no
fear.... It is such a chance!’

Such a chance! It was worth while running the risk, for, though there
was danger in it, there was fame and fortune beyond the danger: there
would be no more debt and difficulty; no more days and nights of
uncongenial toil. No wonder as he sat under the awning, ‘like a tent,’
as he said, and did nothing, that these thoughts came into his mind, and
found their way on to his paper—it was a chance indeed!

It seems certain that the plan of the enterprise had been laid down
before Palmer left London, though no formal instructions were given to
him in writing. It was understood between him and the Government that he
was to travel about in the Desert and Peninsula of Sinai, and ascertain
the disposition of the tribes; secondly, that he was to attempt the
detachment of the said tribes from the Egyptian cause, in order to
effect which he was to make terms with the sheikhs; thirdly, that he was
to take whatever steps he thought best for an effective guard of the
banks of the Canal, and for the repair of the Canal, in case Arabi
should attempt its destruction. Lastly, he was instructed, probably at
Alexandria, to ascertain what number of camels could be purchased, and
at what price.

Arrived at Alexandria, Palmer put himself under the orders of Admiral
Lord Alcester, then Sir Beauchamp Seymour, who, after a few words of
welcome and encouragement, ordered him to go at once to the Desert and
begin work. It was decided that he should proceed by steamer to Jaffa,
thence to Gaza, and across the Desert to Tor in the Sinaitic Peninsula,
where he could be taken up and join the fleet at Suez. On the morning of
July 9 he reached Jaffa, where he bought his camp-equipage and stores,
hired a servant, and opened communications with certain Arabs of the
Desert, whom he ordered to meet him at Gaza. We know the details of this
time from a long letter which he wrote to his wife just before he left
Jaffa.

‘It is bad enough here where I find plenty of people to talk to and be
civil to me; but how will it be when I am in the Desert with no one but
wild Arabs to talk to? Not that I am a bit afraid of them, for they were
always good friends to me; but it will be lonely, and you may be sure
that when I sit on my camel in the burning sun, or lie down in my little
tent at night, my thoughts will always be with you and our dear happy
home. I am quite sure of succeeding in my mission, and don’t feel
anything to fear except the being away for a few months.... I feel very
homesick, but quite confident.’

He got to Gaza on July 13, and on July 15 plunged into the Desert. Here
Professor Palmer disappears, and we have instead a Syrian officer,
dressed in Mohammedan costume, known as the Sheikh Abdullah, the name
which had been given to him by the Arabs on his former journey. The
expedition occupied just a fortnight, for Suez was reached on August 1.
He was fortunately able to keep a brief journal, which he sent home by
post from Suez. This invaluable document, with two or three letters
written to friends, and a formal Report addressed from Suez to the
Government, but not yet printed, enables us to ascertain what he did,
and what sufferings and dangers he endured in the accomplishment of it.
It was the middle of the summer, and apparently an unusually hot and
stormy summer, for we read of even the natives being overcome by the
heat, wind, and dust. His business admitted of no delay; whether well or
ill, he must ride forward, in the full glare of the sun, with the
thermometer ‘at 110 in the shade in the mountains, and in the plains
about twice that’; and yet never show, by the slightest hint, that he
was either overcome by the physical exertion, or alarmed at the imminent
peril which he ran at every moment. So well was the bodily frame
sustained by the brave heart within, that he could write cheerfully, nay
humorously, even before he had reached a place of safety. Here is an
extract from one of his letters, dated ‘Magharah, in the Desert of the
Tih, July 22’:

‘This country is not exactly what you would call, in a truthful spirit,
safe just now. I have had to dodge troops and Arabs, and Lord knows
what, and am thankful and somewhat surprised at the possession of a
whole skin....

‘I wish to remark that about the fifth consecutive hour (noon) of the
fifth consecutive day’s camel-ride, with a strong hot wind blowing the
sand in your face, camel-riding loses, as an amusement, the freshness of
one’s childhood’s experience at the Zoo....

‘I am now two days from Suez, and before the third sun sets shall be
either within reach of beer and baths, or be able to dispense altogether
with those luxuries for the future. The very equally balanced
probabilities lend a certain zest to the journey....

‘My man stole some melons from a patch near some water (if I may use the
expression), and I feel better for the crime. Still I am dried up, and
burnt, and thirsty, and bored.’

Let us now extract from the Journal a few passages bearing directly on
the main object of the journey. All of these, we ought to state are
fully corroborated by the subsequently written Report, and by incidental
allusions in the telegrams embodied in the Blue Book.

‘_July 15._—My sheikh has just come, and I have had a long and very
satisfactory talk with him. I think the authorities will be very pleased
with the report I shall have for them.

‘_July 16._—I now know where to find and how to get at every sheikh in
the Desert, and I have already got the Teyáhah, the most warlike and
strongest of them all, ready to do anything for me. When I come back I
shall be able to raise 40,000 men! It was very lucky that I knew such an
influential tribe.

‘_July 18._—I have been quite well to-day, but as usual came in very
fatigued. I had an exciting time, having met the great sheikh of the
Arabs hereabouts[104]. I, however, quite got him to accept my views....
It was really a most picturesque sight to see the sheikh ride into my
camp at full gallop with a host of retainers, all riding splendid camels
as hard as they could run; when they pulled up, all the camels dropped
on their knees, and the men jumped off and came up to me. I had heard of
their coming, so was prepared, and not at all startled, as they meant me
to be. I merely rose quietly, and asked the sheikh into my tent.

‘_July 19._—I have got hold of some of the very men whom Arabi Pasha has
been trying to get over to his side, and when they are wanted I can have
every Bedawin at my call from Suez to Gaza.

‘_July 20._—The sheikh, who is the brother of Suleiman, is one who
engages all the Arabs not to attack the caravan of pilgrims which goes
to Mecca every year from Egypt, so that he is the _very man_ I wanted.
He has sworn by the most solemn Arab oath that, if I want him, he will
guarantee the safety of the Canal even against Arabi Pasha.... In fact,
I have already done the most difficult part of my task, and as soon as I
get precise instructions the thing is done, and a thing which Arabi
Pasha failed to do, and on which the safety of the road to India
depends.... Was I not lucky just to get hold of the right people?... I
have seen a great many other sheikhs, and I know that they will follow
my man, Sheikh Muslih.

‘_July 21._—I am anxious to get to Suez, because I have done all I
wanted by way of preliminaries, and as soon as I get precise
instructions, I can settle with the Arabs in a fortnight or three weeks,
and get the whole thing over. As it is, the Bedouins keep quite quiet,
and will not join Arabi, but will wait for me to give them the word what
to do. They look upon Abdullah Effendi—that is what they call me—as a
very grand personage indeed!

‘_July 22._—I have got the man who supplies the pilgrims with camels on
my side too, and as I have promised my big Sheikh 500_l._ for himself,
he will do anything for me.... It may seem a vain thing to say, but I
did not know that I could be so cool and calm in the midst of danger as
I am, and I must be strong, as I have endured _tremendous fatigue_, and
am in first-rate health. I am very glad that the war has actually come
to a crisis, because now I shall really have to do my big task, and _I
am certain of success_.

‘_July 26._—I have had a great ceremony to-day, eating bread and salt
with the Sheikhs, in token of protecting each other to the death[105].’

This Journal, it will be remarked, speaks of the expedition as
preliminary to something else. What this was is explained by the Report
above alluded to, and by the telegrams which Sir William Hewett and Sir
Beauchamp Seymour sent to the Admiralty after Palmer’s arrival at Suez.
On August 4 Sir William Hewett telegraphs:

‘Professor Palmer confident that in four days he will have 500 camels,
and within ten or fifteen days, 5,000 more.

‘He waits return of messenger sent for 500, so he cannot start for
Desert before Monday.’

On August 6 Sir Beauchamp Seymour telegraphed to the Admiralty:

‘Palmer, in letter of August 1 at Suez, writes that, if precisely
instructed as to services required of Bedouin, and furnished with funds,
he believes he could buy the allegiance of 50,000 at a cost of from
20,000_l._ to 30,000_l._’

On the receipt of this telegram the Admiralty telegraphed to Sir William
Hewett:

‘Instruct Palmer to keep Bedouins available for patrol or transport on
Canal. A reasonable amount may be spent, but larger engagements are not
to be entered into until General arrives and has been consulted.’

The Admiralty must have been satisfied with what Palmer had accomplished
in the Desert, or they would not have directed him to proceed with his
‘big task’; and it came out afterwards that in consequence of promises
made to him one at least of the tribes refused to join Arabi. Meanwhile
he was appointed Interpreter-in-Chief to her Majesty’s Forces in Egypt,
and placed on the Admiral’s staff. It is important to note this, as it
gave him the command of money, brought him into prominence, and paved
the way for the disaster which was so soon to overtake him. Captain Gill
joined him at Suez on the morning of the same day, August 6. He brought
£20,000 with him, which he considered to be paid to Palmer, as appears
from his Journal, and Palmer took the same view. Sir William Hewett,
however, after the receipt of Lord Northbrook’s telegram, determined to
limit the preliminary expenditure to £3,000, which was paid to Palmer on
August 8. Soon after Gill’s arrival at Suez, he and Palmer had a long
discussion, in which they agreed to combine their respective duties.
Gill had been ordered to cut the telegraph wires from Kartarah to
Constantinople, and so destroy Arabi’s communications with Turkey, and
Palmer had made arrangements for a meeting of the sheikhs at Nakhl. We
have seen that the Journal mentions presents to the sheikhs (as much as
£500 had been promised to Misleh), and these would have to be conveyed
to them before they were likely to arm their followers. The rest of the
£20,000 was intended to be spent in fair payment for services rendered
when the General should give the order to engage the Bedouin; and the
word ‘buy,’ in Sir Beauchamp Seymour’s telegram of August 6, need not be
interpreted to mean ‘bribe.’ The purchase of camels was another object
which Palmer had before him in going to the Desert; but this, we take
it, was quite subsidiary to the former, though perhaps, as a matter of
policy, it was occasionally made prominent, in order to disarm
suspicion. That much more important business than buying camels was
intended is also proved by a letter from Palmer to Admiral Hewett, in
which he said that ‘it would be most desirable that an officer of her
Majesty’s Navy should accompany me on my journey to the Desert, as a
guarantee that I am acting on the part of her Majesty’s
Government[106].’

It must now be mentioned that on Palmer’s first journey, when staying in
the camp of Sheikh Misleh, he had been introduced by him to a man of
about seventy years of age, of commanding stature, and haughty,
peremptory manner, named Meter ibn Sofieh. This man Misleh had
represented to be the Sheikh of the Lehewat tribe, occupying all the
country east of Suez. This was not true. Meter was not a sheikh of the
Lehewats, and the Lehewats as a tribe do not live east of Suez, but on
the south border of Palestine. Meter was a Lehewat, but he was simply
the head of a family who had left the tribe, and taken up their abode
near Suez, where they had collected together two or three other
families, who called themselves the Sofieh Tribe, but had no power or
influence. Palmer, however, believed Meter’s story about himself, called
him his friend, and trusted him implicitly. It was Meter whom he sent
into Suez from Misleh’s camp to fetch his letters; Meter who conducted
him thence to the place called ‘The Wells of Moses’ between July 27 and
July 31; Meter with whom he corresponded respecting his second journey;
and there is little doubt that it was Meter who betrayed him.

In the Report which Palmer addressed to the Admiralty on August 1 he
stated that when he started on his second journey a company of 300 or
400 Bedouin should go with him, ‘for the sake of effect.’ Most
unfortunately, this precaution was not taken. On August 7, Meter,
accompanied by his nephew, Salameh ibn Ayed, came to Moses’ Wells, and
asked Mr Zahr, one of the native Christians who reside there, to read a
letter which he had received from Palmer. The letter, signed ‘Abdullah,’
contained a request that Meter would bring down one hundred camels and
twenty armed men. Meter then crossed over to Suez by water, Mr Zahr’s
son going with him, saw Palmer, who did not, so far as we know, express
surprise that he came without men or camels, and in the evening was
presented to Consul West and Admiral Hewett, from whom he received a
naval officer’s sword, as a mark of confidence and respect. This sword
Meter subsequently gave secretly to Mr Zahr’s son to take care of for
him, saying that he was going to the Desert with some English gentlemen,
and was afraid that the Bedouin might kill him if they saw him with a
sword, as they were not quiet at that time. After the murder, Mr Zahr’s
son brought the sword to the English Consul, and told the above story.

The following day was spent in making preparations for the journey.
During the afternoon, Palmer received a package containing three bags,
each containing £1,000 in English sovereigns. These bags were taken
intact into the Desert. The party, consisting of Professor Palmer,
Captain Gill, Lieutenant Charrington, of the _Euryalus_ (who had been
selected by Palmer out of seven officers who volunteered to go with
him), Gill’s dragoman, a native Christian, and the servant whom Palmer
had engaged at Jaffa, a Jew, named Bokhor, crossed over to Moses’ Wells
in a boat after sunset, and passed the night in a tent supplied by Mr
Zahr. Next morning they started soon after sunrise, and, after the usual
midday halt, pitched their camp for the night in Wady Kahalin, a shallow
watercourse, about half-a-mile wide, and distant eighteen miles from
Moses’ Wells. So far their proceedings can be followed with certainty;
but after this it becomes a most difficult task to compose an exact
narrative of what befell them. We have followed the account drawn up by
Colonel Warren, through whose persevering energy some of the murderers
were brought to justice, supplementing it, in a few places, by facts
stated in the Blue Book, generally on the same authority.

On Thursday, August 10, the travellers were unable to start at dawn as
they had intended, because it was found that two of their camels had
been stolen during the night, probably with the intention of delaying
the start, and so giving time to warn the Bedouin appointed to waylay
them. Several hours elapsed before the camels were found, and they were
not able to start until 3 p.m. Meter is said to have suggested that the
baggage should be left to follow slowly (both the stolen camels and
those which had been sent out to bring them back being tired), and that
the three Englishmen and the dragoman should ride forward with him,
taking with them only their most valuable effects, among which was a
black leather bag containing the £3,000, and Palmers despatch-box
containing £235 more. At about 5 p.m. they reached the mouth of the Wady
Sudr. This valley is described as a narrow mountain-gorge, bounded by
precipices which, on the northern side, are from 1,200 to 1,600 feet in
height; on the southern side they are much lower, not exceeding 300 or
400 feet. They turned into the Wady, and rode up it, intending no doubt
not to halt again until they reached Meter’s camp, at a place called
Tusset Sudr. Shortly before midnight they were suddenly attacked by a
party of about twenty-five Bedouin, who fired upon them, disabled one of
the camels, and took prisoners Palmer, Gill, Charrington, and the
dragoman. The accounts of the attack are very conflicting, but it
appears certain that Meter deserted his charge at once, and escaped up
the Wady to his own camp, which he reached at sunrise; while his nephew,
Salameh ibn Ayed, who had been riding with Palmer on one of his uncle’s
camels, rode rapidly off in the opposite direction, down the Wady,
taking with him the bag containing the £3000, and the despatch-box. It
has been affirmed that he struck Palmer off the camel; but, as it is
stated in evidence that the attacked party knelt down behind their
camels and fired at their assailants, the truth of this rumour may be
doubted. It is certain, however, that had he not been at least a thief,
if not a traitor, he would have warned the men in charge of the baggage
of what had occurred, for it was proved afterwards, by the tracks of his
camel, that he had passed within a few feet of them; or, if he really
missed them in the dark, that he would have gone straight on to Moses’
Wells and given the alarm there, or even to Suez, as it was deposed he
was desired to do. As it was, he rode straight on to the mouth of the
Wady, and thence by a circuitous route to Meter’s camp, having hid part
of the money and the despatch-box in the Desert. What he did with the
remainder will probably never be known.

Meanwhile the four prisoners were stripped of everything except their
underclothing, which, being of European make, was useless to Arabs, and
taken down to a hollow among the rocks about 200 yards from the place of
attack. Here they were left in charge of two of the robbers. The rest,
disappointed at finding no money, rode off, some to pursue Salameh, some
to look for the baggage. They were presently followed by one of the two
guards, so that for several hours the Englishmen were left with only one
man to watch them. The drivers were just loading their camels for a
start, when they were attacked, disarmed, and the baggage taken from
them. Palmer’s servant was made prisoner, but the camel-drivers were not
molested, and were even permitted to take their camels away with them.
The robbers then retraced their steps, and rode up the valley for about
three miles. There they halted, and laid out the spoil, with the view of
dividing it; but they could not agree, and finally each kept what he had
taken. This matter settled, they mounted their camels again, and went to
look after their prisoners, taking Palmer’s servant with them.

We will now return to Meter ibn Sofieh. On arriving at his own camp he
collected his four sons and several other Bedouin, and came down to the
place of attack. This they were able to recognize by the dead or wounded
camel, which had not then been removed. Finding nobody there, they
shouted, and were answered by the prisoners in the hollow. Meter and
another went down to them and found them unguarded, their guard having
run away on the approach of strangers. Had Meter really come to save
them—and it is difficult to explain his return from any other motive
than that of a late repentance—there was not a moment to be lost. Much
valuable time, however, was wasted in useless expressions of pity and
exchange of Bedouin courtesies, and they had hardly reached Meter’s
camels before the hostile party came in sight. It is reported that
Meter’s men said, ‘Let us protect the Englishmen,’ and raised their
guns; but that Meter answered, ‘No, we must negotiate the matter,’ and
allowed his men to be surrounded by a superior force. What happened next
will never be known with certainty. Meter himself swore that he offered
£30 for each of the five; others, that he offered thirty camels for the
party; while there is a general testimony that Palmer offered all they
possessed if their lives could be spared, adding, ‘Meter has all the
money.’ The debate did not last long, not more than half an hour, and
then Meter retired, it being understood that the five[107] prisoners
were all to be put to death. The manner of the execution of this foul
design had next to be determined, and it seems to have been regarded as
a matter requiring much nicety of arrangement. The captors belonged to
two tribes, the Debour and the Terebin, and it was finally arranged that
two should be killed by the Debour, and three by the Terebin. The men
who were to strike the blow were next selected, one for each victim; and
when this had been done the prisoners were driven before their captors
for upwards of a mile, over rough ground, to the place of execution. It
was now near the middle of the day, and the unfortunate men had no means
of protecting their heads from the August sun. It is to be hoped,
therefore, that they were nearly unconscious before the spot was
reached. At that part of the Wady Sudr a ledge or plateau of rock, some
twenty feet wide, runs for a considerable distance along the steep face
of the cliffs; and below it the torrent cuts its way through a narrow
channel, not more than eighteen feet wide, with precipitous sides, about
fifty feet high. At the spot selected for the murder a mountain stream,
descending from the heights above, works its way down the cliffs to the
water below. The bed of this stream was then dry; but it would be a
cataract in the rainy season, and might be trusted to obliterate all
traces of the crime. The prisoners were forced down the mountain side
until the plateau was reached, and then placed in a row facing the
torrent, the selected murderer standing behind each victim. Some of the
Bedouin swore that they were all shot at a given signal, and that their
bodies fell over the cliff; others that Abdullah was shot first, and
that the remaining four, seeing him fall, sprang forward, some down the
cliff, some along the edge of the gully. Three were killed, so they
said, before they reached the bottom; the fourth was despatched in the
torrent-bed by an Arab who followed him down. There is, however, reason
for believing that some at least were wounded or killed before they were
thrown into the abyss; for the rocks above were deeply stained with
blood. It may be that one or more of them had been wounded in the first
encounter, or intentionally maimed by their captors; and this may
explain what seems to us so strange, that they made no effort to escape
during the long hours they were left unguarded. At the moment of death
Palmer alone is said to have lifted up his voice, and to have uttered a
solemn malediction on his murderers. He knew the Arab character well,
and he may have thought that the last chance of escape was to terrify
his captors by the thought of what would come to pass if murderous hands
were laid upon him and his companions.

Justice was not slow to overtake the criminals. In less than two months
Colonel Warren, to whom the direction of the search-expedition was
entrusted[108], had discovered who they were, and had found some
scattered remains of their unfortunate victims in the gulf which they
hoped would conceal them for ever. In January 1883 he read the solemn
burial service of the Church at the spot in the presence of the brother
and sister of Lieutenant Charrington; after which, according to military
custom, the officers present fired three volleys across the torrent. On
the hill above they raised a huge cairn, 17 feet in diameter, and 13
feet in height, surmounted by a cross, which the Bedouin were charged,
at their peril, to preserve intact. Of the actual murderers three were
executed, as also were two headmen for having incited them to the crime.
Others were imprisoned for various terms of years, and the Governor of
Nakhl, who was proved to have been privy to the murder, and near the
place at the time, was imprisoned for a year and dismissed the service.
The end of Meter ibn Sofieh was strangely retributive. He had led the
party out of their way into an ambuscade[109], probably for the paltry
gain of £3000, for we have seem that his nephew escaped with the gold,
and £1000 was afterwards found in the place where he knew it was hid; he
had betrayed the man with whom he had solemnly eaten bread and salt in
Misleh’s camp only a month before; he hid himself in the Desert for
awhile, then he gave himself up, and told as much of the story as he
probably dared to tell; then he fell ill—his manner had been strange
ever since the murder, it was said—he was taken to the hospital at Suez,
and there he died. These, however, were only instruments in the hands of
others. The influence which Sheikh Abdullah was exercising in the Desert
was soon known at Cairo, and the Governor of El Arish was sent out to
bring him in dead or alive; the Bedouin swore that Arabi had promised
£20 for every Christian head; the murder itself was planned at Cairo, by
men high in place, for Colonel Warren complains over and over again that
the Shedides thwarted his proceedings, and let guilty men escape. And
after the guilt of Egypt comes the guilt of Turkey: Hussein Effendi, a
Turkish notable at Gaza—a man who might have been of the greatest
service—was not allowed by the Porte to help in bringing the guilty to
justice; and there were other indications that further inquiry was not
desired. The murder in the Wady Sudr is one more count in the long
indictment against the Turk which the Western Powers will one day be
compelled to hear; and, after hearing, to pronounce sentence.

The remains discovered by Colonel Warren were reverently gathered
together and sent home to England, and in April, 1883, they were
interred in the crypt of S. Paul’s Cathedral. A single tablet, placed
near the grave, records the names of the three Englishmen and their
faithful attendants who died for their country in the Wady Sudr, and now
find a fitting resting-place among those whose deeds have won for them a
world-wide reputation.

              Not once or twice in our rough island-story
              The path of duty was the way to glory.



                       FRANCIS MAITLAND BALFOUR.


On Sunday evening last the news reached Cambridge that Professor Balfour
had met with a fatal accident in the Alps near Courmayeur[110]. It was
only in November of last year that we drew attention to the
extraordinary merits of his _Treatise on Comparative Embryology_, then
just completed[111]. We felt that a ‘bright particular star’ had risen
on the scientific horizon; and we expected, from what we knew of the
great abilities and unremitting energy of the author, that year by year
his reputation would be increased by fresh discoveries. But

         Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight,
         And burned is Apollo’s laurel bough;

the pride which the University took in one of her most popular and
distinguished members is changed to an outburst of passionate regret;
and all that his friends can do is to attempt a brief record of a
singularly brilliant career, a tribute of affection to be laid upon his
grave.

Mr Balfour was a younger son of the late Mr J. M. Balfour of
Whittinghame, near Prestonkirk, and of the late Lady Blanche Balfour, a
sister of Lord Salisbury. He entered at Trinity College, Cambridge, from
Harrow, in October 1870. He brought from school the reputation of being
a clever boy, whom the masters liked and respected, but of not
sufficient ability to distinguish himself remarkably at Cambridge. Those
who expressed this opinion overlooked the fact that he had already
evinced a decided bent for Natural Science, and had published a brief
memoir on the geology of his native county, Haddingtonshire. In his very
first term he was fortunately induced to attend the biological lectures
of the Trinity Prælector in Physiology, Mr Michael Foster; he made rapid
progress, and at Easter 1871 he obtained the Natural Science Scholarship
at Trinity College. He at once commenced original research in the
direction in which he was afterwards to be so distinguished; and after
two years’ work published a paper on _The Development of the Chick_ in
the _Microscopical Journal_ for July, 1873. Indeed, we believe that the
time spent on this and kindred investigations diminished somewhat the
brilliancy of his degree, for he was placed second instead of first, as
had been expected, in the Natural Sciences Tripos of 1873.

In November of that year he was nominated by the Board of Natural
Science Studies to work at the Zoological Station at Naples, then lately
established by Dr Anton Dohrn. His object in going there was to continue
his investigations on Development, and before starting he had determined
to study the Elasmobranch Fishes (Sharks and Rays), as it seemed likely,
from their pristine characters, that their development would throw great
light on the early history of vertebrate animals. The result showed how
wisely he had made his selection. He made discoveries of the highest
value in reference to the development of certain organs, and the origin
of the nerves from the spinal cord—points which had baffled the most
acute previous observers. These were not merely valuable for the history
of the special group from which they were derived, but threw a flood of
light upon the connexion between vertebrates and invertebrates, and
their derivation from a common ancestry; views which he expanded
afterwards in his work on Embryology. The results of his Neapolitan
researches were embodied in the dissertation upon which he rested his
candidature for a Fellowship at Trinity College; and were afterwards
printed in the _Philosophical Transactions_ for 1875. Fortunately for
him, a Natural Science Fellowship was vacant in 1874, to which he was
elected, in consequence of the value of this dissertation. It is what is
called an open secret that its great merits were at once recognized by
Professor Huxley, to whom it had been referred.

From that time forward Balfour devoted himself unremittingly to
continuous research in preparation for his systematic treatise on
Embryology, the plan of which he had already sketched out, and which was
finally completed and published in 1881. Before this appeared, however,
he had published numerous papers of great value, covering nearly the
whole range of his subject. Many of these will be found in the
_Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science_, of which he was one of the
editors. As an original investigator he had no equal. He was skilful in
manipulation, and observed rapidly and exactly, so that no point escaped
his notice. His mind was calm and wholly free from prejudice, with a
singularly broad and original grasp, which enabled him to seize, with
readiness and sureness, the principle which lay under a number of
apparently discordant facts. At the same time, like every true genius,
he was singularly modest and retiring, always ready to depreciate the
value of his own work, and to put forward that of others, especially of
men younger than himself. We know of many students, now rising to
distinction, who owe their first success to his generous encouragement,
and, we may add, in some cases to his bountiful assistance, given with a
delicacy which doubled the value of the gift. It was this strong desire
to encourage others to work at Natural Science that induced him, in
1875, to undertake a class in Animal Morphology, or, as it used to be
called, Comparative Anatomy. At first only a few students presented
themselves, and one small room at the New Museums was sufficient for
their accommodation. The class, however, grew with surprising rapidity;
and, after Mr Balfour’s appointment as Natural Science Lecturer to
Trinity College, it became necessary to build new rooms for his use.
During the year 1881 the numbers had reached an average of nearly sixty
in each term; and just before he left England for the excursion which
has ended so fatally he had superintended the plans for a yet further
extension of the Museum Buildings.

His reputation as a successful teacher soon became known far and wide;
students came from a distance to work under his direction; and he
received tempting offers to go elsewhere. It need no longer be a secret
that, after the death of Professor Wyville Thompson, the Chair of
Natural History at Edinburgh was offered to him; or that, after the
death of Professor Rolleston, he was strongly urged by the leading men
in Natural Science at Oxford to accept the Linacre Professorship of
Anatomy and Physiology. But he was devoted to Cambridge, and nothing
would induce him to leave it. His refusal of posts so honourable induced
the University, somewhat tardily perhaps, to recognize his merits, and a
new Professorship was established in the course of last term for that
especial purpose. We extract a few sentences from the Report in which
the Council of the Senate recommended this step[112]:

The successful and rapid development of biological teaching in
Cambridge, so honourable to the reputation of the University, has been
formally brought to the notice of the Council. It appears that the
classes are now so large that the accommodation provided but a few years
ago has already become insufficient, and that plans for extending it are
now occupying the attention of the Museums and Lecture-Rooms Syndicate.

It is well known that one branch of this teaching, viz. that of Animal
Morphology, has been created in Cambridge by the efforts of Mr F. M.
Balfour, and that it has grown to its present importance through his
ability as a teacher and his scientific reputation.

The service to the interests of Natural Science thus rendered by Mr
Balfour having been so far generously given without any adequate
Academical recognition, the benefit of its continuance is at present
entirely unsecured to the University, and the progress of the department
under his direction remains liable to sudden check.

It has been urgently represented to the Council that the welfare of
biological studies at Cambridge demands that Mr Balfour’s department
should be placed on a recognized and less precarious footing, and in
this view the Council concur. They are of opinion that all the
requirements of the case will be best met by the immediate establishment
of a ‘Professorship of Animal Morphology’ terminable with the tenure of
the first Professor.

It is a melancholy satisfaction, when we think how short his life
was—for he would not have been thirty-one years of age until November
next—that so many honours had been showered upon him. He became a Fellow
of the Royal Society in 1878; in the autumn of 1881 he received the
Royal Medal; and in 1882 he was elected a member of the Council. He was
President of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, and became General
Secretary of the British Association at the York Meeting in August 1881.

But it is not merely as a man of science that Mr Balfour will be
remembered. He was not one of those enthusiasts who can see nothing
beyond the limits of their own particular studies. He was a man of wide
sympathies and interests. He devoted much time and attention to College
and University affairs; and was an active member of numerous Syndicates,
to whose special business he applied himself with infinite energy. He
was also a keen politician on the Liberal side, and an ardent University
reformer. His complete mastery of facts, his retentive memory, and his
admirable powers of reasoning, made him a formidable antagonist in
argument; but, though he rarely let an opportunity for vindicating his
own opinions go by without taking full advantage of it, we never heard
that he either lost a friend or made an enemy. He was so thoroughly a
man “who bore without abuse the grand old name of gentleman,” that he
could never be a mere disputant. He approached every subject with the
earnestness of sincere conviction, and he invariably gave his opponents
credit for a sincerity equal to his own. It was only when he found
himself opposed to presumption, shallowness, or ignorance, that the
natural playfulness of his manner ceased, his mild and delicate features
darkened to an unwonted sternness, and his habitually gentle voice grew
cold and severe. We have heard it said that he was too uniformly
earnest, that he took life too seriously, and that he lacked the saving
grace of humour. But his earnestness was perfectly genuine, and he would
have joined hands with the Philistines in scorning the follies of the
“intense.” With the undergraduates he was immensely popular. Besides his
great success as a teacher, he had the inestimable gift of sympathy;
they felt that they had in him a friend who thoroughly understood them,
and they trusted him implicitly; while the members of his own special
class regarded him with a veneration which it has been the lot of few
teachers to inspire. Nor was his influence upon men older than himself
less remarkable. They were fascinated by his exquisite courtesy; his
quiet, high-bred dignity; his respect for the opinions and feelings of
others. No one of late years has exerted so strong a personal influence
in the University. It was the vigour of this personality which enabled
Natural Science to take the place it now occupies in Cambridge life. He
began to teach at a time when the rising popularity of science was
regarded with dislike and suspicion by not a few persons. He left it
accepted as one of the studies of the place. What will happen now that
he has been taken away it is hard to foresee. We hope and believe that
Natural Science is too deeply rooted at Cambridge to be permanently
affected by even his loss. We trust that the strong efforts which will
be made to keep together the school which he had created may be
successful; but we fear that it will soon be evident that the members of
the University have lost not merely a very dear friend, but also a
master.

_29 July, 1882._



                            HENRY BRADSHAW.


The past twelve months have been singularly fatal to Cambridge; but no
loss has caused grief so widespread and so sincere as that of the
distinguished scholar and man of letters who passed quietly away while
sitting at his library-table on the night of last Wednesday week[113].
If proof were needed of the respect in which he was held, we have only
to point to the vast assemblage of past and present members of the
University which filled the chapel of King’s College on Monday last to
do honour to his funeral. Nor will the grief be confined to Cambridge.
Though Mr Bradshaw rarely quitted his own University, and took no
trouble to bring himself into notice, few men were more highly
appreciated, both at home and abroad. It is hardly necessary to observe
that this recognition of his merits was of no sudden growth. We can
recall the time when he was working silently and unknown, and when even
a small circle of devoted friends had not realised the extent and
thoroughness of those studies which he carefully kept in the background.
But gradually the world of letters became aware that there were many
points in bibliography and kindred subjects which could not be set on a
right footing unless the inquirer were willing to pay a visit to him. No
one who did so had any cause to regret his journey. He was certain to be
received with a courtesy which, we regret to say, is nowadays commonly
called old-fashioned, and to find himself before he left far richer than
when he came. Mr Bradshaw was the most unselfish of men; and the stores
of his knowledge were invariably laid open, freely and ungrudgingly, to
every inquirer, provided he was satisfied that the work proposed would
be thoroughly well done. He was modest to a fault; and we believe that
he really preferred to remain in the background, while others, at his
suggestion and with his help, worked out the subjects in which he took
special interest. It was no fault of theirs if his share in their work
remained a secret. His generous wish to help others forward made him
refuse more than once, as we well know, to allow his name to appear in
connexion with work that he had really done; and posterity will have to
tax its ingenuity to discover, from a few words in a preface or a line
in a note, how much belongs of right to him. Nor was it only in subjects
with which he was specially familiar that his help was valuable. He
seemed equally at home in all branches of knowledge. He knew so
thoroughly how materials should be used, and in what form the results
would be best presented, that, whether the subject were art, or
archeology, or history, or bibliography, or early English texts, his
clear and accurate judgment went straight to the point, and reduced the
most tangled facts to order. But, devoted student as he was, he was no
bookworm. He took the liveliest interest in all that was going on around
him. His strong common sense, his kind, charitable nature, and his habit
of going to the bottom of every question presented to him, enabled him
to sympathize with those who had arrived at conclusions widely different
from his own. As a younger man he was too reserved, too diffident of
himself, to feel at ease in the society of men of his own standing. He
thought they disliked him, and this idea increased his natural
sensitiveness and his love of retirement. The truth was that he was too
honest to be popular. Like Alceste in _Le Misanthrope_, he would rebuke
insincerity and pretentiousness with a few blunt stern words that made
the offender tremble; and, if he disliked anybody, as happened
sometimes, he took no pains to conceal it. Hence he was respected, but
he was not liked. By slow degrees, however, the natural geniality of his
disposition gained the upper hand, and the warm heart which beat under
that calm exterior was allowed to assert itself. The old severity of
denunciation, instead of being exercised on individuals, was reserved
for slovenly work, unjust criticism, or unfair treatment. He began to go
more into society, in which he took a keen pleasure, though he would
rarely allow himself to spend what he called an idle evening. At all
times he had sought the company of young people. At a period when
undergraduates hardly ventured to speak to men older than themselves,
his quiet kindness attracted them to him, and obtained their confidence.
In him they were certain of a friend whose sympathy never failed them,
and from whom, no matter what trouble or difficulty had befallen them,
they were sure of advice and help. Many a man now successful in life may
thank him for the influence which, exercised at a critical time,
determines a career for good; and not a few have been enabled by his
generosity to begin the studies in which they are now distinguished.

The events of such a life are not numerous. Mr Bradshaw was born 2
February, 1831. He was educated at Eton College, on the foundation, and
came up to King’s College, Cambridge, in February, 1850. He proceeded to
the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1854. At that time members of King’s
College were not obliged to submit themselves to University
examinations, but he and some others availed themselves of the
permission then accorded to them to do so, and he was placed tenth in
the second class of the Classical Tripos. Soon afterwards he accepted a
mastership at S. Columba’s College, near Dublin, then under the
direction of his old friend, the late Mr George Williams; but finding
tuition, after a few months’ trial, uncongenial to his tastes, he
returned to Cambridge, and to those studies which ended only with his
life. His connexion with the University Library began two years
afterwards. In 1856 he was appointed principal assistant, a post which
he resigned in 1858. In 1859 he returned to the Library as Keeper of the
Manuscripts, an office specially created for the purpose of retaining
his services, the value of which had even then been discovered. This
office he held until 1867, when, on the resignation of Mr J. E. B.
Mayor, he was elected librarian. From a boy he had been distinguished
for a love of books; but it was not until his return to Cambridge from
Ireland that he was able to devote himself seriously and systematically
to the study of bibliography in its widest sense, with all that is
subsidiary to it. Most of us know what a dreary subject bibliography is
when treated from the ordinary point of view. In his hands, however, it
acquired a human interest. He studied specimens of early printing, not
for themselves, but for the sake of the men who produced them. In
following out this system he went far more thoroughly than an ordinary
bibliographer cares to do into every particular of the book before him.
Paper, type, signature, tailpiece, were all taken into account, so as to
settle not only who printed the volume, but in what relation he stood to
his predecessors and successors.

Bradshaw had an unerring eye for detecting small differences in style, a
memory which never failed him, and an instinct of discovery little short
of marvellous. Again and again in well-known libraries, both in England
and on the Continent, he has been able, after a brief examination, to
point out important facts which scholars who had worked there for the
best part of their lives had failed to notice.

In the same spirit of discovery he applied himself to the study of
Chaucer. Silently and secretly, as was his wont, he examined all the
manuscripts within his reach, and then set to work to determine (1) what
was Chaucer’s own work; (2) what is the real order of the _Canterbury
Tales_. In the course of his researches it occurred to him that the
rhymes used would prove a test of what was Chaucer’s and what was not.
Without assistance from any one he wrote out a complete rhyme-list—an
astonishing labour for an individual, when it is remembered that the
_Tales_ contain some eight thousand lines, every one of which must have
been registered twice, and many three or four times. The labour,
however, was not thrown away. The rhymes employed turned out to be a
true test, and Mr Bradshaw was enabled to publish in 1867 ‘The Skeleton
of Chaucer’s _Canterbury Tales_: an attempt to distinguish the several
Fragments of the Work as left by the Author.’ We regret to say that this
pamphlet of fifty-four octavo pages is all that the world is ever likely
to see of this splendid piece of work. With characteristic
self-depreciation he says, in a note appended in 1871, ‘Mr Furnivall’s
labours have put far out of date any work that I have ever done upon
this subject’; but it is gratifying to turn to Mr Furnivall, and read,
‘There is only one man in the world, I believe, who thoroughly
understands this subject, Mr Henry Bradshaw.’ He welcomed Mr Furnivall
with habitual generosity, and placed in his hands, without reserve, all
that he had got ready for the edition of Chaucer which he at one time
intended to publish himself. Publication, however, was what he could
rarely be persuaded to attempt. It was not criticism that he feared; but
he had set up in his own mind such a lofty standard of excellence that
he could not bear to abandon a piece of work while it was yet possible
to add some trifling detail, or to correct some imperfection which his
own fastidious taste would alone have been able to detect. It is sad to
think how much has perished with him. His excellent memory enabled him
to dispense with notes to a far greater extent than most persons, and
those which he did put down were written on a system to which we fear it
will be impossible now to find the key. What he actually published
amounts to very little. When we have mentioned eight short octavo
pamphlets, which he called ‘Memoranda’; a few papers printed by the
Cambridge Antiquarian Society; some communications to _Notes and
Queries_ and other periodicals; and an admirable edition of the new
_Statutes for the University of Cambridge, and for the Colleges within
it_, we fear that the list is complete. He had made important
discoveries respecting the old Breton language in connexion with the
early collection of canons known as the _Hibernensis_, and had collected
materials for a Breton glossary which would have placed him in the first
rank of philologers; he had worked at Irish literature with the special
object of elucidating the history of early Irish printing; in knowledge
of ancient service-books he was probably second to none, and at the time
of his death he was writing a preface to the new edition of the Sarum
Breviary; and, lastly, he had made considerable progress towards a
catalogue of the fifteenth-century books in the University Library. On
all these subjects considerable materials exist; but who is fit to take
his place and make use of them?

_20 February, 1886._



                       WILLIAM HEPWORTH THOMPSON.


The death of the Master of Trinity College has severed almost the last
of the links which connect the present life of Cambridge with the past.
From 1828 until his death[114] in 1886 his connexion with his college
was unbroken; for a brief absence soon after his election to a
Fellowship, and the periods of canonical residence at Ely need hardly be
taken into account. He was, therefore, up to a certain point, a typical
Trinity man of the older school; a firm believer in the greatness of his
college, and in the obligation laid upon him personally to increase that
greatness by every means in his power. But he did not admire blindly. He
could recognize, if he did not welcome, the necessity for changes in the
old order from time to time; and he was known throughout the best period
of his intellectual life as a Liberal and a reformer. He was a rare
combination of a student without pedantry, and a man of the world
without foppishness, or want of principle.

As an undergraduate he was fortunate in obtaining the friendship of men
who afterwards became celebrated in the world of letters, most of them
members of that famous coterie of which Tennyson and Hallam were the
most notable figures. Indeed it is not impossible that the poet may have
intended to include Thompson himself among those who

                                  “held debate, a band
                    Of youthful friends, on mind and art
                    And labour, and the changing mart,
                And all the framework of the land.”

In their society he laid the foundation of that wide knowledge of
literature, that keen interest in whatever was going forward, that habit
of weighing all things in the nicely-adjusted balance of thoughtful
criticism, which made what he wrote so valuable, and what he said so
delightful. Nor, after he had obtained his Fellowship, and was free to
do as he liked, was he content to become a student and nothing more. He
was careful to add a knowledge of men and manners to what he was
learning from books. He travelled abroad, and acquired a competent
knowledge of more than one modern language; he was fond of art, and a
good judge of pictures and sculpture. Nor did he forget the friends of
his undergraduate days. He was a welcome, and we believe a frequent,
guest at their houses both in town and country, where his fine presence,
his courteous bearing, and his quiet, epigrammatic conversation were
keenly appreciated. To the influence of these social surroundings he
owed that absence of narrowness which is inseparable from a University
career, if it be not tempered by influences from the outside.

Academic lives usually contain few details to arrest the biographer, and
his was no exception to the rule. His father was a solicitor at York,
and he was born in that city 27 March, 1810. He was educated at a
private school, which he left when thirteen years old, and was then
placed under the care of a tutor, with whom he remained until he came up
to Trinity in the Michaelmas Term, 1828, as one of the pupils of Mr
Peacock, afterwards Dean of Ely. To his watchful care and sound advice
Thomson felt himself under deep obligation, and in after-life he used to
describe him as “the best and wisest of tutors.” It had been at first
intended that he should enter as a sizar; but this decision was reversed
at the last moment, and he matriculated as a pensioner. He obtained a
scholarship in 1830, and one of the Members’ prizes for a Latin Essay in
1831. At that time candidates for Classical Honours could not present
themselves for the Classical Tripos until they had satisfied the
examiners for the Mathematical. Thompson must have devoted a
considerable portion of his time to that subject, for he appears in the
Tripos of 1832 as tenth Senior Optime. In the Classical Tripos of the
same year he obtained the fourth place, being beaten by Lushington,
Shilleto, and Dobson, the first of whom beat him again in the
examination for the Chancellor’s medals, of which he won only the
second. He was elected Fellow of his College in 1834. His reputation as
a scholar marked him out for immediate employment as one of the
assistant-tutors; but for a time either no vacancy presented itself, or
men senior to himself were appointed. Meanwhile he accepted a mastership
in a school at Leicester, work which, we believe, he did not find
congenial. In October 1837 he was recalled to Cambridge by the offer of
an assistant-tutorship. In 1844, on the retirement of Mr Heath, he
became tutor, an office which he held until he obtained the Regius
Professorship of Greek in 1853. The other candidates on that occasion
were Shilleto and Philip Freeman, but the electors were all but
unanimous in their choice of Thompson. In the spring of 1866, on the
death of Dr Whewell, he was appointed to the Mastership of Trinity
College.

In attempting to estimate the value of his work as a classical teacher,
it must be remembered that he was the direct heir of the system
introduced into Trinity College by Hare and Thirlwall. We are not aware
that he attended the lectures of the former, though he may well have
done so, but we have heard from his own lips that he derived great
benefit from those of the latter, which were as systematic as Hare’s had
been desultory. Those distinguished scholars, while not neglecting an
author’s language, were careful to direct the attention of their pupils
to his matter. They did not waste time unduly on the theories of this or
that commentator, though they had carefully digested them, but they
showed how their author might be made to explain himself. In fine, the
discovery of his thoughts, not the dry elucidation of his words, was the
object of their teaching. Translation, again, received from them a
larger share of attention than it had done from their predecessors. In
this particular Thompson attained an unrivalled excellence. His
translations never smelt of the lamp, though it may be easily imagined
that this perfection had not been arrived at without much preliminary
study. But, when presented to the class, toil was carefully kept out of
sight. The lecturer stood at his desk and read his author into English,
with neither manuscript nor even notes before him, as though the
translation was wholly unpremeditated, in a style which reflected the
original with exact fidelity, whatever the subject selected might be. He
seemed equally at home in a dialogue of Plato, a tragedy of Euripides in
which, like the _Bacchae_, the lyric element predominates, or a comedy
of Aristophanes. He did not labour in vain. The lecture-room was crowded
with eager listeners; and the happiest renderings were passed from mouth
to mouth, and so made the round of the University. But we are glad to
think that his fame as a scholar rests on a firmer foundation than
traditions of the lecture-room, however brilliant. The author of his
choice was Plato, and though ill-health and a too fastidious criticism
of his own powers, which made him unwilling to let a piece of work go
out of his hands so long as there was any chance of making it better,
stood in the way of the complete edition, or, at any rate, translation,
of the author, which he once meditated, yet he has left enough good work
behind him to command the gratitude of future scholars. To this study he
was doubtless directed, in the first instance, by natural predilection;
but, if we mistake not, he was confirmed in it by the scholars
above-mentioned, either directly or by their suggesting to him the study
of Schleiermacher, whose writings were first introduced to English
readers by their influence. That critic’s theory—that Plato had a
comprehensive and precise doctrine to teach, which he deliberately
concealed under the complicated machinery of a series of dialogues,
leaving his readers to combine and interpret for themselves the dark
hints and suggestions afforded to them—was followed by Thompson with
great learning, unerring tact, and firm grasp. His editions of the
_Phaedrus_ (1868) and the _Gorgias_ (1871) are models of what an
edition, based on these principles, ought to be; and the paper on the
_Sophistes_, long lost sight of in the _Transactions_ of the Cambridge
Philosophical Society, but republished in the _Journal of Philology_
(1879), is a masterpiece. Nor must we omit an introductory lecture on
the _Philebus_, written in 1855, and published in the same journal
(1882), which is a piece of literature as well as a piece of criticism;
or the learned and instructive notes to Archer Butler’s _Lectures on the
History of Ancient Philosophy_, the first edition of which appeared in
1855.

Thompson discharged the difficult duties of a college tutor with
admirable patience and discretion. Those who knew him imperfectly called
him cold, hard, and sarcastic; and his bearing towards his brother
Fellows gave occasionally, we must admit, some colour to the accusation.
But in reality he was an exceedingly modest man, diffident of himself,
reserved, and at first somewhat shy in the society of those whom he did
not know well. Again, it must be recollected that nature had dealt out
to him a measure of ‘irony, that master-spell,’ of a quality that a
Talleyrand might have envied. Hence, especially when slightly nervous,
he got into a habit of letting his words fall into well-turned sarcastic
sentences almost unconsciously. The most ordinary remark, when uttered
by him, became an epigram. We maintain, however, that he never said an
unkind word intentionally, or crushed anybody who did not richly deserve
it. For the noisy advocate of crude opinions, or the pretender to
knowledge which he did not possess, were reserved those withering
sentences which froze the victim into silence, and, being carefully
treasured up by his friends, and repeated at intervals, clung to him
like a brand. To his own pupils Thompson’s demeanour was the reverse of
this. At a time when the older men of the University—with the exception,
perhaps, of Professor Sedgwick—were not in sympathy with the rising
generation, he made them feel that they had in him a friend who would
really stand _in loco parentis_ to them. Somewhat indolent by nature, on
their behalf he would spare no trouble; but, on the other hand, he would
allow of no interference. ‘He is a pupil of mine, you had better leave
him to me,’ he would say to the Seniors, when an undergraduate on his
‘side’ got into trouble; but it may be questioned whether many a
delinquent would not have preferred public exposure to the awful
half-hour in his tutor’s study by which his rescue was succeeded. Nor
did his interest in his pupils cease when they left college. He was
always glad to see them or to write to them, and few, we imagine, took
any important step in life without consulting him.

When Thompson became Greek Professor, a canonry at Ely was still united
to the office—an expedient for augmenting the salary which, we are glad
to say, will not trouble future Professors. To most men, trained as he
had been, the new duties thus imposed upon him would have been
thoroughly distasteful; and we are not sure that he ever took a real
pleasure in his residences at Ely. In fact, more than one bitter remark
might be quoted to prove that he did not. Notwithstanding, he made
himself extremely popular there, both with the Chapter and the citizens,
and he soon became a good preacher. It is to be regretted that only one
of his sermons—that on the death of Dean Peacock—has been printed; that
one is in its way a masterpiece.

He became Master rather late in life, when the habits of a bachelor
student had grown upon him; and he lacked the superabundant energy of
his great predecessor. But notwithstanding, the twenty years of his
Mastership were years of activity and progress; and he took his due
share of University and College business. He was alive to the necessity
for reform, and the statutes framed in 1872, as well as those which
received the royal assent in 1882, owed much to his criticism and
support. It should also be recorded that he was an excellent examiner,
appreciating good work of very different sorts. Gradually, however, as
his health grew worse, he was compelled to give up much that he had been
able to do when first elected, and to withdraw from society almost
entirely. Yet he did not become a mere lay figure. Even strangers who
caught a glimpse in chapel of that commanding presence, the dignity of
which was enhanced by singularly handsome features, and silvery
hair[115], were compelled to recognize his power. There was an innate
royalty in his nature which made his Mastership at all times a reality,
and he contrived, from the seclusion of his study, to exert a stronger
influence and to maintain a truer sympathy with the Society than
Whewell, with all his activity, had ever succeeded in

establishing. His very isolation from the worry and bustle of the world
gave authority to his advice; those who came to seek it felt, as they
sat by his armchair, that they were listening to one who was not
influenced by considerations of the moment, but who was giving them some
of the garnered treasures of mature experience.

_9 October, 1886._



                            COUTTS TROTTER.


The Society of Trinity College had long been aware of the critical
condition of their Vice-Master’s health, and his numerous friends in the
wider circle of the University had shared their alarm. And yet, though
everybody had been expecting the worst for several weeks, the news that
the end had really come[116] fell upon the University with the stunning
force of a wholly unexpected event. The full extent of the loss can only
be measured by time; for the moment we can but feel that the University
of Cambridge misses an influence which pervaded and animated every
department of her affairs. For the last fifteen years no one has been so
completely identified with what may be termed modern Cambridge; no one
has been admitted to so large a share in her councils, or has devoted
himself with such unremitting diligence to the administration of her
complex organization.

Mr Trotter proceeded to his degree in 1859. He was thirty-seventh
wrangler, and third in the second class of the Classical Tripos. It is
evident, however, that his acquirements must not be measured by his
place in these two Triposes, for he was soon after elected to a
Fellowship in his college, where, as is well known, the proficiency of
candidates is tested by a fresh examination. After his election he took
Holy Orders, and devoted himself for a time to active clerical work. For
this, however, after a fair trial, he found himself unsuited, and,
resigning his curacy, he returned to college. Between the years 1865 and
1869 he spent a considerable portion of his time in German universities.
In 1869 he became Lecturer in Natural Science in Trinity College, and in
due course succeeded to the Tutorship. In 1874 he was elected a member
of the Council of the Senate—a position which he occupied, without
interruption, until his death. In early life he had been a staunch
Conservative; but, as time went on, his views changed, and he became not
only a Liberal in politics, but an ardent University reformer. In the
latter capacity he threw himself energetically into the movement for
reform which led to the present University and College statutes—to
which, in their actual shape, he largely contributed. We have said that
he was a Liberal and a reformer. This position placed him, it is almost
needless to remark, in direct antagonism to many of those with whom he
was called upon to act; but his conciliatory manners, his excellent
temper, and his perfect straightforwardness, not only disarmed
opposition, but enabled him to make friends even among those who
differed from him most widely. In fact, what was sometimes called in
jest ‘the Trotterization of the University’ was so complete that he had
come to be regarded as indispensable; and his name will be found at one
time or another on all the more important Boards and Syndicates. But it
was not merely his knowledge of University business and detail that
placed him there. He was gifted with an intelligence of extraordinary
quickness. He could grasp the bearings of a complicated question swiftly
and readily—disentangle it, so to speak, from all that was not strictly
essential to it—and while others were still talking about it, doubtful
how to act, he would commit to paper a draft of a report which was
commonly accepted by those present as exactly resuming the general sense
of the meeting. He was in favour of a wide enlargement of University
studies, especially in the scientific direction—a course which was
impossible without funds; but at the same time no man ever loved his
college more dearly than he did—no man held more closely to the old idea
of duty to the college as a corporation; and it may be added that no
Vice-Master ever dispensed the hospitality incidental to the office with
greater geniality.

We have dwelt on Mr Trotter’s University career at some length; but let
it not be supposed that he was immersed in the details of University
business to the exclusion of other subjects. Though modest and retiring
almost to a fault, his interests were wide, and his knowledge extensive
and accurate. He had no mean acquaintance with physical science, on
which he gave collegiate lectures; he spoke and read several modern
languages, and was familiar with their literature; he took great
interest in music; he travelled extensively, and had a singularly minute
knowledge of out-of-the-way parts of the Alps, and of the little visited
country towns of Italy, to which he was attracted partly by their
history, partly by their art-treasures. He wrote easily and clearly,
though he never cared to cultivate a particularly elegant style; and as
a speaker he was always forcible, and sometimes exceedingly happy in the
utterance of tersely-worded, epigrammatic sentences, which resumed much
thought in few words.

We have dwelt of necessity in these brief remarks almost exclusively on
Mr Trotter’s public career. But there was another side to his character.
He was a generous and warm-hearted friend, whose friendship was all the
more sincere because it was so quiet and undemonstrative. Few had the
rare privilege of his intimacy; but those few will never forget that
kindly face, that bright smile of welcome, that charity which found
excuses for everybody—that liberality which, while it eschewed
publicity, was always ready to help the deserving, whether it was a
cause or an individual.

_10 December, 1887._



                             RICHARD OKES.


The death of Dr Okes, though he had reached the mature age of
ninety-one, has taken the University by surprise[117]. He had become an
institution of the place. While everything around him changed, and old
things became new, his venerable figure remained unaltered, like a
monument of an older faith which has survived the attacks of successive
iconoclasts, to tell the younger generation what manner of men the Dons
of the past had been. He was fond of saying that the first public event
he could distinctly remember was the battle of Trafalgar. He had been a
Master at Eton when Goodall was Provost and Keate Head-master, and he
had begun to rule over King’s College when the University of Cambridge
differed as widely from what it is now as the Europe of Napoleon from
its present condition. Still, his load of years sat so lightly upon him,
his interest in what was going forward was still so keen, that there
seemed to be no reason why he should not complete his century of life.
The slight infirmities from which he suffered did not prevent him, until
quite lately, from attending service in chapel, at least on Sundays; his
hearing was but little affected; his sight was good; and he could still
enjoy the society of his friends. Only a few days before his death he
was reading Miss Burney’s _Evelina_ to his daughters. When it became
known on Sunday last that he had really passed away, it was hard to
believe that the sad news could possibly be true.

Richard Okes was born in Cambridge, 15 December, 1797. His father,
Thomas Verney Okes, was a surgeon in extensive practice. Tradition is
silent respecting the future Provost’s childhood and early education;
but, as in those days boys began their lives at Eton at a very early
age, it is probable that when he was little older than a child he was
sent to fight his battles among the collegers, in what even devoted
Etonians have called ‘a proverb and a reproach’—Long Chamber. In 1816,
when he was rather more than eighteen, he obtained a scholarship at
King’s College; but it appears from the University records that he did
not formally matriculate until November in the following year. In those
days, be it remembered, King’s College was a very different place from
what it is now, both structurally and educationally. The magnificent
site, on which Henry VI. intended to place an equally magnificent
college, was occupied by no structures of importance except the Chapel,
and the Fellows’ Building, part of a second grand design which, like the
first, was never completed. The scholars, or at all events the greater
part of them, were packed into Old Court—the small, irregular quadrangle
west of the University Library, to which the founder intended originally
to limit his college. It must have been a curious structure—picturesque
and interesting from an archeological point of view, but unwholesome and
uncomfortable as a place of residence. The very nicknames given to some
of the chambers—“the Tolbooth,” “the Block-house,” and the like—are a
sufficient proof of their discomfort. In one of these, on the ground
floor, facing Clare Hall, young Okes resided; and until a few months
ago, when the last remnant of this part of the old college was absorbed
by the University Library, the present generation could form a fairly
correct idea of the gloom and damp that their ancestors were obliged to
put up with. But members of Kings College had to endure something far
worse than physical discomfort. It had been the object of their founder
to make his college independent of the University, and, as a consequence
of these well-intentioned provisions, scholars of King’s were not
allowed to compete for University honours, but obtained their degrees as
a matter of course. The result is not difficult to conceive. In every
society there will be some whose love of letters, or whose ardour for
distinction, is so strong that nothing can check it; but, as a rule, the
young Etonians who were obliged to spend three years in Cambridge threw
learning to the winds, and enjoyed to their hearts’ content the liberty,
not to say license, of their new surroundings. It was a bad state of
things; and that Okes felt it to be so is proved by the eagerness with
which he, a strong Conservative, set himself to get it abolished as soon
as he had the power to do so. We do not claim for the late Provost any
specially studious habits as a young man; he was too genial and too fond
of society to have ever been a very hard reader; but his scholarship in
after years would not have been as accurate as it certainly was had he
wasted his time at Cambridge; and, as a proof that he aimed at
distinction, it should be mentioned that he obtained Sir William
Browne’s prize for Greek and Latin Epigrams in 1819 and 1820. To the
very end of his life he was fond of writing Latin verse; and when the
Fellows of his college congratulated him on his ninetieth birthday in
Latin and English poems, he replied in half-a-dozen Latin lines which
many a younger scholar could not have turned so neatly.

He proceeded to his degree in 1821, and was in due course elected Fellow
of his college. Soon afterwards he returned to Eton as an
Assistant-Master. Mr Gladstone was one of the first set of boys who, in
Eton phrase, were ‘up to him’ in school. He filled his difficult
position with a judicious blending of severity and kindliness that made
him thoroughly respected by everybody, and at the same time beloved by
those boys who saw enough of him to discover that his dignified and
slightly pompous demeanour concealed a singularly warm and sympathetic
heart. His house was well-conducted and deservedly popular; and though
in those days masters did not see much of their pupils in private, he
contrived to turn several of his boys into life-long friends. In 1838 he
became Lower Master—an office which he held until he returned to
Cambridge in 1850. While in that influential position he introduced at
least one reform into the school; he got what was called ‘an
intermediate examination’ established, by which the collegers were
enabled to test their capacities before submitting to the final
examination which was to determine their chances of obtaining a
scholarship at King’s.

In November 1850, the Provostship of King’s College having been vacated
by the death of the Rev. George Thackeray, Dr Okes was elected his
successor. So anxious was he to abolish the anomalous position of
King’s-men with regard to University degrees that, on his way from Eton
to Cambridge to be inducted into his new dignity, he stayed a few hours
in London to take counsel with the Bishop of Lincoln, as Visitor of the
college, on the best way of effecting an alteration. The needful
negotiations were pressed forward without loss of time, and on the 1st
May, 1851, the college informed the University of their willingness to
abolish the existing state of things. The University, as might have been
expected, took time to consider the matter; and it was not until
February 18, 1852, that the Senate accepted the proposed reform.
Meanwhile Dr Okes had been elected Vice-Chancellor, and, in virtue of
that office, had the pleasure of signing the report which concluded the
negotiations. His year of office as Vice-Chancellor ended, he took but
little part in University business. He served on the Council of the
Senate from 1864 to 1868, and he was occasionally a member of
Syndicates; but, with these exceptions, he devoted himself to the
affairs of his college.

When he returned to the University the ancient constitution still
subsisted, and it may be doubted whether he could ever have brought
himself into cordial sympathy with the changes inaugurated by the
statutes which came into operation in 1858. The abolition of the old
_Caput_, and the virtual dethronement of the Heads of Colleges, must
have seemed to him to be changes which savoured of sacrilege. Still,
when a reform had been once carried he accepted it loyally, and never
tried by underhand devices to thwart its provisions, or to diminish its
force. He was too straight-forward to pretend that he liked change, but
he was too honest to take away with one hand the assent that he gave
with the other. In regard to his own college he was before all things an
Etonian, and he clung to the ancient system by which King’s was
recruited exclusively from Eton. But, when it was decided, in 1864, to
throw the college open, under certain restrictions, to all comers, he
offered no violent resistance to the scheme, though he did not like it;
and it may be doubted whether he ever felt that the newcomers were
really King’s-men. His sense of duty, as well as his natural kindliness,
compelled him to accept them; but he looked upon them as aliens. This
strong conservative bias, opposed to the liberal instincts of a society
which his own reform had created, sometimes brought him into collision
with his Fellows; but such differences were not of long duration. He was
never morose. He never bore a grudge against any one. His sense of
humour, and his natural gaiety of spirits, carried him through
difficulties which his habitual tone of mind would hardly have enabled
him to surmount. When his portrait was painted by Herkomer, the artist
showed him as he lived, with a smile on his kind face. It was objected
that so jocose a countenance was at variance with the dignity of his
position. ‘What would the Provost of King’s be without his jokes?’ was
the reply of a sarcastic contemporary. The remark had a deeper meaning
than its author either imagined or intended.

_1 December, 1888._



                       HENRY RICHARDS LUARD[118].


Nearly half a century has elapsed since Dr Luard became a member of
Trinity College. When he came up, the University was a very different
place from what it is now; the Statutes of Elizabeth were still in
force; and the only study which obtained official recognition was that
of mathematics. It is true that a Classical Tripos existed, but anybody
who wished to be examined in it was obliged to obtain an honour in
Mathematics first. The first Commission was not appointed until 1850,
the year in which he proceeded to the degree of Master of Arts. Nor were
the changes that resulted from their labours so sweeping as to alter, to
any overt and material extent, the character of the University. The
University of our own time, due to more recent legislation, did not come
into being until he had reached middle life.

These prefatory sentences are necessary to explain his character, which
has often been misunderstood. He passed his youth and many years of his
manhood in the old University, and though he was compelled,
intellectually, to admit the advantage of many of the changes which have
taken place in recent years, I doubt if he ever cordially accepted them.
He was a man of the older generation, who had lived down into the
present, and though he made friends in it, and derived many substantial
advantages from it, he was always casting lingering looks behind, and
sighing for a past which he could not recall. He remembered the time
when the resident Fellows of his college were few in number, when they
all lived in college rooms, and met every day at the service in Chapel
or the dinner in Hall, and commonly took their daily exercise, a walk or
a ride, in each other’s company. As his older friends passed away, he
found a difficulty in making new ones; he felt out of his element; he
was distracted by the multiplicity of tastes and studies; and vehemently
disapproved of the modifications in the collegiate life which the new
statutes have brought about. Though he himself, by a strange irony of
fate, was the first Fellow to take advantage of the power of marrying
and still retaining the Fellowship, he bitterly regretted that such a
clause had ever become law; and it is hardly too much to say that he
predicted the ruin of the college from such an innovation. And yet he
was by no means an unreasoning or unreasonable Conservative. In many
matters he was a Reformer; I have even heard him called a Radical; but,
when his beloved college was concerned, the force of early association
was too strong, and he regarded fundamental change as sacrilege.

Luard was fourteenth wrangler in 1847, a place much lower than he had
been led to expect. The cause of his failure is said to have been
ill-health. His disappointment, however, was speedily consoled by a
Fellowship, a distinction to which he is said to have aspired from his
earliest years. A friend who sat next him when he was a student at
King’s College, London, remembers his writing down, “Henry Richards
Luard, Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge,” and asking, “How do you
think that looks?” But, though he was really a first-rate mathematician,
his heart was elsewhere. He delighted in classical studies, especially
Greek, and to the end of his life continued to collect early editions,
and more, to read Greek authors. Not long ago, in the interval between
two pieces of hard work, I think between two volumes of his edition of
Matthew Paris, I found him reading the _Supplices_ of Euripides. He
complained that it was dull, but he went through with it. His
acquaintance with Greek scholarship was very accurate and remarkable. He
knew all about the emendations in which the scholars of the last century
displayed their ingenuity; he spoke of Bentley, Porson, Gaisford,
Elmsley, and the rest, as though they had been his personal friends, and
he could quote from memory, even to the last, many of their most
brilliant achievements. For Porson he had a special cult, and the Life
of him which he contributed to the _Cambridge Essays_ (1857) is a model
of what such a composition should be, as remarkable for good taste and
temperate criticism, as for erudition. He resented any slights on Porson
as almost a personal affront; and spoke with unmeasured denunciation of
any edition of a Greek Play, or other classical work, in which Porson
did not seem to be fully appreciated. He had a priceless collection of
_Porsoniana_, books which had belonged to Porson, and had been annotated
by him, with notices of his life and labours, all of which he bequeathed
to the Library of Trinity College; and he edited Porson’s
_Correspondence_, and the _Diary of Edward Rud_, which throws so much
light on the history of the college during the stormy reign of Dr
Bentley. It must be confessed that Luard’s affection for these giants of
classical criticism rather blinded him to the merits of their successors
in our own time. He had a particular dislike for English notes; and I
had rather not try to remember what I have heard him say about English
translations printed side by side with the original text.

Let it not be supposed, however, that Luard confined his attention in
literature to the classics. He was an insatiable reader of books on all
subjects, and if the book was a new one he was particular that his copy
should be uncut. He liked to read sitting in his armchair, and to cut
the leaves as he went along. What he began, he considered it a point of
honour to finish. It was a joke against him that he had read every word
of _The Cornhill Magazine_, which he had taken in from the beginning;
and I have heard him admit, more than once, that this was really the
case. I think it quite likely that he had submitted the volumes
published under the authority of the Master of the Rolls, to the same
searching investigation; for he could give a curiously minute account of
the merits and demerits of each work, supported, as usual with him, by
numerous quotations, cited with much volubility of utterance, and, it
may be added, with unerring accuracy. The pace at which he got through a
ponderous volume—without skipping, be it remarked—was really
astonishing, and when he had come to the end he could not only give a
clear and connected account of what he had read, but it became part of
himself, and he could quote long afterwards any passage that had
specially struck him.

The variety of Luard’s interests at all periods of his life, was
remarkable, especially when it is remembered that he was a genuine
student, with a horror of superficiality, and a conscientious
determination to do whatever he took in hand as well as it could be
done. But he was no Dry-as-dust. He was keenly alive to all that was
passing in the world, and unlike a contemporary Cambridge antiquary who
was once heard to ask, “Is the _Times_ still published?” he not only
read the paper through every day, but had his own very definite opinions
on men and measures. There was nothing narrow about him; he was a
patriotic Englishman, but he did not ignore the existence of the
Continent, and his favourite relaxation was foreign travel. As a young
man he had travelled extensively, not only in Europe, but in Egypt,
where he had ascended the Nile as far as the second cataract: and, as he
grew older, he still sought refreshment in going over parts of his old
tours, especially in those by-ways of Central Italy which lie within the
limits of what he affectionately called “dear old Umbria.” He spoke more
than one foreign language fluently; and, being entirely destitute of
British angularity, and British prejudices in politics and religion, he
always got on exceedingly well with foreigners, especially with foreign
ecclesiastics. I feel that I am saying only what is literally true when
I affirm that few Englishmen have understood the creed and the practice
of the Roman clergy in Italy so thoroughly as he did. In illustration of
this view I would refer my readers to an article called _Preaching and
other matters in Rome in 1879_ which he contributed to the _Church
Quarterly Review_[119]. Further, he took an intelligent interest in
antiquities of all sorts, and had an acquaintance with art that was
something more than respectable. Here his excellent memory stood him in
good stead, for he never forgot either a picture which he had once seen,
or the place in which he had seen it.

In politics he called himself a Tory, and he certainly did vote on that
side; but he was in no sense of the word a party-man. For instance, when
his friend Mr George Denman came forward as a Liberal candidate for the
representation of the University in 1855, Luard was an active member of
his committee. His knowledge of Italy made him watch the course of
events there in 1859 with an enthusiastic sympathy, which was divided
almost equally between the Italians and their French allies. With a
curious perversity, which was not uncommon in his appreciation of men
and his judgment of events, he hated Garibaldi as much as he admired
Victor Emmanuel and Cavour. But from the first he never doubted of the
cause of freedom, and astonished his Conservative friends by offering a
wager across the high table at Trinity as to the time it would take the
combined French and Italian forces to occupy Milan. So far as I can
remember, he was right almost to the very day.

From his boyhood Luard had been an ardent collector of books, and it was
probably this taste that induced him to take a further excursion into
the past, and begin the study of manuscripts. Professor Mayor tells me
that the influence and example of Dr S. R. Maitland turned his attention
to the Middle Ages in the widest sense—their history, their literature,
and their life. This may well have been the case, for I know, from many
conversations, that he had the profoundest respect and admiration for Dr
Maitland’s character, and for the thoroughness of his studies and
criticisms. I do not know how Luard acquired his very accurate knowledge
of medieval handwriting; but I remember that in 1855 or 1856 he gave me
some lessons of the greatest value. In the second of these years the
first volume of the Catalogue of Manuscripts in the University Library
was published, into the preparation of which he had thrown himself with
characteristic enthusiasm. As time went on, the direction of the work
was left more and more to him; he became the editor, and to him the
excellent index, published in 1867, is mainly, if not entirely, due.

From the study of manuscripts to their transcription and publication the
transition is easy, and we need therefore find no difficulty in
accounting for his employment by the Master of the Rolls. He began his
work on that series in 1858 by editing certain _Lives of Edward the
Confessor_, written in old French. This work, on which he had bestowed
infinite pains, was not free from errors. The study of the language in
which it is written was not understood at that time as it is now, and it
is no discredit to Luard’s memory to admit that he was not fully
prepared for the task. But such mistakes as he made are no justification
for the savage and personal attack to which he was subjected, eleven
years afterwards, by a critic who ought to have known better. I do not
feel that this is the place to criticise, or even to mention, the long
list of historical works that Luard subsequently edited, the last of
which appeared not long before his death. His labours in this field of
research have been better appreciated in Germany than in England, but
even here scholars like Bishop Stubbs and Professor Freeman have spoken
with cordial appreciation of the value of his work. It is worth noting
too that here his passion for old methods of editing deserted him;
nothing can be more thoroughly modern than his treatment of these
ancient records. Nor can I leave this part of my subject without
noticing his indexes. He was the very prince of index-makers; every
sheet, before it was finally passed for press, was fully indexed, with
the result that not only were mistakes recognised and corrected, but the
index itself, worked out on a definite system conceived from the
beginning, was carried through to a satisfactory conclusion without
haste or weariness, and became a real catalogue of the subjects referred
to in the work itself.

Luard was Registrary of the University from 1862 to his death in 1891.
To this work he brought the same painstaking accuracy, and the same
unselfish readiness to endure hard work, that distinguished his other
labours. The ordinary duties of his office were discharged with
marvellous rapidity, and almost painful attention to detail; and the
records were admirably re-arranged. Mr Romilly, his predecessor, had
brought order out of confusion, and prepared an excellent catalogue on
modern lines; but Luard went a step farther. He bound the contents of Mr
Romilly’s bundles in a series of volumes, each of which he indexed with
his own hand. These separate indexes were then transcribed, and finally
bound together so as to form a complete catalogue of the contents of the
Registry. Every paper can now be found with the least possible loss of
time, while each bound volume contains a complete history of the subject
to which it relates, so far as it can be illustrated by documents in the
Registry.

Luard’s duties as Registrary, added to the continuous strain of his
historical work, would have been enough for most people; but he never
forgot that he was a clergyman, as well as a man of letters, and he took
care always to have some active clerical work to do. He was an eloquent
preacher, and his sermons in the College Chapel used to be listened to
with an interest that we did not always feel in what was said to us from
that pulpit. They were plain, practical, persuasive; the compositions of
one who was not above his congregation; who had nothing donnish about
him, but who spoke to the undergraduates as one who had passed through
the same temptations as themselves, and who was, therefore, in a
position to show them the right road. On the same principles, for the
twenty-seven years during which he was Vicar of Great S. Mary’s, he
laboured in the parish in a spirit of true sympathy. There was no
fussiness about him; he did not take part in movements; he did not
‘work’ a parish as a modern clergyman does, on the principle of
perpetual worry, leaving neither man, nor woman, nor child at peace for
a moment; he led his people to better things by gentle measures; he
sympathized with their troubles; he relieved their necessities; in a
word, he exercised an unbounded influence over them, while refraining
from interference in matters of moral indifference. His memory will long
be venerated there for active benevolence, and punctual discharge of all
that it became him to do. I have heard that the full extent of his
charities will never be known. He hated display, and avoided reference
to what he was about unless it was necessary to stimulate others by
mentioning it; but those who know best tell me that his labours among
the poor were unremitting, and that his generosity knew no limits.

Nor should it be forgotten, in even the most summary record of Luard’s
life at Cambridge, that it was he who got Great S. Mary’s restored in
the true sense of the word, by removing the excrescences which the
taste, or, rather, want of taste, of the last century had piled up in
it. He pulled down the carved work thereof—the hideous ‘Golgotha’—with
axes and hammers, and exhibited to an astonished and by no means
complacent University the noble church in the unadorned simplicity of
its architecture. The restoration of the University Church to something
like its ancient arrangement will be an enduring monument of his
parochial life.

He was a High Churchman, but a High Churchman with a difference. He
belonged to the school of Pusey and Liddon rather than to that of the
modern Ritualist, whose doings were as alien to his convictions and
feelings as those of the party whom he scornfully styled ‘those
Protestants.’ I have heard him called narrow and intolerant. I beg leave
to refer such detractors to the sermon preached by him on the Sunday
after the death of Frederick Denison Maurice. And this brings me to what
was, perhaps, the leading principle of his whole life—his absolute
honesty and fearlessness. He held certain beliefs and certain opinions
himself, which he cherished, and which were of vital importance to
himself; but he did not shut his eyes to the possibility that others who
held diametrically opposite views might be in the right also. And if he
found a man sincere, no considerations of party, of respectability, of
imaginary dangers concealed behind opinions held to be heretical, would
prevent him from speaking out and proclaiming his admiration.

In manners Luard had much of the stately courtesy which we commonly
ascribe to the last century, joined to a vivacious impulsiveness due, no
doubt, to his French extraction. This impulsiveness led him into a
rapidity of thought and utterance which often caused him to be
misunderstood. He said what came first into his thoughts, and corrected
it afterwards; but, unfortunately for him, people remembered the first
words used, and forgot the explanation. Hence he was often
misunderstood, and credited with opinions he did not really hold. He
delighted in society, and few men knew better how to deal with it, or
how to make his house an agreeable centre of Cambridge life. In this he
was ably seconded by his admirable wife, _qui savait tenir un salon_, as
the French say, more successfully than is usual in this country. Without
her help he would hardly have been able to find the time required for
his continual hospitalities. The house was different from any other
house that I have ever known, and reflected, more directly, the peculiar
gifts and tastes of its owner. The pictures, the china, the books that
lined the walls, bespoke the cultivated scholar; but the modern volumes
that lay on the tables showed that he was no dry archaeologist, but full
of enthusiasm for all that was best in modern literature. He had a keen
sense of humour, and an admirable memory; and when the conversation
turned that way, would tell endless stories of Cambridge life, or repeat
page after page of his favourite Thackeray. At the same time he did not
engross the conversation, but drew his guests out, and led each
insensibly to what was interesting to him or to her. It is sad to think
that all this has passed away; that exactly one month after Luard’s
death his friends stood again beside his grave to see his only child
laid in it; that his house will pass into alien hands; and that his
library will share the fate of similar collections. ‘_Eheu! quanto minus
est cum aliis versari quam tui meminisse._’



                           RICHARD OWEN[120].


A scientific naturalist who lived in England in the second quarter of
this present century may be accounted a fortunate man. On the one hand
was the vast field of the universe, undivided, unallotted; on the other,
a public eager for instruction. At the present day, when men go to and
fro, and knowledge is increased, we find it hard to realize the
isolation of England until after the close of the great war, or the fear
of invasion that absorbed men’s thoughts until after Trafalgar. That
fear removed, the modern development of the nation began. The number of
those who resorted to the Universities increased by leaps and bounds.
Public school life, as we understand it, was developed. As a natural
consequence, the flower of the English youth were no longer content with
the knowledge that had satisfied their fathers and grandfathers. The old
paths were too narrow for them. The convulsions which had shaken the
continent had not been without their effect even here; and when Europe
was again open, account had to be taken of the work of continental
thinkers. Their achievements must be mastered, continued, developed. It
was allowed on all hands, except by that small class who can neither
learn nor forget, that the time for a new departure in scientific
education had arrived. It was the good fortune of Richard Owen to be
ready just when he was wanted, to take occasion by the hand, and to
become the leader in biological research.

How did he effect this? How did a young man, launched on the great world
of London with no powerful connexions,

                ‘Break his birth’s invidious bar,
                  And grasp the skirts of happy chance,
                  And breast the blows of circumstance
                And grapple with his evil star?’

To take a metaphor from our representative system, Owen was the member
for biological science in the parliament of letters for nearly half a
century. And yet he was not a great thinker; his name is not associated
with any far-reaching generalization, or any theory fruitful of wide
results. As a comparative anatomist, and as a paleontologist, he did
plenty of good and solid work. But these pursuits are most commonly
those of a recluse. The man who engages in them must be content, as a
general rule, with the four walls of his laboratory, and the applause of
a small circle of experts. Not so Professor Owen, as he was most
commonly designated, even after he had received knighthood. He contrived
to lead an essentially public life; to be seen everywhere; to have his
last paper talked about in fashionable drawing-rooms quite as much as in
learned societies. How did he effect this? We think that the answer to
our question is to be found—first, in the general eagerness for
scientific instruction which was one of the characteristics of the age
in which he lived; and, secondly, in his own many-sidedness. He was by
no means one of those authors ‘who are all author,’ against whom Byron
launched some of his most brilliant sarcasms. He was a man of science;
but he was also a polished gentleman of varied accomplishments.

It is to be regretted that such a man has not found a biographer more
competent than his grandson and namesake; but the reader who reaches the
end of the second volume will be rewarded by a masterly essay by Mr
Huxley on Owen’s place in science. This is a remarkable composition; not
merely for what it says, but for what it does not say; and we recommend
those who would understand it thoroughly, not merely to read it more
than once, but to cultivate the useful art of reading between the lines.
Of a very different nature to _The Life of Owen_ is the article which
Sir W. H. Flower has contributed to the _Dictionary of National
Biography_. It is of necessity much compressed, but it contains all that
is really essential for the proper comprehension of Owen’s scientific
career, and praise and blame are meted out with calm impartiality. For
ourselves, we have a sincere admiration for Owen, but an admiration
which does not exclude a readiness to admit that he had defects. In what
we are about to say we do not propose to draw a fancy portrait. If we
nothing extenuate, we shall set down naught in malice. In a word, we
shall try to present him as he was, not as he might have been.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Richard Owen was born at Lancaster, 20 July, 1804. His father was a West
India merchant; his mother, Catherine Parrin, was descended from a
French Huguenot family. She is said to have been a woman of refinement
and intelligence, with great skill in music, a talent which she
transmitted to her son. In appearance she was handsome and
Spanish-looking, with dark eyes and hair. Owen delighted to dwell on his
mother’s charm of manner, and all that he owed to her early training and
example. We can well believe this, and the Life is full of touching
references to her solicitude for her darling son. The interest she felt
in all that he did even led her to read through his scientific papers
and his catalogue of the Hunterian collection, with what profit to
herself we are not informed. Her husband died in 1809; but the family
seem to have been left in fairly affluent circumstances, and continued
to live, as before, at Lancaster. Owen’s education began at the
grammar-school there in 1810, when he was six years old, and ended in
1820, when he was apprenticed to a local surgeon. Of his schooldays but
little record has been preserved. One of the masters described him as
lazy and impudent; he is said to have had no fondness for study of any
kind except heraldry; and his sister used to relate that as a boy he was
‘very small and slight, and exceedingly mischievous.’

Those who value the records of boyhood for the sake of traces of the
tastes which made the man celebrated, will be rewarded by the perusal of
the pages which record Owen’s four years as a surgeon’s apprentice at
Lancaster. Not only will they find that he worked diligently at the
curative side of his profession, but that, his master being surgeon to
the gaol, he had the opportunity of attending post-mortem examinations,
and so laid the foundation of his knowledge of the structure of the
human frame. Here too we catch a glimpse of the future comparative
anatomist; but the story of ‘The Negro’s Head,’ here given in the words
used by Owen when he told it himself, is unfortunately too long for
quotation, and is certainly far too good to be spoilt by abbreviation.

In October 1824 Owen matriculated at the University of Edinburgh. There,
in addition to the courses that were obligatory, he attended the
‘outside’ lectures in comparative anatomy delivered by Dr John Barclay.
From these he derived the greatest benefit, and used in after-years to
speak of Barclay with affectionate regard, as ‘my revered preceptor.’ It
is noteworthy that, while at Edinburgh, Owen and one of his friends
founded a students’ society, which at his suggestion was called, by a
sort of prophetic instinct, the Hunterian Society. Barclay must have
decided very quickly that he had to do with no common pupil, for at the
end of April 1825, when Owen had been barely six months in Edinburgh, he
advised him to move to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, and study
under Dr. Abernethy, then near the close of his brilliant but eccentric
career. Armed with a letter of introduction from Barclay, Owen set out
for London, where he had ‘literally not one single friend.’ No wonder
that he felt ‘an indescribable sense of desolation’ as he walked up
Holborn, and that ‘the number of strange faces that kept passing by
increased that feeling.’ What happened next is very characteristic of
the strange mixture of roughness and kindness which was natural to his
new patron.

‘Abernethy had just finished lecturing, and was evidently in anything
but the best of tempers, being surrounded by a small crowd of students
waiting about to ask him questions. Owen was just screwing up his
courage to attack this formidable personage and state his business, when
Abernethy suddenly turned upon him and said: “And what do you want?”
After presenting the letter Abernethy glanced at it for a moment,
stuffed it into his pocket, and vouchsafed the gracious reply of “Oh!”
As this did not seem to point to anything very definite, Owen was
turning to go, when Abernethy called after him: “Here; come to breakfast
to-morrow morning at eight,” and presenting him with his card, added,
“That’s my address.” What were the terms in which Dr Barclay had spoken
of him Owen never knew, but he thought they must have been favourable,
for when he presented himself next morning at Abernethy’s residence, and
was anticipating anything but an agreeable _tête-à-tête_ with the great
doctor, he found him, to his surprise, considerably smoothed down and
quite pleasant in his manner. The result of the meeting was that
Abernethy offered him the post of prosector for his lectures’ (i. 30).

A year later (August 18, 1826) Owen obtained the membership of the
College of Surgeons, and set up as a medical practitioner in Carey
Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, where he gradually obtained a small
practice among lawyers.

We have no wish to underrate Owen’s brilliant talents, or his
perseverance, or his power of sustained work with a definite end in
view; but at the same time it would be absurd to deny that he had
good-fortune to thank for a large part of his first successes. What else
made Abernethy, at their first interview, give him just the appointment
best calculated to bring his peculiar gifts into the light of day? What
else made the same patron procure his appointment, two years later, as
assistant-conservator of the Hunterian collections, out of which all his
future celebrity was developed? He might have been ‘exceedingly well
informed in all that relates to his profession, an excellent anatomist,
and sober and sedate very far beyond any young man I ever knew,’ as one
who was in a position to know said of him in 1830, and yet have ‘bloomed
unseen,’ an obscure practitioner in ‘the dusky purlieus of the law,’ had
not the fickle goddess selected him as the special recipient of her
favours.

Owen’s active life in London divides itself naturally into two periods,
each containing nearly thirty years. The first, during which he was
connected with the Royal College of Surgeons, extended from 1827 to
1856; the second, during which he was nominally superintendent of the
biological side of the British Museum, from 1856 to 1883.

Those who would rightly understand his work during the former period
must of necessity take into account the history and extent of the vast
collection which he was expected to catalogue and to develop, for it
dominated and directed all his studies. It was formed by the celebrated
surgeon, John Hunter, between 1763 and 1793, in which year he died. In
studying it, one is at a loss what to admire most—the beauty of the
specimens themselves, and the admirable clearness with which those
preserved in spirit have been dissected and mounted; or the labour and
self-denial which brought them together in the midst of the incessant
occupations of a large practice; or the almost prophetic instinct which
divined what posterity would require in the way of such aids to study.
It was Hunter’s object to illustrate the phenomena of life in all
organisms, whether in health or in disease. For this purpose he
collected as widely as he could. There is an osteological series, and a
physiological series (in spirit), which exhibits the different organs,
digestive, circulatory, and the like, in order, and traces their
development from the simplest to the most complicated form. To the
Invertebrata he had devoted special attention. He had secured, through
his friend Sir Joseph Banks, many of the treasures collected during
Cook’s voyages; and he had purchased rarities as occasion offered. Of
insects he had a large collection. Nor were his observations limited to
the animal kingdom. Whenever any physiological process could be
illustrated by vegetable life, vegetables were pressed into the service.
Nor did he fail to recognize the truth—which some persons still refuse
to accept—that the remains of extinct animals are only in their proper
place when side by side with those still living on the earth. ‘His
collection of fossils,’ says Owen in one of his prefaces, ‘was the
largest and most select of any in this country.’

To contain this collection Hunter had built a special museum in Castle
Street, Leicester Square, which was open to public inspection on certain
days. After his death his executors, in accordance with his will,
offered the collection to the Government. ‘Buy preparations?’ exclaimed
Mr Pitt; ‘why, I have not money enough for gunpowder!’ Ultimately,
however, the House of Commons agreed to give £15,000 for it, just
one-fifth of the sum that Hunter is said to have spent upon it. Next
arose the further question, who should take care of it. The Royal
Society, it is said, did not consider it ‘an object of importance to the
general study of natural history’; the British Museum was literary, not
scientific; and finally, in 1799, the Corporation of Surgeons, as it was
then called, accepted it, under the condition that a proper catalogue
should be made, a conservator appointed, and twenty-four lectures in
explanation of it delivered annually in the college. Soon afterwards the
Corporation of Surgeons became the Royal College of Surgeons, and a
building, to which Parliament contributed £27,500, was built for its
reception. This was opened in 1813.

When Owen was appointed assistant-conservator of these collections
thirty-four years had elapsed since Hunter’s death. During that time
they had been preserved from damage by the devoted care of Mr William
Clift, who, after being Hunter’s assistant for a short time, had been
appointed conservator, first by the executors, and subsequently by the
college. The general arrangement had been prescribed by Hunter, but no
descriptive catalogue existed, as it had been, unfortunately, Hunter’s
habit to trust to his memory for the history of his specimens. Further,
though lists, more or less imperfect, drawn up either by Hunter himself
or under his direction, had been preserved, the bulk of his papers had
been destroyed by Sir Everard Home, his brother-in-law and executor.
‘There is but one thing more to be done—to destroy the collection,’ was
Clift’s remark when he heard of this act of cynical wickedness. In the
scarcity, therefore, of documentary evidence, other expedients had to be
resorted to for the identification of the specimens which Hunter had
dissected, or had preserved entire in spirit. As Owen remarks in the
preface to the first volume of his descriptive catalogue (published in
1833), ‘It was necessary to consult the book of Nature.’ At first it was
no easy matter to procure the animals required; but after the
establishment of the Zoological Society this difficulty was in a great
measure removed, and more than two hundred dissections were made by Owen
in the course of the work incident to the preparation of the first
volume of the catalogue.

This sketch of the Hunterian collections, which we would gladly have
worked out in greater detail had our space allowed us to do so, will
perhaps be sufficient to indicate to our readers the nature of the field
of research on which Owen was about to enter. It was, in fact, an
undiscovered country, of which he was to be the pioneer. One would like
to know whether he had any idea of what the work he was about to
undertake implied; and whether he had any misgivings as to his own
fitness for it. He was only twenty-three years old, so perhaps, as youth
is sanguine, he entered upon it with a light heart, thinking—if he
paused to think—that he had strength of will sufficient to compensate
for defect of years and knowledge. ‘On vieillit vite sur les champs de
bataille.’ His previous training must have been in the main
professional; he could have gained at most only a glimpse of comparative
anatomy at the feet of Dr Barclay; the great writers on the subject,
Buffon, Daubenton, Cuvier, and the rest, must have been mere names to
him. Moreover, he was obliged, for lucre’s sake, to continue the
profession of a surgeon, and, though he gradually dropped it, he must,
for some time at least, have spent a good deal of time over it. Besides
this, he probably assisted Clift in the brief catalogue of the Hunterian
collections that appeared between 1833 and 1840. But, while thus
engaged, he found time for study. For three years he attempted no
original work; and when he did begin to write (his first paper is dated
9 November, 1830), it is evident that the previous years had been spent
in wise preparation. There is no trace of the novice in the papers that
followed each other in quick succession; they evince a complete mastery
of the subject from the historical, as well as from the anatomical,
side. The mere number of these communications, addressed principally to
the Zoological Society, is almost past belief. Before the end of 1855
more than 250 had appeared, many of which were of considerable length,
and enriched with elaborate drawings made by himself. But what is more
surprising still is the versatility displayed in their composition.
Nowadays a biologist is compelled to specialize. By ‘the custom of the
country,’ to borrow a legal phrase, he selects his own subject, and is
expected not to poach on that of his neighbours. But when Owen began to
work, these laws existed not, or at any rate not for him. The very
nature of his work obliged him to study in quick succession the most
diverse structures; and, as death does not accommodate itself to human
convenience, he could not tell from day to day what animals would be
sent from the Zoological Gardens to his dissecting-room. An excellent
bibliography of his works at the end of the second volume of the _Life_
enables us to trace his studies in detail. For our present purpose we
will only point out that between 1831 and 1835 he had written papers
(among many others) on the orang-outang, beaver, Thibet bear, gannet,
armadillo, seal, kangaroo, tapir, cercopithecus, crocodile, toucan,
hornbill, pelican, flamingo, besides various Invertebrates.

While Owen was preparing himself for his serious attack on the catalogue
an event occurred which had an important influence on his scientific
development. Cuvier came to England to collect materials for his work on
fishes, and naturally visited the Hunterian collection. Owen has
preserved a singularly modest account of his introduction to the great
French naturalist:

‘In the year 1830 I made Cuvier’s personal acquaintance at the Museum of
the College of Surgeons, and was specially deputed to show and explain
to him such specimens as he wished to examine. There was no special
merit in my being thus deputed, the fact being that I was the only
person available who could speak French, and who had at the same time
some knowledge of the specimens. Cuvier kindly invited me to visit the
Jardin des Plantes in the following year’ (i. 49).

Accordingly, Owen spent the month of August 1831 in Paris. It has been
frequently stated, says his biographer, that Cuvier and his collection
‘made a great impression on Owen, and gave a direction to his
after-studies of fossil remains,’ a position which he contests on the
ground that neither Owen’s diary nor his letters describing the visit
warrant such a conclusion. We do not attach much importance to this
argument, but we feel certain that the Museum of the Jardin des Plantes,
from its unfortunate subdivision into departments widely separated
structurally from each other, could not have stimulated anybody in that
particular direction. That Cuvier was, to a very large extent, Owen’s
master in comparative anatomy is undeniable; he quotes him with respect,
not to say with reverence, in almost every page of his writings, and the
‘Prix Cuvier’ adjudged to him in 1857 probably gave him more pleasure
than all his other distinctions. Cuvier’s method, as set forth in _Les
Ossemens Fossiles_, of illustrating and explaining extinct animals by
comparison with recent was closely followed by his illustrious disciple.
But this principle might easily have been learnt—and in our judgment was
learnt—by a study of his works at home. On the other hand, Owen has
stated, in unequivocal terms, the direction in which Cuvier did exert a
special influence upon him. In his _Anatomy of Vertebrates_ (iii. 786),
published in 1868, he says:

‘At the close of my studies at the Jardin des Plantes, Paris, in 1831, I
returned strongly moved to lines of research bearing upon the then
prevailing phases of thought on some general biological questions.

‘The great Master in whose dissecting-rooms, as well as in the public
galleries of comparative anatomy, I was privileged to work, held that
“species were not permanent”; and taught this great and fruitful truth,
not doubtfully or hypothetically, but as a fact established inductively
on a wide and well-laid basis of observation.’

Further, Owen had the opportunity of listening to some of the debates
between Cuvier and Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire on the question of how new
species may originate; and ‘on returning home,’ he adds, ‘I was guided
in all my work with the hope or endeavour to gain inductive ground for
conclusions on these great questions.’ Here, then, was the definite
educational result which Owen gained from his visit. It had, moreover,
another consequence. It made him known to the French naturalists, then
in the front rank of science. His scientific acquirements, coupled with
his agreeable manners and facility in speaking and writing French, made
him a _persona grata_ in Paris. In 1839 he was elected a corresponding
member of the Institute, and read more than one paper there in French.

We have already mentioned the long line of scientific papers which, from
1830 onwards, were the result of Owen’s indomitable energy. This series
was now to be interrupted for a moment by the famous _Memoir on the
Pearly Nautilus_, a quarto volume of sixty-eight pages, illustrated by
eight plates, drawn by himself. The shell of the nautilus, as most
persons know, has always been fairly common; but the animal which was
given to the Museum of the College of Surgeons in 1831 was, we believe,
the first, or nearly the first, which had ever reached this country, and
Owen was most fortunate in having the chance of describing such a
rarity. His essay, elaborate and exhaustive as it is, was dashed off in
less than a year. It was received with a general chorus of praise. Dr
Buckland spoke of it as ‘Mr Owen’s admirable work,’ and they were soon
in correspondence on the way in which the nautilus sinks and rises in
the water. Milne Edwards translated it into French, and Oken into
German. Nor has the contemporary verdict been reversed by that of
posterity. Mr Huxley says of the _Memoir_ that it

‘placed its author, at a bound, in the first rank of monographers. There
is nothing better in the _Mémoires sur les Mollusques_, I would even
venture to say nothing so good, were it not that Owen had Cuvier’s great
work for a model; certainly, in the sixty years that have elapsed since
the publication of this remarkable monograph it has not been excelled’
(ii. 306).

This essay seems to have given Owen a taste for the group to which the
nautilus belongs. At the conclusion of the _Memoir_ he proposed a new
arrangement of it, now generally accepted, which includes the fossil as
well as the recent forms; and, as occasion presented itself, he
described other species and genera. The merit of a memoir on the fossil
group called ‘belemnites,’ from the Oxford Clay, was the cause assigned
for the award to him of the gold medal of the Royal Society in 1846.

Between 1833 and 1840 the long-desired catalogue, in five quarto
volumes, made its appearance. Sir William Flower calls it ‘monumental’;
a singularly happy epithet, for it commemorates, as a monument should
do, alike the founder of the Museum and the industrious anatomist who
had minutely described the four thousand specimens of which the
‘physiological series’—or, as we should now say, the series of
organs—then consisted. Nor, though the arrangement is obsolete, can the
work itself be regarded as without value, even at the present time. It
has already served as a model for the catalogues of many other museums,
and has taken its place in the literature of the subject. It is, in
fact, an elaborate treatise on comparative anatomy from the point of
view of the modifications of special organs. The thirteen years spent
over it can hardly appear an excessively long time when we remember the
work involved, and also the fact that the college had from the first
recognized the duty of filling up gaps in the collection as occasion
offered. Many of the specimens recorded in this catalogue had been
prepared by Owen himself.

During the years that Owen spent upon the catalogue his position at the
College of Surgeons was gradually becoming assured. He had begun as
assistant-curator at £120 a year, but with no prospects, as the place of
curator was expected to be given to Mr Clift’s son on his father’s
retirement. But in 1832 the younger Clift died suddenly from the effects
of an accident, and Owen remained as sole assistant at £200. In July
1833 his salary was raised to £300, and in 1835 he was enabled to marry
Caroline Clift, Mr Clift’s only daughter. From this time until 1852,
when the Queen gave him the delightful cottage at Sheen which he lived
in till his death, he had apartments within the building of the College
of Surgeons. They were small, and inconvenient in many ways. Owen was in
the habit of turning his study into a dissecting-room, and his wife’s
diary contains many amusing references to the pervading odours caused by
the examination of a rhinoceros or an elephant, or to such disturbances
as the following: ‘Great trampling and rushing upstairs past our bedroom
door. Asked Richard if the men were dancing the polka on the stairs. He
said, “No; what you hear is the body being carried upstairs. They are
dissecting for fellowship to-day!”’ But, on the other hand, the
proximity to the library and the museum, which he could enter at any
hour of the night or day, must have greatly helped one who worked so
incessantly. Ultimately, in 1842, Owen became sole curator, with Mr
Quekett as his assistant. This was, no doubt, a dignified position, but
it had its drawbacks. Owen’s golden time at the college was the period
between 1827 and 1842, when the business details were taken off his
hands by the painstaking and methodical Clift. After 1842 he was held
responsible, as curators usually are, for much that he regarded as
irksome routine. This he performed in a perfunctory fashion that did not
please the Council, and difficulties arose between that body and their
distinguished servant which time only rendered more acute. It may be
that the Council were not sufficiently sensible of the honour reflected
upon the college by possessing ‘the first anatomist of the age’; and
Owen, on his side, may have been too fond of doing work which brought
‘grist to the mill,’ and applause, and troops of friends, without being
directly connected with the college. However this may have been, it is
beyond dispute that Owen’s removal, in 1856, to the British Museum, was
a fortunate solution of a difficulty which otherwise would probably have
ended in an explosion.

It has been already mentioned that when the Hunterian Museum was
entrusted to the care of the College of Surgeons it had been stipulated
that its contents should be illustrated by an annual course of
twenty-four lectures. Up to 1836 this course had been divided between
the professors of anatomy and surgery; but in that year Owen was
appointed first Hunterian Professor of Comparative Anatomy and
Physiology. To the last days of his life he constantly referred to the
pleasure which this appointment gave him when first conferred upon him;
nor did this feeling wear off as time went on. He gave his lectures
regularly, with the same keen interest and thoroughness of preparation,
down to 1855. At first he confined himself strictly to his prescribed
subject; but gradually he widened his field, and introduced whatever
views or subjects happened to be interesting him. Most of the lectures
were worked up into books afterwards. He was an admirable lecturer—in
fact, he was better as a lecturer than as a writer; for it must be
confessed that his scientific style is often pedantic and cramped, and
he seems to use words rather for the sake of concealing his thoughts
than of imparting them. It is interesting to learn what pains he took
with his early lectures—how he rehearsed them to his wife, or to a
friend, till he got used to the work, and could estimate exactly how
much would fill the allotted hour. We cannot refrain from quoting Mrs
Owen’s account of the first lecture:

‘So busy all the morning; had hardly time to be nervous, luckily for me.
R. robed in the drawing-room, and took some egg and wine before going
into the theatre. He then went in and left me. At five o’clock a great
noise of clapping made me jump, for I timed the lecture to last a
quarter of an hour longer; but R., it seems, cut it short rather than
tire Sir Astley Cooper too much. All went off as well as even I could
wish. The theatre crammed, and there were many who could not get places.
R. was more collected than he or I ever supposed, and gave this awful
first lecture almost to his own satisfaction! We sat down a large party
to dinner. Mr Langshaw and R. afterwards played two of Corelli’s
sonatas’ (i. 109).

These lectures, more than anything that he wrote, made Owen famous, and
procured for him a passport into society. To understand this, which
appears almost a phenomenon at the present day, it must be remembered
that the lecture-mania had not become one of the common diseases of
humanity in 1836, and that it was still considered proper for great
people to play the part of Mecenas to those who were distinguished in
science or in letters. Hence, when the news spread abroad that a young
and hitherto unknown lecturer was discoursing eloquently on a new
subject in a building which few had heard of and none had seen,
curiosity carried fashion into Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and certain dukes
and earls, who cultivated a taste for natural history _dans leur moments
perdus_, set the example of sitting at the feet of the new Gamaliel;
more serious persons followed, and by-and-by a Hallam, a Carlyle, and a
Wilberforce might be seen there side by side with the lights of medicine
and surgery.

To most men the work which these lectures, together with the catalogue,
entailed, would have been sufficient. But Owen loved diversity of
occupations; and one of his fortunate accidents presently threw an
attractive paleontological subject in his way. It happened in this wise.
Readers of the _Life of Charles Darwin_ will remember his
disappointment, on his return home from the now classic voyage of the
_Beagle_, to find that zoologists cared but little for his collections;
that, in fact, Lyell and Owen were the only two who wished to possess
any of his specimens. The latter, who had been introduced to him by the
former, was not slow to grasp the scientific value of the extinct
animals whose bones Darwin had dug with his own hands out of the
fluviatile deposits of South America. He began with a huge skull—‘the
head of an animal equalling in size the hippopotamus’—and described it
before the Geological Society, in 1837, under the name of _Toxodon
platensis_. Further, as Mr Huxley points out:

‘It is worthy of notice, that in the title of this memoir there follow,
after the name of the species, the words “referable by its dentition to
the Rodentia, but with affinities to the Pachydermata and the
herbivorous Cetacea,” indicating the importance in the mind of the
writer of the fact that, like Cuvier’s _Anoplotherium_ and
_Paleotherium_, _Toxodon_ occupied a position between groups which, in
existing Nature, are now widely separated’ (ii. 308).

The same writer bids us remark that this ‘maiden essay in paleontology
possesses great interest’ from another point of view, for ‘it is with
reference to Owen’s report on _Toxodon_ that Darwin remarks in his
_Journal_: “How wonderfully are the different orders, at the present
time so well separated, blended together in different points in the
structure of _Toxodon_.”’ Soon afterwards Owen described the rest of
Darwin’s fossil specimens in the geological part of _The Zoology of the
‘Beagle’ Voyage_.

Two years later, in 1839, a second and still more sensational
_trouvaille_ came into his hands. A fragment of bone was offered for
sale to the College of Surgeons, with the statement that it had been
obtained in New Zealand from a native, who said that it was the bone of
a great extinct eagle. Out of this fragment there ultimately grew that
phalanx of huge extinct birds to which Owen gave the name of _Dinornis_
(bird of wonder), on which he occupied himself till his death. His
recognition of the true origin of this fragment was, no doubt, a
wonderful instance of his osteological sagacity; but it is a
misrepresentation of fact to say that he evolved the whole of an extinct
bird out of a fragment of bone six inches long. What he did do, and how
he did it, shall be told in his own words:

‘As soon as I was at leisure I took the bone to the skeleton of the ox,
expecting to verify my first surmise [that it was a marrow-bone, like
those brought to table wrapped in a napkin]; but, with some resemblance
to the shaft of the thigh-bone, there were precluding differences. From
the ox’s humerus, which also affords the tavern delicacy, the
discrepancy of shape was more marked. Still, led by the thickness of the
wall of the marrow-cavity, I proceeded to compare the bone with
similar-sized portions of the skeletons of the various quadrupeds which
might have been introduced and have left their remains in New Zealand;
but it was clearly unconformable with any such portions.

‘In the course of these comparisons I noted certain obscure superficial
markings on the bone, which recalled to mind similar ones which I had
observed on the surface of the long bones in some large birds. Thereupon
I proceeded with it to the skeleton of the ostrich. The bone tallied in
point of size with the shaft of the thigh-bone in that bird, but was
markedly different in shape. There were, however, the same superficial
reticulate impressions on the ostrich’s femur which had caught my
attention in the exhaustive comparison previously made with the
mammalian bones.

‘In short, stimulated to more minute and extended examinations, I
arrived at the conviction that the specimen had come from a bird, that
it was the shaft of a thigh-bone, and that it must have formed part of
the skeleton of a bird as large as, if not larger than, the full-sized
male ostrich, with this more striking difference, that whereas the femur
of the ostrich, like that of the rhea and eagle, is pneumatic, or
contains air, the present huge bird’s bone had been filled with marrow,
like that of a beast[121].’

The suggestion was received with sceptical astonishment, and the paper
in which Owen announced it to the Zoological Society (November 12, 1839)
narrowly escaped exclusion from the _Transactions_ of that body on the
ground of its improbability. But confirmation was not slow to arrive,
though in a direction that was not then expected. The bone was not
fossilized; it was therefore naturally concluded that there existed
somewhere in New Zealand—then but partially explored—a race of birds of
gigantic stature and struthious affinities. We have no space to tell the
story of the extinction of the moa, as the natives call it—surely the
most weird and curious of all ‘the fairy-tales of science’; but to Owen
certainly belongs the credit of having been the first to point the way
to the great discovery. No work of his created so much excitement.
Society, headed by Prince Albert, hurried to inspect the huge remains,
of which a large series soon reached this country, and to be introduced
to the fortunate necromancer, at whose bidding a phantom procession of
strange creatures had suddenly stepped out of the past into the present.

From this time forward Owen continued to pay as much attention to
extinct as to recent animals, as his numerous publications testify. The
work fascinated and excited him.

‘There was no hunt,’ he declared, ‘so exciting, so full of interest, and
so satisfactory when events prove one to have been on the right scent,
as that of a huge beast which no eye will ever see alive, and which,
perhaps, no mortal eye ever did behold. Such a chase is not ended in a
day, in a week, nor in a season. One’s interest is revived and roused
year by year as bit by bit of the petrified portions of the skeleton
comes to hand. Thirty such years elapsed before I was able to outline a
restoration of _Diprotodon australis_’ [the gigantic extinct kangaroo].

In 1841 appeared his ‘_Description of the Skeleton of an Extinct
Gigantic Sloth (Mylodon robustus)_, with observations on the osteology,
natural affinities, and probable habits of the megatheroid quadrupeds in
general’—‘a masterpiece both of anatomical description and of reasoning
and inference,’ as Sir W. Flower calls it. He demonstrated its
affinities with the sloths on osteological and dental grounds, and then
reasoned out its habits from its configuration; showing that a creature
so vast could not have ascended trees, but must have pulled them down to
browse on them at its leisure. Then came the work on British Fossil
Mammals and Birds, with a long series of memoirs, growing in importance
as evidences of new forms, discovered in all parts of the world, came
pouring in, as though his own reputation had attracted them; on the
Triassic Labyrinthodonts of Central England; on the extinct fauna of
South Africa and Australia; on the Reptiles of the Wealden and other
formations in England, published by the Paleontographical Society, of
which he was one of the first and most ardent supporters; on the
_Archæopteryx_ from Solenhofen; on the Great Auk; and on the Dodo, one
of the representations of which, in an old Dutch picture, he had the
good fortune to discover. It is, indeed, as Mr Huxley remarks, ‘a
splendid record: enough, and more than enough, to justify the high place
in the scientific world which Owen so long occupied.’

These researches did not pass unrewarded. In 1838 the Geological Society
gave to Owen the Wollaston Gold Medal for his work on Darwin’s
collections, and it happened, by a fortunate coincidence, that Whewell,
his fellow-townsman and school-fellow, occupied the chair on the
occasion. In subsequent years he was twice invited to be president of
that society; but on both occasions he was compelled to decline. Next,
in 1841, Sir Robert Peel offered him a pension of £200 from the Civil
List, protesting in a very gracious letter that he knew nothing about
his political opinions, but merely wished ‘to encourage that devotion to
science for which you are so eminently distinguished.’ This offer, which
was gratefully accepted, laid the foundation of an intercourse between
Owen and Sir Robert which ripened by-and-by into something like
friendship. Dinners in London were succeeded by visits to Drayton, at
one of which Owen amused the company with a microscope which he had
brought with him (of course quite accidentally); and, finally, his
portrait was painted for the gallery there, as a pendant to that of
Cuvier. In 1845 Owen refused knighthood.

At this point in Owen’s career it will be convenient to pause for a
moment and describe very briefly what manner of man it was that was
rapidly becoming a leading figure in London society. We remember him
from an earlier date than we care to mention, but, as we have no turn
for portrait-painting, we gladly accept Sir W. Flower’s lifelike sketch:

‘Owen was tall and ungainly in figure, with massive head, lofty
forehead, curiously round, prominent, and expressive eyes, high
cheek-bones, large mouth, and projecting chin, long, lank, dark hair,
and, during the greater part of his life, smooth-shaven face and very
florid complexion.’

His manners were distinguished for ceremonious courtesy, coupled with
the formal exactness of a punctilious Frenchman. His bows were not
easily forgotten. His enemies said, and his friends could not deny, that
they varied with the rank of the person to whom he was presented. In
fact Owen might have said, with Sir Pertinax Macsycophant, ‘I naver in
my life could stond straight i’ th’ presence of a great mon; but awways
boowed, and boowed, and boowed, as it were by instinct.’

Next to what he called ‘my dear comparative anatomy,’ Owen loved music,
and was at one time no mean performer, both vocally and instrumentally.
Music was his constant recreation in an evening, and he has even been
known to take his violoncello out with him to parties. He was a frequent
attendant at concerts and operas, and when Weber’s _Oberon_ was first
performed in London he went to hear it thirty nights in succession. The
stage also had attractions for him, and he and his wife had many friends
in the dramatic profession. Macready in _Henry the Fifth_, Charles Kean
in _Louis XI._ and _Richard III._, and many minor stars, gave him great
pleasure; and it was on the stage of Drury Lane Theatre, while joining
the actors in singing the National Anthem on the occasion of the Queen’s
first state visit, that he met Charles Dickens, who afterwards became
his intimate friend. ‘London,’ he once said, ‘is the place for
interchange of thought’; and it was a relief to him to lay his habitual
pursuits aside for a few hours, and exchange ideas with men whose lives
lay in lines wholly different from his own. He found dining-out a
relaxation—the hours were earlier in those days—and gradually, as his
social gifts were discovered, he was much in request. No man could tell
a story better, and his general conversation was brilliant and original.
He had the happy art of dilating on his own pursuits without being
either a pedant or a bore. Consequently he was a member of many
societies who, ‘greatly daring, dined,’ as, for instance, the Abernethy
Club, the Literary Society, and The Club, founded by Dr Johnson, an
exclusive society limited to forty members, in which he occupied the
place once filled by Oliver Goldsmith. He also promoted the Royal
Literary Fund and the Actors Benevolent Fund—where his after-dinner
eloquence was much appreciated. He was a good chess-player, and was
often matched, successfully, with some of the first players of the day,
as Landseer, Staunton, and the Duke of Brunswick. His acquaintance with
literature was wider than might have been expected from his absorbing
occupations in other directions, and his retentive memory enabled him to
quote pages of Milton, Shakespeare, and other standard writers. He was
also an ardent novel-reader. Mrs Owen kept him well supplied with the
novels of the day; and he sat up half the night over _Eugene Aram_, the
serial stories of Dickens, _Vanity Fair_, _Shirley_, and _The Mill on
the Floss_, which we are glad to find he preferred to all the rest of
George Eliot’s stories. Apart from his social proclivities, he managed
to get acquainted with most of the celebrated people of the day. They
either came to see him and the museum he directed, or they asked him to
call on them. Among those whom he met in this way we may mention Mrs
Fry, Miss Edgeworth, Turner, Samuel Warren, Emerson, Guizot, the younger
Dumas, Fanny Kemble, Tennyson, Macaulay, and Carlyle, who described him
as ‘the man with the glittering eyes,’ and decided that he was ‘neither
a fool nor a humbug.’ In his own especial line of science he was
intimate with Lord Enniskillen, Sir Philip Egerton, Prince Lucien
Bonaparte, Sedgwick, Murchison, Lyell; and subsequently took a keen
interest in the researches of Livingstone, whom he helped with the first
record of his African work. ‘Poor Livingstone!’ he says; ‘he does not
know what it is to write a book.’ When Owen could find time for a
holiday, which was but seldom, he enjoyed fishing and grouse-shooting;
but his delight in Nature was so keen that probably sport was what he
least valued in these excursions.

It was natural that, as Owen’s reputation grew, he should be involved in
some of the schemes for improving the condition of the people which from
time to time engaged the attention of Government. In 1843 he served on a
commission of inquiry into the health of towns, and exercised himself
over sewers, slaughter-houses, and such-like abominations. In 1846 he
was on the Metropolitan Sewers Commission, which grew out of the former,
and he did much good work in hunting up evidence about the spread of
cholera and typhus from imperfect drainage. In the course of this he
incurred considerable unpopularity, and was contemptuously nick-named
‘Jack of all Trades.’ The work became so heavy and absorbing that he
thought of resigning; but when Lord Morpeth urged him to remain, on the
ground that they could ill spare his ‘enlightened philanthropy,’ he not
only withdrew his resignation, but consented to serve on a commission to
consider the state of Smithfield Market and the meat supply of London
(1849), a subject on which he held very decided opinions. Probably his
zoological qualifications, coupled with his knowledge of what had been
effected on the Continent in the way of establishing extramural
slaughter-houses, had much to do with abolishing the market. He was also
on the Preliminary Committee of Organization for the Great Exhibition of
1851, and chairman of the jury on raw materials, alimentary substances,
&c. Similar services were performed by him for the exhibition held at
Paris in 1855.

He was also a mark for many of those questions, serious and absurd
alike, which are presented for solution to men of science. A firm of
undertakers asked him how much they ought to charge for embalming Mr
Beckford; a grave Oriental from the Turkish Embassy submitted to his
examination the bowl of a tobacco-pipe which he believed to have been
made out of the beak of a Phœnix; his opinion was sought by the Home
Office on the window-tax, and by Charles Dickens on the publicity of
executions; his microscopical skill was brought to bear on the so-called
contemporary annotations of Shakespeare; and he demolished one of the
many sea-serpents in which a marvel-loving public from time to time
believes. He showed very conclusively that it was probably a large seal.
His letter to the _Times_ on the subject excited a good deal of
attention, and Prince Albert dubbed him ‘the serpent-killer.’ He was
also to a certain extent responsible for the models of extinct animals
in the gardens of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham, and was rewarded for
his trouble by a dinner in the spacious carcase of the Iguanodon.

In 1856—it is said, through the influence of Lord Macaulay—Owen was
appointed Superintendent of the Department of Natural History at the
British Museum, with a salary of £800 a year. The new officer was to
stand towards the collections of natural history in the same relation
that the librarian did towards the books and antiquities, and to be
directly responsible, as he was, to the trustees. Great advantages were
expected to result from this new departure, and Owen was warmly
congratulated. Professor Sedgwick wrote:

‘I trust that your move to the British Museum is for your happiness. If
God spare your health, it will be a grand move for the benefit of
British science. An _Imperator_ was sadly wanted in that vast
establishment’ (ii. 19).

With Lord Macaulay, anxiety for Owen himself had been paramount:

‘I am extremely desirous that something should be done for Owen. I
hardly know him to speak to. His pursuits are not mine; but his fame is
spread over Europe. He is an honour to our country, and it is painful to
me to think that a man of his merit should be approaching old age amidst
anxieties and distresses. He told me that eight hundred a year, without
a house in the Museum, would be opulence to him’ (ii. 15).

A little foresight might have saved much disappointment. The subordinate
officers, whom Owen was expected to influence, owed no allegiance to
him, and resented his intrusion; they had long been practically
independent within their own departments, and desired to remain so. Such
a situation would have been difficult even for a born leader of men; but
for Owen, whose gifts did not lie in that direction, it meant either
resignation or acceptance of the inevitable. He chose the latter, and,
dropping the sword of a despot, assumed the peaceful mantle of a
constitutional sovereign. His reputation did good service to the
collections in the way of attracting specimens of all kinds from all
parts of the world; and he exerted himself with exemplary diligence to
obtain special _desiderata_; but otherwise his duties as administrator
soon became little more than nominal. There was, however, one subject
connected with the Museum which had long engaged his attention, and
which he had the pleasure to see settled before he died, though not
entirely on the lines he had at first laid down.

It had been manifest for a considerable period that the British Museum
was too small for the various collections, and two years before Owen’s
arrival Dr Gray, keeper of zoology, had made a definite request for
additional accommodation. The trustees, after much consideration, agreed
to a small, but wholly inadequate, extension of one of the galleries.
Owen did not act hastily, but, having thoroughly mastered the subject,
addressed a report to the trustees in 1859, in which he showed that,
having regard to the congestion of the existing galleries, the quantity
of specimens stored out of sight, and the probable rate of increase, a
space of ten acres ought to be acquired at once. This report was
accompanied by a plan, drawn by himself, in which several special
features may be noticed. A central hall was to contain an epitome of
natural history—specimens selected to show the type-characters of the
principal groups—called in subsequent editions of the plan the
Index-Museum; adjoining this hall there was to be a lecture-theatre;
zoology was to include physical ethnology, for which a gallery measuring
150 feet by 50 feet was to be provided; the Cetacea, stuffed specimens
and skeletons, were to have a long gallery to themselves; and lastly,
paleontology was no longer to be separated from zoology, but the gallery
containing the one was to be readily entered from the gallery containing
the other. A plan so novel, so enlightened, so truly imperial as this,
was far too much in advance of the age to meet with anything except
opposition and ridicule. When it was debated in the House of Commons, Mr
Gregory, M.P. for Galway, got it referred to a Select Committee,
regretting, in reference to its author, ‘that a man whose name stood so
high should connect himself with so foolish, crazy, and extravagant a
scheme.’ Owen’s first idea had been to purchase the land required at
Bloomsbury; but on this point he had no very decided personal opinion,
and, yielding to that of the majority of men of science, he advocated by
lecture, by conversation, and in print, the removal of the collections
of natural history to a new and distant site. For this scheme he
fortunately secured the powerful advocacy of Mr Gladstone, then
Chancellor of the Exchequer, who moved (May 12, 1862) for leave to bring
in a Bill to effect it. These excellent intentions were thwarted by Mr
Disraeli, who, knowing no more about science than he did about
primroses, saw only a chance of obstructing a political opponent; and
once more the scheme was adjourned. The adjournment, however, was of
short duration, for in 1863 Parliament voted the purchase of five acres
at South Kensington, which Owen presently persuaded the Government to
increase to eight; but further delays, extending over nearly twenty
years, ensued, and when Owen resigned in 1883 the collections were not
yet completely arranged in their new home.

The Museum as completed is widely different from that which Owen
originally prescribed. The gallery of ethnology is gone; the Cetacea are
relegated, as at Bloomsbury in former days, to a cellar; there is no
lecture-theatre; and, in fact, the index-museum is almost the only
special feature which has survived, but even this was not arranged by
himself. On one vital question of arrangement, moreover, Owen allowed
his own views to be overruled. So early as 1842 he had reported to the
Council of the College of Surgeons on the expediency of combining the
fossil and recent osteological specimens, pointing out that

‘the peculiarities of the extinct mastodon, for example, cannot be
understood without a comparison with the analogous parts of the elephant
and tapir; nor those of the ichthyosaurus without reference to the
skeletons of crocodiles and fishes. The proper position of such
specimens in the Museum is, therefore, between those series of skeletons
of which they present transitional or intermediate structures.’

An arrangement of the recent and fossil collections in accordance with
these most reasonable and philosophical views appears in all the
versions of the plan until the last; now it has entirely disappeared,
and the two collections are disposed in opposite wings of the building
widely severed from each other. Owen had no special turn for
organization, and he was probably in a minority of one against his
colleagues on this point. Besides this, his fighting days were over, and
he preferred peace to an ideal arrangement of which his contemporaries
could not see the advantages.

Owen turned his enforced leisure at the British Museum to good account,
and proceeded, with renewed activity, to occupy himself in various
directions. In 1857 he gave lectures on paleontology at the Royal School
of Mines, and his first course seems to have evoked the enthusiasm of
his earlier days. Said Sir Roderick Murchison:

‘I never heard so thoroughly eloquent a lecture as that of yesterday....
It is the first time I have had the pleasure of seeing our British
Cuvier in his true place, and not the less delighted to listen to his
fervid and convincing defence of the principle laid down by his great
precursor. Everyone was charmed, and he will have done more (as I felt
convinced) to render our institution favourably known than by any other
possible method’ (ii. 61).

Soon afterwards he was appointed (1859-61) Fullerian Professor of
Physiology at the Royal Institution. Here again he chose ‘Fossil
Mammals’ as his subject. In later years he gave frequent lectures on
this and kindred subjects in the larger provincial towns. Nor must we
omit the lectures to the Royal children at Buckingham Palace, which he
delivered at the request of Prince Albert in 1860. These lectures, which
were much appreciated by those for whom they were intended, laid the
foundations of a close friendship between Owen and the Royal Family.

It must not, however, be supposed that these occupations diverted him
from osteology. It was during this period that he wrote many of the
paleontological memoirs to which we have already alluded. He continued
to publish paper after paper on _Dinornis_ as fresh material
accumulated; and he composed, among others, his monograph on the Aye-Aye
(1863), which perhaps excited as much attention as that on the Nautilus
thirty years before.

Between 1866 and 1868 he published his elaborate treatise _On the
Anatomy of Vertebrates_, obviously intended to be the standard work on
the subject for all time. But alas for the fallacies of hope! It is an
immense store-house of information, founded in the main upon his own
observations and dissections; and from no similar work will advanced
students derive so much assistance. But, unfortunately, no revision of
his own papers was attempted; the novel classification employed has
never been accepted by any school of zoologists; and the only result of
the proposed division of the Mammalia into four sub-classes, according
to their cerebral characteristics, was a controversy from which Owen
emerged with his reputation for scientific accuracy seriously impaired,
if not irretrievably ruined. He had stated, not merely in the work of
which we are speaking, but in others—as, for instance, in the Rede
Lecture delivered at Cambridge in 1859—that certain divisions of the
human brain were absent in the apes. It was proved over and over again,
in public and private, that this assertion was contrary to fact, and
contrary to his own authorities; but he could never be persuaded to
retract, or even to modify, his statements.

At the end of the third volume of the _Anatomy_ are some ‘General
Conclusions,’ which contain, so far as human intelligence can penetrate
the meaning of Owen’s ‘dark speech,’ his final views on the origin of
species. We have already shown that his mind was first turned to this
momentous question during his visit to Paris in 1831, and that
subsequently, during his work on the Physiological and Osteological
Catalogues of the Museum of the College of Surgeons, it was continually
in his thoughts. During this period he read, and was profoundly
influenced by, Oken’s _Lehrbuch der Naturphilosophie_, a translation of
which was published by the Ray Society, in 1847, at his instance. In his
_Archetype and Homologies of the Vertebrate Skeleton_ (1848) he says:

‘The subject of the following essay has occupied a portion of my
attention from the period when, after having made a certain progress in
comparative anatomy, the evidence of a greater conformity to type,
especially in the bones of the head of the vertebrate animals, than the
immortal Cuvier had been willing to admit, began to enforce a
reconsideration of his conclusions, to which I had previously yielded
implicit assent.’

Out of the study here indicated there grew a revision of the vertebrate
skeleton, in which the homologues (_i.e._ the same organs in different
animals, under every variety of form and function) were recognized, and
a new system of osteological nomenclature was proposed. In this Owen did
excellent work, which has been generally accepted. But in his anxiety to
recognize and account for ‘the one in the many,’ he adopted Oken’s idea
of the skeleton being resolvable into a succession of vertebræ, and
evolved the idea of an archetype. It is almost inconceivable that the
clear-headed and sagacious interpreter, whose sober conclusions we have
indicated through a long series of zoological and paleontological
memoirs, should have ever adopted these transcendental speculations. But
there was evidently a metaphysical side to his mind, and he took a keen,
almost a puerile, delight in this child of his fancy. He even had a seal
engraved with a symbolical representation of it. To show that we are not
exaggerating we will quote his own account of his views when sending the
seal to his sister:

‘It represents the archetype, or primal pattern—what Plato would have
called the “Divine Idea”—on which the osseous frame of all vertebrate
animals has been constructed. The motto is “The One in the Manifold,”
expressive of the unity of plan which may be traced through all the
modifications of the pattern, by which it is adapted to the varied
habits and modes of life of fishes, reptiles, birds, beasts, and human
kind. Many have been the attempts to discover the vertebrate archetype,
and it seems now generally felt that it has been found’ (i. 388).

But, assuming Owen to have really discovered the one, he was as far off
as ever from the origin of the many. And on this subject he never did
reach any definite conclusion. He admits, it is true, a theory which
sounds very like evolution:

‘Thus, at the acquisition of facts adequate to test the moot question of
links between past and present species, as at the close of that other
series of researches proving the skeleton of all Vertebrates, and even
of Man, to be the harmonized sum of a series of essentially similar
segments, I have been led to recognize species as exemplifying the
continuous operation of natural law, or secondary cause; and that, not
only successively, but progressively; from the first embodiment of the
Vertebrate idea under its old Ichthyic vestment until it became arrayed
in the glorious garb of the human form[122].’

In this quotation he is in the main stating the views he held in 1849,
for the latter portion of it is from his essay _On the Nature of Limbs_,
published in that year. But the nature of the secondary cause which
produced species cannot be concluded from his works. He fiercely
contested Darwin’s theory of natural selection, both in conversation and
in periodicals. To the last he clung to a notion of a ‘vital property,’
which is thus described in the _Anatomy_ (iii. 807):

‘So, being unable to accept the volitional hypothesis, or that of
impulse from within, or the selective force exerted by outward
circumstances, I deem an innate tendency to deviate from parental type,
operating through periods of adequate duration, to be the most probable
nature, or way of operation, of the secondary law, whereby species have
been derived one from the other.’

In 1883 Owen resigned his office at the British Museum and retired into
private life. His remaining years were passed at Sheen in a tranquil and
apparently happy old age. In 1884 he was gazetted a K.C.B., and, on Mr
Gladstone’s initiative, his pension was augmented by £100 a year. But,
though it pleased him to be always pleading poverty, he was really a
comparatively wealthy man, and when he died left £30,000 behind him. His
wife died in 1873, and his only son in 1886; but a solitude which might
have been painful was enlivened by the presence of his son’s widow and
her seven children. Owen delighted in the country. He had a genuine love
for outdoor natural history, and ‘the sight of the deer and other
animals in the park, the birds and insects in the garden, the trees,
flowers, and varying aspects of the sky, filled him with enthusiastic
admiration.’ He died, literally of old age, on Sunday, 18 January, 1892.

It is much to be regretted that one who worked at his own subjects with
such untiring zeal should have left behind him almost nothing to
perpetuate his name with the great mass of the people. Mr Huxley remarks
that, ‘whether we consider the quantity or the quality of the work done,
or the wide range of his labours, I doubt if, in the long annals of
anatomy, more is to be placed to the credit of any single worker’ (ii.
306); but he presently adds this caution: ‘Obvious as are the merits of
Owen’s anatomical work to every expert, it is necessary to be an expert
to discern them’ (ii. 332). He gave popular lectures, but they were not
printed[123]; he wrote what he intended to be a work for all time, but
it has faded out of recollection, and the whole theory of the archetype
is now as dead as his own Dinornis. Nor was he at pains to surround
himself with a circle of pupils who might have handed down the teaching
of the Master to another generation, as Cuvier’s teaching was handed
down by his pupils. It was one of Owen’s defects that he was repellent
to younger men. In a word, he was secretive, impatient of interference,
and preferred to be _aut Cæsar aut nullus_. Credit was to him worth
nothing if it was to be divided. Again, brilliant as were his talents
and assured as was his position, he could not recognize the truth that
men may sometimes err, and that the greatest gain rather than lose by
admitting it. During the whole of his long life we believe that he never
owned to a mistake. Not only was what he said law, but what others
ventured to say—especially if it ‘came between the wind and his
nobility’—was to be brushed aside as of no moment. We believe that this
feeling on his part explains his refusal to accept the Darwinian theory.
As we have shown, he went half way with it, and then dropped it, because
it had not been hammered on his own anvil. This unfortunate antagonism
to other workers, coupled with his readiness to enter into controversy,
and the acrimony and dexterity with which he handled his adversaries,
naturally discouraged those who would otherwise have been only too happy
to sit at the feet of the Nestor of English zoology; and during the last
thirty years of his life he became gradually more and more isolated.
Moreover, there was, or there was thought to be, a certain want of
sincerity about him which no amount of external courtesy could wholly
conceal. In a word, he was compact of strange contradictions. He had
many noble qualities; and yet he could not truly be called great, for
they were warped and overshadowed by many moral perversities. Had he
lived in the previous century his portrait might have been sketched by
Pope:

                    ‘But were there one whose fires
            True genius kindles and fair fame inspires;
            Blest with each talent and each art to please,
            And born to write, converse, and live with ease;
            Should such a man, too fond to rule alone,
            Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne,
            View him with scornful yet with jealous eyes,
            And hate for arts that caused himself to rise;

                *     *     *     *     *     *     *

            Like _Cato_, give his little senate laws,
            And sit attentive to his own applause;
            While wits and templars every sentence raise,
            And wonder with a foolish face of praise—
            Who but must laugh, if such a man there be?
            Who would not weep, if _Atticus_ were he!’



------------------------------------------------------------------------

   CAMBRIDGE: PRINTED BY J. AND C. F. CLAY, AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



CAMBRIDGE DESCRIBED & ILLUSTRATED. Being a Short History of the Town and
    University. By THOMAS DINHAM ATKINSON; with an Introduction by JOHN
    WILLIS CLARK, M.A., F.S.A., Registrary of the University, late
    Fellow of Trinity College. With Twenty-Nine Steel Plates, numerous
    Illustrations and Maps. 8vo. 21_s._ net.

_DAILY CHRONICLE._—“He has conferred a favour upon all lovers of
literature and its early seats by going at much length and with great
care into the questions not only of municipality, but of the University
and the colleges.... A good thing well done.”

_DAILY NEWS._—“All Cambridge men will be interested in the many quaint
and curious descriptions of mediæval manners and customs of the
University Town which Mr. Atkinson has collected. To all with
archæological interests we strongly recommend the volume.”

_ACADEMY._—“His book will be welcomed by all those who desire to get, in
the compass of a single volume, a comprehensive view of both Town and
University. The illustrations throughout the volume are well drawn and
excellently reproduced.”

_MORNING POST._—“A volume which is copiously illustrated by excellent
plates, drawings, and maps, and to which an admirable general index
lends an additional value.”

_SPECTATOR._—“We hail this interesting volume, which attempts to do what
has heretofore been neglected (save in Cooper’s monumental work),—viz.
combine in one survey the general history and description of both the
University and town of Cambridge.”

_CAMBRIDGE REVIEW._—“This most interesting and beautiful book.... To
most of us this compact volume will come not so much as a luxury, but as
one of that class of commodities known to economists as being
‘conventionally necessary.’”

_LITERATURE._—“Throughout deserves the highest praise.”

                London: Macmillan and Company, Limited.

                    Cambridge: Macmillan and Bowes.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

A CONCISE GUIDE TO THE TOWN AND UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE in Four Walks.
    By JOHN WILLIS CLARK, M.A., F.S.A., Registrary of the University,
    formerly Fellow of Trinity College. With Map and 75 Illustrations.
    Price 1_s._ net, or in limp cloth cover with pocket and duplicate of
    the map, 2_s._ net.

_TIMES._—“All intelligent visitors to Cambridge, however short their
stay, will be grateful to Mr. J. W. Clark, the Registrary of the
University, for his excellent _Concise Guide to the Town and University
of Cambridge in Four Walks_. It is not often that the casual visitor to
a place of great historical and architectural interest like Cambridge
finds so competent a _cicerone_ as Mr. Clark to tell him what he can see
and what is best worth seeing in the time at his disposal.”

_ATHENÆUM._—“Mr. J. Willis Clark has written _A Concise Guide to
Cambridge_ of unusual excellence.”

_DAILY CHRONICLE._—“An ideal guide-book by a former Fellow of Trinity.”

_MANCHESTER GUARDIAN._—“Mr. Clark’s varied accomplishments raise this
little book quite out of the category of ordinary popular guide-books.”

_ACADEMY._—“In a book of its size the information is, of course, much
condensed, but so far as it goes it is excellent.”

 LIBRARIES IN THE MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE PERIODS. The Rede Lecture,
     delivered June 13, 1894. By J. W. CLARK, M.A., F.S.A. Crown 8vo.
     2_s._ 6_d._ net.

                    Cambridge: Macmillan and Bowes.

------------------------------------------------------------------------





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