Cook, Frederic Charles (DNB01)

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COOK, FREDERIC CHARLES (1810–1889), editor of the 'Speaker's Commentary,' born in Berkshire in 1810, was admitted as a sizar of St. John's College, Cambridge, 8 July 1824, graduated B.A. with a first class in the classical tripos in 1831, and M.A. in 1844. After leaving Cambridge he studied for a while under Niebuhr at Bonn. He was ordained by the bishop of London (Blomfield) in 1839, and a few years later was made her majesty's inspector of church schools. In this capacity he issued in 1849 his 'Poetry for Schools.' In 1857 he was appointed chaplain-in-ordinary to the queen, in 1860 he became preacher at Lincoln's Inn, in 1864 canon-residentiary at Exeter Cathedral (replacing Harold Browne), and in 1869 chaplain to the bishop of London. About 1864, when the minds of many persons were disquieted by the 'Essays and Reviews,' and by the critical investigations of Colenso, the idea occurred to John Evelyn Denison, afterwards Viscount Ossington, then speaker of the House of Commons, that the difficulties which had been raised with regard to the bible should be answered by the church in a sufficient manner. A commission was formed, after consultation with the bishops, which divided the bible into eight sections, and for each section chose the scholars who were most competent to handle it. The editorship of the whole was entrusted to Cook, who had the reputation of being a good Hebrew scholar and egyptologist, with an adequate knowledge of recent geographical discovery in Palestine. Cook was assisted by the archbishop of York and the regius professors of theology at Oxford and Cambridge. The first volume, containing Genesis and Exodus, was reached in 1871, and the fourth volume of the New Testament in 1881. The whole of ' The Speaker's Commentary,' as it was called, forms ten volumes, excluding the Apocrypha, which were treated separately under the editorship of Dr. Wace in 1888. The editor's supervision of the work of his colleagues was largely confined to seeing that no important investigations on their respective subjects were accidentally unnoticed. The learning displayed in the work was unfortunately felt by many to be neutralised by the avowedly apologetic aim of the undertaking. The portions (by Dr. Harold Browne) referring to the Pentateuch were criticised with a damaging severity by Colenso, Dr. A. Kuenen, and others. Cook himself was a very severe critic of the labours of the revisers of the New Testament, and in his volume on 'The Revised Version of the First Three Gospels' (1882) he went so far as to maintain that the southern convocation, owing to the omissions, corruptions, and blunders of the revisers, had incurred a terrible weight of responsibility. Cook was made precentor of Exeter Cathedral in 1872. He resigned his preachership at Lincoln's Inn in 1880. He devoted his time thenceforth almost wholly to philology, and produced his remarkable 'The Origins of Religion and Language' (1884), in which he upheld the original unity of speech. He is said to have been acquainted with fifty-two languages. He was a complete invalid during the last years of his life, but went on adding to his excellent library, which he bequeathed to the chapter, and which is now housed in the new cloister building at Exeter. He died at Exeter on 22 June 1889. He married on 2 June 1846 Jessie Barbara, daughter of Alexander Douglas M'Kenzie of Burleston, Huntingdonshire, but left no issue. His widow survived him but a few months, dying at Exeter on 5 Oct. 1889 (Guardian, 9 Oct.)

[Times, 24 June 1889; Guardian, 26 June 1889; Western Morning News, 24 June 1889; Notes and Gleanings, ii. 114-20; The Patrician, i. 290 ; note from Mr. E. F. Scott, fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge ; Grad. Cantabr. ; Theologisch Tijdschrift, May and September, 1873 ; works in Brit, Mus. Lite.]

T. S.