Guest, Edwin (DNB00)
|←Guest, Edmund||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 23
GUEST, EDWIN (1800–1880), historical writer, belonged to an old family long settled at Row Heath, in the parish of King's Norton, Worcestershire, and of which Edmund Guest [q. v.], bishop of Salisbury, who died in 1578, was a member. His father was a merchant, who retired from business with a considerable fortune at the close of the Napoleonic wars. His mother, who died when he was a child, belonged to the Scotch family of Rio. He received his early education at King Edward VI's grammar school, Birmingham, under Dr. Cook, then head-master. In deference to his father's wishes he gave up an early desire to enter the army, although to his latest years he took a great interest in military matters. He matriculated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, in 1819, was eleventh wrangler and B.A. 1824, M.A. 1827, LL.D. 1853, ad eundem D.C.L. Oxford 1853. He was elected fellow of Caius in 1824, and afterwards travelled on the continent, and remained for a year at Weimar, where he made the acquaintance of Goethe. Goethe paid him considerable attention, having been much gratified by receiving from Guest Shelley's translations from 'Faust,' previously unknown to him. Returning to England, where he had been entered at Lincoln's Inn in 1822, he became a pupil in the chambers of Mr. (afterwards Lord) Campbell, and was called to the bar in 1828. He joined the midland circuit, and practised his profession for some years, finally abandoning it to follow literary pursuits. His first published work was the 'History of English Rhythms,' in 1838, a book the compilation of which entailed immense labour, many of the poems having to be consulted in manuscript. Guest was practically the founder of the Philological Society, and was secretary at the inaugural meeting in 1842. Among his coadjutors in this work were Bishop Thirlwall, Professor Key, Mr. Wedgwood, and Dr. Arnold. From time to time he read papers before this society, which his genuine enthusiasm for his subject as well as the severely conscientious accuracy of his work rendered noticeable. He was indefatigable in his study of ancient remains in England, and in tracing the course of historical geography; and for this purpose he was in the habit of walking for miles across country. Before writing his paper on Julius Cæsar's invasion of Britain he carefully surveyed the coast on both sides of the Channel. This brought him under the notice of Napoleon III, at that time engaged upon his 'Life of Cæsar,' who consulted him on several points through M. Alfred Maury. Guest explained his views and opinions very carefully, but Maury received his remarks with the observation, 'It won't suit the emperor.' He was elected F.R.S. in 1839, honorary member of the Society of Antiquaries 1852, and master of Caius College, Cambridge, 1852. He was vice-chancellor 1854-5, during which time Lord John Russell's university commission was sitting. He bought an estate in the parish of Sandford St. Martin, Oxfordshire, and his principal recreation from literary and academic pursuits was found in the careful improvement of his estate, and in the provision of suitable dwelling-houses for his tenants. At Cambridge he was always anxious to promote in every way the interests of his college. Guest was a man of great kindness of heart, unaffected piety, benevolence, and urbanity. At the same time he had considerable firmness and readiness in defending any position he took up. He was an unvacillating conservative and an evangelical churchman. He resigned the mastership of Caius College shortly before his death, which took place at Sandford Park, 23 Nov. 1880. He married, in 1859, Anne, daughter of Mr. Joseph Ferguson, at one time M.P. for Carlisle, and widow of Major Banner, of the 93rd highlanders.
Guest's writings are of exceptional value in the study of Roman-British history, which he may almost be said to have created. Besides 'A History of English Rhythms,' published in 2 vols. in 1838 (2nd edition, 1882, ed. Professor Skeat), he wrote the following papers:—In the 'Transactions of the Philological Society,' vol. i.: 'On Certain Welsh Names of Places preserved in English Compounds;' 'On certain Inflexions of the Old English Adjective;' 'On English Gentile Nouns, and more particularly on their Secondary Uses as Names of Districts;' 'On English Pronouns Indeterminate;' 'On the Ellipsis and on the Pleonastic Use of the Pronoun Personal in English Syntax;' 'On English Pronouns Personal;' vol. ii.: 'On the Ellipsis of the Verb in English Syntax:' 'On the Anomalous Verbs of the English Language;' 'On the Anomalies of the English Verb arising from the Letter Changes;' 'On the English Verb Substantive;' 'On the Ordinary Inflexions of the English Verb;' vol. iii.:' On Orthographical Expedients;' 'On the Elements of Language, their Arrangement and their Accidents—the Labials,’ three papers; vol. iv.: ‘On the Elements of Language, their Arrangements and their Accidents;’ vol. v.: ‘On the Roots of Language, their Arrangement and their Accidents;’ ‘On the Origin of certain Anglo-Saxon Idioms;’ ‘On certain Foreign Terms adopted by our Ancestors prior to their Settlement in the British Islands;’ vol. vi.: ‘On the Etymology of the Word Stonehenge.’ In the ‘Archæological Proceedings’ (1842): ‘On the Early English Settlements in South Britain.’ In the ‘Archæological Journal,’ vol. viii.: ‘On the Belgic Districts, and the Probable Date of Stonehenge;’ vol. xiv.: ‘The Four Roman Ways;’ vol. xvi.: ‘On the Boundaries which separated the Welsh and English Races, &c.;’ vol. xxi.: ‘On Julius Cæsar's Invasion of Britain;’ vol. xxiii.: ‘The Campaign of Aulus Plautius in Britain.’ He also wrote ‘University Tests,’ Cambridge, 1871. Two volumes, the first of reprinted papers, and the second of hitherto imprinted materials for a history of early Britain, edited by Dr. Stubbs (now bishop of Oxford) and the Rev. C. Deedes, were published after Guest's death, under the title of ‘Origines Celticæ,’ in 1883.[Memoir prefixed to Origines Celticæ; Marshall's Account of Sandford; private information.]