Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 05.djvu/18
Fields. Another divine among the most cherished friends of Elhanan Winchester, author of 'Universal Restoration' (Christian Reformer, xviii. 56). William Bicknell bought the copyright of this work in the year of his son Elhanan s birth, and on finding that his bargain was profitable, he generously surrendered it to the author in 1789, with a characteristic letter (ibid.) Elhanan Bicknell was educated by his father, who, having established a school at Ponder's End in 1789, when Elhanan was an infant, removed it to Tooting common in 1804; and there among Elhanan's schoolfellows, was Thomas Wilde, afterwards Lord Chancellor Truro. In 1808 Elhanan was sent to Cause, near Shrewsbury, to learn farming; but at the end of a year this project was abandoned. He returned to London and joined a firm at Newington Butts, engaged in the sperm whale fishery, into which, for over half century, he threw all his ative energies and financial aptitude. About 1835 he foresaw how the repeal of the navigation laws, thenn in agitation, would injure his individual trade, yet he magnanimously supported the movement, together with the abolition of all protection; and when the inevitable crippling of his undertakings and his income came, he cheerfully accepted it. In 1838, having occupied his residence at Herne Hill, Surrey, since 1819, Bicknell commenced there his manificent collection of pictures, all of the modern British school. In the course of twelve years, 1838-50, be became the posessor of masterpeices of Gainsborough, turner, Roberts, Landseer, Stanfield, Webster, Collins, Etty, Callcott, &c. (Waagen, Treasures of Art, ii. 359; Art Journal, 1862, p. 45); and, in default of a gallery, these splendid works, with many pieces of sculpture, such as Baily's 'Eve,' enriched all the principal apartments of his house, and were always hospitably open to the inspection of art connoisseurs. Bicknell, moreover, became acquainted with artists themselves, as well as with their works; he was munificient in his payments, and generously entertained them. Bicknell had bought many of Turner's best works before Mr. Ruskin's advocacy had made their beauties known. He had a strong desire to leave his collection to the nation; but for family reasons his pictures, which numbered 122 at his death, were eventually sold at Christie's auction rooms, realising a sum little short of 80,000l. (Times, 27 April 1863). The Marquis of Hertford bought about one-third for his own gallery.
In politics and in theology Elhanan Bicknell was an ardent and advanced liberal. He supported unitarianism consistently and warmly, was a principal contributor to the building of the unitarian chapel at Brixton, and gave 1,000l. to the British and foreign Unitarian Assocation (Inquirer, 7 Dec. 1861, p. 895). His remarkable business powers, which were recofnised on all sides, led to his being invited to become a partner in the great firm of Maudslay, the eminent engineer, but this offer was declined. In 1859 his health began to fail, and he retired from business. He passed the rest of his time at Herne Hill, where he died 27 Nov. 1681, aged 72 (Inquirere, 30 Nov. 1861). He was buried at Norwood.
In 1829 Bicknell married Lucinda Browne, a sister of Hablot Knight Browne ('Phiz'). He left a large family by this and a previous marriage, and several of his sons (one of whom married the only child of David Roberts, R.A.), in succeeding to his fortune, have made names for themselves in the various departments of art patronage, travel, and reform, in which he himself took constant delight.
Waagen's Treasures of Art in great Britain, i. 36, ii. 349; Christian Reformer, viii. 55 et seq.; Inquirer, 1861, p. 895; Art Journal, 1862, p. 45; Athenæum, 7 Dec. 1861; Times, 27 April 1863; private information.]
BICKNELL, HERMAN (1830–1875), author, orientalist, and traveller, third son of Elhanan Bicknell [q. v.], born at Herne Hill 2 April 1830, received his education at Paris, Hanover, University College, and St. Bartholomew's Hospital. After taking his degree at the College of Surgeons in 1854, and passing the military medical examination, he joined the 59th regiment at Hong Kong in 1855 as assistant surgeon, whence he was transferred, in 1856, to the 81st regiment at Mianmír, Lahore. Whilst serving four years in India, throughout the period of the great mutiny, he assiduously studied oriental dialects, at intervals exploring portions of Java, Thibet, and the Himalayas. On returning to England, by the Indus and Palestine, he exchanged into the 84th regiment, and was soon placed on the staff at Aldershot, but speedily resigned his commission, that he might devote himself entirely to travel and languages. From this period he undertook many journeys of various duration and difficulty, extending from the Arctic regions to the Andes of Ecuador, and from America to the far East, more especially with the object of improving himself in ethnology, botany, and general science. In 1862 he started from London in the assumed character of an English Mohammedan