Schmitz, Leonhard (DNB00)
|←Schimmelpenninck, Mary Anne||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 50
SCHMITZ, LEONHARD, LL.D. (1807–1890), historical writer, was born at Eupen, near Aix-la-Chapelle, on 6 March 1807. In 1817 his father died. Schmitz, who as a child was deprived by an accident of his right arm, received his early education at the gymnasium at Aix-la-Chapelle, and, obtaining a scholarship, he studied from 1828 to 1832 at the university of Bonn under Niebuhr, Welcker, Ritschl, and Brandis. In 1833 he passed his final examination. He engaged in teaching both in the gymnasium and privately, and after marrying in 1836 a young English lady, Eliza Mary Machell, who had come to Bonn to study German, obtained an engagement as private tutor in Yorkshire early in 1837. He became a naturalised British subject, and soon formed a lifelong friendship with Connop Thirlwall [q. v.] (afterwards bishop of St. David's). In 1841 he graduated at Bonn as Ph.D., and next year published, with Dr. (afterwards Sir) William Smith [q. v.], a translation of the third volume of Niebuhr's ‘History of Rome;’ the first and second volumes had been translated by Thirlwall and Hare in 1828–31.
With the support of George Cornewall Lewis, Thirlwall, Grote, Long, Bunsen, Dr. William Smith, and other scholars, Schmitz started, as a quarterly, the ‘Classical Museum’ in June 1843, and carried it on to December 1849. In 1844, at the instigation of Thirlwall and Bunsen, he published a translation of Niebuhr's ‘Lectures on the History of Rome,’ based on his notes taken in the lecture-room at Bonn. This work, in three volumes, made Schmitz's reputation. It led to the publication of an authorised edition in German, and the king of Prussia awarded him ‘the great gold medal for literature and science.’
In December 1845 Schmitz became rector of the high school of Edinburgh, and during the twenty years he held that post he proved himself a practical teacher of eminence. In 1859 the Prince of Wales came to Edinburgh to receive instruction as a private student from Dr. Schmitz, and in 1862–3 the Duke of Edinburgh was his pupil. The Duc d'Aumale, the Prince de Joinville, and the Duc de Nemours also placed their sons under his charge at the high school. At the same time his learned writings made German learning familiar to Englishmen, and helped to develop the study of classical literature throughout the country. While resident at Edinburgh he wrote much for the ‘Penny Cyclopædia,’ edited by George Long; for the eighth edition of the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica;’ for Knight's ‘English Cyclopædia;’ for the ‘Biographical Dictionary of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge;’ and for Dr. William Smith's well-known classical dictionaries. He also superintended, with Professor Zumpt, an excellent series of classical school-books for Messrs. W. and R. Chambers. His ‘History of Rome,’ 1847, proved an exceptionally successful school-book. In 1862 he furnished an introduction to Dr. W. P. Dickson's translation of Mommsen's ‘History of Rome.’
Schmitz resigned his office at Edinburgh in 1866, and from that year until 1874 was principal of the London International College at Isleworth. From 1874 to 1879, and from 1884 till 1889, he acted as classical examiner in the university of London, at the same time actively carrying on his literary work. In January 1881 a civil list pension of 50l. a year was conferred on Schmitz, and the amount was doubled in 1886. In 1889, when he met with a severe accident at Portsmouth, his friends and pupils, including the prince of Wales, presented him with a testimonial of upwards of 1,400l.
Schmitz was an LL.D. of the universities of Aberdeen (1849) and Edinburgh (1886), and a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1846). He died on 28 May 1890, and was buried in Hampstead parish churchyard. By his wife, who survived him, he had five sons and six daughters. The eldest son, Carl Theodor Schmitz (d. 1862), M.D. of Edinburgh University, went to India on the medical staff in 1861, and, after an heroic career during the cholera epidemic in the Punjaub, died on his way home. One of Dr. Schmitz's daughters married Professor Young of Glasgow University; another married Dr. Wace, dean of Canterbury, formerly principal of King's College, London; and a third daughter, L. Dora Schmitz, translated many German works.
Schmitz's services as an interpreter between English and German scholarship were very valuable. Besides the works mentioned and many classical school-books, he translated into English Wigger's ‘Life of Socrates’ (1840), Zumpt's large ‘Latin Grammar,’ 1840 (abridged in 1847), and ‘School Latin Grammar’ (1846), Niebuhr's ‘Lectures on Ancient Ethnography and Geography,’ 2 vols. 1853; and into German Thirlwall's ‘History of Greece,’ 1840. Among his other publications were: 1. ‘History of Greece,’ 1850. 2. ‘Manual of Ancient History,’ 2 vols. 1855–9. 3. ‘Manual of Ancient Geography,’ 1857. 4. ‘History of the Middle Ages,’ vol. i. 1859. 5. ‘History of England,’ 1873; enlarged edition, 1877. 6. ‘Library Atlas, with descriptive Letterpress of Classical Geography,’ 1875. 7. ‘History of Latin Literature,’ 1877.[Steven's History of the Edinburgh High School; Times, 30 May 1890; Athenæum, 7 June 1890; Cat. of Advocates' Library; Men of the Reign; Allibone's Dict.; private information.]