Wratislaw, Albert Henry (DNB00)

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WRATISLAW, ALBERT HENRY (1822–1892), Slavonic scholar, of Czech descent, the grandson of an émigré of 1790, and son of William Ferdinand, ‘Count’ Wratislaw von Mitro-vitz (1788–1853), a solicitor of Rugby, by his wife, Charlotte Anne (d. 1863), was born at Rugby on 5 Nov. 1822. He entered Rugby School, aged seven, on 5 Nov. 1829 (Register, i. 161), and matriculated at Cambridge from Trinity College in 1840, but migrated to Christ's, where he was admitted 28 April 1842; he graduated B.A. as third classic and twenty-fifth senior optime in 1844. Having in the meantime been appointed fellow (1844–1853) and tutor of his college, he commenced M.A. in 1847, and next year, in collaboration with Dr. Charles Anthony Swainson [q. v.], published ‘Loci Communes: Common Places.’ During the long vacation of 1849 he visited Bohemia, studied the Czech language in Prague, and in the same autumn published at London ‘Lyra Czecho Slovanska, or Bohemian poems, ancient and modern, translated from the original Slavonic, with an introductory essay,’ which he dedicated to Count Valerian Krasinski, as ‘from a descendant of a kindred race.’

In August 1850 Wratislaw was appointed headmaster of Felsted school, his being the last appointment made by the representatives of the founder, Richard Rich, baron Rich [q. v.] During the last twenty-four years, under Thomas Surridge, the school had greatly declined in numbers. Wratislaw commenced with twenty-two boys, and the revival of the school was by him inaugurated. Unfortunately he found the climate of Felsted too bleak for him, and in 1855 he migrated, with a number of his Felsted pupils, to Bury St. Edmund's, to become headmaster of King Edward VI's grammar school there. At Bury also he greatly raised the numbers of the school, which the ‘Book of Jasher’ of his predecessor, Dr. John William Donaldson [q. v.], is said to have helped to empty. During the twenty years that followed his appointment at Felsted scholastic work took up nearly all Wratislaw's time. He published several texts and school books, but found it difficult to keep up his Bohemian studies, though he issued in 1852 ‘The Queen's Court Manuscript, with other ancient Bohemian Poems,’ translated from the original Slavonic into English verse, mostly in ballad metre. The poems thus rendered had been discovered by Hanka in the tower of a church at Königinhof in 1817. Experts assigned the date 1290 to the collection, which proved of great value both intrinsically and on account of the impulse which it gave to the revival of Czech national literature (see Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. i. 556, 605). Ten years elapsed between this publication and that of the most interesting ‘Adventures of Baron Wenceslas Wratislaw of Mitrowitz. What he saw in the Turkish Metropolis … experienced in his captivity, and, after his happy return to his country, committed to writing in 1599;’ this was literally translated from the Bohemian work first published from the original manuscript by Pelzel in 1777, and prefaced by a brief sketch of Bohemian history. It was followed in 1871 by a version from the Slavonic of the ‘Diary of an Embassy from King George of Bohemia to King Louis XI of France.’ Two years later, as the result of much labour, Wratislaw produced the ‘Life, Legend, and Canonization of St. John Nepomucen, Patron Saint and Protector of the Order of the Jesuits,’ being a most damaging investigation of the myth contrived by the jesuits in 1729. Among the small group of scholars in England taking an interest in Slavonic literature Wratislaw's reputation was now established, and in April 1877 he was called upon to deliver four lectures upon his subject at the Taylorian Institution in Oxford, under the Ilchester foundation. These were published at London next year as ‘The Native Literature of Bohemia in the Fourteenth Century.’

In 1879 he resigned his headmastership at Bury St. Edmund's, and was appointed to the college living of Manorbier in Pembrokeshire. There he wrote his excellent sketch, ‘John Huss, the Commencement of Resistance to Papal Authority on the part of the Inferior Clergy’ (London, 1882, 8vo, in the ‘Home Library’), based mainly upon the exhaustive researches of Palacký and Tomek. His last work was a charming collection of ‘Sixty Folk-Tales from exclusively Slavonic sources,’ translated into English prose, with introduction and notes (London, 1889). The stories were taken from Erben's ‘Cítanka,’ 1865, and the admitted merit of the version shows that Wratislaw had a considerable knowledge of the various Slavonic languages illustrated by the originals. He gave up his benefice, owing mainly to failing sight, in 1889, and retired to Southsea. He died there at Graythwaite, Alhambra Road, on 3 Nov. 1892, aged 70. He married on 28 Dec. 1853, at High Wycombe, Frances Gertrude, second daughter of the Rev. Joseph Charles Helm (d. 1844).

[Athenæum, 12 Nov. 1892; Times, 5 Nov., and Guardian, 9 Nov. 1892; Luard's Graduati Cantabr.; Sargeaunt's Felsted School, 1889, p. 34.]

T. S.