A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Helps, Sir Arthur

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Helps, Sir Arthur (1813-1875).—Essayist and historian, was b. at Streatham, Surrey, and ed. at Eton and Camb. After leaving the Univ. he was private sec. to various public men, and in 1841, his circumstances rendering him independent of employment, he retired to Bishop's Waltham, and devoted himself for 20 years to study and writing. Appointed, in 1860, Clerk to the Privy Council, he became known to, and a favourite of, Queen Victoria, who entrusted him with the task of editing the Speeches and Addresses of the Prince Consort (1862), and her own book, Leaves from the Journal of our Life in the Highlands (1868). Of his own publications the first was Thoughts in the Cloister and the Crowd (1835), a series of aphorisms, and there followed, among others, Essays written in the Intervals of Business (1841), Friends in Council, 4 series (1847-59), Realmah (1869), and Conversations on War and General Culture (1871). In history H. wrote The Conquerors of the New World (1848-52), and The Spanish Conquests in America, 4 vols. (1855-61). He also wrote a Life of Thos. Brassey, and, as the demand for his historical works fell off, he repub. parts of them as individual biographies of Las Casas, Columbus, Pizarro, and Cortez. He also tried the drama, but without success. His essays are his most successful work, containing as they do the thoughts and opinions of a shrewd, experienced, and highly cultivated man, written in what Ruskin called "beautiful quiet English." They have not, however, any exceptional depth or originality.