Austen Leigh, Augustus (DNB12)

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AUSTEN LEIGH, AUGUSTUS (1840–1905), thirty-second provost of King's College, Cambridge, born at Scarlets, Berkshire, on 17 July 1840, was sixth son of J. Edward Austen (after 1836 Austen Leigh, who died vicar of Bray (Berks) in 1874) and of Emma (d. 1876), daughter of Charles Smith, M.P., of Suttons in Essex. Austen Leigh entered Eton as a colleger in 1852; in 1858-9 he played cricket for the school. In 1859 he entered King's College, Cambridge, as a scholar on the foundation, gained a Browne medal for Latin ode, and a members' prize for Latin essay in 1862, graduated as fourth classic in 1863, and proceeded M.A. in 1866. He became fellow of his college in 1862, was ordained deacon by the bishop of Lincoln (visitor of the college) in 1865, and from 1865 to 1867 was curate of Henley-on-Thames. He never proceeded to priest's orders. In 1867 he returned to King's College, where he passed the rest of his life, taking an active part in teaching and administrative work. From 1868 to 1881 he was tutor, dean in 1871-3 and again in 1882-5, and from 1877 to 1889 vice-provost. On the death of Richard Okes [q. v.] he was elected provost (9 Feb. 1889). In 1876-80 and again in 1886-90 he was a member of the council of the senate, and in 1893-5 he served the office of vice-chancellor. Austen Leigh's work was that of an administrator, and his leading characteristics were fair-mindedness, courtesy, and unsparing industry. In the year in which he entered King's College, the old privilege of the foundation, in virtue of which Kingsmen were admitted to the degree of B.A. without passing any university examination, had been surrendered. This was only the first of a long series of reforms, which took shape in two successive bodies of statutes, ratified in 1861 and 1882 respectively. Under these the college, hitherto a close corporation of Eton collegers, was thrown open to the world. In the furthering of these reforms and in guiding their progress with justice and moderation, lay the principal achievement of Austen Leigh's life. As provost, he presided over the college with striking success during a period of its history remarkable for intellectual growth. He was an active member of the governing body of Eton College from 1889, and from 1890 did equally good service as a governor of Winchester College. Others of his interests are indicated by the fact that he was president of the Cambridge University Musical Society (from 1883), and of the university cricket club (from 1886). On 20 Jan. 1905 he died suddenly in his house at Cambridge of angina pectoris, and was buried at Grantchester. On 9 July 1889 he had married Florence Emma, eldest daughter of G. B. Austen Lefroy, but left no issue.

A portrait by the Hon. John Collier is in possession of his college. His only published work is a 'History of King's College' (in 'Cambridge University College Histories') 1899.

[Personal knowledge; Augustus Austen Leigh: a Record of College Reform, by W. Austen Leigh, 1906.]

M. R. J.