Butler, George (1774-1853) (DNB00)

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BUTLER, GEORGE, D.D. (1774–1853), head master of Harrow and dean of Peterborough, was born in Pimlico, London, 5 July 1774, being the second son of the Rev. Weeden Butler, the elder [q. v.], by Anne, daughter of Isaac Louis Giberne. He was educated in his father's school, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, and then became a foundation scholar of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he was senior wrangler and senior Smith's prizeman, January 1794, graduated B.A. in the same year, took his M.A. 1797, and his B.D. and D.D. in 1804 and 1805. His college elected him a fellow, and for some years he acted as mathematical lecturer, and then as classical tutor. It was also probably during this period that he commenced keeping his terms at Lincoln's Inn. He was elected a public examiner at Cambridge in 1804, and in 1805 was nominated one of the eight select preachers before the university. In April 1805 he became head-master of Harrow School in succession to Dr. Joseph Drury. In 1814 he was presented by his college to the rectory of Gayton, Northamptonshire. He continued in his arduous office at Harrow until 1829, when, after a head-mastership of four and twenty years, he retired to the living of Gayton, and devoted himself with the same unwearied zeal to the duties of a parish priest. In November 1836 he was named chancellor of the diocese of Peterborough, and he was appointed by Sir Robert Peel to the deanery of Peterborough 3 Nov. 1842. Few men could compete with Butler in versatility of mind, and in the variety of his accomplishments. Besides his great mathematical attainments he was also a distinguished classical scholar, and spoke German, French, and Italian with correctness and fluency. He was practically versed in chemistry and other branches of physical science. He was a good physician and draughtsman, and he excelled in all athletic exercises. His affection for Harrow School, in the service of which so many of the most active years of his life had been passed, amounted to a passion, and he maintained with his successors a constant and most friendly intercourse. On leaving Harrow he was presented by his pupils and others who had left the school with a piece of plate of the value of nearly 500l. His latter years were years of suffering; in 1849 disease of the heart declared itself, and a gradual failure of sight ensued, ending in almost total blindness. His death was quite sudden; while seated at table with his family he became rapidly insensible, and in the course of ten minutes passed away, almost without a struggle, at the Deanery, Peterborough, 30 April 1853. He was buried at Gayton church. A monument by Richard Westmacott, R.A., to the memory of Butler was erected in Harrow Church in July 1854. He married, 18 March 1818, Sarah Maria, eldest daughter of John Gray of Wembley Park, Middlesex. He lived to see four sons obtain distinguished honours at the universities. His youngest son, Henry Montagu, was also headmaster of Harrow from 1859 to 1885. He wrote or compiled:

  1. 'Extracts from the Communion Service of the Church,' 1839; second edition 1842.
  2. 'Statutes of Peterborough Cathedral, translated by G. Butler,' 1853.
  3. 'Harrow, a selection of the Lists of the School, 1770-1828, with annotations upon the later fortunes of the scholars,' 1849.

The addition of two sermons preached in 1830 and 1843 completes the short list of his publications.

[Gent. Mag. xxxix. 662-64 (1853), and xlii. 153-54 (1854); Illustrated London News, xxii. 343, 483 (1853), and xxv. 257 (1854).]

G. C. B.