Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Simpson, Richard
SIMPSON, RICHARD (1820–1876), Roman catholic writer and Shakespearean scholar, second son of William Simpson, esq., of Wallington, Surrey, was born in 1820, and educated at Oriel College, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. on 9 Feb. 1843 (Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886, iv. 1300). In 1844 he became vicar of Mitcham, Surrey, a valuable family living which he resigned in the following year in consequence of his conversion to the Roman catholic faith (Clergy List, 1845, pt. ii. p. 147; Browne, Annals of the Tractarian Movement, p. 101). He married early, and spent some years in travelling on the continent, where he acquired an unusual command not only of French and German, but of Italian, Spanish, and Flemish. On his return to England he devoted himself to literary pursuits, and he was one of the earliest and most diligent explorers at the state paper office. He became editor of the ‘Rambler,’ a catholic monthly magazine of liberal tendencies, which was discontinued in 1862. In July the same year he, in conjunction with Sir John (now Lord) Acton, started the ‘Home and Foreign Review,’ a quarterly periodical. It was at once attacked by Cardinal Wiseman. Manning passed some severe strictures on it in his letters to Mgr. Talbot, and Newman was blamed for his supposed support of the ‘Review’ (Purcell, Life of Manning, ii. 384). When in the October number a defence appeared under the title of ‘Cardinal Wiseman and the Home and Foreign Review,’ Bishop Ullathorne denounced it as a publication whose tone and tendency were hostile to the interests of catholicism. To this Simpson published a spirited reply, but the ecclesiastical opposition was so uncompromising that at the end of two years the review was discontinued.
Simpson afterwards contributed to the ‘North British Review’ while it was under the management of Lord Acton. He subsequently became a zealous Shakespearean scholar, and he was elected a member of the committee of the New Shakspere Society in 1874. He was also a prolific musical composer, and but for some eccentricities of style he might have acquired fame as a musician. In opinion he belonged to the liberal catholic school, though nobody who knew him could doubt the reality of his religious belief. When Mr. Gladstone was writing his treatise on ‘Vaticanism,’ Simpson was constantly at his side, and the curious learning of that famous pamphlet is thus largely accounted for. In his latest years Simpson suffered from cancer. He died on 5 April 1876 at the Villa Sciarra, the residence of his friend the Count de Heritz, outside the gates of Rome.
His works are:
- ‘Invocation of Saints proved from the Bible alone,’ London, 1849, 12mo, being an address delivered at a discussion between him and Dr. Cumming at Clapham.
- ‘The Lady Falkland: her Life. From a Manuscript in the Imperial Archives at Lille. Also a Memoir of Father Francis Slingsby. From MSS. in the Royal Library, Brussels,’ London, 1861, 8vo.
- ‘Edmund Campion: a Biography,’ London, 1867, 8vo. The earlier part of this his principal work originally appeared in the ‘Rambler.’ It contains much valuable information on points connected with the religious history of the sixteenth century.
- ‘An Introduction to the Philosophy of Shakespeare's Sonnets,’ London, 1868, 8vo.
- ‘The School of Shakespeare, No. I,’ London, 1872, 8vo. This was intended to be the first of a series of reprints of Elizabethan dramas, in the acting, writing, or reviving of which it was believed that Shakespeare had been more or less concerned. After Simpson's death the whole work appeared under the title of ‘The School of Shakspere, including “The Life and Death of Captain Thomas Stukeley,” with a new Life of Stucley, from unpublished sources; “Nobody and Somebody;” “Histrio-Mastix;” “The Prodigal Son;” “Jack Drum's Entertainment;” “A Warning for Fair Women,” with reprints of the accounts of the murder; and “Faire Em,” with “An Account of Robert Greene, his prose works and his quarrels with Shakspere,”’ 2 vols. London, 1878, 8vo, with notes, by J. W. M. Gibbs, and a preface by F. J. Furnivall.
- ‘Sonnets of Shakspeare selected from a complete setting, and miscellaneous songs,’ London , fol. A collection of his transcripts of historical documents is in the possession of the Rev. Augustus Jessopp, D.D.
[Academy, 22 April 1876, p. 381; Athenæum, 22 April 1876, p. 567; Guardian, 26 April 1876, p. 557.]