Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Foster, Vere Henry Lewis

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FOSTER, VERE HENRY LEWIS (1819–1900), philanthropist, born at Copenhagen on 25 April 1819, was the third son of Sir Augustus John Foster, first baronet [q. v.], by his wife, Albinia Jane (d. 28 May 1867), daughter of George Vere Hobart, and granddaughter of George Hobart, third earl of Buckinghamshire [q. v.] He was educated at Eton, and matriculated from Christ Church, Oxford, on 30 May 1838. From 1842 to 1843 he was attached to the diplomatic mission of Sir Henry Ellis (1777-1855) [q. v.] at Rio de Janeiro, and from 1845 to 1847 to that of Sir William Gore Ouseley [q. v.] at Monte Video. In 1847 he visited Ireland with his eldest brother, Sir Frederick George Foster, at the time of the potato famine. They endeavoured to relieve the wants of the starving peasants, and Vere Foster was so much impressed with the misery which he had encountered that from that time he made the social advancement of the Irish people the chief concern of his life. Turning his attention to the question of emigration he made three voyages to America as a steerage passenger in an emigrant ship to acquaint himself with the treatment of emigrants, and was greatly concerned by the bad accommodation. He was afterwards enabled to lay his experiences before a parliamentary committee, and by his testimony had no inconsiderable share in procuring the passage of remedial legislation. On the outbreak of the civil war in the United States in 1861 emigration was checked for a time, and Foster took up earnestly the improvement of education in Ireland. He contributed largely for the provision of better school accommodation and apparatus, and gave grants in aid of building several hundred new school-houses.

In 1879, on the recurrence of severe distress in Ireland, Foster turned with increased industry to promoting female emigration to the United States and the British colonies. Young women were assisted partly by means of subscriptions, but chiefly at Foster's own cost. During the whole period of his activity over twenty-five thousand were thus aided. He was heartily supported in his various projects both by the Roman catholic and the protestant clergy.

Foster was also well known by his series of copybooks in general use in the United Kingdom. These comprised: 1. 'Elementary Drawing Copybooks,' 1868. 2. 'Copybooks,' 1870. 3. 'Drawing Copybooks,' 1870. 4. ' Advanced Water-colour Drawing,' 1872. 5. 'Public School Writing Copybooks,' 1881. 6. 'Simple Lessons in Watercolour,' 1883. 7. 'Drawing Books ... in Pencil and Watercolours,' 1884. 8. 'Painting for Beginners,' 1884. 9. 'Upright Writing Charts,' 1897. In 1898 he edited, under the title of 'The Two Duchesses,' London, 8vo, the family correspondence of Georgiana Cavendish [q. v.], duchess of Devonshire, and of Elizabeth Cavendish [q.v.], duchess of Devonshire. He died at Belfast on 21 Dec. 1900. He was unmarried.

[Burke's Peerage and Baronetage; Times, 22 Dec. 1900; Men and Women of the Time, 1899.]

E. I. C.