Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Pelham, Henry Francis

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

PELHAM, HENRY FRANCIS (1846–1907), Camden professor of ancient history, Oxford, was grandson of Thomas Pelham, second earl of Chichester [q. v.], and eldest of the five children of John Thomas Pelham, bishop of Norwich [q. v.], by his wife Henrietta, second daughter of Thomas William Tatton of Wythenshawe Hall, Cheshire. Of his three brothers, John Barrington became vicar of Thundridge in 1908, and Sidney archdeacon of Norfolk in 1901. Pelham was born on 19 Sept. 1846 at Bergh Apton, then his father's parish. Entering Harrow (Westcott's house) in May 1860, he moved rapidly up the school, and left in December 1864. Next year he won an open classical scholarship at Trinity College, Oxford (matriculating on 22 April 1865) ; he came into residence in October. At Oxford he took 'first classes' in honour classical moderations and in literæ humaniores, was elected a fellow of Exeter College in 1869, and graduated B.A. in the same year. In 1870 he won the chancellor's English essay prize with a dissertation on the reciprocal influence of national character and national language. He worked continuously as classical tutor and lecturer at Exeter College from 1870 till 1889. He was elected by his college proctor of the university in 1879. Losing his fellowship on his marriage in 1873, he was re-elected in 1882, under the statutes of the second university commission.

From school onwards his principal sub- ject was ancient and more particularly Roman history. He soon began to publish articles on this theme (first in 'Journal of Philology,' 1876), while his lectures, which (under the system then growing up) were open to members of other colleges besides Exeter, attracted increasingly large audiences; he also planned, with the Clarendon Press, a detailed 'History of the Roman Empire,' which he was not destined to carry out. In 1887 he succeeded W. W. Capes as 'common fund reader' in ancient history, and in 1889 he became Camden professor of ancient history in succession to George Rawlinson [q. v. Suppl. II], a post to which a fellowship at Brazenose is attached. As professor he developed the lectures and teaching which he had been giving as coUege tutor and reader, and attracted even larger audiences. But his research work was stopped by an attack of cataract in both eyes (1890), and though a few specimen paragraphs of his projected 'History' were set up in type in 1888, he completed in manuscript only three and a half chapters, covering the years B.C. 35-15, and he never resumed the work after 1890; his other research, too, was hereafter limited to detached points in Roman imperial history. On the other hand, he joined actively in administrative work, for which his strong personality and his clear sense fitted him at least as well as for research; he served on many Oxford boards, was a member of the hebdomadal council from 1879 to 1905, aided semi-academic edu- cational movements (for women, &c.), and in 1897 accepted the presidency of his old college. Trinity. He was elected honorary fellow of Exeter in 1895, was an original fellow of the British Academy in 1902 and received the hon. degree of LL.D. at Aber- deen in 1906. He became F.S.A. in 1890. He died in the president's lodgings at Trinity on 12 Feb. 1907, and was buried in St. Sepulchre's cemetery, Oxford. On 30 July 1873 he married Laura PriscUla, third daugh- ter of Sir Edward North Buxton, second baronet, and granddaughter of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, first baronet [q. v.]; she survived him with two sons and a daughter.

Pelham was a somewhat unusual com- bination of the scholar and the practical man. An excellent teacher, lecturing at a time when Oxford was widening its out- look and Mommsen and his school were recreating Roman history, he helped to revolutionise the study of ancient history in Oxford, and by consequence in England. Still more, as one who combined practical organising genius with an understanding of the real needs of learning and the true character of scientific research, he did more than any other one man to develop his university as a place of learning, while conserving its value as a place of education. Thus, he was prominent in providing endowments for higher study and research, in introducing archæology and geography to the circle of Oxford historical work, and in founding the British Schools at Rome and Athens. In pursuit of his principles he helped actively to put natural science, Enghsh and foreign languages on a more adequate basis in Oxford, and to give women full opportunities of academic education at the university. After his death his friends foimded in his memory a Pelham studentship at the British School at Rome, to be held by Oxford men (or by women students) pursuing higher studies at Rome.

Pelham wrote little. His chief publica- tions were: 1. 'Outlines of Roman History,' London, 1893, enlarged from a monograph in the 'Encyclopædia Britannica,' 1887. 2. Scattered essays and articles on Roman history, of which the chief, with a fragment of the unfinished 'History,' have been col- lected in a posthrmious volume of 'Essays,' Oxford, 1911. Both volumes exhibit very high historical powers, but Pelham's eye- sight and perhaps his temperament turned hirn to other activities with more result. A portrait by Sir Hubert von Herkomer hangs in the hall of Trinity College.

[Memoir by Prof. Haverfield, prefixed to Pelham's Essavs, 1911; The Times, 13 Feb. 1907; Proc. Brit. Acad. 1907-8; private information.]

F. J. H.