Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Strong, Sandford Arthur

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STRONG, SANDFORD ARTHUR (1863–1904), orientalist and historian of art, born in London on 10 April 1863, was second son of Thomas Strong of the war office. His eldest brother, Thomas Banks Strong, is dean of Christ Church, Oxford. In 1877 he entered St. Paul's School as a foundation scholar, but remained there for little more than a year. His next two years were passed as a clerk at Lloyd's, though during this time he also attended classes at King's College. In 1881 he matriculated at Cambridge, with a Hutchinson studentship at St. John's College. He graduated in 1884, with a third class in Part I of the classical tripos, being placed in the second class in Part II the following year. He proceeded M.A. in 1890. Even in his undergraduate days the bent of his mind had been towards oriental studies, and on the recommendation of Professor Edward Byles Cowell [q. v. Suppl. II] he worked at Sanskrit with Cecil Bendall [q. v. Suppl. II]. But receiving little encouragement at Cambridge, he migrated to Oxford towards the end of 1885. There he found occupation as subkeeper and librarian of the Indian Institute, and also friends in Max Müller, Professor Sayce, and Adolf Neubauer [q. v. Suppl. II]. Neubauer advised him to visit the continent, and gave him letters of introduction to Renan and James Darmesteter at Paris. Both were deeply impressed with his attainments, and he also studied with Schrader at Berlin. Renan wrote of him: 'L'étendue et la sagacité de son intelligence me frappèrent. Ses connaissances littéraires et scientifiques sont vastes et sures. C'est certainement un des esprits les plus distingués que j'ai recontrés.' Darmesteter spoke no less confidently of his 'exactitude and precision' as a specialist, and his width of views and interest. Despite the qualifications thus attested, Strong on his return to England found recognition or remunerative employment slow in coming. To Sanskrit he added Pali, to Arabic he added Persian and Assyrian, and he made some progress in hieroglyphics and Chinese. On all these he wrote in learned publications, and he also contributed reviews to the 'Athenæum' and the 'Academy.' But he failed in his candidature for the chair of Arabic at Cambridge vacant by the death of Robertson Smith in 1894, nor was it a consolation to be appointed in 1895 professor of Arabic at University College, London, though he held that almost nominal office until his death. But at the darkest hour a new career suddenly opened before him. (Sir) Sidney Colvin introduced him to the duke of Devonshire, who was then in need of a librarian to succeed Sir James Lacaita. Installed at Chatsworth in 1895, he was as much interested in the historic collection of pictures and other works of art there as in the books in the library. He now showed what the scientific training of a scholar could accomplish in a novel field, which was indeed the return to an old love. As a boy he had been taught drawing by Albert Varley, who gave him a copy of Pilkington's 'Dictionary of Painters,' and he had made himself acquainted with the style of the different masters in the National Gallery. The discoveries he made at Chatsworth, and no doubt also his personal charm, opened to him other collections — the Duke of Portland's at Welbeck, where he also acted for a time as librarian, the Earl of Pembroke's at Wilton, and Lord Wantage's at Lockinge. Between 1900 and 1904 he published descriptions of these treasures, artistic and literary. In 1897 he was appointed librarian at the House of Lords, where he compiled two catalogues, one of the general library and one of the law books. This appointment, while it did not interrupt his studies, nor his tenure of office at Chatsworth, introduced him to another sphere of interest, where he made himself equally at home. He became absorbed in politics and even dreamed that his ideal occupation would be to govern orientals. But his health was never robust, and he had strained the measure of physical vigour that he possessed. After a lingering illness, he died in London on 18 Jan 1904, and was buried in Brompton cemetery. In 1897 Strong married Eugénie Sellers, the well-known classical archaeologist. His wife survived him, but there were no children of the marriage. Two portraits by Legros and one by Sir Charles Holroyd are in the possession of his widow. A bust by the Countess Feodora Gleichen (1894) was presented by a group of his friends to the 'Arthur Strong Oriental Library' at University College, London, the nucleus of which is formed by his books given in his memory by his widow.

Of special importance among Strong's oriental publications are his editions of the 'Maha-Bodhi-Vamsa' for the Pali Text Society (1891), and of the 'Futah al-Habashah' or 'Conquest of Abyssinia' (1894) for the Royal Asiatic Society's monographs. At his death he was engaged on the Arabic text of Ibn Arabshah's 'History of Yakmak, Sultan of Egypt,' the first part of which appeared in the 'Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society' for 1904.

Among his art publications the principal are: 1 'Reproductions of Drawings by the Old Masters in the Collection of the Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery at Wilton House,' 1900. 2. Preface to Messrs. Hanfstaengl's 'Plates of National Gallery Pictures,' 1901. 3. 'Masterpieces of the Duke of Devonshire's Collection of Pictures,' 1901. 4. 'Reproductions of Drawings by the Old Masters at Chatsworth,' 1902. 5. 'Catalogue of Letters and other Historical Documents in the Library of Welbeck,' 1903.

[Memoir by Lord Balcarres, prefixed to 'Critical Studies and Fragments' by S. Arthur Strong, with reproductions of portraits and full bibliography, 1905; The Times, 19 Jan. 1904; é1oge by Lord Reay, Journal Royal Asiatic Society, 1904; and A Distinguished Librarian, by M. E. Lowndes, June 1905.]

J. S. C.