Doyle, Francis Hastings Charles (DNB01)

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DOYLE, Sir FRANCIS HASTINGS CHARLES, second baronet (1810–1888), poet, born at the house of his grandfather, Sir William Mordaunt Milner, at Nunappleton, near Tadcaster in Yorkshire, on 21 Aug. 1810, was the only son of Major-general Sir Francis Hastings Doyle, first baronet (1783–1839), by his wife Diana Elizabeth (d. 14 Jan. 1828), eldest daughter of Sir William Milner. General Sir John Doyle, baronet [q. v.], was his great-uncle; while General Sir Charles Hastings Doyle [q. v.] was his second cousin, and Lieutenant-general Sir Charles William Doyle [q. v.] and Colonel Sir John Milley Doyle [q. v.] were his father's first cousins. He was first sent to a well-known private school at Chelsea, kept by a Frenchman named Clement, where Walter Kerr Hamilton [q. v.], (Sir) Henry John Codrington [q. v.], and others afterwards well known were his contemporaries. At the beginning of 1823 he entered Eton as the pupil of Richard Okes [q. v.], and under the head-mastership of John Keate [q. v.] There, through the debating society held at Miss Hatton's, 'a cook and confectioner,' he formed friendships with Gladstone, Arthur Henry Hallam, James Bruce (afterwards eighth Earl of Elgin) [q. v.], Charles John Canning (afterwards Earl Canning) [q. v.], George Augustus Selwyn (1809–1878) [q. v.], and (Sir) John Hanmer (afterwards Baron Hanmer) [q. v.] He heard Gladstone's maiden speech delivered to this society, and co-operated with him in editing the 'Eton Miscellany.'

At Christmas 1827 Doyle left Eton to study with a private tutor, Henry De Foe Baker, rector of Greetham in Rutlandshire. He matriculated from Christ Church, Oxford, on 6 June 1828, and went into residence in January 1830. Among his Oxford friends were (Sir) Thomas Dyke Acland [q. v. Suppl.], Sidney Herbert (afterwards Baron Herbert) [q. v.], Joseph Anstice [q. v.], and (Sir) Robert Joseph Phillimore [q. v.] He was also acquainted with Manning, while his intercourse with Gladstone became very intimate. He acted as best man at Gladstone's marriage in 1839, but in after life the difference in their interests and the great change in Gladstone's political views tended to drive them apart.

Doyle took a first class in classics, graduating B.A. in 1832, B.C.L. in 1843, and M.A. in 1867. He was elected a fellow of All Souls' in 1835, retaining his fellowship until his marriage. After completing his university studies he turned his attention to the law. On 11 Oct. 1832 he entered the Inner Temple as a student, and in 1834 and 1835 was taken on the northern circuit as marshal by Sir James Parke (afterwards Baron Wensleydale) [q. v.], an old family friend who was at that time baron of the court of exchequer. On 17 Nov. 1837 he was called to the bar and joined the northern circuit, where he was shortly nominated a revising barrister. He succeeded to the baronetcy on his father's death on 6 Nov. 1839. He had not, however, acquired much practice when his marriage in 1844 rendered it necessary for him 'to look out for some more remunerative occupation than the periodical donning of a wig and gown by a briefless barrister.' In 1845 Sir Robert Peel offered him the assistant-solicitorship of the excise, with the promise that after a year he should be appointed receiver-general of customs. These offers he accepted, and abandoning his early ambition for legal or parliamentary distinction, he continued to hold the receiver-generalship until 1869.

Doyle's earliest verses appeared in the 'Eton Miscellany.' In 1834 he published his first volume of poetry entitled ' Miscellaneous Verses ' (London, 8vo), which he reissued in 1840 with a number of additional poems. These early verses were somewhat immature, several of the best poems, including 'The Eagle's Nest,' 'Mehrab Khan,' 'The Crusader's Return,' and 'The Catholic,' appearing for the first time in the second edition. In 1844 he issued 'The Two Destinies' (London, 8vo), a poem dealing with social questions; in 1849 'Œdipus, King of Thebes' (London, 16mo), a translation from the 'Œdipus Tyrannus ' of Sophocles, and in 1852 'The Duke's Funeral,' in memory of the Duke of Wellington. For the next fourteen years he published nothing; but in 1866, finding Matthew Arnold's tenure of the professorship of poetry at Oxford coming to an end, and desiring to be appointed his successor, he published 'The Return of the Guards and other Poems' (London, 8vo), with a view, as he himself states in his preface, to bring himself before the younger members of the university. This volume contains almost all his best poems, including one or two which had appeared in his former collection.

He was elected professor of poetry in 1867, and was re-elected in 1872 for a further period of five years, holding a fellowship at All Souls' with his university appointment. On resigning the professorship he received the honorary degree of D.C.L. on 11 Dec. 1877. His 'Lectures' were published in 1869, a second series appearing in 1877. Full of interest, like all his prose writings, they are discursive and without much unity of plan. They inevitably suffered by comparison with those of his predecessor, Matthew Arnold. In the first series the most remarkable feature is his appreciation of the Dorsetshire poet, William Barnes [q. v. Suppl.] His second series was more elaborate, consisting of studies of Wordsworth, Scott, and Shakespeare. The lecture in the first series on Newman's 'Dream of Gerontius' was translated into French in 1869, together with the poem itself, and published at Caen.

In 1869 Doyle exchanged his post of receiver-general of customs for that of commissioner of customs, an appointment which he retained until 1883. He died in London on 8 June 1888 at 46 Davies Street, Berkeley Square. On 12 Dec. 1844 he married at St. George's, Hanover Square, Sidney (d. 23 Nov. 1867), youngest daughter of Charles Watkin Williams Wynn [q. v.] By her he had three surviving children two sons and a daughter. His eldest son, Francis Grenville Doyle, a captain in the 2nd dragoon guards, died from the effects of the Egyptian campaign on 2 Dec. 1882. His second son, Everard Hastings, succeeded as third and present baronet.

Sprung from a family many of whom had been famous as men of action, Doyle cherished a supreme admiration of heroism as well as a strong love of country. His poetic work is chiefly remarkable for his treatment of the ballad, a form of expression used by many English poets, and particularly by his favourite author, Sir Walter Scott. While these, however, had made the ballad archaic both in subject and expression, Doyle employed it for the treatment of contemporary events, and showed that modern deeds of national bravery were 'as susceptible as any in the far past of free ballad treatment, with all the old freshness, directness, and simplicity.' His method has been successfully followed by subsequent writers. Among his notable ballads may be mentioned 'The Red Thread of Honour,' which was translated into Pushtoo and became a favourite among the villagers on the north-western frontier of India, 'The Private of the Buffs,' 'The Fusilier's Dog,' 'The Loss of the Birkenhead,' and 'Mehrab Khan.' While Doyle's poetic fame rests chiefly on his ballads, he showed in such poems as 'The Platonist,' 'The Catholic,' and 'The Death of Hector,' that his powers were not confined to a single mode. At the same time it would convey a false impression not to observe that most of his work was commonplace and pedestrian, and that though he often showed genuine poetic feeling he seldom found for it adequate expression. His verse is generally mechanical, rarely instinct with life or transfused with emotion.

Besides the works already mentioned, Doyle published in 1878 'Robin Hood's Bay : an Ode addressed to the English People' (London, 8vo), and in 1886 his 'Reminiscences and Opinions.'

[Doyle's Reminiscences and Opinions; Memoir by Mr. A. H. Japp, prefixed to the selection of Doyle's poems in Miles's Poets and Poetry of the Century; Macmillan's Magazine, August 1888; Saturday Review, 16 June 1888; National Review, November 1886; Oxford Magazine, 13 June 1888; Foster's Men at the Bar; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715-1886; W. E. Gladstone's Personal Recollections of A. H. Hallam in the Daily Telegraph, 5 Jan. 1898; Ornsby's Memoirs of J. R. Hope-Scott, 1884, i. 72-4.]

E. I. C.