Giles, John Allen (DNB00)

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GILES, JOHN ALLEN, D.C.L. (1808–1884), editor and translator, son of William Giles and his wife Sophia, whose maiden name was Allen, was born on 26 Oct. 1808 at Southwick House, in the parish of Mark, Somerset, the residence of his father and grandfather, and at the age of sixteen entered Charterhouse as a Somerset scholar. From Charterhouse he was elected to a Bath and Wells scholarship at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, on 26 Nov. 1824. In Easter term 1828 he obtained a double first class, and shortly afterwards graduated B.A., proceeding M.A. in 1831, in which year he gained the Vinerian scholarship, and took his D.C.L. degree in 1838. His election to a fellowship at Corpus on 15 Nov. 1832 followed his college scholarship as a matter of course. He wished to become a barrister, but was persuaded by his mother to take orders, and was ordained to the curacy of Cossington, Somerset. The following year he vacated his fellowship, and was married to Miss A. S. Dickinson. His ‘Scriptores Græci minores’ had been published in 1831, and his ‘Latin Grammar’ reached a third edition in 1833. In 1834 he was appointed to the head-mastership of Camberwell College School, and on 24 Nov. 1836 was elected head-master of the City of London School. He failed to preserve discipline; the school did not do well under him, and he resigned on 23 Jan. 1840; his resignation, however, has been attributed to some misfortune connected with building speculations (Times, 7 March 1855, p. 12). He retired to a house which he built near Bagshot, and there took pupils, and engaged in literary work. After a few years he became curate of Bampton, Oxfordshire, where he continued taking pupils, and edited and wrote a great number of books. Among them was one entitled ‘Christian Records,’ published in 1854, which related to the age and authenticity of the books of the New Testament. The bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, required him, on pain of losing his curacy, to suppress this work, and break off his connection with another literary undertaking on which he was engaged. After some letters, which were published, had passed on the subject, he complied with the bishop's demand.

On 6 March 1855 Giles was tried at the Oxford spring assizes before Lord Campbell, on the charges of having entered in the marriage register book of Bampton parish church a marriage under date 3 Oct. 1854, which took place on the 5th, he having himself performed the ceremony out of canonical hours, soon after 6 a.m.; of having falsely entered that it was performed by license; and of having forged the mark of a witness who was not present. He pleaded not guilty, but it was evident that he had committed the offence out of foolish good nature, in order to cover the frailty of one of his servants, whom he married to her lover, Richard Pratt, a shoemaker's apprentice. Pratt's master, one of Giles's parishioners, instituted the proceedings. Giles spoke on his own behalf, and declared that he had published 120 volumes. His bishop also spoke for him. He was found guilty, but strongly recommended to mercy. Lord Campbell sentenced him to a year's imprisonment in Oxford Castle. His fate excited much commiseration in the university, and after three months' imprisonment he was released by royal warrant on 4 June (Times, 7 March and 7 June 1855). After the lapse of two or three years he took the curacy, with sole charge, of Perrivale in Middlesex, and after remaining there five years became curate of Harmondsworth, near Slough. At the end of a year he resigned this curacy, and went to live at Cranford, in the immediate neighbourhood, where he took pupils, and after a while removed to Ealing. He did not resume clerical work until he was presented in 1867 to the living of Sutton in Surrey, which he held for seventeen years, until his death on 24 Sept. 1884. His literary tastes and some peculiarities of manner and disposition are said to have injured his popularity, but he was kind and courteous. His wife survived him, and he left two sons, one in the Bengal police, the other, Herbert Allen Giles, Professor of Chinese at the University of Cambridge. He also left two daughters, the elder married to Dundas W. Cloeté of Churchill Court, Somerset, the younger unmarried.

Much of Giles's literary work was hasty, and done as task work for booksellers. Still, historical scholars, especially those who began to study before the publication of the Rolls Series of editions, have reason to remember him with gratitude, although his editions of historical works are frequently disfigured by carelessness, and lack of arrangement, indexes, and every kind of critical apparatus. Many of his works require no notice. Besides those already noticed he published a ‘Greek Lexicon,’ 1839. Between 1837 and 1843 he published the ‘Patres Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ,’ a series of thirty-four volumes, containing the works of Aldhelm, Bæda, Boniface, Lanfranc, Archbishop Thomas, John of Salisbury, Peter of Blois, Gilbert Foliot, and other authors. Several volumes of the Caxton Society's publications were edited by him, chiefly between 1845 and 1854. Among these were ‘Anecdota Bædæ et aliorum,’ ‘Benedictus Abbas, de Vita S. Thomæ,’ ‘Chron. Angliæ Petroburgense,’ ‘La révolte du Conte de Warwick,’ and ‘Vitæ quorundam Anglo-Saxonum.’ His ‘Scriptores rerum gestarum Willelmi Conquestoris’ was published in 1845. He contributed to Bohn's Antiquarian Library translations of ‘Matthew Paris,’ 1847, ‘Bede's Ecclesiastical History,’ and the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,’ 1849, and other works. In 1845 he published ‘Life and Times of Thomas Becket,’ 2 vols., translated into French, 1858; in 1847, ‘History of the Ancient Britons,’ 2 vols., and in 1848, ‘Life and Times of Alfred the Great.’ In 1847–8 appeared his ‘History of Bampton,’ 2 vols., and in 1852 his ‘History of Witney and some neighbouring Parishes.’ While at Bampton, in 1850 he published ‘Hebrew Records’ on the age and authenticity of the books of the Old Testament, and in 1854 ‘Christian Records on the Age, Authorship, and Authenticity of the Books of the New Testament,’ in which he contends, in a preface dated 26 Oct. 1853, that the ‘Gospels and Acts were not in existence before the year 150,’ and remarks that ‘the objections of ancient philosophers, Celsus, Porphyry, and others, were drowned in the tide of orthodox resentment’ (with reference to this book see Letters of the Bishop of Oxford and Dr. J. A. G., published in a separate volume). In 1853 he began to work on a series called ‘Dr. Giles's Juvenile Library,’ which went on appearing from time to time until 1860, and comprises a large number of school-books, ‘First Lessons’ on English, Scottish, Irish, French, and Indian history, on geography, astronomy, arithmetic, &c. He contributed ‘Poetic Treasures’ to Moxon's ‘Popular Poets’ in 1881.

[Information from the president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and private sources; Times, 7 March, p. 112, and 7 June, 1855, p. 10; Ann. Register, 1855, pp. 50, 51; Crockford's Clerical Directory, 1860; Oxford Univ. Cal. 1889; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

W. H.