Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Goodwin, Charles Wycliffe

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GOODWIN, CHARLES WYCLIFFE (1817–1878), Egyptologist, was born in 1817 at King's Lynn, where his father was a solicitor in large practice. He was the eldest of four sons, the second of whom, Harvey, is now bishop of Carlisle. He received his early education at High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and when a schoolboy of nine or so was led to take a lively interest in Egyptology by reading an article on ‘Hieroglyphics’ in the ‘Edinburgh Review’ for December 1826 (erroneously identified by the Bishop of Carlisle with an article in the ‘Quarterly’). Egyptology became the favourite study of his life, and during his school holidays he wrote essays on the early history of Egypt. He was also in early life a fair Hebraist, botanist, and geologist, an accomplished Anglo-Saxon and a good German scholar. In 1834 he was entered at St. Catharine's Hall, Cambridge, taking his B.A. degree with high classical honours in 1838, proceeding M.A. in 1842, and being afterwards elected a fellow of his college Goodwin had intended to take orders, but his views undergoing a change he resigned his fellowship, which was only tenable by a clergyman. In 1848 he was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn, and devoted himself to the uncongenial study of the law. In the same year he published ‘The Anglo-Saxon Version of the Life of St. Guthlac, hermit of Crowland. Originally written in Latin by Felix (commonly called of Crowland). Now first printed from a MS. in the Cottonian Library. With a translation and notes,’ chiefly grammatical and philological. He had for years contributed to the publications of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, when in 1851 he edited for it ‘The Anglo-Saxon Legends of St. Andrew and St. Veronica … with an English translation.’ For the ‘Cambridge Essays’ for 1858 he wrote the valuable disquisition on ‘Hieratic Papyri,’ his first noticeable contribution to Egyptology. This was followed in 1859 by the anonymous republication from the ‘Law Magazine’ of his ‘Curiosities of Law,’ consisting of translated extracts from deeds of grant of various kinds in favour of a monastery near Thebes in Egypt, written in Coptic, of which Goodwin was a diligent student. In 1860 he acquired a wider reputation by his paper, ‘The Mosaic Cosmogony,’ in ‘Essays and Reviews,’ to which he was the only lay contributor. This plain-spoken essay produced five or six specific replies, one of them by Professor Young of Belfast, to none of which does Goodwin seem to have made any rejoinder. According to the catalogue of the British Museum library he succeeded Mr. John Morley as the last editor of the second series of the ‘Literary Gazette.’ He certainly edited the two volumes of the ‘Parthenon,’ 1862–3, with which the ‘Literary Gazette’ was incorporated, giving prominence in it to Egyptological subjects. In May 1862 at a meeting of the Society of Antiquaries, to which Goodwin sent several communications on those subjects, he replied to Sir George Cornewall Lewis's scepticism, expressed in person, as to the possibility of interpreting the ancient Egyptian by arguing that Coptic was in some degree a continuation of that language. Various contributions of Goodwin's, chiefly Egyptological, appeared in the second series of Chabas' ‘Mélanges Egyptologiques,’ 1864.

In March 1865 Goodwin was appointed assistant judge in the newly created supreme court for China and Japan. A paper which he contributed to ‘Fraser's Magazine’ for February of that year was in 1866, after his departure to the East, separately issued (Mr. Le Page Renouf correcting the proofs) as ‘The Story of Saneha, an Egyptian Tale of Four Thousand Years ago, translated from the Hieratic Text.’ It was prefaced by an admirable summary of the history and chronology of ancient Egypt in connection with the previous development of its varied civilisation. Goodwin executed his translation from the facsimile of the original papyrus printed in 1860 in Lepsius's ‘Denkmäler Aegyptens.’ His version was read before the Society of Antiquaries in December 1863, the month following the publication of another version by M. Chabas, both of them executed simultaneously, but without concert, and, though not identical, agreeing in all essential points. For the ‘Records of the Past’ Goodwin revised his version of the ‘Story of Saneha’ and others of his translations of hieratic texts. In 1866 also appeared ‘Voyage d'un Egyptien en Phénicie, en Palestine, &c., au XIVe siècle avant notre ère, d'un papyrus du Musée Britannique, comprenant le facsimile du texte hiératique et sa transcription complète en hiéroglyphes et en lettres coptes. Par F. Chabas, avec la collaboration de C. W. Goodwin.’ In his essay on ‘Hieratic Papyri’ Goodwin had translated the first eight pages of this work. Chabas speaks enthusiastically of Goodwin's labours in hieratic as having effected ‘a genuine revolution in the science.’ During his residence in the East he worked assiduously at Egyptology, continuing frequently from 1866 to 1876 the contributions to Lepsius and Brugsch's ‘Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache,’ which he had begun before leaving England. Communications from him were utilised and acknowledged by Canon Cook in his disquisition ‘On Egyptian Words in the Pentateuch’ in vol. i. pt. I. of the ‘Speaker's Commentary on the Bible,’ 1871.

After being several years at Shanghai Goodwin was transferred to Yokohama, where he spent three years as acting judge of the supreme court. He retained this position in 1876 when he returned to Shanghai, and he remained there, a visit to England intervening, until his death, after a long illness, in January 1878. The event caused the deepest regret among the British residents at Shanghai and Yokohama. Goodwin had endeared himself to all his friends as a delightful companion, cheerful and unaffected, his great acquirements being unaccompanied by the slightest trace of pedantry or pretension. He was fond of music, of which he had studied the theory, playing on more than one instrument. He is understood to have been for years the musical critic of the ‘Guardian,’ and to have contributed to the ‘Saturday Review.’ He was the author of at least two law books: 1. ‘The Succession Duty Act’ (16 and 17 Vict. cap. 51), with introduction, notes, and an appendix, containing the Legacy Duty Acts 1853. 2. ‘The Practice of Probate and Administration under 20 and 21 Vict. cap. 77, together with the statute and appendix,’ 1858.

[Biographical Notes on Goodwin by the Bishop of Carlisle in Athenæum for 23 March 1878; Obituary Notices in Academy for 16 March 1878, and in the Shanghai and Yokohama papers of January 1878; Foreign Office List for 1878; personal knowledge.]

F. E.