Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Halliwell, James Orchard

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HALLIWELL, afterwards HALLIWELL-PHILLIPPS, JAMES ORCHARD (1820–1889), biographer of Shakespeare, born 21 June 1820 at Sloane Street, Chelsea, was third and youngest son of Thomas Halliwell, a native of Chorley, Lancashire, who came to London about 1795 and prospered in business there. James was educated at private schools, and showed an aptitude for mathematics. When only fifteen he began to collect books and manuscripts, and contributed to ‘The Parthenon’ between November 1836 and January 1837 a series of lives of mathematicians. On 13 Nov. 1837 he matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge, but removed in the following April to Jesus College, where he gained a mathematical prize and scholarship, and acted as librarian. He took little interest in ordinary academic studies, and spent much time in the Jesus College and the university libraries. He came to know Thomas Wright [q. v.], his senior by ten years, who was still at Cambridge, and Wright aided him in his literary projects, and introduced him to the library of his own college, Trinity. For many years the two friends were closely associated in various literary enterprises. In 1838 appeared Halliwell's first book, ‘An Account of the Life and Inventions of Sir Samuel Morland’ (Cambridge, 8vo). In August of the same year he was staying at Oxford with Professor Rigaud, and corresponding with Joseph Hunter. Next year he wrote for the ‘Companion to the British Almanac’ a paper on early calendars, which was reprinted in pamphlet form; published ‘A Few Hints to Novices in Manuscript Literature’ (London, 1839, 8vo), and edited ‘Sir John Mandeville's Travels’ (London, 1839, 8vo). Halliwell afterwards claimed to be responsible only for the introduction to this edition of Mandeville, which has been often reprinted.

Halliwell's activity at so early an age attracted attention. Miss Agnes Strickland sought his acquaintance. He became intimate with William Jerdan, editor of the ‘Literary Gazette,’ Charles Roach Smith, and Howard Staunton. On 14 Feb. 1839 he was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and afterwards contributed many papers to the ‘Archæologia.’ On 30 May 1839, before reaching his nineteenth birthday, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society—an honour for which he was recommended by Baden Powell, Whewell, Sedgwick, Davies Gilbert, Sir Henry Ellis, and others. On the title-page of the books which he published in 1840 he described himself as member also of the Astronomical and of ten antiquarian societies on the continent of Europe and in America. In the autumn, after his election to the Royal Society, he catalogued the miscellaneous manuscripts in the Society's library, and the catalogue was published in the following year. Early in 1840 he projected the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, of which he was the first secretary. But after Lent term he left Cambridge without a degree and settled with his father in London. He had at that date collected about 130 early manuscripts, chiefly dealing with mathematics and astrology. He printed a catalogue, but was forced by pressure of creditors to sell the collection in 1840.

In London he worked hard in the library of the British Museum, bought books and manuscripts, and found recreation in frequent visits to the theatre. In 1840 he prepared for the press ten works, and in 1841 thirteen. These included three tracts on the manuscript collections at Cambridge; Sherwin's Latin history of Jesus College, Cambridge, dedicated to Joseph Hunter (1840); ‘Rara Mathematica, or a Collection of Treatises on Mathematics, &c., from ancient unedited MSS.;’ and his earliest works on Shakespeare, of whom he wrote to Hunter, 15 Jan. 1842, ‘I grow fonder every day.’ He was at the same time an energetic member of all the newly founded literary societies. For the Camden Society (established in 1838) he edited Warkworth's ‘Chronicle’ (1839), Rishanger's ‘Chronicle’ (1840), Dee's ‘Private Diary’ (1842), a selection of Simon Forman's papers (suppressed, but fifteen copies preserved), 1843, and the ‘Thornton Romances’ (1844). All these works were printed from manuscripts not previously edited. On 10 Aug. 1839 he addressed a letter to the president of the Camden Society, Lord Francis Egerton, urging him to confine the society's labours to the elucidation of early English history, and complaining of the taunts to which he had to submit on account of his youth. For the Percy Society, founded in 1841 with a view to publishing ballad-literature, he edited the early naval ballads of England and two other volumes in 1841; in 1842 ‘The Nursery Rhymes of England, collected principally from oral tradition,’ which met at once with popular success, and seventeen other volumes between 1842 and 1850. Nor were his services to the Shakespeare Society, founded in 1841, less conspicuous. In 1841 he prepared for that society ‘Ludus Coventriæ: a Collection of Mysteries formerly represented at Coventry,’ and eight other volumes in subsequent years, besides many short essays contributed to the society's volumes of miscellaneous papers. He likewise attempted in 1841 to start another literary society on his own account, entitled the Historical Society of Science, for which he prepared a useful ‘collection of letters illustrative of the progress of science in England from the reign of Elizabeth to that of Charles II,’ but the society soon died. Nothing daunted, Halliwell began a periodical, ‘The Archæologist and Journal of Antiquarian Science,’ of which he published, with the aid of Thomas Wright, ten numbers between September 1841 and June 1842. In 1841 and 1842 he spent some time with Mr. James Heywood at Manchester preparing a catalogue of the manuscripts at the Chetham Library, which was published in the latter year.

In 1841 Halliwell's archæological zeal came to the notice of Sir Thomas Phillipps, the antiquary, to whom he dedicated, 20 Dec. 1840, the first volume of a collection of ‘Scraps from Ancient MSS.,’ entitled ‘Reliquiæ Antiquæ,’ 1841 (prepared with Thomas Wright, and reissued in 1845). Phillipps invited him to his house at Middle Hill, Broadway, Worcestershire, and Halliwell, soon a frequent guest there, fell in love with Phillipps's eldest daughter, Henrietta Elizabeth Molyneux. Phillipps indignantly refused his consent to their marriage, but it took place despite his opposition at Broadway on 9 Aug. 1842. Phillipps never forgave either Halliwell or his daughter, and declined all further intercourse with them. The newly married pair, for many years in straitened circumstances, took up their residence first with Halliwell's father in London, and afterwards at Islip, Oxfordshire, of which place Halliwell published a history in 1849. In 1844 a serious charge was brought against him. Several manuscripts from his Cambridge collection were purchased about 1843 by the trustees of the British Museum from Rodd, the bookseller, to whom Halliwell had sold them in 1840. In 1844 it was discovered that many of these manuscripts had previously belonged to the library of Trinity College, Cambridge, and had been missing from that library for five or six years. That the manuscripts were abstracted from Trinity College admitted of no doubt, and Whewell, the master of Trinity College, demanded their restoration at the hands of the trustees of the British Museum. Sir Henry Ellis, the chief librarian of the Museum, began an investigation, and on 10 Feb. 1845 issued an order forbidding Halliwell to enter the Museum until the suspicions attaching to him were removed. After many threats of actions at law on the part of all the persons interested, the matter dropped; the manuscripts remained at the Museum; and on 12 June 1846 the British Museum authorities informed Halliwell that readmission would be granted him if application were made. Halliwell wrote in a privately printed pamphlet (1845) that he bought the suspected manuscripts at a shop in London.

Meanwhile, besides his labours for literary societies, Halliwell produced ‘Nugæ Poeticæ’ from fifteenth-century manuscripts (1844); and Sir Simonds D'Ewes's ‘Autobiography,’ 1845. In 1846 appeared his ‘Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases, Proverbs, and Ancient Customs from the Fourteenth Century’ (London, 1846, 8vo), a remarkable compilation for a man of six-and-twenty. It sold steadily from the first, and reached a tenth edition in 1881. In 1848 he published, with a dedication to Miss Strickland, his valuable ‘Letters of the Kings of England, now first collected,’ 2 vols. From 1849 onwards he issued his reprints of ancient literature in very limited and privately issued editions—a practice which he frequently defended on the ground that the public interest in the subject was very small. Thus his ‘Contributions to Early English Literature,’ a collection of six rare tracts (1848–9), and his ‘Literature of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries’ (reprints of eight rare tracts) in 1851, were in each case ‘strictly limited to seventy-five copies,’ and in later life he reduced the number of his privately printed issues to twenty-five or even to ten copies, carefully destroying all others. For private circulation he also prepared from time to time accounts of his own collections: a catalogue of his chapbooks, garlands, and popular histories in 1849, a collection of Norfolk ballads and tracts in 1852, and accounts of his theological manuscripts and ‘Sydneian Literature’ in 1854. Of ‘a brief list’ of his rare books issued in 1862 he wrote that it contained ‘more unique books than are to be found in the Capell collection or many a college library.’ In 1855 he published, at the expense of a relative, an orthodox essay on the ‘Evidences of Christianity,’ and started, with Wright, Robert Bell, and others, a publishing society called the ‘Warton Club,’ for which he prepared a volume of early English miscellanies in prose and verse, but the society soon disappeared.

Halliwell was gradually concentrating his attention on the life of Shakespeare and the text of his works. In 1840 he laid the foundations, by a few purchases at George Chalmers's sale, of his unique Shakespearean library. In 1841 he published ‘An Introduction to the Midsummer Night's Dream,’ an essay ‘On the Character of Sir John Falstaff,’ and ‘Shakesperiana,’ a catalogue of the early editions and commentaries. His labours for the Shakespeare Society had in the following years drawn him closer to the study, and in 1848 he produced his ‘Life of William Shakespeare, including many particulars respecting the poet and his family never before published.’ For the last work he had begun about 1844 an exhaustive study of the records at Stratford-on-Avon, and although he accepted as authentic J. P. Collier's forged documents, the biography is remarkable as the first that made any just use of the Stratford records. He subsequently rejected Collier's alleged discoveries, and denounced the Perkins folio as a modern forgery (cf. pamphlets issued in 1852 and 1853). Halliwell's ‘New Boke about Shakespeare and Stratford-on-Avon’ (1850) gave the results of further investigation at Stratford. He disclaimed all responsibility for an edition of Shakespeare's works, ‘Tallis's Library Edition’ (London, 1850–3), with his name as editor on the title-page, which embodied some notes on the comedies contributed by him to an American edition in 1850. In 1852 he printed a catalogue of his Shakespearean collections, and in 1853 issued the first volume of his magnificently printed folio edition of Shakespeare, with notes, drawings, and complete critical apparatus, aiming, as he said, at ‘a greater elaboration of Shakespearean criticism than has yet been attempted.’ The edition was limited to 150 copies. F. W. Fairholt prepared the wood-engravings. The sixteenth and last volume appeared in 1865. The original price was 63l. with the plates on plain paper, and 84l. with plates on India paper. The edition is probably the richest storehouse extant of Shakespearean criticism. Another expensive enterprise was the private issue between 1862 and 1871 of lithographed facsimiles, by Mr. E. W. Ashbee, of the Shakespearean quartos in forty-eight volumes. The price of each volume was five guineas, and although fifty copies of the series were prepared, the editor destroyed nineteen, so that thirty-one alone survived. A fire in 1874 at the Pantechnicon in Motcomb Street, Belgrave Square, the warehouse in London where unsold copies were stored, further reduced the number of sets, and Halliwell, writing on 13 Feb. 1874, was of opinion that only fifteen complete sets were then in existence. Other valuable works produced by Halliwell about the same time were his new edition of Nares's ‘Glossary,’ with the aid of Thomas Wright (1859), and his ‘Dictionary of Old English Plays’ based on Baker's ‘Biographia Dramatica’ in 1860.

Halliwell's income was still small, and he was involved in lawsuits which caused him repeated pecuniary losses. But he was able to remove about 1852 to Brixton Hill, and subsequently to West Brompton. An insatiable collector of rare books and manuscripts to the end of his life, the work of collecting grew more expensive every year. In youth he found rare volumes ‘plenty as blackberries’ on the outside stalls of old bookshops, procurable for a few pence or shillings; but competition drove the prices up, and it was with increasing difficulty that he was able to satisfy his special affection for the early editions of Shakespeare's works. He often found it necessary to sell his collections by auction, and to begin his task of collecting anew. Every year between 1856 and 1859 Messrs. Sotheby sold for him many rare volumes which he had used in editing his folio Shakespeare, and which included some of the least accessible of the quartos. In 1857 the sale lasted three days, and very high prices were realised. In 1858 the British Museum purchased his mortgage deed of a house in Blackfriars (11 March 1612–13), which contains one of the few genuine signatures of Shakespeare. In 1867 the death of his father-in-law placed his wife, under her grandfather's will, in possession of the Worcestershire estates, in which Sir Thomas Phillipps had only a life-interest, and he was thenceforth able to indulge his passion as a collector with less difficulty.

In 1862 Halliwell, who had long paid annual visits for purposes of research to Stratford, arranged without fee the majority of the records preserved there. In 1863 he published privately, and at his own expense, a full descriptive calendar of the archives, which he had put in order. In 1864 he issued an exhaustive history from legal documents of New Place, Shakespeare's last residence at Stratford, and ‘Stratford-on-Avon in the times of the Shakespeares, illustrated by extracts from the council-books,’ &c., with engraved facsimiles of the original entries. Very limited imprints followed of the chamberlain's accounts (1585–1616), of the vestry books, of the council books, and of the archives of the court of record at Stratford in Shakespeare's time.

In 1863 Halliwell initiated at Stratford the movement for purchasing the house and cottages then standing on the sites of Shakespeare's residence, New Place, and of the garden originally attached to it, with a view to making them over to the Stratford corporation. For this purpose he raised 5,000l., contributing largely himself, and paying all the expenses connected with the movement out of his own purse. The house is now a Shakespearean museum, and the ground around it has been cleared, so as to form a public garden. In 1863–4 he and William Hepworth Dixon acted as joint-secretaries of the committee formed to celebrate at Stratford the tercentenary of Shakespeare's birth.

In 1870 Halliwell abandoned the critical study of the text of Shakespeare, and henceforth devoted himself exclusively to elucidating Shakespeare's life. In 1874 appeared a first part of his ‘Illustrations of the Life,’ which included a number of documents and discursive, although exhaustive, notes on various topics. This work remained a fragment, but he pursued his investigations, and examined in the next five years the archives of thirty-two towns besides Stratford, in the hope of discovering new information respecting Shakespeare's life. In 1881 he ‘printed for the author's friends’ the first version of his ‘Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare,’ an octavo volume of 192 pages. A second edition, issued for general circulation in 1882, extended to 700 pages, the third, in 1883, to 786 pages. In 1884 it reappeared in two quarto volumes, and the latest edition (1887) issued in his lifetime had grown to 848 pages. In this book, which in its final forms is lavishly illustrated, and was sold at a price below its cost, Halliwell incorporated all the facts and documents likely to throw any light on Shakespeare's biography or the history of the playhouses with which he was connected. Until his death he continued to work on the subject. One of his latest publications was an account of the visits paid by Elizabethan actors to country towns, the result of personal explorations in the muniment-rooms of nearly seventy English towns.

In 1872 Halliwell's wife met with an accident while riding, which ultimately led to softening of the brain. He thereupon assumed by royal letters patent the additional surname of Phillipps, and took the management of her Worcestershire property. He improved the estates, although he soon sold the greater part of them. His wife died on 25 March 1879, and he married soon afterwards Mary Rice, daughter of James William Hobbs, esq., solicitor, of Stratford-on-Avon. In 1877–8 he purchased a plot of ground (about fourteen acres), known as Hollingbury Copse, on the Downs near Brighton, on which he intended to erect a large dwelling-house. But while the plans were unsettled he set up a wooden bungalow, and, finally abandoning his notion of a more ambitious building, added from time to time a number of rooms, galleries, and outhouses, all of wood with an outer casing of sheet-iron. Thither he removed from his London house at Brompton his chief collections, the greater part of which he had acquired since 1872, and to which he was adding year by year. In 1887 he printed a calendar of the most valuable contents, which included a copy of Droeshout's portrait of Shakespeare in its original proof state before altered to the form in which it was published in 1623, and the original conveyance of Shakespeare's Blackfriars estate in 1613, besides a valuable series of sketches of Stratford and its neighbourhood, made at Halliwell's expense by J. T. Blight, F.S.A., of Penzance, between 1862 and 1868. At Hollingbury for the last ten years of his life he dispensed a lavish and genial hospitality, warmly welcoming any one who sympathised with his tastes at any point, but working hard each morning from five o'clock till noon. Many notes on Shakespeare and his works he printed ‘for presents only’ up to his death. In one pamphlet (1880), entitled ‘New Lamps or Old,’ he strenuously argued that manuscript evidence favoured the spelling of the dramatist's name as ‘Shakespeare’ and not ‘Shakspere.’ His last literary work was to prepare for private circulation ‘A Letter to Professor Karl Elze,’ politely deprecating some of the criticisms which Elze had bestowed on his own views in a newly published translation of the professor's biography of Shakespeare. The letter is dated 19 Dec. 1888. Halliwell was taken ill on the following Christmas day, and died on 3 Jan. 1889, aged 68, being buried on the 9th in Patcham churchyard, near his residence. His second wife, with three daughters by his first wife, survived him.

As the biographer of Shakespeare Halliwell deserves well of his country, and his results may for the most part be regarded as final. The few errors detected in his transcription of documents do not detract from the value of his labours. The testing of traditions about Shakespeare and his works, the accumulation of every kind of evidence—legal documents, books, manuscripts, drawings—likely to throw light on the most remote corners of his subject, became the passion of his later years, and as he advanced in life his methods grew more thorough and exhaustive. His interest in æsthetic or textual criticism of Shakespeare gradually declined, until he abandoned both with something like contempt. Halliwell's earlier labours as a lexicographer and editor prove that he attempted too much to do all well. Richard Garnett [q. v.], in the ‘Quarterly Review’ for March 1848, in an article on ‘Antiquarian Club-books,’ showed that his linguistic attainments and his skill in deciphering manuscripts were often at fault. Mr. J. R. Lowell (cf. My Study Windows) pointed out the defective scholarship displayed in Halliwell's edition of Marston (1856). But little of the enormous mass of his publications is useless to the students whose interests he wished to serve. He gave his privately printed volumes freely to any one to whom he believed they would be serviceable; offered to all able to profit by it the readiest access to his library, and liberally encouraged the work of younger men in his own subject. For the declining days of his fellow-worker, Thomas Wright, who died in 1877 after some years of mental failure, he helped to make provision. Nor was he less generous to public institutions. As early as 1851, when his private resources were small, he presented 3,100 proclamations, broadsides, ballads, and poems to the Chetham Library, Manchester. In October 1852 he gave to the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, ‘a collection of several thousand bills, accounts, and inventories illustrating the history of prices between 1650 and 1750.’ Of both of these gifts he printed a catalogue. From 1860 onward he spent several summer holidays at Penzance, and, liking the place and people, he made, between 1866 and 1888, important additions to the town library. His first present consisted of three hundred volumes of Restoration literature, and ultimately 1,764 books were received. They are kept in a compartment by themselves, and a separate catalogue was printed in 1880. The freedom of the borough of Penzance was offered him in 1884, and, although he was unable to visit the town, it was conferred in 1888. To the library of Edinburgh University he presented in 1872 a valuable Shakespearean library. The honorary degree of LL.D. was granted him by Edinburgh University in 1883.

Halliwell, as far as he could, avoided controversy. For a time he was deceived by J. P. Collier's forgeries respecting Shakespeare, but in 1853 he convinced himself of the truth, and in his ‘Observations on the Shakespearean Forgeries at Bridgwater House’ pointed out as considerately as possible the need of a careful scrutiny of all the documents which Collier had printed. From the first he expressed his suspicion of the Perkins folio, but assumed that Collier was himself the innocent victim of deception, and always chivalrously defended Collier's memory from the worst aspersions cast upon it. In 1880 Mr. Swinburne dedicated to Halliwell in admiring terms his ‘Study of Shakspere.’ Thereupon in 1881 Dr. Furnivall, director of the New Shakspere Society, who was engaged at the time in a warm controversy with Mr. Swinburne, severely attacked Halliwell in the notes to a facsimile reproduction of the Hamlet quarto of 1604. Halliwell sent letters of remonstrance to Robert Browning, the president of the New Shakspere Society, who declined to interfere, but Halliwell printed the correspondence, and some eminent members of the New Shakspere Society withdrew. A more distressing difference arose in 1884 between Halliwell and the corporation of Stratford-on-Avon. A committee was appointed to calendar certain documents with which he had failed to deal when arranging the archives in 1863, and he regarded this action as a reflection on himself. At the same time he offered to prepare autotypes of the more valuable Shakespearean documents at his own expense, but a dispute arose as to the authority which he claimed to exercise over the archives, and after charging the corporation with ingratitude and discourtesy he left the town for ever, and revoked the bequest of his collections to its corporation. He published six editions of a pamphlet giving his account of the quarrel. A case, presented by Halliwell to the Birthplace Museum in 1872 on condition that it should not be opened until his death, was unlocked on 14 Feb. 1889, and was found to contain 189 volumes of manuscript notes and correspondence, and pamphlets chiefly dealing with Halliwell's folio Shakespeare.

Under his will more than three hundred volumes of his literary correspondence, from which he ‘eliminated everything that could give pain and annoyance to any person,’ were left, with many books, manuscripts, and private papers, to the library of Edinburgh University. His electro-plates and wood-blocks he gave to the Shakspere Society of New York. His chief Shakespearean collections (originally destined for Stratford-on-Avon) were to be offered to the Birmingham corporation for 7,000l.; if this offer were not accepted they were to be sold undivided for 10,000l., and if no buyer came forward within twelve years the whole was to be sold by auction in a single lot. The Birmingham corporation declined the offer, and the collections were sold to Marsden J. Perry, of Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.A., in 1897. The residue of the library was left, with trifling reservations, to Halliwell's nephew, Mr. E. E. Baker of Weston-super-Mare, who sold the chief portion in London in June 1889.

[Information from Halliwell's brother, the Rev. Thomas Halliwell of Brighton, and from friends; personal knowledge; Daily News, 4 Jan. 1889; Manchester Guardian, 5 Jan. 1889; Brighton Herald, 5 Jan. 1889; Athenæum, 12 Jan. 1889; Birmingham Daily Gazette, 14 Jan. 1889; Halliwelliana, a Bibliography of the Publications of James Orchard Halliwell-Phillips, by Justin Winsor (Cambridge, Mass., 1881); C. Roach Smith's Retrospections; Halliwell's privately printed Statements in Answer to Reports, 1845; his pamphlets respecting Dr. Furnivall's remarks (1881) and the quarrel with the Stratford corporation (1883–6), and the accounts (privately printed) of his own collections, especially that of 1887; Brit. Mus. Cat. Some early letters from Halliwell to Joseph Hunter and others are preserved in Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. 24869 ff. 3–12, 28510 ff. 185–7, and 28670 ff. 4–6.]

S. L. L.