Maitland, Frederic William (DNB12)

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MAITLAND, FREDERIC WILLIAM (1850–1906), Downing professor of the laws of England, Cambridge, born on 28 May 1850 at 53 Guilford Street, London, was only son in a family of three children of John Gorham Maitland [q. v.] by his wife Emma, daughter of John Frederic Daniell, F.R.S. [q. v.]. From his grandfather, Samuel Roffey Maitland [q. v.], he received not only a small manorial estate at Brookthorpe in Gloucestershire, but also a love of historical research. His mother died in 1851, and his father, a scholar and a linguist, in 1863. Frederic's youth was mainly passed in charge of his aunt, Charlotte Louisa Daniell. After education at home, where German governesses gave him early command of that language, and at a preparatory school at Brighton, he passed in 1863 to Eton, where E. D. Stone was his private tutor. In 1869 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, as a commoner. Abandoning, in 1870, mathematics for moral and mental science, he came under the influence of Henry Sidgwick [q. v. Suppl. I]. In 1872 he was elected a scholar and was bracketed senior in moral sciences tripos. He became Whewell international law scholar in 1873. A fluent, caustic, and persuasive speaker, he was successively secretary and president of the Cambridge Union Society; he was also a good runner, and represented the university in the three-mile race. He graduated B. A. in 1873, and proceeded M.A. in 1876, being made hon. LL.D. in 1891.

Maitland joined Lincoln's Inn as a student on 6 June 1872, and was called to the bar on 17 Nov. 1876, and for the next eight years practised as conveyancer and equity draftsman, mainly as ' devil ' for Mr. Benjamin 'Bickley Rogers, a scholar as well as a lawyer of repute. Although Maitland received at Lincoln's Inn a thorough training in practical law, his bent was for scientific, theoretical, historical law. His knowledge of German introduced him early to Savigny's 'Geschichte des Romischen Rechts' (of which he began a translation never completed or published) and to the works of Brunner on Anglo-Norman law. Through Stubbs's 'Constitutional History' he was led to study the publications of the Record Commission, and the vast materials for the original study of English law. He soon formed the aim of doing for English law what Savigny had done for Roman law, that is, to produce, after due investigation and collation of the undigested and scattered materials, a scientific and philosophical history of English law from the earliest times in all its bearings upon the economic, political, constitutional, social and religious life of the English people. He rapidly trained himself by his unaided endeavours in palæography and diplomatic. Both training and character, in which quick wit and wide sympathies were combined with singular independence of mind, fitted him admirably for his task.

In 1884 Maitland was elected to the newly established readership in English law in the university of Cambridge, and there he mainly resided till his death. In 1888 he was elected Downing professor of English law, and moved to West Lodge, his official residence in Downing College. His inaugural lecture as professor, 'Why the History of English Law is not Written,' was a popular exposition of his aims and an appeal for fellow workers. As professor, while he lectured regularly to the students, he corresponded with or entertained the leading lawyers, jurists, and historians of England, Europe, and America. By lecture, review, and essay he was always pressing upon English readers, and acknowledging his own debt to, the labour of foreign writers, and was always generous in help and encouragement to fellow-workers.

Soon after settling at Cambridge, Maitland perceived that his vast design of interpreting English law stood in need of cooperative effort. Ho consequently succeeded in 1887 in founding the Selden Society, 'to encourage the study and advance the knowledge of the history of English law' by publishing needful material, with headquarters in the Inns of Court in London, and under the direction of the legal authorities. In the twenty years intervening between its foundation and Maitland's death the society issued twenty-one volumes on the history of different branches of the law, edited either by himself or by editors selected and supervised by himself. In 1887, too, the year of the Society's formation, he published his first important work, 'Bracton's Note-book' (3 vols.). It was an edition of a British Museum MS. which he put forward as the actual materials collected by Bracton [q. v.] for his great treatise 'De Legibus et consuetudinibus Angliaj,' temp. Henry III, one of the best sources of English history and law in the period immediately preceding Edward I. In 1887-8 he delivered a course of lectures at Cambridge on 'The constitutional history of England' from the death of Edward I to his own. time (published after his death). In 1889 he published two moat important contributions to periodicals: 'The Materials for English Legal History' in the 'Political Science Quarterly,' being a thorough analysis and classification of all known available materials for each period from Ethelbert to Henry VIII, and 'The History of the Register of Original Writs' in the 'Harvard Law Review,' an admirable illustration of the proper method of dealing with one of the most abstruse branches of his materials—the development of the forms of action at common law. Meanwhile Maitland was actively engaged on his 'History of English Law before the Time of Edward I,' a magnum opus which he planned in consultation and co-operation with Sir Frederick Pollock. The work, published in 1895 (2 vols.), bears the names both of Sir Frederick Pollock and Maitland on the title-page, but it was substantially carried out by Maitland. It was at once universally adopted as an authoritative textbook on this period and a model for other periods. In the same year (1895) he was made literary director of the Selden Society.

Maitland next turned his attention to a different theme, the action and reaction of Roman civil law, whether ancient or mediæval, upon English law. 'In 1895 he traced the sources of the influences of Roman law upon English law in the thirteenth century, in a volume, 'Bracton and Azo,' issued by the Selden Society (viii.).

Carrying his study of the topic down to the sixteenth century, he confuted, to the annoyance of Anglican apologists. the partisan theory that there was in England before the Reformation a system of Anglican canon law independent of the Roman canon law. After several essays in periodicals through 1896-7 (sec Collected Papers) he published in 1898 his 'Roman Canon Law in the Church of England,' finally proving that the pre-Reformation canon law enforced in England was purely Roman. His judgment was accepted, even by Stubbs, who was in part responsible for the other theory. Free from all theological bias, Maitland regarded the Reformation as a national movement of statesmen, using royal necessities and reformers' enthusiasm to deliver England from the actual oppression of Papal canon law and the prospective infliction of the mediæval civil law. Further researches into the legal effect of the Reformation led to dissertations on 'The Corporation Sole, the Crown as Corporation,' 'The General Law of Corporations,' and 'Trust and Corporation'—a study of the growth of 'trusts' as an elusive but effective substitute for the strict legal corporation. Maitland's scholarly impartiality received conspicuous recognition. On Lord Acton's invitation he wrote on the 'Anglican Settlement and Scottish Reformation' in the 'Cambridge Modern History' (1903).

Convinced of the inadequacy of the printed texts of the Year Books in old legal Anglo-French, Maitland persuaded the Selden Society to undertake a new edition, selecting the period of Edward II, with a careful collation of all MSS., translation, illustrations from the plea rolls, and introductory essays. With the assistance of Mr. G. J. Turner, Maitland produced the first three volumes in 1903-4-5. The fourth volume was completed after Maitland's death by Mr. Turner in 1907. For his own use Maitland compiled a grammar of the old law-French, and published it in the introduction to the first volume.

At the same time Maitland, apart from his historical studies, advocated many plans of legal reform, such as the simplification of English law by the abolition of the separate law of real property 'founded on worn-out theories and obsolescent ideas' ('The Law of Real Property.' 1879; 'Survey of a Century,' 1901, in Coll. Papers), and a prompt codification of the English law so simplified ('The Making of the German Civil Code,' 1906, in Coll Papers). 'Strenuous endeavours to improve the law,' he wrote, 'are not hindered but forwarded by a zealous study of legal history.'

Maitland found relief from his literary researches in varied recreation. He was devoted to music. He rowed and walked and was an Alpine mountaineer. In 1881 he became secretary of the 'Sunday Tramps,' a body of pedestrians organised by (Sir) Leslie Stephen [q. v. Suppl. II], with whom he formed a close friendship. In 1897 he delivered the Ford lectures at Oxford on 'Township and Borough.' Next year his health, which had always been delicate, was weakened by pleurisy. Thenceforward he wintered abroad, passing the colder months with his family in the Grand Canary, where with the help of MSS. or photographs of MSS. he steadily pursued literary work. His reputation grew rapidly in his last years at home and abroad. He was made hon. D.C.L. of Oxford in 1899, as well as LL.D. of Glasgow, Cracow, and Moscow Universities. He was a corresponding member of Royal Prussian Academy and Royal Bavarian Academy. In 1901 he delivered the Rede lecture at Cambridge. In 1902 he was chosen an original fellow of the British Academy, a bencher of Lincoln's Inn, and also an honorary fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. On his last voyage to the Grand Canary in Nov. 1906 he was attacked by pneumonia, and died at Quiney's Hotel, Las Palmas, on 19 Dec. 1906. He is buried in the English cemetery there. At Cambridge there was founded in 1907 'The F. W. Maitland Memorial Fund,' for the promotion of research and instruction in the history of law and legal language and institutions. At Oxford, 'the Maitland Library' of legal and social history acquired his own copy of Domesday Book and other favourite volumes. A portrait painted by Miss Beatrice Lock (now Mrs. Leopold Fripp) in August 1906 is in the possession of the present writer; it was reproduced in photogravure in vol. 22 of the Selden Society's publications; a replica painted after Maitland's death hangs in the hall of Downing College. A posthumous bust, executed in bronze by Mr. S. Nicholson Babb for the Maitland Memorial fund, was presented to the university of Cambridge, and is placed in the Squire law library.

Maitland married on 20 July 1886 Florence Henrietta, eldest daughter of Herbert Fisher, the last judge of the Court of Stannaries for the Duchy of Cornwall, and niece of Julia Prinsep, second wife of (Sir) Leslie Stephen [q. v.]; he had issue two daughters, born in 1887 and 1889. His widow and daughters survive him,

Maitland published:

  1. 'Pleas of the Crown for the County of Gloucester, 1221,' 1884.
  2. 'Justice and Pohce,' 'English Citizens' series, 1885.
  3. 'Bracton's Notebook,' 3 vols. 1887.
  4. 'Select Pleas of the Crown, 1200-1225,' Selden Society, vol. i. 1888.
  5. 'Select Pleas in Manorial and other Seignorial Courts, Henry III and Edward I,' Selden Society, vol. 2, 1889.
  6. 'Three Rolls of the King's Court, 1194-5,' Pipe Roll Society, vol. 4, 1891.
  7. . 'The Court Baron' (jointly with W. P. Baildon), Selden Society, vol. 4, 1891.
  8. 'Records of the Parliament holden at Westminster, 28 Feb. 1305,' Rolls series, 98, 1893.
  9. 'The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I ' (jointly with F. Pollock), 2 vols. 1895; 2nd edit. 1898.
  10. 'The Mirror of Justices' (jointly with W. J. Whittaker), Selden Society, vol. 7, 1895.
  11. 'Bracton and Azo,' Selden Society, vol. 8, 1895.
  12. 'Domesday Book and Beyond, Three Essays,' 1897.
  13. 'Township and Borough, the Ford Lectures of 1897,' 1898.
  14. 'Roman Canon Law in the Church of England, Six Essays,' 1898.
  15. 'Political Theories of the Middle Ages, by Dr. Otto Gierke,' translation and introduction, 1900.
  16. 'The Charters of the Borough of Cambridge' (jointly with Mary Bateson), 1901.
  17. 'English Law and the Renaissance,' Rede lecture, 1901.
  18. 'Year Books of Edward II, vol. i. 1307-9,' Selden Society, vol. 17, 1903.
  19. 'Year Books of Edward II, vol. ii. 1308-9-10,' Selden Society, vol. 19, 1904.
  20. 'Year Books of Edward II, vol. iii. 1309-10,' Selden Society, vol. 20, 1905. 24. 'Life and Letters of Leslie Stephen,' 1906.

Many essays, articles, and reviews from 1872 to 1906 were collected by his brother-in law, H. A. L. Fisher, and reprinted as 'The Collected Works of Frederic William Maitland' (1911). Other works posthumously published are 'Year Books of Edward II, vol. iv. 1309-11,' Selden Society, vol. 22, 1907 (completed by G. J. Turner, and containing a memoir and photogravure); 'The Constitutional History of England' (being lectures dehvered at Cambridge, 1887-8, edited by H. A. L. Fisher), 1908; and 'Equity and the Forms of Action at Common Law' (lectures delivered at Cambridge, edited by A. H. Chaytor and W. J. Whittaker), 1909. Maitland also contributed to 'Social England,' 'Dictionary of Political Economy,' 'Encyclopædia Britannica,' 'Encyclopædia of the Laws of England,' and this Dictionary of National Biography,' and ho wrote a preface to Smith's 'De Republica Anglorum,' edited by L. Alston, 1906.

[MS. memoir by his oldest sister, Mrs. Reynell (not published); Frederic William Maitland, two lectures and a bibliography, by A. L. Smith, Oxford, 1908 (the best appreciation of his work and fullest bibliography); Frederic William Maitland: a biographical sketch, with portrait, by H. A. L. Fisher, Cambridge, 1910. Proceedings of the British Academy, Dec. 1906, pp. 455-60, by Sir Frederick Pollock; Athenæum, 5 Jan. 1907, pp. 15-16, and Solicitors Journal, Jan. 1897; Quarterly Review (Sir F. Pollock), April 1907; English Historical Review (P. Vinogradoff); Law Quarterly Review (notices by foreign jurists); Juridical Review (by D. P. Heatley); Political Science Quarterly (American impression), June 1907; Cambridge University Reporter (Report of Memorial Meeting), 22 July 1907; Preface to vol. 22 of Seldcn Society's publications, Nov. 1907; see also J. H. Round's Peerage and Pedigree, i. 146, 1910; Prof. Maitland: biographical notice and portrait, Journal of Soc. of Comp. Legislation, No. 13, 1904; and Maitland's Life and Letters of Leslie Stephen, 1906.]

B. F. L.