Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/North, Frederick (1766-1827)
NORTH, FREDERICK, fifth Earl of Guilford (1766–1827), philhellene, third and youngest son of Frederick, second earl of Guilford [q. v.], by Anne, daughter of George Speke, was born on 7 Feb. 1766. He was extremely delicate, and passed most of his childhood in foreign health resorts. He was, however, for a time at Eton, and on 18 Oct. 1782 matriculated at Oxford, where he was student of Christ Church, was created D.C.L. on 5 July 1793, and received the same degree by diploma on 30 Oct. 1819. By patent of 13 Dec. 1779 he was appointed to the office of chamberlain of the exchequer, a sinecure which he held until 10 Oct. 1826. At Oxford North became an accomplished Grecian and an enthusiastic philhellene. After a tour in Spain (1788) he travelled in the Ionian archipelago, acquired a competent knowledge of the vernacular language, and, after a careful examination of the points at issue between the eastern and western churches, was received into the former at Corfu on 23 Jan. 1791. In the same year, on the conclusion of the peace of Galatz, he evinced his accomplishment in classical Greek by the composition of a scholarly and spirited Pindaric ode in honour of the Empress Catherine, a few copies of which, inscribed Αἰκατερίνῃ Εἰρηνοποιᾦ, were printed at Leipzig, 4to; reprinted at Athens, ed. Papadopoulos Bretos, 1846, 8vo.
On the succession of his eldest brother, George Augustus, to the peerage as third earl of Guilford, North succeeded, 21 Sept. 1792, to his seat in the House of Commons for the pocket borough of Banbury, which, however, he vacated on being appointed, 5 March 1794, to the comptrollership of the customs in the port of London. The same year he was elected fellow of the Royal Society, and probably about the same time member of the Eumelean Club.
During the British occupation of Corsica, 1795–6, North held the office of secretary of state to the viceroy, Sir Gilbert Elliot [q. v.] In 1798 he was appointed governor of our recently acquired dominion in Ceylon, and towards the end of the year arrived at Colombo. Kandy was still independent, and thither, in the summer of 1800, North sent General McDowal, with an imposing display of troops, on a mission to the king, by whom he was received with apparent graciousness. Soon after McDowal's return to Colombo, however, his Kandian majesty made extensive preparations for war, which North neutralised by declaring war himself (29 Jan. 1803). McDowal occupied Kandy without encountering serious resistance, but was compelled by jungle fever to withdraw, leaving a small force to garrison the town. Reduced by fever, the garrison was surprised and massacred by the natives during the night, 23–4 June 1803. A desultory war followed, with varying success; and before the conclusion of peace North's term of office had expired (July 1805). He was succeeded by Sir Thomas Maitland [q. v.]
Notwithstanding the war, North had improved the revenue, established a system of public instruction, and reformed the law by the abolition of religious disabilities, torture, peculation, and other incidents of the old régime. His humane and beneficent sway was the more grateful to the natives by contrast with the brutality and corruption of the Dutch governors, and he quitted the island amid general regret.
North spent the next few years in travel on the continent of Europe, which he traversed diagonally, from Spain to Russia. He also revisited Italy (1810) and Greece (1811), returning to England in 1813. In the following year he was elected the first president (προέδρος) of a society for the promotion of culture (Ἑταιρία τῶν Φιλομούων) founded at Athens.
He acknowledged the honour, and accepted the office in a letter equally remarkable for the ardour of its philhellenism and the purity of its Attic, which was afterwards published in Hermēs ho logios, 1819, pp. 179–80. On the establishment of the British protectorate over the Ionian Islands, North devoted himself, in concert with his friend Count Capodistrias, to a scheme for founding an Ionian university, a cause which he was the better able to promote upon his succession to the earldom of Guilford, on the death of his elder brother, Francis, the fourth earl, 28 Jan. 1817. On 26 Oct. 1819 he was created knight grand cross of the order of St. Michael and St. George by the prince regent, who, on his accession to the throne, nominated him archōn or chancellor of the projected university. A site was procured in Ithaca, but was afterwards abandoned for one in Corfu, in deference to the views of Lord High-commissioner Sir Thomas Maitland [q. v.], in whose lifetime the scheme made little progress. His successor, Sir Frederick Adam [q. v.], proved more sympathetic, and under his auspices, on 29 May 1824, the Ionian University, with four faculties, a professoriate, and Guilford as chancellor, was solemnly inaugurated in Corfu. For some years Guilford resided in the university, on which he lavished much money. He also placed in the library several rich collections of printed books, MSS., scientific apparatus, and sulphur casts of antique medallions. His enthusiasm, and especially his practice of wearing the classical costume adopted as the academic dress habitually and all the year round, excited much ridicule in England, whither he was recalled by the state of his health in 1827. He died on 14 Oct. in that year, at the house of his nephew, the Earl of Sheffield, in St. James's Square, having received the communion according to the Greek rite from the hands of the chaplain to the Russian embassy (cf. the elegant canzone by T. J. Mathias [q. v.], ‘Per la Morte di Federico North,’ Naples and London, 1827, 8vo). His collections at Corfu, which he had bequeathed to the university, were recovered by his executors, in consequence of the failure of the university to comply with certain conditions annexed to the bequest.
He was a brilliant conversationalist and linguist; he wrote and spoke German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Romaic with ease; he read Russian, and throughout life maintained his familiarity with the classics unimpaired. Two busts of him by the sculptors Prosalendes and Calosguros, both natives of Corfu, were made shortly before his death. Some manuscripts from Guilford's collections, with the catalogue, are preserved in the British Museum, Add. MSS. 8220, 20016–17, 20036–7, 27430–1 (cf. Cat. MSS. Fred. Com. de Guilford, fol.).