Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/123

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
Dasent
Dasent
111

peerage by Henry VIII, but the intention was never carried out.

[Cal. Patent Rolls, 1461-77, passim; Dugdale's Chronica Series and Origines Juridiciales; Visit. of Yorkshire (Harl. Soc.), pp. 14, 88; Glover's Visit. Yorks, ed. Foster, pp. 262-3; Tonge's Visit. Yorks. (Surtees Soc.), pp. 87-8; Plumpton Corresp. (Camden Soc.); Thoresby's Ducatus Leodiensis, pp. 201-2; Whitaker's Eichmondshire, i. 258, ii. 98; Paston Letters, ed. Gairdner; Ramsay's Lancaster and York; Foss's Lives of the Judges.]

A. F. P.

DASENT, Sir GEORGE WEBBE (1817–1896), Scandinavian scholar, descended from a family long prominent in the West Indies, and including a number of early settlers and administrators of St. Christopher's, Nevis, and Antigua, was the son of John Roche Dasent (d. 1832), attorney-general of St. Vincent, and was born in St. Vincent on 22 May 1817. His mother was Charlotte Martha, younger daughter and coheiress of Captain Alexander Burrowes Irwin of the 32nd foot, who settled in the island and died there in 1806.

George Dasent was educated at Westminster school (1830-4) and at Oxford, matriculating in 1836 from Magdalen Hall (where he was intimate with John Delane, a pupil, like himself, of Dr. Jacobson), and graduated B.A. in 1840, M.A. in 1843, and D.C.L. in 1852. In 1840 he proceeded to Stockholm as secretary to the British envoy, Sir Thomas Cartwright [q. v.] The encouragement of Jacob Grimm led him to interest himself in Scandinavian literature and mythology, and from his four years' sojourn at Stockholm dated his devotion to the study of the sagas, by which his whole career was animated. In 1842 appeared the first fruits of his labour in this field, taking the form of a version of 'The Prose or younger Edda,' which he inscribed to Thomas Carlyle; and in the following year appeared his 'Grammar of the Icelandic or Old-Norse Tongue,' from the Swedish of Erasmus Rask. He returned to England in 1845, and joined Delane as assistant-editor of the 'Times,' marrying his sister next year. His intimacy with Bunsen proved of great service to Delane in connection with the foreign policy of the paper. Together with his heavy journalistic duties he worked assiduously at translations from the Norse. The first of the stories he thus translated appeared in 'Blackwood's Magazine' in November 1851, and the collective edition in 1859 with an elaborate introductory essay, which Dasent considered the best piece of work he ever did. He derived an important stimulus to independent work of this kind at the Sterlings' house in South Place, Knightsbridge, where he met John Stuart Mill, Julius Hare, and Thackeray. In January 1852 he was called to the bar from the Middle Temple, becoming an advocate in Doctors' Commons (2 Nov.) Next year he accepted, under Richard William Jelf [q. v.], the post of professor of English literature and modern history at King's College, did some examining for the civil service commissioners, and was elected a member of the Athenæum Club by the committee in 1854. Simultaneously he was writing for the reviews, and some overtures were made to him in regard to the editorship of 'Fraser.' About 1865 he was approached by the representatives of Richard Cleasby [q. v.], who had long been engaged in collecting materials for an Icelandic dictionary, previous to his death in October 1847. He was unable himself either to complete the etymological portion of the work or to undertake the laborious task of minute revision; but he succeeded in persuading Gúdbrandr Vígfússon [q. v.] to come to London and perfect the 'Dictionary' (the expense of which was borne by the Clarendon Press, largely owing to the good offices of his friend Dean Liddell), while he personally contributed to the work in 1873 an introductory memoir of Cleasby. As long ago as 1843 he had conceived a notion of giving an English dress to the Njals saga, which he completed and issued in 1861, with some valuable introductory matter contributed by G. Vígfússon. In that year and in 1862 he visited Iceland in the company of John Campbell of Islay, being received with cordiality at Reykjavik, where he was entertained at a public banquet. He rode across the Vatna Jokull and visited nearly every place of interest in the island, the adventures of the party being humorously described by Sir Charles Clifford in his privately printed 'Travels, by Umbra.' In 1863 he visited the Ionian Islands as the guest of Sir Henry Storks [q. v.], the British high commissioner. In 1866 was published 'Gisli the Outlaw,' the best of his Icelandic translations, and a second series of popular stories called 'Tales from the Fjeld' followed in 1874; the story of 'Burnt Njal' having aroused an abiding interest in Icelandic literature. In 1870 Gladstone, on the advice of Lowe, who was also interested in Icelandic studies, offered him a civil service commissionership under Sir Edward Ryan [q. v.], and the acceptance of the post led to his resignation of his work upon the 'Times.' He was now frequently seen at the Athenæum and at the Cosmopolitan Club in Charles Street, Berkeley Square, and became a well-