Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/910

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In the autumn of 1882 he abandoned the direction of the Cornhill to James Payn, having accepted the more responsible duty of the editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, for the first planning and conception of which he was largely responsible. The first volume of the Dictionary was published in January 1885, and twenty quarterly volumes followed under Stephen’s sole editorship. Five volumes were then published under the joint editorship of Leslie Stephen and of Mr Sidney Lee, whom he had appointed as his assistant in March 1883. Early in 1891, after eight and a half years' service, Stephen, whose health had been impaired by the labour inseparable from the direction of such an undertaking, resigned the responsibility to his coadjutor. Not a trained historian, he often found it difficult to curb his impatience with Carlyle’s old enemy Dryasdust. Fortunately for the success of the work, re-established health enabled him to remain a contributor to the Dictionary. Among his lives are those of Addison, Bolingbroke, Burns, Charlotte Brontë, Byron, Carlyle, Marlborough, Coleridge, Defoe, Dickens, Dryden, Fielding, George Eliot, Gibbon, Gold- smith, Hobbes, Hume, Johnson, Landor, Locke, Macaulay, the two Mills, Milton, Pope, Scott, Swift, Adam Smith, Thackeray, Warburton, Wordsworth and Young. Many of these are salted with irony, and most of them are characterized by felicitous phrases, by frequent flashes of insight (especially of the sardonic order), and by the good fortune which attends a consummate artist in his special craft. His particular style of treatment is more appropriate, perhaps, to the self-complacent worthies of the 18th century than to quietists such as Law and Wordsworth; but where space demands that a character should be inscribed upon a cherry-stone, Stephen seldom if ever failed to rise to the occasion. For the " English Men of Letters " he wrote lives of Swift, Pope and Johnson—the last well described as " the peerless model of short biographies "—and subsequently George Eliot and Hobbes (1904). During his tenure of the editorship of the Dictionary he was appointed first Clark lecturer at Cambridge (1883), and lectured upon his favorite period—Berkeley, Mandeville, Warburton and Hume; a few years later, upon one of several visits to his intimate friends and old correspondents, Norton and Lowell, he received (1890) a doctor’s degree from Harvard University. After Lowell’s death in 1891 Stephen was mainly instrumental in having a memorial window placed in Westminster Abbey.

In 1885 he brought out his standard Life of Fawcett, in 1893 his Agnostic’s Apology and other Essays, and in 1895 the Life of his brother, Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, which, less essayistic in manner than the Life of Fawcett, contains his most finished biographical work. In the same year, in succession to Lord Tennyson, Stephen was elected president of the London Library, and shortly afterwards appointed a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery. Some of his experiences as an editor were embodied in Studies of a Biographer, issued in 1898, while in 1900 appeared an important work which he had long had in preparation in continuation of his English Thought in the Eighteenth Century, entitled The English Utilitarians, being full-length studies of Bentham and the two Mills. As a thinker Leslie Stephen showed himself consistently a follower of Hume, Bentham, the Mills and G. H. Lewes, but he accepted the older utilitarianism only as modified by the application of Darwinian principles, upon lines to some extent indicated by Herbert Spencer (see Ethics). The negative character of his teaching, his anti-sacerdotal bias, his continual attitude of irony, and even the very subtlety of his thought, have co-operated to retard the recognition of his value as rivalled only by Bagehot among critics of the incisive school. For blowing the froth off the flagon of extravagant or inflated eulogy he certainly met no equal in his generation. Voluminous as his work is, it is never dull. While making self-depreciation a fine art, and perpetually laughing in his sleeve at the literary bias and the literary foible, he fulfilled with exceptional conscience the literary duty of never writing below his best. Brought up in a rigid and precise school which scorned all pretence and discouraged enthusiasm as the sign of an ill-regulated mind, he produced no magnum opus, but he enriched English literature with a fine gallery of literary portraits, not all of them perhaps wholly accurate, but restrained, concise and always significant. Besides being a member of the Metaphysical Society, he was for some years president of the Ethical Society (many of his addresses to which were published as Social Rights and Duties in 1896). In addition to his separate works, he superintended a large number of editions, among them Clifford’s Essays (1879), Fielding (1882), Richardson (1883), Payn’s Backwater of Life (1899), and J. R. Green’s Letters (1901). In 1896 he wrote a memoir of his friend James Dykes Campbell for the second edition of Campbell’s Coleridge, and in 1897 he contributed a preface to the English translation of The Early Life of Wordsworth, by M. Legouis.

His name was included in the Coronation honours list of June 1902, when he was made K.C.B. In December of this year he had to undergo an operation, after which his health began to wane rapidly. In 1903 his Ford lectures, one last luminous talk about the 18th century, were delivered by his nephew, H. L. Fisher. He told a nurse that his enjoyment of books had begun and would end with Boswell’s Johnson. Like Johnson, under a brusque exterior and a coltish temper, he concealed a sympathetic and humorous soul. In spite of " natural sorrows "—the loss of two much loved wives, he pronounced his life to have been a happy one. He died at his house, 22 Hyde Park Gate, on the 22nd of February 1904, and his remains were buried at Golders Green. A Leslie Stephen memorial lectureship was founded at Cambridge in 1905. Under an austere form and visage Stephen was in reality the soul of susceptibility and of an almost freakish fun. This is shown very clearly in the fantastic marginal drawings with which he delighted to illustrate his life for the amusement of young people.

See Life and Letters, by F.W. Maitland (1906); and Dictionary of National Biography, postscript to Statistical Account in the 1908–1909 reissue.  (T. Se.) 

STEPHEN BAR SŪDHAILĒ, a Syrian mystical writer, who flourished about the end of the 5th century a.d. The earlier part of his career was passed at Edessa, of which he may have been a native.[1] He afterwards removed to Jerusalem, where he lived as a monk, and endeavoured to make converts to his peculiar doctrines, both by teaching among the community there and by letters to his former friends at Edessa. He was the author of commentaries on the Bible and other theological works. Two of his eminent contemporaries, the Monophysites Jacob of Serugh (451–521) and Philoxenus of Mabbogh (d. 523), wrote letters in condemnation of his teaching. His two main theses which they attacked were (1) the limited duration of the future punishment of sinners, (2) the pantheistic doctrine that “all nature is consubstantial with the Divine essence—”that the whole universe has emanated from God, and will in the end return to and be absorbed in him.

The fame of Stephen as a writer rests on his identification with the author of a treatise which survives in a single Syriac MS. (Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 7189, written mainly in the 13th century), “The book of Hierotheus on the hidden mysteries of the house of God.” The work claims to have been composed in the 1st century a.d. by a certain Hierotheus who was the disciple of St Paul and the teacher of Dionysius the Areopagite. But, like the works which pass under the name of Dionysius, it is undoubtedly pseudonymous, and most Syriac writers who mention it attribute it to Stephen. An interesting discussion and summary of the book have been given by A. L. Frothingham (Stephen bar Sudhaili, Leiden, 1886), but the text is still (1910) unpublished. From Frothingham’s analysis we learn that the work consists of five books; after briefly describing the origin of the world by emanation from the Supreme Good it is mainly occupied with the description of the stages by which the mind returns to union with God, who finally becomes “all in all.” “To describe the contents in a few words: at the beginning we find the statement regarding absolute existence, and the emanation from primordial essence of the spiritual and material universes: then comes, what occupies almost the entire work, the experience of

  1. 1 He is described as “Stephen the Edessene” in the 8th-century MS. which contains the letter of Philoxenus to Abraham and Orestes.