Strachey, Edward (DNB12)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

STRACHEY, Sir EDWARD, third baronet (1812–1901), author, born at Sutton Court, Chew Magna, Somerset, on 12 Aug. 1812, was eldest of the six sons of Edward Strachey by his wife Julia Woodburn, third daughter of Major-general William Kirkpatrick [q. v.], 'a singular pearl of a woman' (Carlyle, Reminiscences, i. 128). His five brothers, all long-lived, were Sir Henry Strachey (1816-1912), lieutenant-colonel of the Bengal army; Sir Richard Strachey [q. v. Suppl. II]; William Strachey (1819-1904), of the colonial office; Sir John Strachey [q. v. Suppl. II], and George (b. 1828), minister at the court of Saxony.

His father, Edward (1774–1832), second son of Sir Henry Strachey [q. v. Suppl. I], first baronet, was educated at Westminster and St. Andrews, went to Bengal as a writer in 1793, became a judge, was employed in diplomacy, and was one of the dearest friends of Mountstuart Elphinstone [q. v.], who said that in his early years he owed much to Strachey's advice and example, and depended on his friendship (Life, ii. 309). He married in 1808, returned to England in 1811, and retired from the Bengal service in 1815. He resided at Sutton Court until 1820, when, having been appointed an examiner at the India House, he moved to London, and there became a friend of Thomas Carlyle, who was often at Strachey's house in Fitzroy Square, and visited him at his summer residence at Shooters Hill. He was a student of English literature, and a good Persian scholar: he published 'Bija Ganita' (1813, 4to), a translation from the Persian of a Hindu treatise on algebra, originally written in Sanskrit.

Edward Strachey was destined for the East India Company's service, and was educated at Haileybury, but when about to sail for India he was attacked by inflammation of the knee-joint, which destroyed his hope of an Indian career, and forced him to use crutches for more than twenty years. He was eventually cured when past forty by the waters of Ischia when on a visit to Naples, but his knee always remained stiff. In 1836, having been attracted by 'Subscription no Bondage,' by F. D. Maurice [q. v.], he obtained an introduction to him through John Sterling [q. v.], a friend of his mother, and asked to be allowed to read with him with a view to entering a university. This intention an increase of his malady forced him to abandon. However, he spent the second half of that year with Maurice at Guy's Hospital, and from that time an intimate friendship existed between them; Maurice became his spiritual adviser and exercised a lasting influence on his mind.

In 1858 he succeeded to the title and the Somersetshire estates of his uncle, Sir Henry Strachey, the second baronet, who died unmarried. He took a warm interest in the welfare of his tenants, specially those of the labouring class, was an active magistrate and a deputy-lieutenant, and in 1864 was high sheriff of Somerset; he was a poor-law guardian and was a member of the first Somerset county council. A keen politician, and a liberal of a somewhat idealistic type, he was an admirer of Gladstone and in 1870 wrote a series of articles in the 'Daily News' on the proposed Irish Land bill, for which materials were supplied him by his friend and neighbour, Chichester Fortescue, afterwards Lord Carlingford [q. v. Suppl. I]. His life was largely that of a man of letters; he followed up his early studies in Oriental languages, especially in Persian, occasionally making translations from Persian poems, and was well versed in English literature. Besides his books he wrote articles in the 'Spectator,' 'Blackwood's Magazine,' and other periodicals. His interests were wide and his mind alert. As a disciple of Maurice he was firmly attached to the Church of England, but was strongly opposed to high church doctrines and practices, and respected the opinions of his nonconformist neighbours. He was deeply religious, although his religious opinions in his early days were in advance of contemporary standards of orthodoxy. Biblical criticism, especially on its historical side, was one of his favourite studies, and he learnt Hebrew in order to pursue it. He died at Sutton Court on 24 Sept. 1901, and was buried in Chew Magna churchyard.

He married (1) on 27 Aug. 1844, Elizabeth, eldest daughter of the Rev. W. Wilkinson, of Woodbury Hall, Bedfordshire; she died without issue on 11 April 1855; and (2) on 3 Nov. 1857, Mary Isabella, second daughter of John Addington Symonds (1807-1871) [q. v.]; she died on 5 Oct. 1883, leaving three sons: Edward, who was created Baron Strachie of Sutton Court on 3 Nov. 1911; John St. Loe, editor of the 'Spectator'; Henry, an artist, and one daughter, all now (1912) living.

There are three painted portraits of Strachey at Sutton Court, one by Samuel Laurence [q. v.] and two by his son, Mr. Henry Strachey.

Strachey published: 1. 'A Commentary on the Marriage Service,' 1843, 24 mo. 2. 'Shakespeare's Hamlet: an Attempt to find a Key to a great Moral Problem,' 1848. 3. 'Hebrew Politics in the Time of Sargon and Sennacherib: an Inquiry into the Meaning of the Prophecies of Isaiah,' 1853, revised and enlarged as 'Jewish History and Politics,' 1874, bringing the prophecies into connection with what is known from other sources as to the Jewish kingdom, and discussing the questions of their unity, arrangement, authorship, &c. 4. 'Miracles and Science,' 1854. 5. 'Politics Ancient and Modern,' with F. D. Maurice, in 'Tracts for Priests,' 1861. 6. 'Talk at a Country House,' 1895, originally published in the 'Atlantic Monthly,' largely autobiographical in thought though not in circumstance, the 'Squire' being the author and his interlocutor 'Forster,' Sir Edward used to say, representing his ideas in his younger days. He also edited Malory's 'Morte d'Arthur' (1868, 1891) for the Globe edition; contributed to Richard Garnett's edition of Peacock's works, vol. x., 'Recollections' of the author. Peacock having been a colleague of Strachey's father at the India House, and wrote an introduction to Edward Lear's 'Nonsense Songs' (1895, 4to).

[Private information; Sir F. Maurice's Life of F. D. Maurice, 1884. For Sir Edward's father see Carlyle's Reminiscences, ed. Froude, 1881; Sir E. Colebrooke's Life of Mountstuart Elphinstone, 1884.]

W. H.