The Times/1909/Obituary/James John Hornby
We much regret to announce that the Rev. Dr. Hornby, the Provost of Eton, died at The Lodge, Eton College, last night, from heart failure.
The Rev. James John Hornby, D.D., C.V.O., was the third son of Admiral Sir Phipps Hornby (1785-1867) and brother of the late Sir Geoffrey Phipps Hornby, Admiral of the Fleet. His maternal grandmother was Lady Lucy Stanley, sister of the 12th Earl of Derby, and his aunt was the wife of the 13th earl. His mother was Sophia Maria, eldest daughter of that Sir John Burgoyne who was forced to capitulate at Saratoga, and who afterwards, happier with the pen than with the sword, wrote successful comedies, including The Heiress—the piece in which Miss Farren, as the heroine, won the hear and hand of the Lord Derby of the day. James John Hornby was born at Winwick on December 18, 1826, and had therefore nearly completed his 83rd year at the time of his death. He was educated at Eton and at Balliol College, Oxford, and both at school and at the University, and indeed all through his early and middle life, offered the happiest combination of the scholar and the athlete. He played in the Eton eleven in 1845 and rowed in the Oxford eight in 1849 and 1851, one of his brother oarsman being afterwards the celebrated Jude Lord Justice Chitty. Hornby, like Chitty, obtained his first-class in the schools, and was soon afterwards elected Fellow of Brasenose. In 1853, having in the interval become known as a fine skater and one of the best Alpine climbers f the day, he accepted the post of Principal of Bishop Cosin's Hall in the University of Durham, and in the northern city he remained 11 years. In 1864 he came back for a short time to Brasenose as classical lecturer, and the surviving members of his class still recall with pleasure the animation of his Virgil lectures and his excellent way of teaching Latin prose.
In 1867 his life entered upon a new phase, when, doubtless with a view of being trained for the impending vacancy at Eton, he accepted the Second Mastership of Winchester, a post which implied more independence than the title would seem to suggest. He remained at Winchester little more than a year, and was then appointed to the high post of Headmaster of Eton, in succession to Dr. Balston. It was a difficult post to fill, especially at that time of transition, and many questions, personal and administrative, had to be determined. On the whole, it may be said that his sixteen years' Headmastership (1868-1884) was very fairly successful. At first, as he was not and had never been an Eton master, he was regarded with a certain jealousy by those who look upon that kind of apprenticeship as an indispensable qualification, but his good work told, and so, perhaps, even more effectively, did his sympathetic temper and his pleasant manners. On one occasion, indeed, he had to show that he could, if necessary, be stern; and his dismissal of one rather prominent under-master is still remembered. He was a reformer, but a moderate and courteous one" and perhaps he was less popular then he ought to have been on account of a certain want of initiative. In 1884 the death of Dr Goodford made a vacancy in the Provostship, and Hornby resigned the headship and was chosen to succeed him, the place he vacated going to the Rev. Edmond Warre. There were many points of character and disposition which were common to the two men. Both had graduated at Balliol, both were athletes, and both were men of large experience of the world.
Little needed to be added as to Dr. Hornby's subsequent career. It was uneventful, except for the ordinary chances and changes of life. In 1891 he lost his wife, the daughter of the Rev. J. C. Evans, of Eton, whom he had married in 1869, and who was, therefore, associated with the whole of his Eton life. He had also the misfortune to lose a promising son, but others and two daughters survived him. As chairman of the Governing Body, he had to preside over the meetings at the time of Dr. Warre's resignation, when the Rev. the Hon. Edward Lyttelton was elected his successor. It is difficult for the holder of that dignified but leisured position, the Provostship, to make a great mark, and it cannot be said that Dr. Hornby made one. But he was loyal, just friendly, and a keeper of the peace—and more can scarcely be demanded of a Provost of Eton.