The Times/1923/Obituary/Samuel Waddington
Anthologist and Sonneteer
Death of Samuel Waddington
We regret to announce that Mr. Samuel Waddington, anthologist, sonneteer, and biographer, died yesterday at his residence at Kilburn, two days before his 79th birthday. He never recovered from a paralytic seizure he had six weeks ago.
Samuel Waddington was born in a house called Wharfedale Villa, at Boston Spa, Yorkshire, on November 9, 1844, the youngest of a family of five. His father was a man of independent means, who dabbled in poetry and theology, but he received his bias to literature rather from his mother, who was a Shillito of Pontefract. He was sent to St. Peter's School, York, in 1857, was transferred to St. John's, Huntingdon, in 1858, and went up to Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1862. There he admired Walter Pater, then a newly-elected Fellow, but did not form his acquaintance. Dr. Pusey, on the other hand, observed the young Yorkshireman, and admitted him to his famous private lectures at Christ Church. But the influence of the Tractarian movement was beginning to wane, and Dean Stanley and Jowett attracted Waddington's admiration. He took his degree, without honours, in 1865. He intended to be ordained, but the necessity of subscribing to the Thirty-nine Articles proved an insuperable barrier. Nevertheless, he remained all his life profoundly religious in sentiment.
In 1868, on the nomination of the then Duke of Richmond, he accepted a clerkship in the Board of Trade, and spent the next thirty-nine years in the Marine Department. During the next decade the Board of Trade became the centre of a remarkable poetic activity, and Waddington was stirred by finding himself the colleague of Austin Dobson, Edmund Gosse, and Cosmo Monkhouse, into much study of versification. Dobson, who occupied the room next to him suggested to him an anthology of "English Sonnets by Living Writers," and thus Waddington published in 1881, with an essay on the history and composition of the sonnet-form. It was followed by "English Sonnets by Poets of the Past" in 1882, and by "Sonnets of Europe" in 1886. Those three anthologies were prepared with great deliberation, and Waddington acknowledged the help, not only of his colleagues already mentioned, but also of John Addington Symonds and Richard Garnett, with whom he corresponded. Waddington published a great many sonnets and other poems of his own, and he collected his poetical works 1902. His sonnets are correct in form and highly-finished, but they can hardly considered great poetry. Nevertheless, there is something of his to be found in almost every modern anthology. In 1883 he issued a critical and biographical monograph of Arthur Hugh Clough, with religious views he sympathized. His dissertation on the subject of immortality entitled "Some Views Respecting a Future Life," appeared in 1917.
As a poet, Waddington was most in sympathy with Wordsworth, Clough and Matthew Arnold. His verse is gentle, reflective, and deeply charged with religious feeling. In a preface to his first book of poems he suggested that the saying of a great critic that the strongest part of our religion was its unconscious poetry might be inverted: that in fact the strongest part of our poetry was its unconscious religion. But by religion Waddington meant anything but dogma, as when he wrote:—
It was so easy and so passing sweet
Within the kirk's old ivied porch to stray.
Full tranquil seemed the place—a Paradise
Where those who taste not knowledge dwell secure:
Brave hearts, whom their own dreams of Heaven suffice:
O Truth, from Paradise with thee we passed.
But, Master, wilt thou bring us home at last
Unto a place as peaceful and as pure?
The quotation fairly illustrates both his charm and his technical limitations.
Having refused promotions to the post of Registrar-General of Shipping because it involved separation from his friends in Whitehall, Waddington retired from the Board of Trade in 1906 and in 1909 published his "Chapters of my Life." His life had been unusually placid, without adventures of any kind, and his autobiography is naturally for the most part a commonplace book of quotations, anecdotes and reflections. But it is full of good nature and gracefully written. Waddington was a hero-worshipper from a distance; he liked to correspond with eminent people, and in his autobiography he prints their more or less formal replies, but his own life was solitary and he formed few intimacies. He was meticulous and rather prim in manner and seldom did justice in conversation to his genuine enthusiasm for and absorption in literature. He never married.
The funeral will be at Kensal Green, to-morrow, at 2.45.