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Two Suffolk Friends   By: (1851-1902)

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{Robert Hindes Groome: p0.jpg}


Published originally in 'Blackwood's Magazine' four and six years ago, and now a good deal extended, these two papers, I think, will be welcome to many in East Anglia who knew my father, and to more, the world over, who know FitzGerald's letters and translations. I may say this with the better grace and greater confidence, as in both there is so much that is not mine, and both have already brought me so many kindly letters from Freshwater, Putney Hill, Liverpool, Cambridge, Aldeburgh, Italy, the United States, India, and "other nations too tedious to mention." All the illustrations have been made in Bohemia from photographs taken by my elder sister, except Nos. 6, 8, and 9, the first of which is from the well known photograph of FitzGerald by Cade of Ipswich, whilst the other two I owe to my friend, Mr Edward Clodd.

F. H. G.


The chief aim of this essay is to present to a larger public than the readers of a country newspaper my father's Suffolk stories; but those stories may well be prefaced by a sketch of my father's life. Such a sketch I wrote shortly after his death, for the great 'Dictionary of National Biography.' It runs thus:

"Robert Hindes Groome, Archdeacon of Suffolk, was born at Framlingham in 1810. Of Aldeburgh ancestry, he was the second son of the Rev. John Hindes Groome, ex fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and rector for twenty six years of Earl Soham and Monk Soham in Suffolk. From Norwich school he passed to Caius College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1832, M.A. in 1836. In 1833 he was ordained to the Suffolk curacy of Tannington with Brandish; in 1835 travelled through Germany as tutor to Rafael Mendizabal, the son of the Spanish ambassador; in 1839 became curate of Corfe Castle, Dorsetshire; and in 1845 succeeded his father as rector of Monk Soham. Here in the course of forty four years he built the rectory house and school, restored the fine old church, erected an organ, and re hung the bells. He was Archdeacon of Suffolk from 1869 till 1887, when failing eyesight forced him to resign, and when the clergy of the diocese presented him with his portrait. He died at Monk Soham, 19th March 1889. Archdeacon Groome was a man of wide culture a man, too, of many friends. Chief among these were Edward FitzGerald, William Bodham Donne, Dr Thompson of Trinity, and Henry Bradshaw, the Cambridge librarian, who said of him, 'I never see Groome but what I learn something new.' He read much, but published little a couple of charges, a sermon and lecture or two, some hymns and hymn tunes, and a good many articles in the 'Christian Advocate and Review,' of which he was editor from 1861 to 1866. His best productions are his Suffolk stories: for humour and tenderness these come near to 'Rab and his Friends.'"

An uneventful life, like that of most country clergymen. But as Gainsborough and Constable took their subjects from level East Anglia, as Gilbert White's Selborne has little to distinguish it above other parishes in Hampshire, {5} so I believe that the story of that quiet life might, if rightly told, possess no common charm. I have listened to my father's talks with Edward FitzGerald, with William Bodham Donne, and with two or three others of his oldest friends; such talks were like chapters out of George Eliot's novels. His memory was marvellous. It seems but the other day I told him I had been writing about Clarendon; and "Clarendon," he said, "was born, I know, in 1608, but I forget the name of the Wiltshire parish his birthplace. Look it up." I looked it up, and the date was 1608; the parish (Dinton) was, sure enough, in Wiltshire... Continue reading book >>

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