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The Life of Froude   By: (1853-1935)

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The Life of Froude

By Herbert Paul

London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1905.


Although eleven years have elapsed since Mr. Froude's death, no biography of him has, so far as I know, appeared. This book is an attempt to tell the public something about a man whose writings have a permanent place in the literature of England.

It is a pleasure to acknowledge my obligation to Miss Margaret Froude for having allowed me the use of such written material as existed. A large number of Mr. Froude's letters were destroyed after his death, and it was not intended by the family that any biography of him should be written. Finding that I was engaged upon the task, Miss Froude supplied those facts, dates, and papers which were essential to the accuracy of the narrative. Mr. Froude's niece, Mrs. St. Leger Harrison, known to the world as Lucas Malet, has allowed me to use some of her uncle's letters to her mother.

Lady Margaret Cecil has, with great kindness, permitted me to make copious extracts from Mr. Froude's letters to her mother, the late Countess of Derby. I must also express my gratitude to Sir Thomas Sanderson, Lord Derby's executor, to Cardinal Newman's literary representative Mr. Edward Bellasis, and to Mr. Arthur Clough, son of Froude's early friend the poet.

Mr. James Rye, of Balliol College, Oxford, placed at my disposal, with singular generosity, the results of his careful examination into the charges made against Mr. Froude by Mr. Freeman.

The Rector of Exeter was good enough to show me the entries in the college books bearing upon Mr. Froude's resignation of his Fellowship, and to tell me everything he knew on the subject.

My indebtedness to the late Sir John Skelton's delightful book, The Table Talk of Shirley, will be obvious to my readers.

I have, in conclusion, to thank my old friend Mr. Birrell, for lending me his very rare copy of the funeral sermon preached by Mr. Froude at Torquay.

October 30, 1905.



IN reading biographies I always skip the genealogical details. To be born obscure and to die famous has been described as the acme of human felicity. However that may be, whether fame has anything to do with happiness or no, it is a man himself, and not his ancestors, whose life deserves, if it does deserve, to be written. Such was Froude's own opinion, and it is the opinion of most sensible people. Few, indeed, are the families which contain more than one remarkable figure, and this is the rock upon which the hereditary principle always in practice breaks. For human lineage is not subject to the scientific tests which alone could give it solid value as positive or negative evidence. There is nothing to show from what source, other than the ultimate source of every good and perfect gift, Froude derived his brilliant and splendid powers. He was a gentleman, and he did not care to find or make for himself a pedigree. He knew that the Froudes had been settled in Devonshire time out of mind as yeomen with small estates, and that one of them, to whom his own father always referred with contempt, had bought from the Heralds' College what Gibbon calls the most useless of all coats, a coat of arms. Froude's grandfather did a more sensible thing by marrying an heiress, a Devonshire heiress, Miss Hurrell, and thereby doubling his possessions. Although he died before he was five and twenty, he left four children behind him, and his only son was the historian's father.

James Anthony Froude, known as Anthony to those who called him by his Christian name, was born at Dartington, two miles from Totnes, on St. George's Day, Shakespeare's birthday, the 23rd of April, 1818. His father, who had taken a pass degree at Oxford, and had then taken orders, was by that time Rector of Dartington and Archdeacon of Totnes. Archdeacon Froude belonged to a type of clergyman now almost extinct in the Church of England, though with strong idiosyncrasies of his own. Orthodox without being spiritual, he was a landowner as well as a parson, a high and dry Churchman, an active magistrate, a zealous Tory, with a solid and unclerical income of two or three thousand a year... Continue reading book >>

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