|James Anthony Froude|
|Born||April 23, 1818
Dartington Rectory, Devon
|Died||October 20, 1894 (aged 76)
The Woodcot, Kingsbridge, Devon
|Resting place||Salcombe, Devon|
|Alma mater||Oriel College, Oxford|
|Title||Regius Professor of Modern History|
|Predecessor||Edward Augustus Freeman|
|Successor||Frederick York Powell|
|Relatives||William Froude and Richard Hurrell Froude (brothers)|
James Anthony Froude (Froude rhymes with rood) (23 April 1818 – 20 October 1894) was a controversial English historian, novelist, biographer, and editor of Fraser's Magazine. From his upbringing amidst the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement, Froude intended to become a clergyman, but doubts about the doctrines of the Anglican church, published in his scandalous 1849 novel The Nemesis of Faith, drove him to abandon his religious career. Froude turned to writing history, becoming one of the best known historians of his time for his History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada. Inspired by Thomas Carlyle, Froude's historical writings were often fiercely polemical, earning him a number of outspoken opponents. Froude continued to be controversial up until his death for his Life of Carlyle, which he published along with personal writings of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle. These publications illuminated Carlyle's often selfish personality, and led to persistent gossip and discussion of the couple's marital problems.
The son of R. H. Froude, archdeacon of Totnes, James Anthony was born at Dartington, Devon on 23 April 1818. He was the youngest of eight children, including engineer and naval architect William Froude and Anglo-Catholic polemicist Richard Hurrell Froude, who was fifteen years his elder. By James' third year his mother and five of his siblings had died of consumption, leaving James to what biographer Herbert Paul describes as a "loveless, cheerless boyhood" with his cold, disciplinarian father and brother Richard. He studied at Westminster School from age 11 until 15, where he was "persistently bullied and tormented". Despite his unhappiness and his failure in formal education, Froude cherished the classics and read widely in history and theology.
Beginning in 1836, he was educated at Oriel College, Oxford, then the centre of the ecclesiastical revival now called the Oxford Movement. Here Froude began to thrive personally and intellectually, motivated to succeed by a brief engagement in 1839 (although this was broken off by the lady's father). He obtained a second class degree in 1840 and travelled to Delgany, Ireland as a private tutor. He returned to Oxford in 1842, won the Chancellor's English essay prize for an essay on political economy, and was elected a fellow of Exeter College.
Froude's brother Richard Hurrell had been one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement, a group which advocated a Catholic rather than a Protestant interpretation of the Anglican Church. Froude grew up hearing the conversation and ideas of his brother with friends John Henry Newman and John Keble, although his own reading provided him with some critical distance from the movement.
During his time at Oxford and Ireland, Froude became increasingly dissatisfied with the Movement. Froude's experience living with an Evangelical clergyman in Ireland conflicted with the Movement's characterization of Protestantism, and his observations of Catholic poverty repulsed him. He increasingly turned to the unorthodox religious views of writers such as Spinoza, David Friedrich Strauss, Emerson, Goethe, and especially Thomas Carlyle.
Froude retained a favorable impression of Newman, however, defending him in the controversy over Tract 90 and later in his essay "The Oxford Counter-Reformation" (1881). Froude agreed to contribute to Newman's Lives of the English Saints, choosing Saint Neot as his subject. However, he found himself unable to credit the accounts of Neot or any other saint, ultimately considering them mythical rather than historical, a discovery which further shook his religious faith.
Nevertheless, Froude was ordained deacon in 1845, initially intending to help reform the church from within. However, he soon found his situation untenable; although he never lost his faith in God or Christianity, he could no longer submit to the doctrines of the Church. He began publicly airing his religious doubts through his semi-autobiographical works Shadows of the Clouds, published in 1847 under the pseudonym "Zeta", and The Nemesis of Faith, published under his own name in 1849. The Nemesis of Faith in particular raised a storm of controversy, being publicly burned at Exeter College by William Sewell and deemed "a manual of infidelity" by the Morning Herald. Froude was forced to resign his fellowship, and officials at University College London withdrew the offer of a mastership at Hobart Town, Australia where Froude had hoped to work while reconsidering his situation. Froude took refuge from the popular outcry by residing with his friend Charles Kingsley at Ilfracombe.
His plight won him the sympathy of kindred spirits, such as George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, and later Mrs. Humphrey Ward. Mrs. Ward's popular 1888 novel Robert Elsmere was largely inspired by this era of Froude's life.
At Ilfracombe Froude met and soon married Charlotte Grenfell, Kingsley's sister-in-law and daughter of Pascoe Grenfell. The two moved first to Manchester and then to North Wales in 1850, where Froude lived happily, supported by his friends Arthur Hugh Clough and Matthew Arnold. Prevented from pursuing a political career because of legal restrictions on deacons (a position which was at the time legally indelible), he decided to pursue a literary career. He began by writing reviews and historical essays, with only sporadic publications on religious topics, for Fraser's Magazine and the Westminster Review. Froude soon returned to England, living at London and Devonshire, in order to research his History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada, on which he worked for the next twenty years. He worked extensively with original manuscript authorities at the Record Office, Hatfield House, and the village of Simancas, Spain.
Froude's historical writing was characterized by its dramatic rather than scientific treatment of history, an approach Froude shared with Carlyle, and also by Froude's intention to defend the English Reformation (which he asserted was "the hinge on which all modern history turned" and the "salvation of England") against the interpretations of Catholic historians. Froude focused on figures such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, although he became increasingly unfavorable to Elizabeth over the course of his research. Furthermore, he directly expressed his antipathy towards Rome and his belief that the Church should be subordinated to the state. As a result, when the first volumes of Froude's history were published in 1856 they drew the ire of liberals (who felt that Froude's depiction of Henry VIII celebrated despotism) and Oxford High Churchmen (who opposed his position on the Church); this hostility was expressed in reviews from the Christian Remembrancer and the Edinburgh Review. The work was a popular success, however, and along with Froude's 1858 repudiation of his early novels helped him regain much of the esteem he had lost in 1849. Following the death of Thomas Macaulay in 1859, Froude became the most famous living historian in England.
Beginning in 1864 Edward Augustus Freeman, a High Churchman, launched a critical campaign against Froude in the Saturday Review and later in the Contemporary Review, somewhat damaging Froude's scholarly reputation. In 1879, Freeman's review in the Contemporary Review of Froude's Short Study of Thomas Becket incited Froude to respond with a refutation in The Nineteenth Century which largely discredited Freeman's attacks and reaffirmed the value of Froude's manuscript research.
In 1860, Froude's wife Charlotte died; in 1861, he married her close friend Henrietta Warre, daughter of John Warre, M.P. for Taunton. Also in 1861 Froude became editor of Fraser's Magazine following the death of former editor John Parker, who was also Froude's publisher. Froude retained this editorship for fourteen years, resigning it in 1874 at the request of Thomas Carlyle, with whom he was working. In 1869 Froude was elected Lord Rector of St. Andrews, defeating Benjamin Disraeli by a majority of fourteen. In 1870, following the passage of Bouverie's Act, which permitted deacons to resign from the diaconate, Froude was finally able to officially rejoin the laity.
Soon after the completion of the History of England in 1870, Froude began research for a history of Ireland. As with his earlier work, English in Ireland in the Eighteenth Century was opinionated, favoring Protestantism over Roman Catholicism and often attempting to justify England's treatment of Ireland, particularly under Oliver Cromwell, a figure hated by the Irish. Froude argued that Ireland's troubles were the result not of too much English control, but of too little; an even greater English presence, an "enlightened despotism", was needed to alleviate problems that were inherent to Ireland.
In September 1872, Froude accepted an invitation to lecture in the United States, where his work was also well known. At the time, Americans (particularly Irish-Americans) generally believed in the destructiveness and injustice of England's Irish policies, and Froude hoped to change their views. The lectures, widely discussed, raised the expected controversy, with opposition led by the Dominican friar Father Thomas Nicholas Burke. Opposition caused Froude to cut his trip short, and he returned to England disappointed both by his impression of America and by the results of his lectures.
In England, too, Froude's Irish history had its critics, most notably William Edward Hartpole Lecky in his History of England in the Eighteenth Century, the first volumes of which were published in 1878, and in reviews in Macmillan's Magazine.
In February 1874, shortly before completion of English in Ireland, Froude's wife Henrietta died, after which Froude moved from London to Wales. As a means of diversion, Froude traveled to the South African Colony of Natal, unofficially for colonial secretary Lord Carnarvon, to report on the best means of promoting a confederation of its colonies and states. On his second trip to South Africa in 1875, Froude was an official emissary, a position which conflicted at times with his habit for lecturing on his personal political opinions. Froude's mission was ultimately considered unsuccessful. His observations on Africa were presented in a Report to the Secretary of State and a series of lectures for the Philosophical Society of Edinburgh, both of which were adapted into essays for inclusion in Froude's essay collection Short Studies on Great Subjects.
In 1876, he was appointed to two Royal Commissions, the first into the "Laws and Regulations relating to Home, Colonial, and International Copyright" and the second "into various matters connected with the Universities of Scotland."
Froude had been a close personal friend as well as an intellectual disciple of Thomas Carlyle since 1861, and the two became even closer after the death of Carlyle's wife Jane Welsh on 21 April 1866. Reading Jane's diaries and letters, Carlyle was struck by her unhappiness and his own irritability and inconsideration for her, and he decided to atone by writing her a memorial. In 1871, Carlyle gave Froude this memorial along with a bundle of Jane's personal papers, to be published after Carlyle's death, if Froude so decided. Also, Carlyle appointed Froude one of his own literary executors, although he was (perhaps intentionally) ambiguous in his instructions.
Shortly after Carlyle's death in 1881, Froude published Carlyle's Reminiscences of Jane Welsh Carlyle. Carlyle's niece, Mrs. Alexander Carlyle, presented a note written by Carlyle in 1866 stating that the volume should not be published. On the basis of this note, she accused Froude of misconduct in publishing the volume, even though the fact that Carlyle had given the volume to Froude five years later suggested that he had changed his mind. Mrs. A. Carlyle also made claims of ownership over her uncle's papers, and over the profits from their publication.
The conflict discouraged Froude from continuing his biography of Carlyle, as he wrote in 1881, "So much ill will has been shown me in the case of the other letters that I walk as if on hot ashes, and often curse the day when I undertook the business." However, he was implored by Carlyle's brother James and sister Mrs. Austin to continue the work, and in 1882, published the first two volumes. Froude wrote his Life of Carlyle according to what he understood as Carlyle's own biographical principles, describing not only Carlyle's intellectual greatness but also his personal failings. Many readers, however, focused upon the latter, particularly Carlyle's unhappy relationship with his wife which soon became a widely used illustration in discussions of the sexual politics of marriage. Controversy was heightened by Froude's publication of Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle, Jane's own writings, in 1883, and the completion of the Life of Carlyle in 1884.
Amongst the strongest critics of Froude's biographical work was novelist Margaret Oliphant, who wrote in the Contemporary Review of 1883 that biography ought to be the "art of moral portrait painting" and described the publication of Jane Carlyle's papers as the "betrayal and exposure of the secret of a woman’s weakness." After Froude finished his work, ownership of the manuscript material was passed to Mrs. Alexander Carlyle, who quickly authorized alternative biographical volumes by Charles Eliot Norton that excised the offensive material. The controversy persisted for so long that in 1903, nearly ten years after Froude's death, his daughters decided to publish My Relations with Carlyle, which their father had written in 1887; in this pamphlet Froude attempted to justify his decisions as biographer, yet went further than his official biography had by speculating that Carlyle's marriage was unconsummated due to impotence.
Following completion of the Life of Carlyle Froude turned to travel, particularly through the British colonies, visiting South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and the West Indies. From these travels, he produced two books, Oceana, or, England and Her Colonies (1886) and The English in the West Indies (1888), which mixed personal anecdotes with Froude's thoughts on the British Empire. Froude intended, with these writings, "to kindle in the public mind at home that imaginative enthusiasm for the Colonial idea of which his own heart was full.". However, these books caused great controversy, stimulating rebuttals and the coining of the term Froudacity (coined by Afro-Trinidadian intellectual John Jacob Thomas, who used it as the title of his book-length critique of The English in the West Indies).
During this time, Froude also wrote a historical novel, The Two Chiefs of Dunboy, which was the least popular of his mature works. On the death of his adversary Freeman in 1892, Froude was appointed, on the recommendation of Lord Salisbury, to succeed him as Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford. The choice was controversial, as Froude's predecessors had been amongst his harshest critics, and his works were generally considered literary works rather than books suited for academia. Nevertheless, his lectures were very popular, largely because of the depth and variety of Froude's experience and he soon became a Fellow of Oriel. Froude lectured mainly on the English Reformation, "English Sea-Men in the Sixteenth Century," and Erasmus. The demanding lecture schedule was too much for the aging Froude, however, and in 1894 he retired to Devonshire. He died on 20 October 1894.
John Stuart Mill
|Rector of the
University of St Andrews
1868 - 1871
Edward Augustus Freeman
|Regius Professor of Modern History at
1892 - 1894
Frederick York Powell
JAMES ANTHONY FROUDE (1818-1894), English historian, son of R. H. Froude, archdeacon of Totnes, was born at Dartington, Devon, on the 23rd of April 1818. He was educated at Westminster and Oriel College, Oxford, then the centre of the ecclesiastical revival. He obtained a second class and the chancellor's English essay prize, and was elected a fellow of Exeter College (1842). His elder brother, Richard Hurrell Fronde (1803-1836), had been one of the leaders of the High Church movement at Oxford. Froude joined that party and helped J. H. Newman, afterwards cardinal, in his Lives of the English Saints. He was ordained deacon in 1845. By that time his religious opinions had begun to change, he grew dissatisfied with the views of the High Church party, and came under the influence of Carlyle's teaching. Signs of this change first appeared publicly in his Shadows of the Clouds, a volume containing two stories of a religious sort, which he published in 1847 under the pseudonym of "Zeta," and his complete. desertion of his party was declared a year later in his Nemesis of Faith, an heretical and unpleasant book, of which the earlier part seems to be autobiographical.
On the demand of the college he resigned his fellowship at Oxford, and mainly at least supported himself by writing, contributing largely to Fraser's Magazine and the Westminster Review. The excellence of his style was soon generally recognized. The first two volumes of his History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada appeared in 1856, and the work was completed in 1870. As an historian he is chiefly remarkable for literary excellence, for the art with which he represents his conception of the past. He condemns a scientific treatment of history and disregards its philosophy. He held that its office was simply to record human actions and that it should be written as a drama. Accordingly he gives prominence to the personal element in history. His presentations of character and motives, whether truthful or not, are undeniably fine; but his doctrine that there should be "no theorizing" about history tended to narrow his survey, and consequently he sometimes, as in his remarks on the foreign policy of Elizabeth, seems to misapprehend the tendencies of a period on which he is writing.
Froude's work is often marred by prejudice and incorrect statements. He wrote with a purpose. The keynote of his History is contained in his assertion that the Reformation was "the root and source of the expansive force which has spread the Anglo-Saxon race over the globe." Hence he overpraises Henry VIII. and others who forwarded the movement, and speaks too harshly of some of its opponents. So too, in his English in Ireland (1872-1874), which was written to show the futility of attempts to conciliate the Irish, he aggravates all that can be said against the Irish, touches too lightly on English atrocities,and writes unjustly of the influence of Roman Catholicism. A strong anti-clerical prejudice is manifest in his historical work generally, and is doubtless the result of the change in his views on Church matters and his abandonment of the clerical profession. Carlyle's influence on him may be traced both in his admiration for strong rulers and strong government, which led him to write as though tyranny and brutality were excusable, and in his independent treatment of character. His rehabilitation of Henry VIII. was a useful protest against the idea that the king was a mere:sanguinary profligate, but his representation of him as the self-denying minister of his people's will is erroneous, and is founded on the false theory that the preambles of the acts of Henry's parliaments represented the opinions of the educated laymen of England. As an advocate he occasionally forgets that sobriety of judgment and expression become an historian. He was not a judge of evidence, and seems to have been unwilling to admit the force of any argument or the authority of any statement which militated against his case. In his Divorce of Catherine of Aragon (1891) he made an unfortunate attempt to show that certain fresh evidence on the subject, brought forward by Dr Gairdner, Dr Friedmann and others, was not inconsistent with the views which he had expressed in his History nearly forty years before. He worked diligently at original manuscript authorities at Simancas, the Record Office and Hatfield House; but he used his materials carelessly, and evidently brought to his investigation of them a mind already made up as to their significance. His Life of Caesar (1879), a glorification of imperialism, betrays an imperfect acquaintance with Roman politics and the life of Cicero; and of his two pleasant books of travel, The English in the West Indies (1888) shows that he made little effort to master his subject, and Oceana (1886), the record of a tour in Australia and New Zealand, among a multitude of other blunders, notes the prosperity of the working-classes in Adelaide at the date of his visit, when, in fact, owing to a failure in the wheatcrop, hundreds were then living on charity. He was constitutionally inaccurate, and seems to have been unable to represent the exact sense of a document which lay before him, or even to copy from it correctly. Historical scholars ridiculed his mistakes, and Freeman, the most violent of his critics, never let slip a chance of hitting at him in the Saturday Review. Froude's temperament was sensitive, and he suffered from these attacks, which were often unjust and always too savage in tone. The literary quarrel between him and Freeman excited general interest when it blazed out in a series of articles which Freeman wrote in the Contemporary Review (1878-1879) t ort Froude's Short Study of Thomas Becket.
Notwithstanding its defects, Froude's History is a great achievement; it presents an important and powerful account of the Reformation period in England, and lays before us a picture of the past magnificently conceived, and painted in colours which will never lose their freshness and beauty. As with Froude's work generally, its literary merit is remarkable; it is a well-balanced and orderly narrative, coherent in design and symmetrical in execution. Though it is perhaps needlessly long, the thread of the story is never lost amid a crowd of details; every incident is made subordinate to the general idea, appears in its appropriate place, and contributes its share to the perfection of the whole. The excellence of its form is matched by the beauty of its style, for Froude was a master of English prose. The most notable characteristic of his style is its graceful simplicity; it is never affected or laboured; his sentences are short and easy, and follow one another naturally. He is always lucid. He was never in doubt as to his own meaning, and never at a loss for the most appropriate words in which to express it. Simple as his language is, it is dignified and worthy of its subject. Nowhere perhaps does his style appear to more advantage than in his four series of essays entitled Short Studies on Great Subjects(1867-1882), for it is seen there unfettered by the obligations of narrative. Yet his narrative is admirably told. For the most part flowing easily along, it rises on fit occasions to splendour, picturesque beauty or pathos. Few more brilliant pieces of historical writing exist than his description of the coronation procession of Anne Boleyn through the streets of London, few more full of picturesque power than that in which he relates how the spire of St Paul's was struck by lightning; and to have once read is to remember for ever the touching and stately words in which he compares the monks of the London Charterhouse preparing for death with the Spartans at Thermopylae. Proofs of his power in the sustained narration of stirring events are abundant; his treatment of the Pilgrimage of Grace, of the sea fight at St Helens and the repulse of the French invasion, and of the murder of Rizzio, are among the most conspicuous examples of it. Nor is he less successful when recording pathetic events, for his stories of certain martyrdoms, and of the execution of Mary queen of Scots, are told with exquisite feeling and in language of well-restrained emotion. And his characters are alive. We may not always agree with his portraiture, but the men and women whom he saw exist for us instinct with the life with which he endows them and animated by the motives which he attributes to them. His successes must be set against his failures. At the least he wrote a great history, one which can never be disregarded by future writers on his period, be their opinions what they may; which attracts and delights a multitude of readers, and is a splendid example of literary form and grace in historical composition.
The merits of his work met with full recognition. Each instalment of his History, in common with almost everything which he wrote, was widely read, and in spite of some adverse criticisms was received with eager applause. In 1868 he was elected rector of St Andrews University, defeating Disraeli by a majority of fourteen. He was warmly welcomed in the United States, which he visited in 1872, but the lectures on Ireland which he delivered there caused much dissatisfaction. On the death of his adversary Freeman in 1892, he was appointed, on the recommendation of Lord Salisbury, to succeed him as regius professor of modern history at Oxford. Except to a few Oxford men, who considered that historical scholarship should have been held to be a necessary qualification for the office, his appointment gave general satisfaction. His lectures on Erasmus and other 16th-century subjects were largely attended. With some allowance for the purpose for which they were originally written, they present much the same characteristics as his earlier historical books. His health gave way in the summer of 1894, and he died on the 10th of October.
His long life was full of literary work. Besides his labours as an author, he was for fourteen years editor of Fraser's Magazine. He was one of Carlyle's literary executors, and brought some sharp criticism upon himself by publishing Carlyle's Reminiscences and the Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle, for they exhibited the domestic life and character of his old friend in an unpleasant light. Carlyle had given the manuscripts to him, telling him that he might publish them if he thought it well to do so, and at the close of his life agreed to their publication. Froude therefore declared that in giving them to the world he was carrying out his friend's wish by enabling him to make a posthumous confession of his faults. Besides publishing these manuscripts he wrote a Life of Carlyle. His earlier study of Irish history afforded him suggestions for a historical novel entitled The Two Chiefs of Dunboy (1889). In spite of one or two stirring scenes it is a tedious book, and its personages are little more than machines for the enunciation of the author's opinions and sentiments. Though Froude had some intimate friends he was generally reserved. When he cared to please, his manners and conversation were charming. Those who knew him well formed a high estimate of his ability in practical affairs. In 1874 Lord Carnarvon, then colonial secretary, sent Froude to South Africa to report on the best means of promoting a confederation of its colonies and states, and in 1875 he was again sent to the Cape as a member of a proposed conference to further confederation. Froude's speeches in South Africa were rather injudicious, and his mission was a failure (see South Africa: History). He was twice married. His first wife, a daughter of Pascoe Grenfell and sister of Mrs Charles Kingsley,. died in 1860; his second, a daughter of John Warre, M.P. for Taunton, died in 1874.