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Chapter XLIV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9


Deaths of eminent Persons in 1871 - Sir John Burgoyne--Lord Ellenborough - Dean Mansel - Bishop Patteson: His Death at the hands of the Polynesian Natives - Mr. Babbage - Sir John Herschel - George Grote: Sketch of his Life and Character: A Champion of Philosophic Radicalism: His "History of Greece" - Sir William Denison: His Rule in Tasmania: at Sydney and Bombay.
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The obituary of the year contains the names of many persons of eminence. Although the death of no statesman of the first rank has to be recorded, the army lost its patriarch, Sir John Burgoyne; the Church of England lost Dean Alford of Canterbury, Dean Mansel of St. Paul's, the once famous preacher, Canon Melvill, and the much-loved missionary bishop, John Coleridge Patteson; science lost Sir John Herschel, Sir Roderick Murchison, Mr. Charles Babbage, and Mr. De Morgan; literature and politics lost the veteran George Grote; and about the same time as the " Philosophical Radical," there died the famous old Devonshire Tory, Sir Thomas Dyke Acland. Lord Ellenborough, once the much-admired and much- criticised Governor-General of India, Sir W. Denison, once Governor of Madras, Mr. Charles Buxton, an influential Member of Parliament and philanthropist, died in the same year. The death of George Hudson, the " Railway King," gave people an opportunity for moralising on the vicissitudes of life. Beyond the boundaries of England died Auber, the popular French musician; and two of the great enemies of Russia, Schamyl, the heroic Circassian, and Omar Pasha, the adventurous Turkish officer - both of whom had, at one time or another, come across the course of English history - died in the same month. Of some of these a more detailed notice may be given.

Field-Marshal Sir John Fox Burgoyne was all but ninety years of age when he died in October. He was a veteran of the school and almost of the age of Wellington, with whose campaigns his name is associated. He served as a young subaltern with Abercrombie in the Mediterranean in 1800; he was with Sir John Moore in the famous Corunna retreat; and as an engineer officer of various ranks he took part in most of the numerous sieges of the Peninsular War. After the fall of Napoleon he continued to act as one of the most notable subordinates of the Duke of Wellington, and in 1845 he took the important post of Inspector-General of Fortifications. It was soon after that time that he wrote his celebrated letter to the Duke on the state of the national defence, which, coming in the midst of such profound peace, struck a note of alarm that was by no means unnecessary. He was at the head of the Engineers in the Crimean War until March, 1855, when he was recalled; and after the war was over he was rapidly advanced till he became Field-Marshal and Constable of the Tower. It was his son, Captain Hugh Burgoyne, that went down in the Captain, in September, 1870 - a blow which the old father naturally never got over. He was in every sense a distinguished veteran, not so much by the memory of actual achievements in war, as by the reputation for wisdom to which he had attained among military men of all nations.

Only eight years younger than Sir John Burgoyne was the Earl of Ellenborough, once Governor-General of India, who died in December of this year. He was the son of the Lord Ellenborough who had been Lord Chief Justice early in the century. A staunch Tory, he took office under the Duke of Wellington in 1828, and became President of the Board of Control under Sir Robert Peel in 1834. In 1842, he went to India as Governor-General; and it was under his rule that Pollock and Nott marched into Afghanistan and took Ghuznee and Cabul, and Sir Charles Napier conquered Scinde. But, strangely enough - this the lately-published correspondence of Lord Ellenborough clearly shows - the great successes of General Pollock were won in spite of the Governor-General's orders; and Lord Ellenborough congratulated himself upon the success of the army, and ever afterwards hated the general to whom the success was owing. In 1844, after only two eventful years, the East India Company recalled their talented but perplexing Governor-General. After his return he came again into office for short periods under Sir Robert Peel and Lord Derby; and in and out of office he spoke brilliantly and eloquently in the House of Lords. His character is thus summed up by the distinguished historian of our Indian statesmen, Mr. John William Kaye: - " He might have been one of the greatest men of our time, if he had not been the vainest. But his genius was rather French than English, and he would probably have accomplished a greater career in military than in civil life. He was nicknamed 'the Brummagem Napoleon; ' but the man whom he most resembled was Murat. Of all epithets that could be applied to him the most characteristic would be ' dashing.' Unstable as water, he could not succeed as a statesman. He could not help contradicting himself. He went out to India declaredly to cultivate the arts of peace, and he had no sooner withdrawn from one war than he launched into a second, then a third, and had his blood up to spring into a fourth, when the East India Company recalled him.... Yet, for all this, history cannot deny that he was a man of wonderful ability, or rather of uncommon genius. But it was genius of an erratic kind. He wrote with scholarly lucidity, and I have seldom heard, in any assembly of English gentlemen, any eloquence surpassing Lord Ellenborough's. But his whole career was a failure, and he went to pieces simply for want of bottom."

Dean Mansel, who died on July 31, was one of those men rarely found in this age, who devote philosophical gifts of the very highest order to the controversial support of existing religious systems. He was the best representative of the school of Sir William Hamilton; and in matters of philosophy and politics, he was the uncompromising opponent of Mr. Mill. His Bampton Lectures, preached in 1858 before the University of Oxford, were held by those who could understand them to be a powerful defence of orthodoxy; but Dr. Mansel was never a popular writer, and his sermons were mostly intended for the intellects of the heads of houses. Dean Alford, who died a few months before, was widely known as a writer of essays and verses, and as the editor of a Greek Testament. Canon Melvill was once the most famous preacher in London, but in that respect he had outlived his reputation. The death of all these men was much felt in the circles which had been influenced by them, but the loss which came most tragically and suddenly upon the Church was that of Bishop Patteson, who was killed by the natives of Santa Cruz, an island in the South Seas. He was the son of Mr. Justice Patteson, and was nephew and namesake to Sir John Taylor Coleridge. After leaving Oxford, where he had obtained a fellowship at Merton, he met Bishop Selwyn, who had come home from his New Zealand diocese to beat up recruits for his missionary work. Selwyn's influence prevailed, and Patteson quietly made up his mind to sail with him and to found the Melanesian mission. From that time, 1855, till his death, he remained in the Southern Seas. In 1861, he was consecrated Bishop of Melanesia, and his last ten years of life were divided between sailing about among the islands, and teaching native boys in his school, first in New Zealand and then in Norfolk Island. His great social work was to protest and struggle against the iniquitous Coolie traffic - a thinly-disguised form of the slave trade - which was carried on among the Melanesian islands, and it was owing to the Coolie traders, or kidnappers, that he met his death. He had been widely popular among the inhabitants. To all he was " the good bishop but whether or not they came in the end to fancy that he was in league with the kidnappers, it is difficult to say; all that we know is, that the natives of Santa Cruz met him as he was rowing up to their boat on the river with a fatal flight of arrows. The arrows killed him, and mortally wounded Mr. Atkin, his chaplain, who was with him. Mr. Atkin lingered some time in great agony, but the bishop died at once, and the natives turned him adrift in a canoe, with a palm branch marked with five knots by his side, as though to signify that he had been killed in revenge for the death of five natives. Such a death made, as was natural, a profound impression both in the islands and at home. It gave a fresh, sharp impulse to missionary feeling in the more religiously minded, and it called public attention in a vivid way to the dreadful wrongs of the " labour traffic " in the South Seas.

Mr. Charles Babbage, who died in October, was a mathematician of genius, the friend and fellow-worker of Herschel, and the inventor of the calculating machine. He was nearly eighty when he died, and for every year of his life he had published a volume of mathematical studies. To the London public, however, he was known by less reverend associations. Punch had made a byword of him for the incessant warfare which his irritable temper, strained by a long course of delicate experiments, led him to wage against street musicians. Mr. Babbage's face was as well known in the London police courts as in the rooms of the Royal Society. Sir Roderick Murchison, born in the same year, died in the same month. He was one of the first of English geologists, though, strange to say, he had begun life as an officer in Lord Wellington's Peninsula army. He prophesied the discovery of gold in Australia, from a comparison of some Australian rock with the rock of the Ural Mountains, some years before the actual discovery. In 1853, he was appointed Director-General of the Geological Survey of Great Britain; and besides his official posts, he held a principal place in the Geographical Society, and was a notable herald of geographical discovery. Sir John F. W. Herschel, the greatest perhaps of recent English astronomers, also died in this year, and just at the same age as Murchison and Babbage. His works and discoveries are hardly of a kind to be recorded at length in a popular History; it is enough to say that his long life Was spent in ceaseless observations of the heavens, and his keen intellect perpetually employed in methodising and inferring from what he had observed. His father was the famous Sir William Herschel, who discovered Uranus (now called "Herschel"), the most distant of the known planets. The son, going up to Cambridge prepared by private tuition, came out Senior Wrangler, and at once began to tread in his father's footsteps. He discovered about 500 new nebulae; and he was the first Englishman to make a systematic study of the southern heavens, taking up for four years a station at the Cape of Good Hope. His presence in the young colony, it may be added, was of immense benefit to education; for it is to him that the development of the school system, now enjoyed by the people of the Cape, is chiefly owing. He also may be regarded as the first person who, if we may use the phrase, applied the " comparative method " very widely to meteorology. His "Instructions for Making and Registering Meteorological Observations at Various Stations in Southern Africa," which were published by official authority, marked an era in the history of the science. Before this book appeared, however, he had been long recognised as, in his own line, the most distinguished Englishman living. Honours came thickly upon him. He was made a baronet at the time of the Coronation; and most of the academies in Europe opened their doors to him. His clear and charming style, too, widened the circle of his readers, and gave an insight into the method of science to hundreds of those who could not cope with the details. His "Outlines of Astronomy," and his " Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy," were books essentially popular, in the best sense of the term.

Of those whose names are contained in the obituary of the year, there is one so thoroughly representative of his age that we may dwell upon his life at rather greater length. This was George Grote, who, while diligently following the business of a London banker, made himself at one time of his life the chief public spokesman of the "Philosophic Radical" party, and by his writings on the history and philosophy of Greece gave a new reality to those subjects, and raised immensely the reputation of English scholarship. He came of a race of bankers. His grandfather, a native of Bremen, came over in the middle of the last century, and in 1766 founded the banking-house of Grote, Prescott, and Co. The second son of this George Grote, also called George, was the father of the historian, who was born at Clay Hill, near Beckenham, in 1794. His father was true to the traditions of mercantile life, and though he sent his son to the Charterhouse School till he was sixteen, never dreamed of allowing him to carry on the studies of which he had become so fond, by entering the University. " He felt no inclination," says Mrs. Grote in her memoirs of her husband, "to promote the young George's intellectual turn of mind, at the expense of giving him a college training; whilst, on the other hand, he required his son's services for his own convenience." And so the boy, whose very handwriting to the day of his death showed the methodical, prosaic nature of his early training, went into his father's bank at sixteen years of age, and worked there for thirty-two years. In his leisure time, however, he kept up his study of classical authors; he began to learn music too, and German, and used to play Handel with his mother in the long evenings at home. But he made no secret of his aversion to the dulness of the ordinary family routine. He could not stand his father's City friends, nor his mother's extreme Calvinism. He took refuge from both with friends of his own age - with George Norman and Charles Cameron, and other young men of an inquiring and eager turn of mind - and in 1816 we find him talking of having made a sort of abridgement of part of Sismondi's " History of the Italian Republics." A little later on, a new era in his life began with his first meetings with James Mill, the utilitarian philosopher and historian. At first he did not fall wholly under the spell of that powerful propagandist; he disliked that " readiness to dwell on the faults and defects of others" which marked the elder Mill so strongly, and which gained him so many enemies. But very soon, as Mill made a point of winning Grote to his principles, he won him, even to share his strong antipathies. " Mr. Mill," says Grote's biographer, " had the strongest convictions as to the superior advantages of democratic government over the monarchical or the aristocratic; and with these he mingled a scorn and hatred of the ruling classes, which amounted to positive fanaticism. Coupled with this aversion to aristocratic influence (to which influence he invariably ascribed most of the defects and abuses prevalent in the administration of public affairs), Mr. Mill entertained a profound prejudice against the Established Church, and, of course, a corresponding dislike to its ministers." These antipathies Grote came to share, as well as the positive belief of his master. In fact, he enrolled himself as one of the band of young men who, in the twelve or fifteen years before the Reform Bill, made it their business to preach the views of Mill and Bentham, and to oppose the Whigs as much as they opposed the Tories. With the rest of these disciples of Mill, Grote studied Political Economy hard, studying and digesting the writings of Say and Ricardo. In 1820, after a vexatious period of delay, on which his father had insisted, he married Miss Harriet Lewin, and settled in a house in Threadneedle Street, close to the Bank buildings; and there, in the house that was so dingy and confined that residence in it nearly cost Mrs. Grote her life, a choice circle of friends used to meet and discuss all kinds of questions, political, metaphysical, economical, and what not. David Ricardo, John Romilly, John Austin, Charles Buller, the two Mills, and many more, all of them agreeing to a certain point in principles, formed the society of Threadneedle Street. It was under the stimulus of this society that, prompted by his wife's strong wish, he first began to conceive the " History of Greece." In the winter of 1825 he embodied the results of his studies in a crushing article on Mitford's History, in the newly-established Westminster Review; an article which attracted the attention of many scholars, and among them of the great Niebuhr. About this time, too, the London University was started, under the auspices of the Liberals and the Dissenters, and Grote, with Brougham, James Mill, and many more, formed part of the original council.

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