1885 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Herbert

F. R. Raines, in Remains, Historical and Literary, connected with the Palatine Counties of Lancaster and Chester (1885) 6:183-92.



The HONOURABLE WILLIAM HERBERT, third son of Henry, first Earl of Carnarvon, descended from the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery, was born January, 1778, educated at Eton, afterwards of Exeter College, Oxford; B.A. 6 June 1798, removed to Merton College; M.A. 23 November, 1802; B.C.L. 27 May, 1808, Grand Compounder; D.C.L. 2 June 1808, Gr. Comp.; D.D. 25 June 1841, Gr. Comp.

In 1814 he was presented to the Rectory of Spofforth, near Wetherby, in the county of York, by his relative Colonel Wyndham, a living of 1,600 a year, which he held up to his death.

Being a Whig, and a supporter of Lord Melbourne's Government, he was appointed by the Crown to the Wardenship of Christ's College, Manchester, on the death of Dr. Calvert, and was installed, his proxy being Canon Wray, on the 10 July, 1840 (Chapter Reg.) In 1841 he was elected a trustee of Bury Grammar School. Owing to some broad or liberal statements in the first sermon he preached at Manchester the Unitarians claimed him as an adherent of their views, which led "the Dean," as he styled himself, to vindicate his orthodoxy and to complain that his statements had been misunderstood and perverted. He had been more identified with literature than theology, and was a steady High Churchman of the old school of divines, and one who had no sympathy with the new views which were beginning slowly to prevail around him. At the same time he openly refused to fall in with the Evangelical proceedings of Canon Stowell, though he gave his support to the British and Foreign Bible Society. In 1841 he preached the Sermon at the Triennial Visitation of Bishop Summer in the Collegiate Church, in which he vindicated Arminian theology, and made a feeble attack on what was called Calvinism. His views could scarcely be acceptable to his diocesan, and many of the clergy considered the sermon ill-timed. The Sermon appeared in vol. 1 of his collected Works.

Dr. Calvert [sic] was an active and influential dignitary when in Manchester, throwing himself unreservedly into his work, and labouring with all his might to fulfil his high responsibilities. He was simple and unaffected in his manners, and walked quietly about Manchester, acquainting himself with its people, their interests and wants, inspecting its improvements, promoting its charities, and diffusing, by his presence and acts of unostentatious benevolence, happiness and contentment everywhere.

In 1844 he strongly supported and publicly advocated Lord Ashley's Ten Hours Factory Bill, to relive the industrious workman from undue and oppressive labour. He supported the general education of the people; also the measure for earlier closing of shops and abridging labour in Manchester. In a letter to Canon Wray, dated 16 March, 1844, he said: "for the last four months I have been employed heart, mind, and body" on these three subjects.

His great natural abilities were devoted to the healing of party feuds, and a restless desire to some good in Manchester enabled him to infuse a large portion of charity and forbearance into the seething community by which he was surrounded. He was surprised to find Manchester the abode of so many literary and scientific men, and he always paid great attention to men of letters however humble their station. Himself an admirable linguist, a poet, botanist, essayist, critic, and general scholar, avoiding polemics and controversies, he wa held in high esteem by all literary men. His conversational powers, however, were not remarkable, and, while he maintained that the pulpit was the true place for the Clergy, he was himself a dull preacher, without animation or any of the recommendations of a popular orator — except an expressive and benevolent countenance. And yet he was much beloved, and it might with truth be said of him as of the great Cardinal (Hen. VIII., I. iii. 55)—

That Churchmen bears a beauteous mind indeed,
A hand as fruitful as the land that feeds us;
His dews fall every where.

The Chapter of the College and its proceedings having been censured, both in and out of Parliament, in a time of considerable public excitement, the Warden addressed a long and interesting letter to the Visitor, the Bishop of Chester, dated Manchester, 23 February, 1847, in which, in a most unanswerable manner, he vindicated the various members of the body against the mis-statements and ill-will of some of the churchwardens and others, and elicited from the Bishop a reply which all reasonable men regarded as a triumphant confirmation of the Warden's statements.

His industrious and methodical life was now doomed to sink into the inactivity of infirm old age. The closing scene was rapid, and yet he was conscious that his removal from the world was drawing near. He suffered from an affection of the heart, but had arranged to preach the Whitsunday sermon in the Collegiate Church. Increasing weakness induced him to abandon his intention; and in communicating to Mr. Richson his regret at being unable to occupy the pulpit on that day, as usual, he stated that his pulse was sometimes as low as 26. The last sermon he preached in the Collegiate Church was on Easter day. His death was very sudden. He had returned to his house No. 11, Hereford Street, London, where he had been for a week or two, from a short drive in company with his daughter, and was in his usually calm and cheerful spirits. Whilst resting himself after the fatigue of the drive, he breathed his last without a single pang or any appearance of suffering, in the presence of his family. This event took place on 28 May, 1847, aet 70. His health failed soon after his appointment to the Wardenship, for in 1845 he had a slight attack of apoplexy whilst in Brazenose Street, Manchester. After this he was a serious, earnest-looking person, venerable, and more aged in appearance than in reality. It was noticed that, like his predecessor Dr. Calvert, he died in Whitsun-week.

The Dean, as he styled himself, was married in 1806 to Letitia Dorothea, second daughter of Joshua 5th Viscount Allen (she ob. June 1878, aet 94) by whom he had issue:

1. Henry William, born in London 7 April, 1807, died at New York, 17 May, 1858, "manu propria." He was educated at Eton, afterwards of Caius Coll. Cambr., B.A. 1830. In 1831 he settled in America, and was eight years Greek Professor in a large scholastic establishment. He was originator and editor of the American Monthly Magazine, from 1833 to 1835; published in 1835 The Brothers, a Tale of the Froude; in 1837 Oliver Cromwell; in 1843 Marmaduke Wyvell, an Historical Romance, 3 vols., and leaving his professorship devoted himself wholly to authorship. In 1839 he married Sarah, daughter of John Barker of Bangor, Maine, who ob. in 1848, leaving a son, William George, born about 1842, and at his father's death in the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, England. He wrote largely on field sports. He evinced great eccentricities for some time, and on 16 February, 1858, he married 2nd, Adela R. Bridlong of Rhode Island, and his life seemed bright and happy. He was devoted to his wife and only happy in her presence. To the astonishment of himself and his friends, only seven weeks after his marriage his wife left him for ever and returned to her parents! Various causes were assigned for her determination — his convivial habits — his eccentricities — mercenary motives — suspicions of her husband's love and other scandals, which led to harsh words, and the bride of seven weeks left her husband's roof. Domestic difficulties increased, and his mental agony was so intense that reason was dethroned, and the unhappy man shot himself through the heart with a pistol. He had written an "Address to the Coroner" on the day he died, which reveals the cause of the unhappy act, and also another letter "to the Press of the United States of America," in which he said, "Of all lives mine has been almost the most unhappy; no counsellor, no friends, no country have been mine for six-and-twenty years. I die forgiving every man who has wronged me, asking forgiveness of every man whom I have wronged." (See New York Herald, 18 May, 1858.) As an author his name was familiarly known as "Frank Forrester"; he dedicated his work Marmaduke Wyvell to his father as Dean of Manchester, and says, "he delights humbly to follow those pursuits in which, though he may never hope to emulate the steps of one, who, whether in the pulpit, at the bar, or in the Forum, whether in the abstruse walks of science, or in the easier paths of poesy, has won respect and honour and esteem from his contemporaries, and may aspire to renown from posterity." [In 1882, his miscellaneous writings were collected and published, with a memoir, by David W. Judd, at New York, in two octavo volumes, entitled Life and Writings of Frank Forrester (Henry William Herbert).]

2. Frederick Charles, born 25 February, 1819; in the R. N., Governor of the Channel Islands, married 12 September, 1848, Bessie Newenham, youngest daughter of Captain Henry Stuart.

3. Louisa Catherine Georgiana, married 1848 Major General Godfrey Charles Mundy, Lieut. Gov. of Jersey, who ob. July 1860, leaving two sons — Herbert and Sydney.

4. Cecilia Augusta Henrietta, married 1856, in America, to Col. A. T. Fergusson of Lemon Hill, Kentucky.

The Warden's will was dated 1845, but he revised and re-dated it 25 January, 1847. He bequeathed to his wife the Hon. Letitia Herbert a life interest in all his property in England and elsewhere (except Canada), and power to select books, pictures, and furniture to the value of 700. His son Henry having been provided for in his father's life time, he devised to his son Frederick, and to his daughters Cecilia and Louisa his estates in Beds. and Hertford under his marriage settlement.

He gave to the Rev. Charles Richson, Clerk in Orders of Manchester Coll. Church, one of his executors, 100. His personality was sworn under 4000 in the province of Canterbury.

The Warden's published works, which were collected in 1842, bear testimony to the depth and variety of his accomplishments. They are on all subjects, and in all styles. His epic poem Attila, 1838, was his largest and most successful performance. It was dedicated to Hallam, the Historian, and is the production of a poet, scholar, and man of taste; but the poem is too learned and the diction too elaborate and requiring too much knowledge and attention in the reader to become popular. It appears from the poem that the poet's family derive its lineage from the King of Carnocacum, and his captive Queen, whose adventures are depited in Attila through Charlemagne and Marcomir, and it was observed that these his venerable ancestors might well be proud of a descendant who could render their names immortal in a language that did not exist in their days. (See. Gent. Mag., April, 1839; Edinburgh Review, vol. lxvi.) Icelandic literature lost in him one of the most successful of its few English cultivators.

On the 4 April, 1821, the Rev. Thomas Cotterall, M.A. incumbent of St. John's Church, Sheffield, and Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, addressed a letter to the Hon. and Rev. William Herbert, Rector of Spofforth, in reply to his letter to the Ven. the Archdeacon of York on the subject of the Roman Catholic Claims. (See Hay's Bk., p. 220)

The rector was no match for the incumbent, whose arguments and reasonings on the subject were unanswerable and unanswered.

Dean Herbert wrote the following, all published in London:

Ossiani Darthula Graecae reddita; Accedunt Miscellanea. 1801. 8vo.

Miscellaneous Poetry, and Select Icelandic poetry, translated from the originals with notes. 1806. 2 vols, 8vo.

Select Icelandic Poetry, translated from the originals, with notes; translations from the German, Danish, &c.; to which is added Miscellaneous Poetry. 1814. 2 vols, 8vo. A second part to each of these works was afterwards added.

Helga: a Poem in seven cantos, with notes and minor poems. 1815. 8vo. Second edition, 1820, 8vo.

Hedin: or the spectre of the tomb, from the Danish History. 1820. 12mo.

Sermons; by the Hon. William Herbert, Clerc, Rector of Spofforth. London and York, 1820. 8vo. These are four sermons preached at Spofforth and elsewhere in 1817 and 1819.

The Wierd Wanderer of Jutland, a Tragedy; and Julia Montalban, a Tale. 1822. 8vo.

A Letter to the Chairman of the Committee of the House of Commons on the Game Laws. 1823.

Iris, a Latin Ode. 1826.

Amaryllidaceae: preceded by an attempt to arrange the monocotyledonous orders, and followed by a treatise on cross-breed vegetables; and supplement. 1837. 8vo. With plates. [The copy in the Manchester Free Reference Library was coloured by Miss Brockbank, from a copy which is believed to have been coloured by Dean Herbert.]

Attila, king of the Huns, or the Triumph of Christianity; an Epic Poem. II. Attila and his Predecessors: an Historical Treatise. 1838. 8vo.

Sylvae recentiores; with Supplement to his Works. 1838 and 1846.

Five Odes, translated from the Greek of Pindar. Printed for the benefit of the Bazaar in aid of the Athenaeum at Manchester. 1843. 8vo, pp. 23.

The Christian, a poem, and Sylvae recentiores. 1846. 8vo.

Correspondence between the Dean of Manchester and the Principal of Brasen-nose College, Oxford. 1846.

Works of the Hon. and Very Rev. William Herbert, Dean of Manchester, &c. excepting those on Botany and Natural History; with additions and corrections by the Author. London: H. G. Bohn, York-street, Covent Garden. 1842. Vol. I. Horae Scandicae, or Works relating to Old Scandinavian Literature; Select Icelandic Poetry, translated from the originals, with notes, revised with three additional pieces from Saemund's Edda. Horae Pedestres, or Prose Works, excepting those on Botany and Natural History.

He edited Musae Etonenses; a selection of Greek and Latin Poetry, by Etonians, 1795. 1817. 2 vols, 8vo.

He was one of the earliest contributors to the Edinburgh Review.

[The following communication on Dean Herbert, as a botanist, has been kindly drawn up by Mr. William Brockbank, F.G.S., F.L.S.:

Dean Herbert's fame to a great extent rests upon his botanical work, in which, by patient investigations and wise conclusions, he anticipated by half a century the progress which has been achieved in the hybridization of plants. So far back as 1819 he communicated to the Royal Horticultural Society an essay, founded upon experiments, "On the production of Hybrid vegetables," and thus started the gardening world upon a course of careful intercrossing of vegetables and flowers, which led to the great improvement of garden and farm produce. He foretold the results which would thus be brought about in the improvement of flowers and fruits, particularly of orchids and narcissi; and he soon produced examples of his own raising in proof of his conclusions.

In 1821 he published his first treatise on the genus Amaryllis in pamphlet form, so as to be available for binding with vol. xlviii of the Botanical Magazine and vol. vii of the Botanical Register. It was illustrated by two large lithographs crowded with details of plants, drawn by himself. His great work on the Amaryllidacae was published in 1837, with forty-eight plates, drawn by himself. They are exquisite examples of drawing, and of marvellous clearness and delicacy, giving careful dissections of every plant, and particularly to illustrate the minute details of their organization.

The preliminary chapter states that having been requested to prepare a new edition of the Treatise in 1821, he had extended the work so as to include the whole of the Amaryllidacae. The amount of actual, careful, work embodied in this volume is extraordinary, and it remains to this day the standard work on the subject. Some copies are coloured, and it is believed that this was done by the Dean himself.

Many of Dean Herbert's papers appeared in Edwards's Botanical Register under the signature "W. H.," and he is frequently cited as an authority both in that series of volumes and in the Botanical Magazine of Curtis. There are several pages upon the varieties of the Crocus, illustrated by his own pencil; and in vol. xxix. the editor speaks of him as "the learned Dean of Manchester, by whom these plants have been studied with particular care." In the same volume are figured the beautiful hybrid Narcissi raised by Dean Herbert at Spofforth (1843). He had given great attention to the raising of new varieties of Daffodils, and here was the earliest result of his successful labours. It is to him we owe the hundreds of beautiful narcissi which now adorn our gardens, and his method of procedure is clearly shown in this chapter. (Edwards's Bot. Reg., vol. xxix chap. xxxviii.) He concludes with these remarkable words: "It is desirable to call the attention of the humblest cultivators, of every labourer indeed, or operative, who has a spot of garden or a ledge at his window, to the infinite variety of narcissi that may thus be raised; offering him a source of harmless and interesting amusement, and perhaps a little profit and celebrity." He then carefully gives the modus operandi.

Our fellow-townsman, Edward Leeds of Longford, Stretford, soon fell under the influence of the Dean's teaching, and in 1850 he produced the first of his fine Daffodils by working upon the methods thus laid down, and now we have nearly one hundred and fifty varieties of the narcissus raised by Mr. Leeds.

Dean Herbert's History of the Species Crocus was published in the Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society in 1847.]