Category Archives: Biographies

The Biography of Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

The Biography of Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)
From The Dictionary of National Biography – Volume 15, 1888

Benjamin Disraeli
Benjamin Disraeli

DISRAELI BENJAMIN, first earl of Beaconsfield (1804-1881), statesman and man of letters, was born at 6 John Street, Bedford Row, London, on 21 Dec. 1804 (Notes and Queries, 6th ser. x. 457). He was the son of Isaac D’lsraeli q. v., whose family consisted of four sons and one daughter. Benjamin, who was baptised at St. Andrew, Holborn (31 July 1817), was privately educated, and at the age of seventeen was articled to Messrs. Swain & Stevenson, solicitors in the Old Jewry. He entered Lincoln’s Inn in 1824, and kept nine terms, but removed his name in 1831. He soon, however, discovered a taste for literature, and in 1826 contributed a forgotten poem, ‘The Modern Dunciad,’ to a forgotten magazine, called ‘The Star Chamber.’ In the same year he burst upon the town with ‘Vivian Grey’ (of which a second part appeared in 1827), a novel more remarkable perhaps for a youth of twenty than even Congreve’s ‘Old Bachelor.’  Extravagant, audacious, and sparkling, rather than truly brilliant, it achieved at once a great success; but the young author, as if to show his contempt for popularity, quitted England soon after its publication, and spent, the next three years (1828-31) in Spain, Italy, the Levant, and the south-east of Europe, which he described to his sister in the first series of letters edited by Mr. Ralph Disraeli. On his return to England in 1831, the brother and sister still continued regular correspondents, and his ‘Letters’ from 1832 to 1852 form the contents of a second volume lately published by the same editor. They do not add much to what was already known, and, though amusing and interesting, are coloured by a strain of egotism, which, if intended for a joke in writing to a near relative, is not one of those jokes which every one is bound to understand.

It was not till the general election of 1837 that Disraeli obtained a seat in parliament, having previously contested without success both High Wycombe (twice in 1832, and again in 1834), and Taunton (in 1836), involving himself in squabbles of no very dignified character with Joseph Hume and Daniel O’Connell. At Taunton he attacked O’Connell, who had written a complimentary letter about him when he stood for Wycombe. O’Connell retorted by comparing Disraeli to the ‘impenitent thief.’ There was some talk of a duel with O’Connell’s son, Morgan, O’Connell having made a vow against the practice; but nothing came of it. In a letter to The Times of 3l Dec 1835 Disraeli gave his own version of the quarrel. While willing to accept the assistance of these influential politicians against Whig dictation, he had distinctly disavowed all sympathy with their peculiar principles. His support of the ballot and triennial parliaments he justified by the example of Bolingbroke and Sir William Wyndham. But the public of that day knew nothing of either, and the historical toryism of Disraeli was entirely beyond their grasp.

 

The Biography of Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

The Biography of Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
From The Dictionary of National Biography – Volume 14, 1909

Statue of Isaac Newton
Statue of Isaac Newton

Sir ISAAC (1642-1727), natural philosopher, was born in the manor-house at Woolathorpe, a hamlet of Colsterworth, eight miles south of Grantham, Lincolnshire, on 26 Dec. 1642. Engravings of the house, which is still standing, appear in Thomas Maude’s’ Wensleydale, 1771, and in Tumor’s ‘Collections for the History of Grantham,’ 1806, p. 157. He was baptised at Colsterworth 1 Jan. 1642-3. His father, Isaac Newton of Woolsthorpe, had married in April 1642 Hannah, daughter of James Ayscough of Market Overton, Rutland, but died at the age of thirty-six, in October 1642, before the birth of his son. The small estate of Woolsthorpe had been purchased by the philosopher’s grandfather, Robert Newton (d. 1641), in 1623. Some three years after her first husband’s death, 27 Jan. 1645-6,  Newton’s mother married Barnabas Smith, rector of North Witham, Lincolnshire, who died in 1656, leaving by him one son, Benjamin, and two daughters, Marie (wife of Thomas Pilkington of Belton, Rutland) and Hannah (second wife of Thomas Barton of Brigstock, Northamptonshire).

On his mother’s second marriage Newton was left at Woolsthorpe in charge of his grandmother, Mrs. Ayscough. He was sent in 1654 to the grammar school at Grantham, then kept by a Mr. Stokes. For some time he made little advance with his books, but a successful fight with a boy older than himself awakened a spirit of emulation, and  Newton soon rose to be head of the school. At the age of fourteen he was removed from school by his mother, who had returned to Woolsthorpe on the death of her second husband, in order to take part in the management of her farm. This proved distasteful to Isaac, there are various stories of the way in which he occupied himself with mathematics and other studies when he ought to have been attending to his farm duties and by the advice of his uncle, William Ayscough, rector of Burton Coggles, Lincolnshire, he was sent back to school in 1660 with a view to preparing him for college. Ayscough was himself a Trinity man, and on 5 June 1661 Isaac Newton was matriculated as a subsizar at Trinity College, Cambridge, under Mr. Pulleyne. Few details of his undergraduate life remain. In 1664 he made some observations on halos, afterwards described in his ‘Optics’ (bk. ii. pt. iv. obs. 18), and on 28 April of the same year he was elected a scholar. He graduated B.A. in January 1665, but unfortunately the ‘ordo senioritatis’ for that year has not been preserved.

Newton’s unrivalled genius for mathematical speculation declared itself almost in his boyhood.

The Biography of William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806)

The Biography of William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806)
From The Dictionary of National Biography – Volume 15, 1909

William Pitt the Younger
William Pitt the Younger

PITT, WILLIAM (1759-1806), statesman, second son of  William Pitt, first earl of Chatham q. v., and Hester, daughter of Richard Grenville, was born at Hayes, near Bromley, Kent; on 28 May 1759. As a child he was precocious and eager, and at seven years old looked forward to following in his father’s steps (Chatham Correspondence, ii. 393-4). His health being extremely delicate, he was educated at home. His father took much interest in his studies, preparing him to excel as an orator by setting him to translate verbally, and at sight, passages from Greek and Latin authors, and hearing him recite. When thirteen years old he composed a tragedy ‘Laurentino, King of Chersonese’ which he and his brothers and sisters acted at his father’s house. It is extant in manuscript.

The plot is political, and there is no love in it.  At fourteen, when he knew more than most lads of eighteen, he matriculated at Cambridge, entering Pembroke Hall in the spring of 1773, and going into residence the following October. He was put under the care of the Rev, George Pretyman, afterwards Tomline q.v., one of the tutors. Soon afterwards a serious illness compelled his return home, and he remained there until the next July. Dr. Anthony Addington fq. v. recommended a copious use of port wine. The remedy was successful, and at eighteen his health was established. For two years and a half he lived at Cambridge, with little or no society save that of his tutor, Pretyman. He studied Latin and Greek diligently, and showed a taste for mathematics; but of modern literature he read little, and of modern languages knew only French. In the spring of 1770 he graduated M.A. without examination, and towards the end of the year began to mix with other young men. He was excellent company, cheerful, witty, and well-bred. While still residing at Cambridge, he often went to hear debates in parliament, and on one of these occasions was introduced to Charles James Fox q, v., who was struck by his eager comments on the arguments of the different speakers (Stanhope, Life, i, 27). He was present at his father’s last speech in the House of Lords on 7 April 1778, and helped to carry the earl from the chamber. On his father’s death he was left with an income of less than 300l. a year, and, intending to practise law, began to keep terms at Lincoln’s Inn, though he lived for the most part at Cambridge. In the following October he published an answer to a letter from Lord Mountstuart with reference to his father’s political conduct (Ann. Reg. 1778, xxi. 257-61). He was called to the bar on 12 June 1780, and in August went the western circuit. At the general election in September he stood for the university of Cambridge, and was at the bottom of tho poll. Sir James Lowther, however, caused him to be elected at Appleby, and he took his seat on 23 Jan. 1781. Amoung his closest friends were Edward Eliot (afterwards his brother-in-law), Richard Pepper Arden (afterwards lord Alvanley), and Wilburforce, to their company he was always full of life and gaiety. At first he gambled a little, but gave it up on finding that the excitement was absorbing; for he resolved to allow nothing to hinder him from giving his whole mind to the service of his country.

The Biography of Walter Scott (1771-1832) in 1909

The Biography of Walter Scott (1771-1832)
From The Dictionary of National Biography – Volume 1, 1909
Written by Mr Leslie Stephen

SCOTT, Snr WALTER (1771-1832), author of The Waverley Novels, son of Walter Scott by his wife Anne Rutherford, was born on 15 Aug. 1771 in a house in College Wynd at Edinburgh, since demolished.

The True History of several honourable Families of the Right Honourable Name of Scott (1688), by Walter Scott of Satchelis [q. v.], was a favourite of the later Walter from his earliest years. He learnt from it the history of many of the heroes of his writings. Among them were John Scott of Harden, called ‘the Lamiter,’ a younger son of a duke of Buccleuch in the fourteenth century; and John’s son, William the Bolt-foot,’ a famous border knight. A later Scott called ‘Amid War,’ the Harden of the ‘Lay of the Lost Minstrel,’ married Mary Scott, the ‘Flower of Yarrow,’ in 1607, and was the hero of many legends [see Scott, Walter, 1660 P-1629 P]. His son, William Scott of Harlech, was made prisoner by Gideon Marray of Elibank, and preferred a marriage with Murray’s ugliest daughter to the gallows. William’s third son, Walter, laird of Raeburn, became a quaker, and suffered persecutions described in a note to the Heart of Midlothian. Raeburn’s second Son also Walter, became a Jacobite, and was known as ‘Beardie,’ because he gave up shaving in token of mourning for the Stuarts. He died in 1729. ‘Beardie’ and his son Robert are described in the introductory ‘Epistles’ to ‘Matmion.’ Robert quarrelled with his father, became a whig, and set up as a farmer at Sandy Knowe.

He was a Keen sportsman and a general referee in all matters of dispute in the neighbourhood. In 1728 he married Barbara, daughter of Thomas Haliburton of New Mains, by whom he had a numerous family. One of them, Thomas, died, in his ninetieth year. Another, Robert, was in the navy, and, after, died at Rosebank, near Kelso. Walter Scott, the eldest son of Robert of family Knowe, born 1729, was the first of the family to adopt a town life. He acquired a fur practice a writer to the signet. Huxnn Autobiographical that he delighted in the antiquarian part of his profession, but had too much simplicity to make money, and often rather lost than profited by his zeal for his clients. He was a strict Calvinist; his favourite study was church history; and he was rather formal in manners and staunch to old Scottish prejudices. He is the original of the elder Fairford in ‘Redgauntlet’

In April 1788 he married Anne, eldest daughter of John Rutherford, professor of medicine in the university of Edinburgh [q. v.]  Her mother was a daughter of Sir John Swinton [q. v.], a descendant of many famous warriors, and through her her son traced a descent from Sir William Alexander, earl of Stirling, the friend of Ben Jonson. Mrs. Scott was short, and ‘by no means comely. She was well educated for the time, though with old-fashioned stiffness; was fond of poetry, and was of light and happy temper of mine. Though devout, she was less austere than her husband. Her son Walter had no likeness, it is said, to her or to his father; but strongly resembled his great-grandfather Beardie, and especially his grandfather Robert.

The Biography of Francis Bacon (1561-1628) in 1909

The Biography of Francis Bacon (1561-1628)
From The Dictionary of National Biography – Volume 1, 1909
Written by Dr. S Rawson Gardiner & Rev. Dr. Fowler

Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon

BACON, FRANCIS (1561-1628), lord chancellor, born at York House on 29 Jan. 1561, was the son of Lord Keeper Bacon, by his second wife, Ann, second daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke, and sister of the wife of Sir William Cecil, better known by his later title as Lord Treasurer Burghley. In April 1573, at the age of twelve years and three months, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, leaving it in March 1576. On 27 June 1576 he was admitted to Gray’s Inn.

Bacon was thus destined to the profession of the law. Few youths of his age, however, are content to look forward to a life of merely professional success; and in Bacon’s case, partly by reason of his own mental qualities, and partly by reason of the influence of the exciting events of the great national straggle in the heart of which he lived, the visions of youth were peculiarly far-reaching. The boy already longed not merely to do something for the defence of protestantism against its enemies, and something for the improvement of the government of his native country, both which thoughts were likely to arise in the mind of Elizabeth’s ‘ young lord keeper,’ as she playfully called him, but also to achieve which was peculiarly his own, to create s new system of philosophy to replace that of Aristotle, not merely for the satisfaction of the cravings of his own speculative reason, but for the practical benefit of humanity at large.

In 1578 young Bacon was attached to the embassy of Sir Amias Paulet to France. He was still abroad when, on 20 Feb. 1679, his father died, leaving him with but a small fortune. On his return to England, which followed soon after he received the bad news, be devoted himself to the study of the law, though he was not without nope of more suitable work. In 1680, at least, he was looking to his uncle, Lord Burghley, to support suit for some kind of preferment, the exact nature of which is unknown. As, however, he did not receive a favourable answer, he continued his legal studies, and on 27 June 1682 was admitted utter barrister.

Bacon’s rise in life was brought about by bis election to the parliament which met on 23 Nov. 1584, in which, no doubt through Burghley’s interest, he sat for the borough of Melcombe Regis. The time was one m which the greatest questions were at issue. The danger arising from the activity of of Mary Stuart was coming to a bead, and at the same time, though the queen and the House of Commons were completely atone in their desire to establish the national independence by keeping the catholics in ebea, there was a envision of opinion between them on the form of religion to be maintained in the country, the commons wishing to see the established religion modified in the direction of Calvinistic puritanism, and the queen wishing to preserve the worship of the Prayer-book intact.

The Biography of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) in 1909

The Biography of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) from
The Dictionary of National Biography Volume 17
published in 1909 by written by Mr Sidney Lee

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM (1564-1616), dramatist and poet, came of a family whose surname was borne through the middle ages by residents in very many parts of England at Penrith in Cumberland, at Kirkland and Doncaster in Yorkshire, as well as in nearly all the midland counties. The surname had originally a martial significance, implying capacity in the wielding of the spear (Camden, Remains, ed. 1605, p. Ill; Restitution, 1605). Its first recorded holder is John Shakespeare, who in 1279 was living at ‘Freyndon,’ perhaps Frittenden, Kent (Cor. 7 Edw. I, Kane.; cf. Notes and Queries, 1st ser. xL 122). The great mediaeval guild of St. Anne at Knowle, whose members included the leading inhabitants of Warwickshire, was joined by many Shakespeares in the fifteenth century (cf. Reg. ed Bickley, 1894). In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the surname is found far more frequently in Warwickshire than elsewhere. The archives of no less than twenty-four towns and villages there contain notices of Shakespeare families in the sixteenth century, and as many as thirty-four Warwickshire towns or villages were inhabited by Shakespeare families in the seventeenth century. Among them all William a common christian name.

At Rowington, twelve miles to the north of Stratford, and in the same hundred of Barliehway, one of the most prolific Shakespeare families of Warwickshire raided in the sixteenth century, and no less than three Richard Shakespeares of Rowington, whose extant wills were proved respectively in 1660,1591, and 1614, were fathers of sons called William. At least one other William Shakespeare was during the period a resident in Rowington. As a consequence, the poet has been mote than once credited with achievements which rightly belong to one or other of his numerous contemporaries who were identically named.