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Gallery of Victorian Worthies

The following images reflect men instrumental during the period titled “Victorian.” They compromise a group of men who were authors, artists, statesmen, missionaries, soldiers, philanthropists, surgeons, craftsmen, historian and priest. Charles Dickens Lord Lister Lord Lawrence John Richard Green John Bright George Frederick Watts Dickens Dream Painted 1875. Donated by the artist’s grandson – 1931 Charles Kingsley Cecil Rhodes Bishop Patteson William Morris The Earl Of Shaftesbury Sir Robert Peel Sir Robert Morier Sir Charles Napier Lord Tennyson Thomas...

Biography of Charles Dickens

Novelist and Social Reformer. In these days when critics so often repeat the cry of ‘art for art’s sake’ and denounce Ruskin for bringing moral canons into his judgments of pictures or buildings, it is dangerous to couple these two titles together, and to label Dickens as anything but a novelist pure and simple. And indeed, all would admit that the creator of Sam Weller and Sarah Gamp will live when the crusade against ‘Bumbledom’ and its abuses is forgotten and the need for such a crusade seems incredible. But when so many recent critics have done justice to his gifts as a creative artist, this aspect of his work runs no danger of being forgotten. Moreover, when we are considering Dickens as a Victorian worthy and as a representative man of his age, it is desirable to bring out those qualities, which he shared with so many of his great contemporaries. Above all, we must remember that Dickens himself would be the last man to be ashamed of having written ‘with a purpose’, or to think that the fact should be concealed as a blemish in his art. There was nothing in which he felt more genuine pride than in the thought that his talents thus employed had brought public opinion to realize the need for many practical reforms in our social condition. If these old abuses have mostly passed away, we may be thankful indeed; but we cannot feel sure that in the future fresh abuses will not arise with which the example of Dickens may inspire others to wage war. His was a strenuous life; he...

Biography of John Bright

Tribune. The word ‘tribune’ comes to us from the early days of the Roman Republic; and even in Rome the tribunate was unlike all other magistracies. The holder had no outward signs of office, no satellites to execute his commands, no definite department to administer like the consul or the praetor. It was his first function to protest on behalf of the poorer citizens against the violent exercise of authority, and, on certain occasions, to thwart the action of other magistrates. He was to be the champion of the weak and helpless against the privileged orders; and his power depended on his courage, his eloquence, and the prestige of his office. England has no office of the sort in her constitutional armory; but the word ‘tribune’ expresses, better than any other title, the position occupied in our political life by many of the men who have been the conspicuous champions of liberty, and few would contest the claim of John Bright to a foremost place among them. He, too, stood forth to vindicate the rights of the plebs; he, too, resisted the will of governments; and in no common measure did he give evidence, through forty years of public life, of the possession of the highest eloquence and the highest courage. His early life gave little promise of a great career. He was born in 1811, the son of Jacob Bright, of Rochdale, who had risen by his own efforts to the ownership of a small cotton-mill in Lancashire, a man of simple benevolence and genuine piety, and a member of the Society of Friends-a society more familiar to...

Biography of John Lawrence

Indian Administrator. The north of Ireland and its Scoto-Irish stock has given birth to some of the toughest human material that our British Isles have produced. Of this stock was John Wesley, who at the age of eighty-five attributed his good health to rising every day at four and preaching every day at five. Of this was Arthur Wellesley, who never knew defeat and ‘never lost a British gun’. Of this was Alexander Lawrence, sole survivor among the officers of the storming party at Seringapatam, who lived to rear seven stout sons, five of whom went out to service in India, two at least to win imperishable fame. His wife, a Miss Knox, came also from across the sea; and, if the evidence fails to prove Mr. Bosworth Smith’s statement that she was akin to the great Reformer, she herself was a woman of strong character and great administrative talent. When we remember John Lawrence’s parentage, we need not be surprised at the character which he bore, nor at the evidence of it to be seen in the grand rugged features portrayed by Watts in the picture in the National Portrait Gallery. Of these parents John Laird Mair Lawrence was the fourth surviving son, one boy, the eldest, having died in infancy. He owed the accident of his birth in an English town to his father’s regiment being quartered at the time in Yorkshire, his first schooling at Bristol to his father’s residence at Clifton; but when he was twelve years old, he followed his elder brothers to Londonderry, where his maternal uncle, the Rev. James Knox, was Headmaster...

Biography of Anthony Ashley Cooper

Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury. Philanthropist. The word ‘Philanthropist’ has suffered the same fate as many other words in our language. It has become hackneyed and corrupted; it has taken a professional taint; it has almost become a byword. We are apt to think of the philanthropist as an excitable, contentious creature, at the mercy of every fad, an ultra-radical in politics, craving for notoriety, filled with self-confidence, and meddling with other people’s business. Anthony Ashley Cooper, the greatest philanthropist of the nineteenth century, was of a different type. By temper he was strongly conservative. He always loved best to be among his own family; he was fond of his home, fond of the old associations of his house. To come out into public life, to take his place in Parliament or on the platform, to be mixed up in the wrangling of politics was naturally distasteful to him. It continually needed a strong effort for him to overcome this distaste and to act up to his sense of duty. It is only when we remember this that we can do justice to his lifelong activity, and to the high principles, which bore him up through so many efforts and so many disappointments. For himself he would submit to injustice and be still: for his fellow countrymen and for his religion he would renew the battle to the last day of his life. His childhood was not happy. His parents had little sympathy with children, his father being absorbed in the cares of public life, his mother given up to society pleasures. He had three sisters older than himself, but...

Biography of Alfred Tennyson

Poet. The Victorians, as a whole, were a generation of fighters. They battled against Nature’s forces, subduing floods and mountain barriers, pestilence and the worst extremes of heat and cold; they also went forth into the market-place and battled with their fellow men for laws, for tariffs, for empire. Their triumphs, like those of the Romans, are mostly to be seen in the practical sphere. But there were others of that day who chose the contemplative life of the recluse, and who yet, by high imaginings, contributed in no less degree to enrich the fame of their age; and among these the first name is that of Alfred Tennyson, the most representative of Victorian poets. His early environment may be said to have marked him out for such a life. He was born in one of the remotest districts of a rural county. The village of Somersby lies in a hollow among the Lincolnshire wolds, twenty miles east of Lincoln, midway between the small towns of Spilsby, Horncastle, and Louth. There are no railways to disturb its peace; no high roads or broad rivers to bring trade to its doors. The ‘cold rivulet’ that rises just above the village flows down some twenty miles to lose itself in the sea near Skegness; in the valley the alders sigh and the aspens quiver, while around are rolling hills covered by long fields of corn broken by occasional spinneys. It is not a country to draw tourists for its own sake; but Tennyson knew, as few other poets know, the charm that human association lends to the simplest English landscape, and...

Biography of Charles James Napier

The famous Napier brothers, Charles, George, and William, came of no mean parentage. Their father, Colonel the Hon. George Napier, of a distinguished Scotch family, was remarkable alike for physical strength and mental ability. In the fervor of his admiration his son Charles relates how he could ‘take a pewter quart and squeeze it flat in his hand like a bit of paper’. In height 6 feet 3 inches, in person very handsome, he won the admiration of others besides his sons. He had served in the American war, but his later years were passed in organizing work, and he showed conspicuous honesty and ability in dealing with Irish military accounts. One of his reforms was the abolition of all fees in his office, by which he reduced his own salary from £20,000 to £600 per annum, emulating the more famous act of the elder Pitt as Paymaster-general half a century before. Their mother, Lady Sarah Lennox, daughter of the Duke of Richmond, had been a reigning toast in 1760. She had even been courted by George III, and might have been handed down to history as the mother of princes. In her old age she was more proud to be the mother of heroes; and her letters still exist, written in the period of the great wars, to show how a British mother could combine the Spartan ideal with the tenderest personal affection. Their father’s appointment involved residence in Ireland from 1785 onwards, and the boys passed their early years at Celbridge in the neighbourhood of Dublin. Here they were far from the usual amusements and society of...

Biography of Sir Robert Peel

In the years that lay between the Treaty of Utrecht and the close of the Napoleonic wars British politics were largely dominated by Walpole and the two Pitts: their great figures only stand out in stronger relief because their place was filled for a time by such weak ministers as Newcastle and Bute, as Grafton and North. In the nineteenth century there were many gifted statesmen who held the position of first minister of the Crown. Disraeli and Palmerston by shrewdness and force of character, Canning and Derby by brilliant oratorical gifts, Russell and Aberdeen by earnest devotion to public service, were all commanding figures in their day, whose claims to the chieftainship of a party and of a government were generally admitted. Gladstone, the most versatile genius of them all, had abilities second to none; but his place in history will for long be a subject of acute controversy. He stands too close to our own time to be fairly judged. Of the others no one had the same combination of gifts as Sir Robert Peel, no one had in the same measure that particular knowledge, judgment, and ability which characterize the statesman. His career was the most fruitful, his work the most enduring: he has left his mark in English history to a degree which no one of his rivals can equal. The Peel family can be traced back to the misty days of Danish inroads. Its original home in England is disputed between Yorkshire and Lancashire; but as early as the days of Elizabeth the branch from which our statesman was descended is certainly to be...

Biography of Thomas Carlyle

North-west of Carlisle (from which town the Carlyle family in all probability first took their name), a little way along the border, the river Annan comes down its green valley from the lowland hills to lose itself in the wide sands of the Solway Firth. At the foot of these hills is the village of Ecclefechan, some eight miles inland. Here in the wide irregular street, down the side of which flows a little beck, stands the grey cottage, built by the stonemason James Carlyle, where he lived with his second wife, Margaret Aitken; and here on December 4, 1795, the eldest of nine children, their son Thomas was born. There is little to redeem the place from insignificance; the houses are mostly mean, the position of the village is tame and commonplace. But if a visitor will mount the hills that lie to the north, turn southward and look over the wide expanse of land and water to the Cumbrian mountains, then, should he be fortunate enough to see the landscape in stormy and unsettled weather, he may realize why the land was so dear to its most famous son that he could return to it from year to year throughout his life and could there at all times soothe his most unquiet moods. Through all his years in London he remained a lowland Scot and was most at home in Annandale. With this district his fame is still bound up, as that of Walter Scott with the Tweed, or that of Wordsworth with the Lakes. In this humble household Thomas Carlyle first learnt what is meant by...
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