Sue Young Histories

James Anthony Froude 1818 - 1894

September 01, 2008

James Anthony Froude 1818 – 1894James Anthony Froude 1818 – 1894 was a controversial English historian, novelist, biographer, and editor of Fraser’s Magazine.

Froude was a friend of John Stuart Blackie, Mrs. Humphrey WardGeorge Eliot, Arthur Hugh Clough, Matthew Arnold and Thomas Carlyle, and John Chapman.

James Anthony Froude was a correspondent of Moncure Daniel Conway, and he was also a friend and patient of homeopath James John Garth Wilkinson: ‘… though Dr. Garth Wilkinson was the friend, and often the physician, of Carlyle, Froude, Dickens, Tennyson… (AnonSotheran’s price current of literature, (1 Jan 1920). Page 111)…’  James Anthony Froude is listed in both of James John Garth Wilkinson’s address books at 5 Onslow Gardens SW (See also Swedenborg Archive _Address Book of James John Garth Wilkinson dated 1895. See also Swedenborg Archive _Address Book of James John Garth Wilkinson ‘Where is it’ dated 1.10.1892__).

From Others whom John Chapman encouraged and employed were a set of young men from Oxford, many of them destined for the church as a career until they found themselves unable to sign the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, an act required not only in order to be ordained, but also in order to graduate or take a fellowship.

The poet Arthur Hugh Clough, the historian and biographer James Anthony Froude and Francis William Newman, the younger brother of John Henry Newman, were three such Oxford exiles; all of them found in John Chapman a willing publisher of their books and articles.

From 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 Carlyle and Jane Welsh Carlyle.

The son of R. H. Froude, archdeacon of Totnes, James Anthony was born at Dartington, Devon on April 23, 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, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and especially Thomas Carlyle.

Froude retained a favorable impression of John Henry 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 John Henry Newman’s Lives of the English Saints, choosing Saint Neot as his subject. However, he found himself unable to credit the accounts of Saint 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 Cleghorn Gaskell, and later Mrs. Humphrey Ward. Mrs. Humphrey 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, Charles 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 John Chapman’s 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 became the most famous living historian in England.

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…

On the death of his adversary Edward Augustus 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 October 20, 1894.


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