James Anthony Froude

Portret van James Anthony Froude.

Hieronder het artikel uit Chambers’s cyclopædia of English Literature uit 1886 over James Anthony Froude.


Letter The research and statictical knowledge evinced by Lord Macauley in his view of the state of England in the seventeenth century, have been rivalled by another historian and investigator of an earlier period. The History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the death of Elisabeth, by James Anthony Froude, twelve volumes, 1856-1869, is a work of sterling merit, though conceived in the spirit of a special pleader, and over-coloured both in light and shadow.

Mr.Froude is a son of Dr.Froude, archdeacon of Totness, and rector of Dartington, Devonshire. He was born in 1818, and educated at Westminster and at Oriel College, Oxford. In 1842 he carried off the chancellor’s prize for an English essay, his subject being Political Economy, and the same year he became a Fellow od Exeter College.

Mr.Froude appeared as an author in 1847, when he published Shadows of the Clouds, by Zeta, consisting of two stories. Next year he produced The Nemesis of Faith, a protest, as it has been called, against the reverence entertained by the church for what Mr.Froude called the Hebrew mythology. Such a work could not fail to offend the university authorities. Mr.Froude was deprived of his Fellowship, and also forfeited a situation to which he had been appointed in Tasmania.

He then set to periodical writing, and contributed to the Westminster Review and Fraser’s Magazine: of the latter he was sometime editor. His reputation was greatly extended by his History, as the volumes appeared from time to time; and he threw off occasional pamphlets and ahort historical dissertations. One of these, entitled The Influence of the Reformation on the Scottish Character, being an address delivered before the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh, in 1865, attracted much attention, especially on account of its eulogy on John Knox.

Another of these occasional addresses was one on Calvinism, being his rectorial address to the university od St.Andrews in 1869. He has also issued Short Studies on Great Subjects, 4 vols.; and as Carlyle‘s literary executor he issued his Reminiscences in 1881; in 1882, the first instalment of Carlyle‘s Life; and in 1883, 3 vols. of the Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle. All these works were much commented upon at the time.

The fame of Mr.Froude, however, rests on his History of England, so picturesque and dramatic in detail, wherein he vindicates the character of Henry VIII, and depicts the actual condition of the people during his reign. For part of the original and curious detail in which the work abounds, Mr.Froude was indebted to Sir Francis Palgrave, but he has himself been indefatigable in collecting information from statepapers and other sources. The result is, not justification of the capricious tyranny and cruelty of Henry – which in essential points is unjustifiable – but the removal of some stains from his memory which have been continued without examination by previous writers; and the accumulation of many interesting facts relative to the great men and the social state of England in that transitionary era.

Life was then, according to the historian, unrefined, but „coloured with a broad rosy English health.” Personal freedom, however, was very limited; and under such a system of statutory restriction or protection as then prevailed, no nation could ever have advanced. In many passages of his history – as the account of the death of Rizzio and the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots – Mr.Froude has sacrificed strict accuracy in order to produce more complete dramatic effects and arrest the attention of the reader. Abd his work is one of enchaining interest.

In 1872 Mr.Froude published The English in Ireland in the Eighteenth Century, volume first, the narrative being brought down to the year 1767. Ywo more volumes were added in 1874, and the work was read with great avidity. It is in some respects a vindication, or at least a palliation, of the conduct of the English government towards Ireland, written in a strong Anglo-Saxon spirit.