Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Bradley, George Granville

BRADLEY, GEORGE GRANVILLE (1821–1903), dean of Westminster and schoolmaster, born at High Wycombe on 11 Dec. 1821, was fourth son of Charles Bradley [q. v.]. In 1829 the family moved to Clapham, Surrey, where in 1834 Bradley became a pupil at the grammar school under Charles Pritchard [q. v.]. In August 1837 he was admitted to Rugby under Arnold and placed in the upper fifth form. On 20 March 1840 he was admitted a scholar of University College, Oxford, where his tutors were (Sir) Travers Twiss [q. v.] and Piers Calverley Claughton [q. v. Suppl. I], but he was more influenced by a younger fellow, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley [q. v.]. In 1844 he was one of four in the first class in classics and in October was elected fellow of his college. In 1845 he won the Latin essay prize. He did not reside on his fellowship but went as a master to Rugby under Archibald Campbell Tait [q. v,]. There he soon won renown both as a teacher and as a housemaster. When in 1849 Edward Meyrick Goulburn [q. v. Suppl. I] succeeded Tait there was trouble at Rugby, and Bradley, in conjunction with his colleague, T. S. Evans, saved the school from disaster. On 18 Dec. 1 849 he married Marian, fourth daughter of Benjamin Philpot, vicar general and archdeacon of Sodor and Man.

In 1858 the headmastership of Marlborough was vacated by George Edward Lynch Cotton [q. v.], who till 1852 had been one of Bradley's colleagues at Rugby, and by Cotton's desire Bradley succeeded him. He took orders on his appointment. He had no easy post. Though Cotton had begun to relieve the school of its money troubles, and introduced a public-school spirit, there was still a heavy debt, and memories of disorder were not extinct. By good management, by raising the fees, and by increasing the numbers, Bradley not only removed the debt but was able to add greatly to the school buildings. Disorder he quelled by 'inspired invective' (S. H. Butcher), and though the sixth form, accustomed to Cotton's gravity, was at first 'inclined to disparage the little man who had succeeded the tall and dignified head, they soon found out their mistake, and were all roused and stimulated as they had never been before by contact with an active, vigorous mind and extraordinary power of teaching' [T. L. Papillon]. When in 1859 both the Balliol scholarships went to Marlburians, T. L. Papillon and C. P. Ilbert, Bradley's success was established. He kept most of the teaching of the sixth form in his own hands, and was especially successful in teaching Latin prose, while he widened the old curriculum by reading with his boys Butler's 'Analogy' and modern historical works. The general teaching he supervised by a monthly 'review' of each form; in presence of the master he took the boys through some of the work which they had been doing, and spared neither boy nor master. At the same time by the gentler side of his nature he made the boys his friends. To both sides Tennyson bore witness by sending his son Hallam 'not to Marlborough but to Bradley.' Bradley had first met Tennyson in 1841, when they were both on a visit to Edmund L. Lushington [q. v. Suppl. I] at Park House near Maidstone, and when in 1860 Bradley took a house near Farringford, Tennyson's residence in the Isle of Wight, the acquaintance was renewed and soon ripened into the closest friendship. At this time Marlborough won more scholarships at Oxford than any other school, Rugby alone coming at all near it. The fame of Marlborough crossed the Channel, and when in 1866 the French government sent Demogeot to study the English public-school system, he had instructions to visit Marlborough, and was warmly welcomed by Bradley.

Among Bradley's earlier buildings had been a sanatorium. The increase in numbers now made it necessary to build afresh. Instead of adding to the hostel Bradley chose to create houses and thereby modify the Spartan simplicity of the first foundation. The school had been liable to epidemics, due in part to overcrowding, and the change greatly improved both its health and its general well-being.

In 1870 Bradley left Marlborough for Oxford, succeeding as Master of University college Frederick C. Plumptre, a head of the old school with a modified interest in learning. The college had never lacked men of ability among its scholars, but most of the commoners were passmen with the reputation of a 'rackety mirth-loving' set. Bradley was determined to raise the standard of industry and insisted that every commoner should read for an honour school. Some consequent unpopularity was increased by an edict banishing dogs from the college, but he had his way, and ho strengthened his position by bringing back James Franck Bright from Marlborough as tutor in history, and importing from Cambridge his old Marlborough pupil, Samuel Henry Butcher [q. v. Suppl. II], as a tutor in classics. Moreover, contrary to the practice of heads of houses, he took an active part in the teaching. His lectures on Sophocles, Cicero, and Latin prose attracted many undergraduates from other colleges. Entrance to his own college became competitive, and of the commoners of this period four have since been cabinet ministers and many distinguished in other lines. In 1880 Bradley was nominated in succession to Lord Selborne a member of the University Commission, and his services were rewarded by a canonry of Worcester. In 1881 the death of his old friend Stanley vacated the deanery of Westminster, and Bradley was chosen by Gladstone to take his place.

Once more Bradley found himself in a difficult situation. Stanley was no man of business, and his devotion to the abbey church had not extended to the care of the masonry. There was 'a ruinous fabric and a bankrupt chapter.' After long negotiations and much opposition Bradley induced the government to act. The ecclesiastical commissioners were empowered to provide a sum for immediate repairs and an income for the future, but one so small that it had to be supplemented by the proceeds of a suppressed canonry. Thus the building was saved. In 1889, at Bradley's instigation, a parliamentary commission was appointed to consider the question of space for future monuments and interments. As a substitute for interments Bradley extended the system of memorial services. The chief actual burials in his time were those of Darwin, Browning, Tennyson and Gladstone. The chief ceremonials were the jubilee service of Queen Victoria on 21 June 1887 and the coronation of Edward VII on 9 Aug. 1902. After Stanley's example Bradley used to take parties of working men round the abbey weekly in spring and summer. In the proceedings of convocation he took some part, and though ho left the liberal party on the home rule question, his ecclesiastical liberalism was never shaken. After the coronation he resigned the deanery on 29 September 1902, and retired to Queen Anne's Gate, where he died on 13 March 1903. He was buried in the south aisle of the nave of the abbey by the grave of Atterbury.

Bradley, whose wife survived him till 27 Nov. 1910, had two sons and five daughters. The elder son, Arthur Granville, is known as an author of historical and topographical works, the second daughter, Mrs. Margaret L. Woods, as a poet and novelist, and the fourth, Mrs. Alexander Murray Smith, as an historian of Westminster Abbey. There are portraits of him at Rugby by Lowes Dickinson, at Marlborough by W. W. Ouless, and at the deanery of Westminster by Reginald Higgins (posthumous).

Bradley published several sermons and some schoolbooks, one of which, 'A Practical Introduction to Latin Prose Composition' (1881; new impression 1910) is still in great demand. He also wrote:

  1. 'Recollections of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley,' three lectures delivered in 1882 at Edinburgh, 1883.
  2. 'Lectures on Ecclesiastes,' 1885.
  3. 'Lectures on the Book of Job,' 1887.

He co-operated in writing R. E. Prothero's 'Life and Correspondence of Dean Stanley,' 2 vols. 1883.

[History of Marlborough College, by A. G. Bradley and others, 1893, pp. 150 seq.; The Times, 13, 16 March 1903; Fortnightly Review, July 1903 (S. H. Butcher); Life of Tennyson, 1897, i. 204-207,467-469; ii. 35-57, 273-274; F. D. How's Six Great Schoolmasters, 1904, pp. 226-269; Tennyson and his Friends, ed. by Lord Tennyson, 1911; private information; personal knowledge.]

J. S.