Chenery, Thomas (DNB00)

CHENERY, THOMAS (1826–1884), editor of the ‘Times,’ was born at Barbadoes in 1826, educated at Eton and Caius College, Cambridge, and, after taking an ordinary degree (B.A. 1854, M.A. 1858), was called to the bar. Soon afterwards the ‘Times’ sent him out to Constantinople as its correspondent during the Crimean war. Chenery more than once relieved Mr. Russell at the seat of war, though his proper work at Constantinople was pressing enough at the time. After the war he returned to England, and from that time till his death he was constantly employed on the staff of the ‘Times’ as leader writer, reviewer, and writer of original papers. His style was good, his judgment cool and sound, and his reading very wide, while his knowledge of European politics, both in their historical development. and their contemporary bearings, was singularly thorough. In 1877 he succeeded Delane as editor of the ‘Times,’ and thenceforward all his energy was devoted to the paper. (Chenery was not regarded as a successful editor by the public, but it was certainly not for want of labour; he toiled with the devotion of two, and when an agonising disease came upon him, he still persevered in his duties. He almost died at his post, for he continued to conduct the ‘Times’ to within ten days of his death (ll Feb. 1884). There can be little doubt that he lacked the intimate touch of public opinion which Delane possessed. It is rather as an orientalist than as a successful editor that Chenery will be remembered. He was a singularly fine Arabic and Hebrew scholar, and wrote and spoke both languages like a native. He possessed the gift of language, and could pick up, with a facility almost equalling that of his friend Strangford, any spoken tongue. French, German, modern Greesk, and Turkish were among the languages he spoke with perfect fluency. The gift of speaking many tongues was accompanied in Chenery's case with the learning of the scholar, and his profound attainments in Semitic philology led to his being invited to join the company of the Old Testament revisers, with whom he sat until very near his end, and to whom his ripe Ara ic scholarship must have proved very valuable. His translation of ‘Six Assemblies’ (Makamat) of El Hariry, 1867, is an admirable piece of leamed work, and led to his appointment in 1868 as lord almoner's professor of Arabic at Oxford, a post for which he was cordially recommended by Lane, the doyen of Arabic philology. Chenery soon discovered that there was little demand for the services of another professor of Arabic besides the Laudian at Oxford, and contented himself with delivering an inaugural lecture, and taking part in the few oriental examinations of the university, where he was incorporated at Christ Church and received an ‘ad eundem’ master’s degree. He resigned his chair in 1877 on becoming editor oof the ‘Times,’ but in the meantime he had published his edition of the ‘Machberoth Ithiel’ of Jehudah ben Shelomo Alkharizi, to which he contributed an introduction written in Hebrew of such elegance and purity that it evoked the wonder and admiration of Jewish scholars. Personally he was of a shy and retiring disposition, which somewhat obstructed that omnipresent observation that is supposed to be essential to an editor of the ‘Times.’ Among his friends, however, he was an interesting and impressive talker; no one knew better how to contribute to the happiness and enjoyment of others, and to young students and orientalists especially he was a kind and helpful guide and friend.

[Personal knowledge; Times obituary notice, February 1884.]

S. L-P.