Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Clark, William George
CLARK, WILLIAM GEORGE (1821–1878), man of letters, was born in March 1821. His early years were passed at Barford Hall, Gainsford, Yorkshire. He was educated at the Sedbergh grammar school and at Shrewsbury under Dr. Kennedy. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1840, and, after winning many prizes as an undergraduate, was second in the classical tripos and second chancellor's medallist in 1844, the present Sir H. S. Maine being first in both competitions. He was elected fellow of Trinity College in 1844, and resided there until 1873. He was afterwards tutor of his college, and was elected public orator of the university in 1857, in succession to W. H. Bateson [q. v.] He travelled in the long vacations, and gathered materials for several publications. 'Gazpacho' (1850) gives a lively account of a tour in Spain in 1849. 'Peloponnesus, or Notes of Study and Travel' (1858), is a more serious account of the results of a tour made in Greece in 1850 with Dr. W. H. Thompson, master of Trinity College [q.v.] The articles in the first and third volumes of 'Vacation Tourists' (1861-64) record his impressions in visits to Italy dunng Garibaldi's expedition of 1860, and to Poland (in company with Professor Birkbeck) during the insurrection of 1863.
In 1850 Clark (with Dr. Kennedy and James Riddell) edited the 'Sabrinæ Corolla.' A friend and pupil in 'Notes and Queries' speaks enthusiastically of his 'translations from "In Memoriam, and many sales Attici which might have endeared him to Sir Thomas More.' Clark edited the first series of 'Cambridge Essays' (1855), contributing a paper on classical education. He helped to establish the 'Journal of Philology' (1868, &c.), and was one of its editors. He edited the essays of his friend, George Brimley [q. v.], in 1858, and in 1872 he published lectures on the 'Middle Ages and the Revival of Learning,' previously delivered in Edinburgh. He published (anonymously) in 1849 a 'Scale of Lyrics,' and contributed a poem called 'Andromache' to 'Macmillan's Magazine' of April 1868, to which and to 'Fraser's Macazine' he was a frequent contributor. His principal work was the 'Cambridge Shakespeare,' mainly planned by himself. It gives a complete collation of all the early editions, with a selection of emendations by later editors. The first volume came out in 1863, the last in 1866. Clark co-operated in the first volume with Mr. Glover, and afterwards with Mr. Aldis Wright, successively librarians of Trinity. The 'Globe edition' of Shakespeare (1864) was edited by Clark and Mr. Wright, who also joined in editing single plays of Shakespeare issued from the Clarendon Press.
Clark laboured for many years upon an edition of Aristophanes. After a visit to Italy for the collation of manuscripts in 1867, he began to prepare the work for publication, but never proceeded far in his task, which was probably interrupted by the decline of his health. Nothing was left in a state for publication. He had been ordained in 1853, and published a few sermons. In November 1869 he wrote to the Bishop of Ely, stating that he wished to give up his orders. He explained his reasons fully in a pamphlet, called 'The Present Dangers of the Church of England.' The Clerical Disabilities Act passed in 1870, which he joined in promoting, enabled him to abandon his clerical character. He resigned the public oratorship, but continued to be vice-master and fellow of his college. A severe illness in the spring of 1871 broke down his health. He left Cambridge in the autumn of 1873; his powers gradually failed, and he died at York 6 Nov. 1878. He left property to Trinity College, from which a lectureship upon English literature was founded after his death. The first appointment was made in 1883. Clark's varied scholarship was combined with a kindliness and charm of manner which made him for many years the delight of Cambridge society. He was a warm and loyal friend, and united the polish of a man of the world to the thorough knowledge of a persevering student.
[Academy, 23 Nov. 1878 (by W. Aldis Wright); Notes and Queries, 5th ser. x. 400, 438 (A. J. Munro), xi. 65 (J. Pickford); C. A. Bristed's Five Years in an English University (1873), 216-217, 219; personal knowledge.]