Craig, William James (DNB12)

CRAIG, WILLIAM JAMES (1843–1906), editor of Shakespeare, born on 6 Nov. 1843 at Camus juxta Bann, known also as Macosquin, co. Derry, was second son of George Craig (1800–1888), who was then curate of that place and from 1853 till his retirement in 1880 was rector of Aghanloo in the same county. Craig's mother was Mary Catherine Sandys (1803–1879), daughter of Charles Brett of Belfast and of Charleville, co. Down.

After attending Portora School, Enniskillen, Craig entered Trinity College, Dublin, as a pensioner on 1 July 1861, and graduated B.A. in 1865 as junior moderator with silver medal in history and English literature, proceeding M.A. in 1870. From his undergraduate days he devoted himself with enthusiasm to English study, and was a pedestrian of unusual endurance. After graduating, he acted as private tutor in history and literature at Trinity, and in 1874 he migrated to London to engage in private coaching for the army and civil service. In 1876 he was appointed professor of English language and literature at University College, Aberystwyth. A Shakespeare reading class, which he instituted there, did much to stimulate a knowledge of the dramatist's work, and he infected his pupils, who included Thomas Edward Ellis (afterwards M.P. for Merionethshire) and Sir Samuel Evans (afterwards president of the probate and divorce division of the high court), with something of his own eager literary zeal. He resigned his professorship in 1879 to resume coaching in London. Save during 1884, when he was tutor at Hatfield to Lord Hugh Cecil, youngest son of the marquis of Salisbury, he was continuously employed in private tuition in London till 1898.

From that year till his death Craig confined his energies to philological and literary research, frequently reading at the British Museum. He had already published in 1883, for the New Shakspere Society, a minute collation of the first folio text of 'Cymbeline' with the later folios. There followed in 1894 a one-volume edition of Shakespeare's complete works with a brief glossary for the Clarendon Press at Oxford. This edition, known as 'The Oxford Shakespeare,' has since been reprinted in many forms. While still engaged in teaching he had been collecting materials for a comprehensive glossary of Shakespeare, and after his retirement he added to his material a vast mass of illustrative quotations from Elizabethan authors. But he left his collections in too incomplete a condition to allow of publication. He succeeded, however, in completing, for Messrs. Methucn & Co., 'The Little Quarto Shakespeare' with introductions and footnotes (40 vols. 1901-1904), and from 1901 he acted as general editor in succession to his friend, Professor Edward Dowden, of the ' Arden Shakespeare,' also in 40 vols., an edition fully annotated by various scholars. To the 'Arden Shakespeare' Craig contributed the volume on 'King Lear' (1901), an admirably thorough piece of work, and he was preparing the volume on 'Coriolanus' at his death.

Craig, who was a popular member of the Savage Club, combined broad sympathies with his scholarly interests and his love of poetry. To the last he was a sturdy walker, and although an unmethodical worker spared himself no pains in his editorial efforts. He died, unmarried, in a nursing home in London, after an operation, on 12 Dec. 1906, and was buried in Reigate churchyard. Several hundred volumes from his library were presented by his sister, Mrs. Merrick Head, to the public library at Stratford-on-Avon, where they are kept together in a suitably inscribed bookcase. His portrait was painted in 1904 by Alfred Wolmark.

[The Times, 18 Dec. 1906, by present writer; Spectator, 5 Jan. 1907, by S. L. Gwynn, M.P.; Shakespeare Jahrbuch (Weimar), 1907; private information and personal knowledge.]

S. L.