Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Appleton, Charles Edward Cutts Birch

APPLETON, CHARLES EDWARD CUTTS BIRCH (1841–1879), man of letters, was the second son of the Rev. Robert Appleton. He was born on 16 March 1841, and educated at Reading grammar school, of which his father was head master. In 1859 he was elected to a scholarship at St. John's College, Oxford, which led in due course to a fellowship. His university honours were a second class at moderations and another second class in the final examination, both in classics. He graduated as B. A. in 1863, and, in accordance with the custom of his college, proceeded to the higher degree of D.C.L. in 1871. Shortly after taking his bachelor's degree, he travelled on the continent, and studied for about two years at more than one German university. In 1867 he returned to Oxford, and was appointed lecturer in philosophy at St. John's. At this period he read much, but wrote little. During all his life he was an enthusiast for learning, rather than a teacher or an author. The metaphysics of Hegel, considered from a theological (and almost an Anglican) standpoint, was the special branch of learning to which he was himself inclined; but his sympathies were wide enough to comprise everything that a German includes under ‘Wissenschaft.’ It was Appleton's fate that the remainder of his life should be devoted to the encouragement of learning in England by precept rather than by example. The bulk of his writings is not large, nor can it be said that their permanent value is very great; but he founded the literary periodical called the ‘Academy,’ and he organised the movement for the ‘endowment of research.’ The first number of the ‘Academy, a Monthly Record of Literature, Learning, Science, and Art,’ appeared on 9 Oct. 1869; and Appleton remained editor until his death. The distinctive characteristic of the paper was the signature of all the critiques by the writers' names in full; and its early contributors included men of high eminence in literature and science. If the ‘Academy’ has not consistently carried out the ambitious programme with which its founder started, it has at least continued to live to the present time without more vicissitudes than are common to newspaper enterprise. On 16 Nov. 1872 the first meeting was held in London of the ‘Association for the Organisation of Academical Study,’ in which Appleton again was the prime mover. The association held but one more meeting, and then fell to pieces. Shortly after the birth of the ‘Academy ’ Appleton finally left Oxford for London, and occupied an old-fashioned cottage on the edge of Hampstead Heath, in which he delighted to play the host. In the autumn of 1875 he paid a visit to America, and was led to take up the question of international copyright with his wonted energy. The work that Appleton imposed on himself in connection with the ‘Academy ’ was by no means entirely literary. He also undertook the business management of the paper, and became secretary of a company which he formed to foster it. In the opinion of his friends the labour and anxiety thus incurred contributed much to the breakdown of his constitution. The winter of 1877-8 he was ordered to spend in the south. The excitement of travel in Egypt and the Levant he enjoyed thoroughly, but when he came back to England he was visibly worse. Again he went to Egypt, and died at Luxor on 1 Feb. 1879.

To a volume, entitled ‘Essays on the Endowment of Research, by Various Writers’ (1876), Appleton contributed two essays, the one on the Economic Character of Subsidies to education, and the other on the Endowment of Research as a Form of Productive Expenditure.

[A sketch of Appleton's career, together with most of his papers on philosophical subjects, will be found in ‘Dr. Appleton: his Life and Literary Relics,’ by his brother, John H. Appleton, and A. H. Sayce (1881)].

J. S. C.