Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Clark, Samuel

CLARK, SAMUEL (1810–1875), educationalist, the youngest of ten children of Joseph and Fanny Clark, was born at Southampton on 19 May 1810. His father, a prosperous brush and basket maker of the town, was a member of the Society of Friends. Samuel was brought up a strict quaker. One of his earliest recollections was of the Emperor Alexander of Russia, who, on his visit to England in 1814, having expressed a wish to visit a good specimen of the English middle class, was introduced to the Clarks, and patted the boy's head. Clark was sent to a private school Southampton, but at the age of thirteen and a half his father took him away to his own business, in spite of his own and his mother's entreaties. Though business hours were from six a.m. to eight p.m., he found time for his books, and always kept some classical author open in his desk. His constitution was permanently weakened by the exertion, and during his whole life he was never free from dyspepsia. He became well read in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, and German, and had a very full and accurate knowledge of geography and chemistry, and he also developed a power of lecturing on physical science. After taking measures to secure a competency for his parents and unmarried sisters, he went to London in 1836, and became a partner in the old-established publishing firm of Darton & Son, Holborn Hill, which thus became ‘Darton & Clark.’

During his residence in Southampton he formed a warm friendship with Frederick Denison Maurice, whose father was residing there. When he came to London, this friendship was pursued, Maurice having been just appointed chaplain of Guy's Hospital. He confided his religious difficulties to Maurice, who addressed to him the series of letters which were published in 1837 as ‘The Kingdom of Christ … in Letters to a Member of the Society of Friends.’ The same year Maurice baptised Clark at St. Thomas's Church, Southwark. This friendship continued through life.

In January 1839 Clark matriculated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford. His residence was interrupted by his business, which he still kept on in London, and he did not take his degree for seven years. While in residence he spent his evenings in literary work to defray his college expenses. For several years he edited ‘Peter Parley's Annual’ for his firm, and wrote some of the volumes, e.g. ‘Peter Parley's Tales of the Sun, Moon, and Stars.’ In 1843 he dissolved partnership with Darton, and went abroad with Mr. (afterwards Sir Edward) Strachey, visiting Italy and Greece. In 1846 he graduated, and the same year was ordained to the curacy of Heyford, Northamptonshire; but a few weeks afterwards was appointed, at Maurice's recommendation, vice-principal of St. Mark's Training College for Schoolmasters, of which Derwent Coleridge [q. v.] was principal. Lord John Russell's government on coming into power in 1846 drew up a scheme for the furtherance of national elementary instruction. Up to this time the prevailing theory of the clergy was that the national schoolmaster should be in deacon's orders, and there was a strong tone of ecclesiasticism in the training colleges. Clark disliked this, and entered heartily into the broader whig views. The curriculum of the college had been hitherto almost confined to Latin, mathematics, and ecclesiastical music. Clark was vice-principal of the college for four years, and during that time he completely revolutionised its methods. He was a brilliant lecturer, and the most zealous and painstaking of teachers. He had made geography a special study for some years, and in 1849 he published ‘Maps illustrative of the Physical and Political History of the British Empire’ (National Society). Nothing nearly so full had ever been published before. It comprised twelve folio maps, showing physical and geological features, meteorology, political, statistical, and historical facts, the British dominions on a uniform scale, illustrations of the ecclesiastical history, and the present ecclesiastical divisions. The late J. R. Green pronounced the historical maps the best that he knew. Clark from this time to the end of his life continued to publish a handsome series of wall-maps in conjunction with Mr. Stanford and the National Society. He married in 1849 Miss Heath, who like himself had come from the Society of Friends into the church of England. They had one child, a delicate and remarkably clever boy, who outlived his father just long enough to take orders, and to die almost immediately afterwards. In 1850 repeated attacks of dysentery forced Clark to resign his post at St. Mark's. In the spring of 1851 he became principal of the training college at Battersea. During this interval he made a free translation of Professor Guyot's ‘Earth and Man,’ which was published by J. W. Parker & Son. On his appointment to Battersea he found the college in a very low condition, and he raised it to the highest place among all the colleges. His methods were simple. He was a capital organiser. He attached his staff to him, so that to a man they were always loyal. ‘His lectures,’ said his favourite pupil and successor, ‘were always vigorous, clear, logical, and incisive, admirably arranged and illustrated, and enlivened by a free and constant interchange of thought with his class.’ He extended the study of English literature, and took great interest in the theory of teaching. Under his management the college took a high place in the annual government examinations, and produced a large number of excellent schoolmasters.

In 1857 his home happiness was shattered by the sudden death of his wife, but he bravely continued his work. He was highly esteemed by the committee of council on education, and he was much consulted on the subject of ‘codes’ and ‘standards.’ In the exhibition of 1862 he was one of the educational judges. That year he married again, but the continued illness of his boy, and the unsettled state of the students caused by changes in the educational system, began to tell upon his health again, and he therefore accepted the living of Bredwardine, Herefordshire. He had had near upon a thousand students under his tuition during his seventeen years of training college life.

His parochial work was done thoroughly and conscientiously. He went on map drawing, and became a diocesan inspector of schools. In 1868, in conjunction with Mr. (now Sir George) Grove, he compiled the large ‘Bible Atlas’ which was published by the Christian Knowledge Society. He was also one of the writers in the ‘Speaker's Commentary,’ contributing Leviticus, the latter part of Exodus, and Micah. His last illness put a stop to his comment on Habakkuk. He was chosen as one of the Old Testament revisers. In 1871 the Bishop of Hereford presented him to the living of Eaton Bishop. He had for the last three years been subject to painful attacks of illness. He was on a visit to Cosham in Hampshire when the last attack came on. He bore it with great patience, and died on 17 July 1875. He is buried, and his son beside him, in Wymering churchyard.

[Memorials from Journals and Letters of Samuel Clark, M.A., edited by his wife, 1878; personal recollections of the writer.]

W. B.