Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Clinton, Henry Fynes

CLINTON, HENRY FYNES (1781–1852), chronologist, born at Gamston in Nottinghamshire on 14 Jan. 1781, was a son of the Rev. Charles Fynes Clinton, LL.D. (whose name Clinton was not assumed till 26 April 1821), by Emma, daughter of Job Brough of Newark. Dr. Clinton (who was the son of Norreys Fynes, appointed governor of Jamaica in 1757) held the rectories of Gamston and of Cromwell (Nottinghamshire), became in 1788 prebendary of Westminster, and in 1797 minister of St. Margaret's, Westminster. He was descended from Henry, second earl of Lincoln, who died in 1616. Henry Fynes Clinton was educated at Southwell School (1789-96), and at Westminster (September 1796-9). At Southwell his master was the Rev. Magnus Jackson, a 'very severe' preceptor, who inspired Clinton with a 'contempt for versions, clavises, and all the pernicious helps by which the labour of learning is shortened.' Clinton was admitted a commoner of Christ Church, Oxford, 5 April 1799. He graduated B.A. 17 March 1803, M.A. 1805. From 1803 till June 1806 he acted as private tutor at Oxford to Earl Gower. He entered the university with 'a strong passion' for Greek literature, and his curiosity to read the Greek historians had been excited by the perusal of Mitford's 'History of Greece.' While at Oxford he went through, in seven years and eight months, about 69,322 verses of the Greek poets and about 2,913 pages of the prose authors, making-together an amount of about 5,223 pages. The less obvious Greek authors were still unknown to him; and later in life he read five times as much in the same space of time. On 3 Nov. 1806 he was brought in by the Duke of Newcastle as member for Aldborough. He began to seek for such parliamentary knowledge 'as the shortness of the time would allow,' and devoted the forty days before the assembling of the house 'to the study of Smith's "Wealth of Nations" and Smollett's "Continuation of Hume."' He was re-elected M.P. in 1807, 1813, 1818, 1819, and in 1820, when the votes were: Antrobus and Clinton, 40; Pringle and Bryant, 7. He retired from parliament in June 1826, having taken no active part in politics. In 1809 Clinton married; and in 1811 the will of Mr. Isaac Gardiner, a distant connection, put him in possession of 'a comfortable independence.' In 1812 he purchased the house (once the residence of Young the poet) and the estate of Welwyn in Hertfordshire, where he henceforth chiefly resided; when in London he lived at his father's house in Dean's Yard, Westminster. In December 1827 he offered himself as a candidate for the principal librarianship of the British Museum. But Henry Ellis, the other candidate, was chosen on the ground of many years' previous service in the museum.

Clinton found his true employment and happiness in books. He kept a minute journal of his studies (written in English with scraps of Latin and Greek interspersed), which constitutes interesting and even exciting reading for students of the classics. In 1811 he began to draw up a list of Greek and Latin authors, and in order to determine the quantity of their extant writings, he reduced the contents of the various pages of folio, quarto, or octavo editions to one standard page of 1002 letters (nearly equal to a page in Reiske's 'Demosthenes'). From 1810 to 1818 inclusive he read Greek literature amounting to 33,700 of these standard pages. He also read 4,136 pages in Latin (cf. his Literary Remains, pp. 206-11). He found that he read about twenty pages of Dion Cassius in each hour of study. Plato's 'Republic' occupied him five days. The reading of the second book of the 'Æneid' with Heyne's 'Commentary' occupied him fifty minutes; the fourth book, fifty minutes; and the sixth book, fifty-five minutes. Several authors he perused more than once, especially with a view to determine their chronology. About 1811 he had begun to form a classical library; his object being 'to procure a single copy of each author . . . the best and most complete for use,' with indexes and notes. He estimated that, excluding rare or curious books, 'every requisite help for the critical use of a scholar [in Greek and Latin] may be contained in a library of from six to seven hundred volumes.' Clinton is also said to have had a very accurate knowledge of history, and to have been well read in English and other literatures. He invariably devoted Sunday to the study of theology. He was a firm believer in a revealed religion; and his literary journals constantly record (in Latin or Greek) some fervent prayer or thanksgiving in connection with his classical studies.

From 1810 Clinton read with a view to his great work on Greek and Roman chronology ('Fasti Hellenici' and 'Fasti Romani'). Its publication was undertaken by the Clarendon Press, and the first instalment, part ii. (part i. was issued subsequently), was published in January 1824. It was well received, and within four months four-fifths of the whole impression were sold, though the edition was not exhausted till February 1826. He received no payment for this volume, but for the second edition of it he was granted an honorarium and the copyright. The work and its various editions occupied Clinton till his death, and were published as follows: 1824, 'Fasti Hellenici: the Civil and Literary Chronology of Greece,' part ii. 4to, pp. 381; 1827, 2nd edition (1,000 copies) of 'Fasti Hellen.' part ii. 4to, pp. 527 (a Latin translation appeared at Leipzig in 1830, 4to); 1830, 'Fasti Hellen.' part iii. 4to; 1834, 'Fasti Hellen.' part i. 4to; 1841, 3rd edition of 'Fasti Hellen.' part ii. 4to, pp. 627; 1845, 'Fasti Romani: the Civil and Literary Chronology of Rome and Constantinople,' vol. i. 4to, pp. 872; 1850, ' Fasti Rom.' vol. ii. 4to, pp. 612; 1851, 2nd edition of 'Fasti Hellen.' part iii. 4to, pp. 644; and 'An Epitome of the Civil and Literary Chronology of Greece,' 8vo; 1853, 'An Epitome of the Civil and Literary Chronology of Rome,' 8vo (posthumous, completed and edited by Rev. Clinton [q. v.]). Clinton also published in 1807 'Solyman, a Tragedy' (hardly fifty copies were sold), and wrote one or two articles on Hellenic subjects. An article on Antiphanes appeared in the 'Philological Museum,' No. 3.

Clinton died at Welwyn on 24 Oct. 1852. The 'Epitome' of Roman chronology had been carried on until within fourteen days of his decease, and his 'Literary Journal' to the very day before. He married, first, on 22 June 1809, Harriott, eldest daughter of Rev. Dr. Wylde of Nottingham (she died on 2 Feb. 1810, and her son on the day of birth); secondly, on 6 Jan. 1812, Katherine, third daughter of Dr. Majendie, bishop of Bangor, by whom he had eight daughters and one son, Charles Francis Clinton, B.A., of Christ Church, Oxford, who 'served in the Christina army in Spain, was appointed British arbitrator under the treaty with Portugal for the abolition of slavery, and died at Loanda in 1844.' He wrote a short account of his Spanish campaign, and published some notes of travel (1841 and 1843) in 'Bentley's Miscellany' (Gent. Mag. new ser. (1853) xxxix. 316). A younger brother of Henry Fynes Clinton, Clinton James Fynes Clinton, M.A. (1792-1833), was barrister-at-law and M.P. for Aldborough from 1826 to 1832 (Gent. Mag. May 1833).

[Literary Remains of Henry Fynes Clinton ed. by Rev. Charles J. F. Clinton, London, 185 (pt. i. contains his Autobiography, 'written in 1818; pt. ii. his Literary Journal, 1819-52 pt. iii. Brief Assays on Theological Subjects); Gent. Mag. new ser. (1853) xxxix. 315-16; cf. Annual Reg. (1852) xciv. 323.]

W. W.