Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Coleridge, Herbert

COLERIDGE, HERBERT (1830–1861), philologist, the son of Henry Nelson [q. v.] and Sara Coleridge [q. v.], was born at Hampstead on 7 Oct. 1830. Educated at Eton by his uncle, the Rev. Edward Coleridge, he obtained the Newcastle medal and the Balliol scholarship in 1847, and in 1848 was declared Newcastle scholar. His university career at Oxford, which began in 1848, was honourably concluded in 1852 with the attainment of a double first-class in classics and mathematics. Life was now opening upon him with every prospect of happiness. In the spring of 1853 he was married to Ellen, daughter of T. M. Phillips, and in the November following he was called to the bar, and began practising as a chancery barrister at his chambers in Lincoln's Inn. As his private means, though small, were sufficient to relieve him from any pressing pecuniary anxieties, he felt at liberty to devote his leisure hours to philological studies Sanscrit, the northern tongues, and particularly the language and literature of celand, being his chosen field of study. These interests naturally led to the formation of many congenial acquaintances. In February 1857 he was elected a member of the Philological Society, and contributed two papers on diminutives in 'let' and the Latin words 'ploro' and 'explore,' which were read at their March and May meetings. The society was then engaged on a proposal for remedying the acknowledged deficiencies of the two standard dictionaries of Johnson and Richardson by issuing a supplement, which soon developed into a scheme for a complete new English dictionary. Into this project Coleridge threw himself with his characteristic enthusiasm, and was appointed hon. secretary of a special committee 'formed for the purpose of collecting words and idioms hitherto unregistered,' a post for which he was well fitted by his learning and literary facility, no less than by his methodical habits. His new duties, practically constituting a general editorship of the work, involved a large correspondence with the numerous volunteer helpers. The results of his researches are embodied in his 'Glossarial Index to the Printed English Literature of the Thirteenth Century' (1859), which he describes as 'the foundation-stone of the proposed English dictionary. The scheme developed into the 'New English Dictionary' now being published by the Clarendon Press.

His efforts were necessarily relaxed, though never entirely relinquished, in consequence of a failure of health, which ended in consumption. Yet, in spite of increasing weakness, he continued to communicate papers on various philological topics, as well as reports of the progress of work; and during the last fortnight of his life, while confined to bed, he still sometimes dictated notes for the dictionary. An essay on King Arthur was printed by the Philological Society after his death, which took place on 23 April 1861 at 10 Chester Place, Regent's Park.

[Personal knowledge.]