Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hawtrey, Edward Craven

HAWTREY, EDWARD CRAVEN, D.D. (1789–1862), head-master, and afterwards provost, of Eton College, born at Burnham, four miles from Eton, on 7 May 1789, was the only son of Edward Hawtrey, scholar of King's College, Cambridge, 1760, fellow of Eton 1792, and vicar of Burnham. His mother was a sister of Dr. Foster, head-master of Eton (1765–73). His father's family had been connected with Eton College for nearly three hundred years. Hawtrey entered the school in 1799. Among his contemporaries in the sixth form, under Joseph Goodall [q. v.], the head-master, were Canning, afterwards Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe, and Lonsdale, afterwards bishop of Lichfield, and a little junior to him were Sir John Patteson, Sir John Taylor Coleridge, Lord Ellenborough, and Dean Milman. Hawtrey always ascribed the best part of his intellectual training to his rivalry with such competitors.

In 1807 he was admitted scholar, and three years later fellow, of King's College, Cambridge. At that date the degree of B.A. was conferred on King's men without any university examination. Hawtrey, however, was selected for honourable mention in the examination for the university scholarship, with Patteson, Empson, and Sumner. The provost of King's in 1811 wished to obtain for him the mastership of the Corporation School at Bristol, but the scheme came to nothing. For a time he was private tutor to three sons of the Earl of Shrewsbury, but in 1814 Dr. Keate, the head-master, appointed him to an assistant-mastership at Eton.

In the summer of 1815 he visited Paris, and described in letters to his mother the traces of the revolution. Both at school and at Cambridge he had devoted much time to the study of modern languages, and the peculiarities of the Picardy dialect now attracted his attention. During the twenty years of his assistant-mastership Hawtrey, so far as his duties permitted, learnt so many languages that he was known in London as ‘The English Mezzofanti.’ Ancient and modern literature became alike familiar to him, and his translations into German and Italian were admirable. It was under his care that the ‘Eton Atlas of Comparative Geography’ was published.

As assistant-master Hawtrey infused new life into the school-work. With Praed he helped to found the school library, and gave to it many valuable duplicates from his own library. He encouraged Praed to start first the manuscript magazine, the ‘Apis Matina,’ and afterwards the larger enterprise of ‘The Etonian,’ 1820–1. Among his pupils were Arthur Henry Hallam [see under Hallam, Henry] (from 1822 to 1827), who owed much of his wide culture to Hawtrey's encouragement; George Cornewall Lewis, who became a lifelong friend, and who dedicated to Hawtrey his ‘Enquiry into the Credibility of the Early Roman History;’ Gerald Wellesley, afterwards dean of Windsor; J. C. Ryle, first bishop of Liverpool [q. v.]; and Dr. Charles Badham (1813–1884) [q. v.] The standard of scholarship reached by Hawtrey's pupils was high. Gladstone, who went to Eton in 1821, though not a pupil of Hawtrey, was ‘sent up for good’ for the first time by Hawtrey. ‘It was,’ he writes, ‘an event in my life. He and it together then for the first time inspired me with a desire to learn and to do.’

In 1834, on Dr. Keate's resignation, Hawtrey, then senior assistant, became headmaster. Great hopes were entertained of him in his new office, although the collegiate body was opposed to any innovation. He at once rendered the school divisions much more manageable, confining himself to the sixth form, with the addition of the six next collegers and oppidans, and subdividing the fifth form. The conservative provost Goodall hampered Hawtrey's efforts at reform, and it was only on Goodall's death, and the succession of Hodgson as provost in 1840, that Hawtrey was free to act with any vigour. During the early years of Hawtrey's rule he showed perhaps less tact and moderation than were habitual to him. But his strength was soon recognised by parents and pupils. In his second year the number of names on the school list was only 444, but in 1846 he had raised it gradually to 777. In the same year (1846) the new buildings, with the spacious room set apart for the school library, were opened for the foundation boys, and a great revolution was effected in their status and mode of life. The Old Christopher Inn was closed, a reform that excited strong resistance. The sanatorium, by which Eton was shown to be far in advance of other schools, was opened. The restoration of the college chapel was carried out under Hawtrey between 1847 and 1852.

Among moral and intellectual improvements introduced by Hawtrey, the germ of the now elaborate system of school trials is to be traced to him. The principle of competition was admitted, and king's scholars were no longer nominated. The training of the collegers engaged Hawtrey's special attention. He aimed at raising them (for they were then far below it) to a level with the oppidans. Hawtrey first placed the teaching of mathematics on something like an effective footing. In 1847 he wisely suppressed ‘Montem,’ the custom of collecting money in a public thoroughfare for the support of the captain of the school at the university. This step was taken in defiance of the majority of old Etonians, and the abolition of the old custom caused a temporary falling off in the numbers. With characteristic generosity Hawtrey presented 300l. to the father of the boy who was deprived by the reform of an anticipated source of income. Cricket-fagging he put down, and bullying of all kinds met with his sternest disapproval. Mental culture he fostered in all directions, welcoming, if he did not suggest, the Prince Consort's modern language prizes. The English essay prize he himself founded. With his assistant-masters Hawtrey was sympathetic and liberal. ‘The popular supposition is’ (Mr. Gladstone, 3 Jan. 1890, writes) ‘that Eton (from 1830 onwards) was swept along by a tide of renovation due to the fame and contagious example of Dr. Arnold. But this in my opinion is an error. Eton was in a singularly small degree open to influence from other public schools. There were three persons to whom Eton was more indebted than any others for the new life poured into her arteries: Dr. Hawtrey, the contemporary Duke of Newcastle, and Bishop Selwyn.’ ‘Hawtrey may be said,’ writes Mr. Maxwell Lyte, ‘to have done by encouraging what Keate tried to do by threatening.’

Hawtrey became provost after Hodgson's death in December 1852. He welcomed most of the improvements of the new head-master, Charles Old Goodford [q. v.]; but he was inclined in later life to think his own reforms were final, and to discountenance further radical changes. From 1854 till his death he was vicar of Mapledurham. His courtesy and generosity endeared him to the villagers, and two windows in the church were filled in commemoration of him with stained glass.

Hawtrey was a thorough master of the art of conversation. His breakfast parties were famous for anecdotes and criticisms. Literary friends were always welcome at the provost's lodge, and among his guests were Hallam, Whately, Milman, Senior, Alderson, Henry Taylor, and John and Sarah Austin. He was also intimate with Guizot, Barthélemy St. Hilaire, and other foreigners of note. Hawtrey gave largely to the new buildings and other school funds, and his private munificence was very lavish. As a book-collector he showed consummate taste. He is said to have spent 40,000l. on his library, which included alike Aldines and rare editions of the classics, besides recent issues from continental presses. Comparative philology, then in its infancy, was well represented. Volumes illustrated with valuable engravings were numerous. Many books were very expensively bound, and the library included specimens of celebrated bookbinders, e.g. Padeloup and Derome. Hawtrey died unmarried on 27 Jan. 1862, and was the last person buried within Eton college chapel. A monument, designed by Woodyer, with a recumbent figure by Nicholls, was erected in the chapel in 1878. A portrait of him, painted by Hélène Feillet in 1853, hangs in the provost's lodge. Part of Hawtrey's library was sold far below its worth in 1853, and the rest dispersed in 1862.

Hawtrey printed privately: 1. ‘Il Trifoglio ovvero Scherzi Metrici d' un' Inglese,’ 8vo, London, 1839. Translations into Italian, German, and Greek verse, a small volume, full of genuine poetical feeling. 2. ‘Two Translations from Homer in English Hexameters, and the War-song of Callinus in Elegiacs,’ 4to, 1843. 3. ‘Chapel Lectures,’ 1848–9. He also joined some friends in a volume of translations (London, 1847), to which he contributed English hexametral translations from Schiller and Goethe, the renderings of Homer and Callinus, already privately printed, and Meleager's ‘Heliodora.’ Hawtrey's hexameters were praised by Matthew Arnold, who singled him out, with Professors Thompson and Jowett, as one of the natural judges of Homeric translation. Six pieces by him appeared in the ‘Arundines Cami,’ 1841 (1st ed.) He prepared an edition of Goethe ‘Lyrische Gedichten’ (Eton, 1833 and 1834), for presentation only, and edited for the Roxburghe Club ‘The Private Diary of William, first Earl Cowper’ (Eton, 1833).

[A History of Eton College by Maxwell Lyte, C.B., new edit. 1889; The Registrum Regale; autograph letters of E. C. Hawtrey to his mother, 1807–15; manuscript communications from Bishops Durnford, Ryle, Abraham, Mr. W. E. Gladstone, Sir George Young, and others; personal knowledge.]

F. St. J. T.