Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Merivale, Herman

775521Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 37 — Merivale, Herman1894Leslie Stephen

MERIVALE, HERMAN (1806–1874), under-secretary for India, born 8 Nov. 1806, at Cockwood House, Dawlish, Devonshire, was the eldest of twelve children of John Herman Merivale [q. v.] by Louisa Heath, daughter of Joseph Drury [q. v.]

Herman was a boy of extraordinary precocity. He read the Latin accidence when four years old with his grandfather Drury. In January 1817 he was sent to Harrow to the house of his uncle, Henry Joseph Thomas Drury [q. v.] He took a high place and was captain of the school before he was sixteen. He read much in his uncle's library and became, like his father, a good Italian scholar. In the 'Family Memorials' are printed long letters written by the boy to his father upon Tasso's 'Jerusalem Delivered' in 1819, and upon Gibbon's account of the Arian controversy in 1820. He won all the school prizes, and was taken by his father to see Coleridge at Highgate. He was entered at Oriel College, then under Copleston, on 3 Nov. 1823, and began residence with the highest school reputation in January 1824. In 1825 he won an open scholarship at Trinity College, and in the same year was elected to the Ireland scholarship, of which he was the first holder. He took a first class in classical honours in 1827, and in December 1828 was elected to a fellowship at Balliol. He was called to the bar at the Inner Temple in 1832, and practised upon the western circuit. He was highly respected in his profession, and was, when he had a favourable opportunity, a very effective speaker, but his practice was not in proportion to his reputation, perhaps because he was not disposed to the oratorical efforts which are admired at quarter sessions. He was appointed recorder of Falmouth, Helston, and Penzance in 1841. On 2 March 1837 he was elected to the professorship of political economy at Oxford, founded by Henry Drummond [q. v.] in 1825. His predecessors were Senior, Whately, and W. F. Lloyd. He held it for the usual term of five years, and in the last three delivered a course of lectures upon the colonies, which made a great impression. They contained a very able and discriminative criticism of the Wakefield scheme of colonisation, then much discussed, and showed much foresight in pointing out its strong and weak points. The book led to his appointment in 1847 as assistant under-secretary of state for the colonies, and in 1848 he succeeded Sir James Stephen as permanent under-secretary. In 1859 he was transferred to the permanent under-secretaryship for India, with the distinction of C.B., and held the office for his life. Lord Lytton, when resigning the secretaryship for the colonies in June 1859, expressed his gratitude for Merivale's services in the warmest terms. He was held in the highest esteem by all his official colleagues, but the precise nature of the work done by a permanent official is necessarily, for the most part, known only within his office, and in Merivale's case cannot be more precisely specified.

He married at Dawlish, on 29 Oct. 1834, Caroline Penelope, eldest daughter of the Rev. William Villiers Robinson and sister of Sir George Stamp Robinson. He left a son, Herman Charles, well known as a dramatic author, and a daughter, Isabella Frances, married to William Peere Williams-Freeman. A second daughter, Agnes, married to Mr. Townshend Trench, died in 1872. His grief at the loss affected his health. He died 8 Feb. 1874 at his house, 13 Cornwall Gardens, South Kensington, and was buried in the Fulham cemetery. By his mother's death in the previous year he inherited the family estate of Barton Place. His widow died 11 Aug. 1881. The first Lord Lytton, in a manuscript note upon Merivale's 'Historical Studies' (notice by the dean of Ely), called the author 'one of the most remarkable men he ever met.' His intellectual characteristic was 'massiveness,' and he could be compared 'to no one of less calibre than Macaulay,' with the difference that, whereas 'no one of much merit could form his opinion by Macaulay,' any one, however powerful his mind, 'would form his opinion upon Merivale.' He was a man of great promptitude of judgment, and vigorous, if not combative, in defending it. In politics he was a staunch liberal. In private life he showed a singularly affectionate nature, both in early life to his parents and brothers and sisters and afterwards among his own family and friends. His literary works, except the 'Lectures on Colonisation,' which deal with questions now out of date, were written in the intervals of more absorbing business, and scarcely give a full impression of his powers.

He was made D.C.L. by the university of Oxford in 1870.

His works are:

  1. 'The Character of Socrates as drawn from Xenophon and Plato,' &c. (prize essay at Oxford), 1830.
  2. 'Introductory Lecture upon Political Economy,' 1837.
  3. 'Introduction to the Course upon Colonisation,' 1839.
  4. 'Lectures on Colonisation and the Colonies' (delivered in 1839, 1840-1), 1841.
  5. 'Reports of Cases in the Queen's Bench' (with A. Davison), 1844.
  6. 'Historical Studies,' 1865 (a collection of articles in periodicals).
  7. 'Memoirs of Sir Philip Francis,' 1867 (completed from the unfinished work of J. Parkes).
  8. 'Life of Sir Henry Lawrence' (1st vol. by Sir Herbert Edwardes, 2nd by Merivale), 1872.

Merivale also wrote sixty-six articles in the 'Edinburgh Review' between 1832 and 1874, upon a great variety of topics, historical, literary, and economical. Between 1827 and 1864 he wrote five articles for the 'Foreign Quarterly,' and between 1853 and 1867 nine for the 'Quarterly Review.' He regularly wrote also till his death in the 'Pall Mall Gazette,' started in 1865.

[Notice by Charles Merivale, D.D., younger brother of Herman Merivale, read before the Devonshire Association at Newton Abbot, 1884, and reprinted. This contains also some obituary notices and a list of contributions to quarterly reviews; Family Memorials compiled by Anna W. Merivale, printed for private circulation, 1884; McCulloch's Literature of Political Economy, 1845, p. 95; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. i. 124.]

L. S.