Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Scholefield, James

SCHOLEFIELD, JAMES (1789–1853), regius professor of Greek at Cambridge, was born on 15 Nov. 1789, at Henley-on-Thames, where his father was an independent minister. He was educated at Christ's Hospital, where he won many distinctions. In October 1809 he was sent by the governors to Trinity College, Cambridge (Lockhart, Exhibitioners of Christ's Hospital, p. 39), and in 1812 was elected scholar of the college. He was Craven scholar in 1812, graduated as a senior optime in 1813, won the first chancellor's medal, 1813, and the members' prize, 1814 and 1815.

He was ordained before taking his degree, and in October 1813 became curate to Charles Simeon [q. v.] at Trinity Church, Cambridge. He won a fellowship at Trinity in October 1815, and from 1815 to 1821 took resident pupils at Emmanuel House. He proceeded M.A. in 1816.

In July 1823 he accepted the perpetual curacy of St. Michael's, Cambridge, and under his ministry the church became a favourite resort of undergraduates preparing for orders. He examined in the first classical tripos held at Cambridge (1824); and on the death of Peter Paul Dobree [q. v.] in 1825, he was appointed regius professor of Greek (cf. Trollope, Hist. of Christ's Hospital, p. 174).

In 1826 Scholefield produced a new edition of Porson's ‘Four Tragedies of Euripides,’ the first book in which the Porsonian type was used (2nd edit. 1829; 3rd edit. 1851). To 1828 belongs his edition of Æschylus (2nd edit. 1830; appendix, 1833). He there showed a scrupulous regard for manuscript authority, and kept the notes within narrow limits. The text is mainly a reprint of Wellauer's edition, and the book affords little evidence of original research. The collection and publication (1831–5) of the works of Peter Paul Dobree [q. v.] was the chief service rendered by Scholefield to classical literature, and his later work on Æschylus shows that he gained much from a study of Dobree's notes.

He resigned his fellowship in 1827, and married, 27 Aug., at Trinity Church, Harriet, daughter of Dr. Samuel Chase of Luton, Bedfordshire. In 1837 he accepted the living of Sapcote, Staffordshire; but having conscientious scruples whether he could retain St. Michael's and his university connection with a distant benefice, he resigned Sapcote without entering on the work. In 1849 he succeeded Dr. French, master of Jesus, as canon of Ely, a preferment that had recently been attached to the Greek chair. Without it the regius professorship was worth only 40l. a year. Scholefield at once abolished fees for admission to the professor's lectures.

On 11 Nov. 1849 St. Michael's was seriously damaged by fire, and from this time to his death Scholefield was continuously harassed by disputes over the restoration of the church. Himself a low-churchman, he was also constantly assailed on points of doctrine (cf. F. W. Collison, Vindication of Anglican Reformers: an Examination of Scholefield's Discourses, 1841; other pamphlets by same, 1842, 1843). The result was a disastrous division among the parishioners. He preached for the last time at St. Michael's on 26 Sept. 1852. He died suddenly, at Hastings, on 4 April 1853, being buried at Fairlight, Hastings. His wife died on 27 Sept. 1867. One son, the Rev. J. E. Scholefield of Warwick, survived him.

Scholefield examined for several years at Christ's Hospital, and he did a vast quantity of unremunerated work for Cambridge charities and for candidates for orders. He spoke constantly at missionary meetings, and was sole trustee of the Cambridge Servants' Training Institution from its foundation. The Scholefield theological prize, founded at Cambridge in 1856 by public subscription, appropriately commemorates him. He was a successful teacher. Though his lectures were not profound, he presented the views of other scholars with admirable clearness. He held that Porson's followers attended too exclusively to verbal criticism. His successor in the Greek chair, Dr. William Hepworth Thompson [q. v.], bore testimony to the practical value of his lectures, and Dr. Benjamin Hall Kennedy [q. v.] pronounced him ‘a sound scholar, with fair critical acumen, but lacking in imagination and taste.’

There is a portrait of him, presented by George Francis Joseph, A.R.A. [q. v.], in the possession of his son. In addition to a number of sermons, Scholefield published ‘Passion Week,’ 1828, seven editions, and ‘Hints for an improved Translation of the New Testament,’ 1832; 2nd, 1836; 3rd, 1850; 4th, by W. Selwyn, 1857; appendix, 1849. He edited, besides the works noted: 1. ‘Psalm and Hymn Book,’ 1823, eleven editions. 2. ‘Middleton on the Greek Article,’ 1828. 3. ‘Archbishop Leighton's Prælectiones, and other Latin Remains,’ 1828; 2nd ed. 1837. 4. ‘Æschylus' Eumenides,’ 1843. 5. ‘Archbishop Ussher's Answer to a Jesuit,’ 1835. 6. ‘Works of Bishop James Pilkington,’ 1842. 7. ‘Bishop Jewel on the Sacraments,’ 1848. 8. ‘Parallel Greek and English Testament,’ 1836; 2nd ed. 1850; 3rd, 1857; new ed. by Scrivener, 1895.

[Memoir by his widow, with notes by W. Selwyn, canon of Ely, London, 1855; Julian's Hymnology, p. 1015; Funeral Sermons by T. T. Perowne and H. Venn; Gent. Mag. 1827 ii. 270, 1853 i. 664; information from the Rev. J. E. Scholefield.]

E. C. M.