Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Todd, James Henthorn
TODD, JAMES HENTHORN (1805–1869), Irish scholar and regius professor of Hebrew in the University of Dublin, was eldest son of Charles Hawkes Todd, professor of surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland, and Eliza, daughter of Colonel Bentley, H.E.I.C.S. Robert Bentley Todd [q. v.] was his younger brother. Born in Dublin on 23 April 1805, James Henthorn graduated in honours at Trinity College, Michaelmas 1824, proceeding B.A. in 1825. A year later his father died, leaving him the eldest of a family of fifteen only slenderly provided for. Todd stayed in Trinity College, took pupils, and edited the 'Christian Examiner,' a church periodical started with the object of placing the controversy between the established church and the Roman catholics on a more learned and historical basis. The maxim of Todd's life was thenceforth to improve the condition of the Irish established church and promote greater learning among the clergy and knowledge of church history among the people. He obtained a premium in 1829, and in 1831 was elected fellow, taking deacon's orders in the same year. From this time until he became senior fellow in 1850 he was one of the most popular tutors in Trinity College. In 1832 he took priest's orders, and wrote a history of the university, which he appended as an introduction to the 'University Calendar' in 1833, then first published. He 'mastered the subject as no one had ever done before.' Many years afterwards he revised this history, and printed it as an introduction to his 'List of Graduates of the University' (1806). In 1833 Todd made the acquaintance of Samuel Roffey Maitland [q. v.], and began writing in the 'British Magazine,' an English church periodical just set on foot under the editorship of Hugh James Rose [q.v.] His contributions included papers on Wyclif, on church history, and on the Irish church questions of the day.
About this time the national system of education had been started under the auspices of Archbishop Whately. It was intended to be undenominational, but in the opinion of many the scripture lessons issued by the commissioners favoured the Roman catholics. Todd, who embraced this view, conceived the idea of showing the state of the case to people in England by printing a fictitious letter from the pope to his clergy advocating the line of action already pursued by the national board. It was entitled 'Sanctissimi Domini Nostri Gregorii Papæ XVI Epistola ad Archiepiscopos et Episcopos Hiberniæ … translated from the original Latin,' 1836, 8vo. A similar jeu d'esprit against the tractarians had been published at Oxford shortly before. Unfortunately Todd's letter, directly it was published, fell into the hands of some excited speakers at a protestant meeting in Exeter Hall, who took it for genuine. When Todd announced himself as the author, his conduct was severely criticised. He defended himself with spirit and ability in a preface to a second edition, which was published in the same year. In 1838 and 1839 Todd was Donnellan lecturer in Trinity College, and chose as his subject the prophecies relating to Antichrist. He attacked the view then commonly held by the protestant clergy in Ireland, that the pope was Antichrist. His lectures were afterwards published as 'Discourses on the Prophecies relating to Antichrist in Daniel and St. Paul,' 1840, 8vo. "With the same object of putting the controversy with the church of Rome on an historical basis, Todd started a society in Trinity College for the study and discussion of the fathers, and published a small volume, 'The Search after Infallibility: Remarks on the Testimony of the Fathers to the Roman Dogma of Infallibility' (1848, 8vo). In 1843 Todd joined with Edwin Richard W. W. Quin [q. v.], Lord Adare (afterwards third Earl of Dunraven), the Right Hon. W. Monsell (Lord Emly), Dr. William Sewell [q. v.], and others in founding St. Columba's College at Rathfarnham, near Dublin. The school was conducted on church principles. Besides furnishing scholars with a good classical education, it served as a place where those who intended to take orders might be taught Irish.
In 1837 Todd had been installed treasurer of St. Patrick's Cathedral. In 1864 he became precentor, the second dignitary of the cathedral, and, after the restoration of the fabric, he gave much attention to the choral services. For many years he preached frequently in Dublin and elsewhere. His style was simple and lucid, and his sermons always interesting.
In 1849 Todd was made regius professor of Hebrew, in 1850 he became a senior fellow of Trinity College, and in 1852 he was appointed librarian. The admirable library had long been neglected, but Todd, with the assistance of John O'Donovan [q. v.] and Eugene O'Curry [q.v.], classified and arranged the rich collection of Irish manuscripts. He spent what money the board of Trinity College allowed him in buying rare books, and he left the library more than quadrupled as to the number of volumes, with a carefully compiled catalogue. Owing to Todd's efforts it ranks with the chief libraries of Europe.
Todd had been elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy in 1833, and from the beginning took an active part in its labours. He exerted himself particularly in procuring transcripts or accurate accounts of Irish I manuscripts in the Bibliotheque Royale, Brussels, and other foreign libraries. He was honorary secretary from 1847 to 1855, and president for five years from 1856. As president of the Academy he sought various opportunities of illustrating Irish antiquities, and of furthering Irish literature. He founded in 1840the Irish Archæological Society, which made accessible many very scarce manuscripts and volumes. He acted as honorary secretary of the society, and was indefatigable in the fulfilment of his functions. The chief of Todd's own contributions to the publications of the society were the 'Irish Version of the Historia Britonum of Xennius [q. v.],' 1847; the 'Martyrology of Donegal,' 1804, edited in conjunction with William Reeves (1815-1892) [q. v.] [cf. O'Clery, Michael]; and the 'Liber Hymnorum, or Book of Hymns of the Ancient Church of Ireland,' fasc. i. 1855; fasc. ii. 1869. At the same time scarcely any literary work was undertaken relative to Ireland about which he was not consulted, and to which he did not give useful assistance. No man in Ireland has, since Archbishop Ussher, shown equal skill in bibliography, accuracy of knowledge, or devotion to the development of Irish literature. About 1850 Todd was asked by a London publisher to write the lives of the archbishops of Armagh on a scale similar to that of Hook's 'Archbishops of Canterbury.' The publisher failed when the first volume, dealing with the life of St. Patrick, was in the press, and Todd brought it out in 1864 as an independent book, bearing the title 'St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland.' Another important work was 'Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh. The War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, or the Invasions of Ireland by the Danes and other Norsemen,' published in 1867 in the Rolls Series. This book contains the Irish text (from two manuscripts, one of which was written about 1150), with translation, notes, genealogical tables, and an able historical introduction.
Todd, who had graduated B.D. in Dublin in 1837 and D.D. in 1840, was given an ad eundem degree at Oxford in 1860. He died, unmarried, in his house at Rathfarnham on 28 June 1869, and was buried in the churchyard of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Todd was one of the best known Irishmen of his day, consulted both by statesmen and theologians. When quite a young man his opinion was held in much esteem by that stately prelate, Lord John George de la Poer Beresford [q. v.], and in later life Mr. Gladstone, Lord Brougham. Newman, and Pusey were among his correspondents. He was conservative in politics, but too independent in his views to get high preferment from any party. His friends founded in his memory the Todd lectureship of the Celtic languages in connection with the Royal Irish Academy. Besides the works already mentioned, Todd edited: 1 . 'The Last Age of the Church. By John Wycliffe, D.D., now first printed from a manuscript in the University Library, Dublin,' with notes, Dublin, 1840. 2, 'An Apology for Lollard Doctrines: a work attributed to Wycliffe, now first printed from a manuscript in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin,' with introduction and notes (Camden Society), London, 1842. 3. 'Three Treatises. By John Wycliffe, D.D., now first published from a manuscript in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin,' with notes, Dublin, 1851. 4. 'The Books of the Vaudois: a descriptive List of the Waldensian Manuscripts in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin,' 1865. 5. 'A List of the Graduates of Trinity College, Dublin, from its Foundation,' 1869. Todd was a frequent contributor to 'Notes and Queries' from the sixth number onwards.[Private papers; information from Mr. Whitley Stokes; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. vi. 362, 433, 477, vii. 362; Webb's Compendium of Irish Biography; Cotton's Fasti Ecclesiæ Hibernicæ.]