Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Blomefield, Leonard

BLOMEFIELD, LEONARD, formerly Leonard Jenyns (1800–1893), naturalist, a younger son of George Leonard Jenyns, canon of Ely and chairman of the board of agriculture, was born in Pall Mall on 25 May 1800. His mother was a daughter of Dr. Heberden and a first cousin of Dr. William Wollaston. Upon the death of his cousin Soame Jenyns [q. v.] in 1787, George Leonard Jenyns had come in for the Bottisham Hall property in Cambridgeshire. Leonard's first recollection was the funeral of Lord Nelson. In 1813 he was moved from a school at Putney to Eton, where he remembered as dull schoolfellows the two Puseys. He took no part in the school games, but was devoted to chemistry, and was introduced to Sir Joseph Banks in 1817 as 'the Eton boy who lit his rooms with gas.' In 1818 he went to St, John's College, Cambridge, and took a pass degree four years later. In 1823 he was ordained deacon by Bishop Pelham of Exeter in Old Marylebone Church, and next year was ordained priest in Christ's College by the master, who was also bishop of Lincoln, Dr. Kaye, 'the first prelate to discard a wig.' After ordination he entered upon parish work immediately as curate of Swaffham Bulbeck, a parish of seven hundred souls, adjoining the Bottisham estate in Cambridgeshire. During the five years of his curacy he never saw his vicar. The latter resigned in 1828, and Jenyns was given the benefice by Bishop Sparke of Ely. He was the first resident vicar at Swaffham Bulbeck, but in the execution of the reforms that were necessary he observed the strictest moderation, and so gained the permanent good-will of his parishioners. He reorganised a local charity school which had got into evil hands, enlarged the vicarage house, and planted a garden. Cambridge was within an easy ride, and he was thus able to maintam an intimacy there with such of his contemporaries as shared his love of natural history. These were not numerous, but included such names as Henslow, Whewell, Darwin, Adam Sedgwick, Julius Hare, and Bishop Thirlwall. In 1834-5 (preface dated Swaffham Bulbeck, 24 Oct. 1835) he wrote his useful 'Manual of British Vertebrate Animals,' which was issued by the syndics of the Cambridge University Press, and was held in high estimation as a work of reference, and specially praised, as regards the ornithological details, by Charles Lucien Bonaparte. Before he had completed it, at the earnest request of Charles Darwin, he undertook to edit the monograph on the 'Fishes' for the 'Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle,' published in 1840. 'The post of naturalist to the Beagle had first been offered to Henslow and then to Jenyns, but he hesitated to leave his parochial work, and joined Henslow in recommending Darwin for the place. Upon the same grounds a few years later he refused to stand for the chair of zoology at Cambridge. In October 1849 the state of his wife's health compelled his removal to Ventnor, and his resignation of the vicarage at Swaff ham Bulbeck, where his parishioners subscribed to a handsome testimonial for him. In the autumn of 1850 he settled at South Stoke, near Combe Down, Bath, but two years later moved to Swainswick, and while there during eight years served the curacy of Woolley, and for a year or two of Langridge as well. In 1860, upon the death of his first wife, he settled finally in Bath. With that city his name will be associated as the founder (18 Feb. 1855) and first president of the Bath Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club, and the donor of the 'Jenyns Library,' a munificent gift, now housed in the Royal Literary and Scientific Institution. This contains over two thousand volumes, mostly works on natural history, and his choice herbarium of British plants, consisting of more than forty folio and an equal number of quarto volumes, the result of his life-work in this branch of science. He had originally extended his studies from zoology to botany under the influence of Henslow, and upon his friend's death he wrote a masterly memoir of him, published in 1862. The 'Proceedings' of the Bath Field Club abound with papers and addresses from his pen. Not the least valuable are those on the climate and meteorology of Bath. It was entirely at his instance that the small observatory was erected in the Institution gardens in 1865.

During the close of his career he was held in honour as the patriarch of natural history studies in Great Britain. He was elected a member of the Linnean Society in November 1822, and in the same year was elected into the Cambridge Philosophical Society. He v/as an original member of the Zoological (1826), Entomological (1834), and Ray (1844) societies, while he joined the British Association shortly after its institution, and was present at the second meeting held at Oxford in 1832. He had the greatest veneration for Gilbert White, whose 'Selborne' he copied out while a boy at Eton, and knew almost by lieart. He edited the 'Natural History of Selborne' in 1843, and one of his latest interests was the welfare of the Selborne Society, before which on 14 May 1891 he read a delightful paper on 'The Records of a Rookery.'

In 1871, through his connection with the Chappelow family, the descendants of Edward Chappelow of Diss, whose sister married Francis Blomefield, the historian of Norfolk, a considerable property devolved upon him, and he adopted the name of Blomefield. Extremely methodical and regular in all his habits, he retained his mental vigour almost to the last, and died of old age at 19 Belmont, Bath, on 1 Sept. 1893, aged ninety-three. He was buried in Lansdown cemetery, Bath, on 5 Sept. He married, first, in 1844, Jane, eldest daughter of the Rev. Andrew Edward Daubeny (1784-1877), a brother of Professor Charles Daubeny of Oxford. His first wife died in 1860, and he married, secondly, in 1862, Sarah, eldest daughter of the Rev. Robert Hawthorn of Stapleford.

Blomefield's attractive personality is revealed in his 'Chapters in my Life' (privately printed at Bath in 1889), a short autobiography written with the greatest simplicity and directness. It contains interesting vignettes of Charles Darwin, Buckland, Heberden, Wollaston, Whewell, Daniel Clarke, and Leonard Chappelow, and nothing that he relates is second-hand.

In addition to the works mentioned above, Jenyns published, in 1846, a kind of supplement to White's 'Natural History,' under the title ' Observations in Natural History : with an Introduction on Habits of Observing, as connected with the study of that Science. Also a Calendar of Periodic Phenomena in Natural History.' The material for this was collected mainly while he was editing White's book, which he was scrupulously careful not to overload with notes. In 1858 appeared his 'Observations on Meteorology,' dated Upper Swainswick, near Bath, 18 Feb. At Bath, in 1885, he printed for private circulation some highly interesting 'Reminiscences' of William Yarrell and of Prideaux John Selby. A large number (55) of scientific memoirs, contributed to the 'Transactions' of learned bodies, are enumerated at the end of his ' Chapters in my Life.'

[Times, 11 Sept. 1893; Bath Chronicle, 7 Sept. 1893 ; Chapters in my Life, 1889 ; Works in British Museum Library ; Illustrated London News, 9 and 16 Sept. 1893 (with portrait); Guardian, 14 Sept. 1893.]

T. S.