Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Grove, George
GROVE, Sir GEORGE (1820–1900), writer on music and first director of the Royal College of Music, born on 13 Aug. 1820 at Clapham, in a house which is now occupied by the site of Wandsworth Road railway station, was the son of Thomas Grove of Charing Cross and Penn, Buckinghamshire. He went to a school on Clapham Common, kept by a Mr. Elwell, where he had as one of his schoolfellows George Granville Bradley, the present (1901) dean of Westminster, whose sister he subsequently married. He next entered Stockwell (afterwards Clapham) grammar school, then under Charles Pritchard [q. v.], the astronomer. After finally leaving school he was articled for three years to Alexander Gordon to learn the profession of a civil engineer. At the end of his articles he went to Glasgow for two years, where, in the factory of Robert Napier (1791–1876) [q. v.], he gained further experience in the practical part of his profession. He was admitted a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers on 26 Feb. 1839. When his old master (Gordon) received an order to erect an iron lighthouse at Morant Point, on the eastern extremity of the island of Jamaica—the first ever put up—Grove was despatched to superintend its erection. An iron plate at the foot of the lighthouse, first permanently lighted on 1 Nov. 1842, records Grove's name as the engineer. Scarcely had he returned to London before Gordon again sent him off to Bermuda, where the government were about to build a lighthouse on Gibbs' Hill, of which a sketch appeared in the 'Illustrated London News' of 20 April 1844, and which was first lighted on 1 May 1846. Upon his return from Bermuda Grove entered the office of Mr. C. H. Wild, one of Robert Stephenson's chief assistants, who sent him to Chester to look after the erection of the 'general station' there. From Chester he was transferred to Bangor, where he served under Edwin Clark, Stephenson's resident engineer, at the Britannia bridge [see under Clark, Latimer, Suppl.] An account of the first floating of the tubes is recorded in the 'Spectator' of 23 June 1849, which is interesting as being Grove's first appearance in print.
Engineering was, however, soon to be abandoned. In 1849 Grove became secretary to the Society of Arts, and shortly afterwards he accepted a similar post at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham, where the Great Exhibition building of 1851 was re-erected, and opened by the queen on 10 June 1854. For a period of twenty years he rendered invaluable service to the Crystal Palace, especially in regard to the development of the music there, which subsequently attained world-wide fame under the nurturing influence and enthusiastic sway of Grove and August Manns, the musical director of the palace, conjointly. The daily and weekly orchestral performances at Sydenham prompted those admirable analytical notices of musical compositions with which the name of George Grove was so long and is so favourably associated. He had always shown a great fondness for music, but had never received any technical training in the art. Entirely self-taught, his knowledge was acquired solely by 'picking up' information. 'I wish it to be distinctly understood,' he said, 'that I have always been a mere amateur in music. I wrote about the symphonies and concertos because I wished to try to make them clear to myself and to discover the secret of the things that charmed me so; and from that sprang a wish to make other amateurs see it in the same way.' The first analytical programme compiled by Grove was that of the Crystal Palace concert on 26 Jan. 1856 to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Mozart. Week by week during the concert season for forty years Grove continued to write those analyses, which have been reprinted over and over again, not only at the Crystal Palace but in many concert programmes in London and elsewhere, including America. The most important of these interesting notices were published in a volume in 1884, and, after being amplified and carefully revised, were reissued as 'Beethoven and his Nine Symphonies' in 1896. At the palace, in co-operation with August Manns, Grove did much to make the music of Schubert one of his special favourites known. In the autumn of 1867 he, in company with Sir Arthur Sullivan [q. v. Suppl.], paid a memorable visit to Vienna, where they were successful in unearthing Schubert's 'Rosamunde' music, which had been neglected for more than forty years. A full account of this discovery is related by Grove in the Appendix to the English translation of Kreissle's 'Life of Schubert' (1869). At the end of 1873 he resigned the post of secretary to the Crystal Palace Company (though he still retained connection with the building which owed so much to him by being made a director), upon the acceptance of an offer from Messrs. Macmillan, the publishers, to an important position on their editorial staff. He edited 'Macmillan's Magazine' for some years, and wrote for Macmillan's series of 'History Primers' a primer of geography (1875), which has been translated into French and Italian.
The great work of his life a work which will carry his name down to posterity was the 'Dictionary of Music and Musicians.' The prospectus, dated 'March 1874,' stated that the work was not to exceed two volumes of some 600 pages; it ultimately attained to four volumes and an exhaustive index, totalling together 3,313 pages. The first volume appeared in 1878, and the fourth in 1889; an index volume was issued in 1890. Grove was not only the projector and editor of the 'Dictionary,' but, in addition to many other articles, he contributed three important monographs on Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Schubert his favourite trio of composers which are models of biographical literature. He made two special journeys to Germany to obtain materials for his Mendelssohn article, and more than two to Vienna for his monographs on Beethoven and Schubert.
In 1883 he took a very active part in the movement, initiated by King Edward VII when prince of Wales, for the formation of the Royal College of Music at Kensington, and was appointed the first director of that institution. For eleven years he threw all his energies into the work of organising and getting into working order that great music school. He resigned the office of director at Christmas 1894, when he was succeeded by Professor Sir C. Hubert H. Parry.
Grove's interests in life were very varied. In his earliest days he had been instilled with a knowledge of the Bible, much of which he knew by heart. Fired by a remark made by James Fergusson (1808–1886) [q. v.], author of 'The Handbook of Architecture,' that there was no full concordance of the proper names in the Bible, Grove set to work, and with the aid of his wife made a complete index of every occurrence of every proper name in the Old Testament, New Testament, and Apocrypha, with their equivalents in Hebrew, LXX, Greek and Vulgate Latin. This was in 1853–4. His next Bible study was a step in a similar direction. In 1854 he made the acquaintance of Arthur Penryn Stanley (afterwards dean of Westminster) [q. v.], who became his lifelong friend and who appointed Grove his literary executor. Stanley (then canon of Canterbury) was at the time engaged on the appendix to his 'Sinai and Palestine,' the first step in the topography of the Bible, with the result that it engendered a strong desire in Grove to visit the Holy Land. He paid two visits to Palestine in 1859 and 1861 the outcome of these journeys being the formation in 1865 of the Palestine Exploration Fund, of which Grove was virtually the founder and institutor. He became hon. secretary to the fund and laboured incessantly on its behalf. A further contribution to biblical literature was the editorial assistance he rendered to (Sir) William Smith (1813–1893) [q. v.] in the preparation of his 'Dictionary of the Bible.' In addition to writing about a thousand pages of the book, he rewrote some of the articles but retained the initials of the original writers. He also furnished the index to Clark's 'Bible Atlas' (1868), in which the places are recorded in English and Hebrew, followed by the texts in which the names of the places occur.
The mental and physical activity of Sir George Grove was quite remarkable. He translated Guizot's 'Etudes sur les Beaux-Arts' (1853), and contributed a sketch, 'Nabloos and the Samaritans,' to Sir Francis Galton's 'South Africa' (1853). He contributed prefaces to Otto Jahn's 'Life of Mozart,' Hensel's 'Mendelssohn Family,' W. S. Rockstro's 'Life of Handel,' 'A Short History of Cheap Music, as exemplified in the Records of the House of Novello, Ewer, & Co.,' 'The Early Letters of Schumann,' and to Mr. F. G. Edwards's 'History of Mendelssohn's Oratorio "Elijah."' He was also a frequent contributor to periodical literature.
Grove was the recipient, on 19 July 1880, of a gratifying testimonial—a thousand guineas and a gold chronometer–presented to him by the Archbishop of Canterbury on behalf of the subscribers. He was knighted on 22 May 1883, and on 26 May 1894 was made a companion of the Bath. Alfred Ernest, duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha [q. v. Suppl.], decorated him with the cross of the Order of Merit, and he received the honorary degrees of D.C.L. Durham and LL.D. Glasgow Universities. Upon his retirement from the directorship of the Royal College of Music in 1894 he still continued to take a warm and active interest in music and musicians. He was an exceedingly kind-hearted man, and took a special delight in giving a helping hand to young men. A great letter writer, his communications were characteristically reflective of his mercurial temperament, wide knowledge, boundless energy, and yet not without a touch of humour in forms of expression. For the last two years of his life he suffered from paralysis, which death relieved at his wooden house at Lower Sydenham, on 28 May 1900. His remains are interred in Ladywell cemetery, Lewisham. Grove's pupils at the Royal College of Music presented him with a bust by Mr. Alfred Gilbert, R.A.; and the teaching staff with his portrait by Mr. C. W. Furse. Other portraits of him were painted by Henry Philips, Mr. H. A. Olivier, and Mr. Felix Moscheles. A George Grove memorial scholarship has been founded at the Royal College of Music.
Grove married, in 1851, Harriet, daughter of the Rev. Charles Bradley [q. v.], who survives him.
[Musical Times, October 1897, containing a biographical sketch by the present writer, the information for which was verbally supplied by Grove, and Musical Times, July 1900; Musical World, 24 and 31 July 1880; Brit. Mus. Cat.; information from Lady Grove.]