Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Prefatory Note


The Supplement to the 'Dictionary of National Biography' contains a thousand articles, of which more than two hundred represent accidental omissions from the previously published volumes. These overlooked memoirs belong to various epochs of mediæval and modern history; some of the more important fill gaps in colonial history to which recent events have directed attention.

But it is the main purpose of the Supplement to deal with distinguished persons who died at too late a date to be included in the original work. The principle of the undertaking excludes living people, and in the course of the fifteen years during which the publication, in alphabetical sequence, of the sixty-three quarterly volumes of the Dictionary was in progress, many men and women of eminence died after their due alphabetical place was reached, and the opportunity of commemorating them had for the time passed away. The Supplement contains nearly eight hundred memoirs of recently deceased persons, who, under the circumstances indicated, found no place in the previously published volumes.

Since the resolve to issue a Supplement to the Dictionary was first announced, more than four times as many names as actually appear in the supplementary volumes have been recommended to the Editor for notice. Every suggestion has been carefully considered, and, although the rejections have been numerous, the Editor hopes that he has not excluded any name about which information is likely to be sought in the future by serious students. Reputations that might reasonably be regarded as ephemeral have alone been consciously ignored. The right of a person to notice in the Dictionary has been held to depend on the probability that his career would be the object of intelligent inquiry on the part of an appreciable number of persons a generation or more hence.

Owing mainly to the longer interval of time that has elapsed since the publication of the volumes of the Dictionary treating of the earlier portions of the alphabet, the supplementary names beginning with the earlier letters are exceptionally numerous. Half the supplementary names belong to the first five letters of the alphabet. The whole series of names is distributed in the three supplementary volumes thus: Volume I. Abbott—Childers; Volume II. Chippendale—Hoste; Volume III. How—Woodward.

It was originally intended that the Supplement to the Dictionary should bring the biographical record of British, Irish, and Colonial achievement to the extreme end of the nineteenth century, but the death of Queen Victoria on 22 Jan. 1901 rendered a slight modification of the plan inevitable. The Queen's death closed an important epoch in British history, and was from a national point of view a better defined historic landmark than the end of the century with which it almost synchronised. The scope of the Supplement was consequently extended so that the day of the Queen's death might become its furthest limit. Any person dying at a later date than the Queen was therefore disqualified for notice.[1] The memoir of the Queen is from the pen of the Editor.

The choice of Queen Victoria's last day of life as the chronological limit of the Supplement was warmly approved by Mr. George Smith, the projector and proprietor of the Dictionary. But, unhappily, while the supplementary volumes were still in preparation, the undertaking sustained the irreparable loss of his death (6 April 1901). In accordance with a generally expressed wish the Editor has prefixed a memoir of Mr. Smith to the first volume of the Supplement; but, in order to observe faithfully the chronological limit which was fixed in consultation with Mr. Smith, he has given it a prefatory position which is independent of the body of the work.

A portrait of Mr. Smith, to whose initiative and munificence the whole work is due, forms the frontispiece to the first volume of the Supplement: it is reproduced from a painting by Mr. G. F. Watts, R.A., which was executed in 1876.

Much information has been derived by writers of supplementary articles from private sources. The readiness with which assistance of this kind has been rendered can hardly be acknowledged too warmly. The principle of the Dictionary requires that the memoirs should be mainly confined to a record of fact, should preserve a strictly judicial tone, and should eschew sentiment. The point of view from which the articles are written cannot therefore be expected always to commend itself to the near relatives of their subjects; but the Editor deems it right to state that the great majority of those who have helped in the preparation of memoirs of their kinsmen and kinswomen have shown every disposition to respect the dispassionate aims which the Dictionary exists to pursue.

A special word of thanks is due to Mr. Thomas Seccombe, Mr. A. F. Pollard, and Mr. E. Irving Carlyle, all of whom rendered valuable assistance to the Editor during the publication of the substantive work, for the zealous aid they have given him in preparing the supplemental volumes, to which they have each contributed a very large number of articles. Mr. Pollard has also helped the Editor in seeing the Supplement finally through the press.

*** In the supplemental volumes cross references to articles that form part of the Supplement are given thus [q. v. Suppl.], while cross references to articles that have already appeared in the substantive work are given in the ordinary form [q. v.]

  1. During the six months succeeding Queen Victoria's demise, 22 Jan. to 29 July 1901, death qualified the following thirty-eight persons for notice by the national biographer of the future. In each case the date of the close of life falls outside the limit assigned to the present Supplement, and the names are necessarily excluded from it. The list roughly indicates the rate at which material for national biography accumulates in the present era. The day of death is appended to each name.
    Arthur, William (Wesleyan divine), 9 March.
    Besant, Sir Walter (novelist), 9 June.
    Bowen, Edward Ernest (master at Harrow and song-writer), 8 April.
    Bright, William (ecclesiastical historian), 6 March.
    Browne, Sir Samuel, V.C. (general), 14 March.
    Buchanan, Robert (poet and novelist), 10 June.
    Cates, Arthur (architect), 15 May.
    Commerell, Sir John Edmund (admiral), 21 May.
    Dawson, George Mercer (Canadian geologist), 2 March.
    Dickson, William Purdie (professor of divinity at Glasgow and translator of Mommsen), 10 March.

    Eddis, Eden Upton (portrait painter), 7 April.
    Ellis, Frederick Startridge (bookseller and author), 26 Feb.
    Fairbairn, Sir Andrew (engineer), 31 May.
    Farmer, John (musician), 17 July.
    Fitzgerald, George Francis (physicist), 21 Feb.
    Hall, FitzEdward, D.C.L. (philologist), 10 Feb.
    Haweis, Hugh Reginald (divine), 29 Jan.
    Hopkins, Edward John (organist), 4 Feb.
    Hoskins, Sir Anthony Hiley (admiral), 21 June.
    Jeaffreson, John Cordy (legal and historical writer), 2 Feb.
    Lewis, John Travers (archbishop of Ontario), 6 May.
    Loyd-Lindsay, Robert James, Lord Wantage, 10 June.
    Monkhouse, Cosmo (art critic), 21 July.
    Ormerod, Miss Eleanor Anne (entomologist), 20 July.
    Sanford, George Edward Langham, C.B., C.S.I. (general), 27 April.
    Saunders, Sir Edwin (dental surgeon), 15 Mar.
    Smith, John Hamblin (mathematician), 10 July.
    Stafford, Sir Edward William, G.C.M.G. (premier of New Zealand), 14 Feb.
    Stainer, Sir John (musician), 1 April.
    Stephens, James (Fenian), 29 March.
    Stubbs, William (bishop of Oxford and historian), 22 April.
    Tait, Peter Guthrie (professor of natural philosophy at Edinburgh), 4 July.
    Vane, Catherine Lucy Wilhelmina, Duchess of Cleveland, 18 May.
    Warr, George Charles Winter (classical scholar), 21 Feb.
    Watkin, Sir Edward (railway director), 13 April.
    Westcott, Brooke Foss (bishop of Durham and scholar), 27 July.
    Willes, Sir George Ommaney (admiral), 18 Feb.
    Yonge, Charlotte Mary (novelist and historical writer), 24 March.