Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Abbott, Evelyn

ABBOTT, EVELYN (1843–1901), classical scholar, born at Epperstone, Nottinghamshire, on 10 March 1843, was third of the five sons of Evelyn Abbott, a farmer and landowner, by his wife Mary Lambe. Educated first at Lincoln grammar school and afterwards at the Somerset College, Bath, Abbott was elected in 1862 to an open exhibition at Balliol College, Oxford, and commenced his university residence in October. He established a high reputation among his contemporaries as a scholar, and was likewise distinguished in athletic sports. In 1864 he won the Gaisford prize for Greek verse and a first class in classical moderations. In the Easter vacation of 1866, just before he entered for his final examination, he fell in a hurdle race and injured his spine. Unhappily, he was so unaccustomed to illness that he did not recognise the serious nature of the accident, and continued his exertions, both at his books and at cricket, as if nothing had occurred. In the summer he obtained a first class in literæ humaniores. In the following autumn, when the mischief became manifest, it was too late for a cure; he became hopelessly paralysed in the lower limbs, and until his death never put foot to the ground. The inevitable effect of these unnatural conditions on his health and activity was held at bay for thirty-five years by a very strong natural constitution and by his admirable courage and patience. He soon began to take private pupils, sometimes near his birthplace in Sherwood Forest, sometimes at Filey. In 1870 he was appointed by Dr. Percival sixth form master at Clifton College. In 1873 Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol, invited him to return to Oxford, and until 1875 he took work at Corpus as well as at Balliol. In 1873 he graduated B.A. and M.A. In 1874 he was elected a fellow and tutor of Balliol. From that time till his resignation, only a few days before his death, he was a mainstay of the administration and teaching of his college. At first he taught mainly Latin and Greek scholarship; in his later years Greek history was his principal subject. He won the affection and confidence of his pupils by his unceasing efforts for their welfare and by the cheerfulness with which he bore his physical disabilities. He became Jowett lecturer in Greek in 1895, and was librarian of the college from 1881 to 1897, and in 1882 served as junior bursar.

Throughout his life Abbott was constantly engaged in writing in addition to his college work. He was well versed in German, and besides Curtius's 'Elucidations of the Students' Greek Grammar' (1870) he translated Max Duncker's 'History of Antiquity' (6 vols. 1877-81). He also assisted Miss Sarah Francis Alleyne (d. 1885) in English versions of Duncker's 'History of Greece' (2 vols. 1883-6) and Zeller's 'Outlines of Greek Philosophy' (1885). He was editor of 'Hellenica' (1880; 2nd edit. 1898), a collection of essays on Greek themes, and was general editor of the 'Heroes of the Nations' series, to which he contributed a life of Pericles (1891). Other works were 'Elements of Greek Accidence' (1874) and an index to Jowett's translation of Plato (1875). With Lewis Campbell [q. v. Suppl. II] he wrote the biography of his life-long friend, Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol (1897). His most important literary work is his 'History of Greece' in three volumes (1888-1900), admirable alike for its learning, sound judgment, and simple and lucid style. The sceptical view of the 'Iliad' and 'Odyssey,' which regards them as purely works of poetical imagination, has nowhere been more ably presented, and the presentation well illustrates Abbott's independent method in treating historical problems.

Abbott, who was made LL.D. of St. Andrews in 1879, maintained his activities till a few weeks before his death at Malvern on 3 Sept. 1901. He was buried at Redlands cemetery, near Cardiff.

[Personal knowledge; Foster's Alumni Oxon.]

J. L. S.-D.