Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Farrar, Frederic William
FARRAR, FREDERIC WILLIAM (1831–1903), dean of Canterbury, born on 7 Aug. 1831 in the fort at Bombay, was the second son of Charles Pinhorn Farrar, chaplain of the Church Missionary Society, by his wife Caroline Turner. At the age of three he was sent with his elder brother to England, and while under the care of two maiden aunts at Aylesbury attended the Latin school there. His parents came to England for a three years' furlough in 1839, and taking a house at Castleton Bay in the Isle of Man, sent their sons to the neighbouring King William's College, where they became boarders in the house of the headmaster. Dr. Dixon. The culture and comfort of the Aylesbury home and the comparative discomfort and roughness of the college are described by Farrar in his first story, 'Eric.' The religious teaching was strictly evangelical, but the standard of scholarship was inferior. In eight years Farrar rose to be head of the school, developing the strong self-reliance which distinguished him through life. Among his schoolfellows were Thomas Fowler [q. v. Suppl. II], Thomas Edward Brown [q. v. Suppl. I], and E. S. Beesly. In 1847, when his father left India and became curate-in-charge of St. James, Clerkenwell, Farrar lived with his parents, and attended King's College. Thenceforth, owing to his success in winning prizes and scholarships, his education cost his father nothing. He was first both in matriculation at London University and in the examination for honours, and graduated B.A. in 1852. His chief competitor was (Sir) Edwin Arnold [q. v. Suppl. II]], and among the professors F. D. Maurice [q. v.] exercised a strong influence on him. From Maurice he learned a veneration for Coleridge's religious and philosophical writings. In October 1850 he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, with a sizarship and a King's College scholarship, and in 1852 he obtained a Trinity College scholarship. His novel 'Julian Home' draws freely on his Cambridge experiences. He was a member of the Apostles' Club. He took no part in games. In 1852 he won the chancellor's medal for English verse with a poem on the Arctic regions. In 1854 he was bracketed fourth in the classical tripos and was a junior optime in the mathematical tripos; he graduated B.A. in 1854, proceeded M.A. in 1857, and D.D. in 1874.
Before the result of the tripos was announced, Farrar accepted a mastership at Marlborough College, where his friends E. S. Beesly and E. A. Scott were already at work. The headmaster, G. E. L. Cotton [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Calcutta, was engaged in the task of revivifying the school. Farrar at once showed special gifts as a master, readiness to make friends of his pupils and power of stimulating their literary and intellectual energies. On Christmas Day 1854 he was ordained deacon, and priest in 1857. He left Marlborough after a year to take a mastership under Dr. Vaughan at Harrow (November 1855). In the same year he won the Le Bas prize at Cambridge for an English essay, and in 1856 he won the Norrisian prize for an essay on the Atonement, and was elected a fellow of Trinity College. Dr. Whewell is said to have been impressed by his familiarity with Coleridge's philosophy.
Farrar soon became a house-master at Harrow, where he remained fifteen years, serving for the last eleven years under Dr. H. M. Butler on Vaughan's retirement (see Dr. Butler's estimate of him as a schoolmaster in Life, p. 138). At Harrow, Farrar devoted all his leisure to literary work — a practice which he followed through life. Before he left Harrow he had won for himself a public reputation in three departments of literature — in fiction, in philology, and in theology. He began with fiction. In 1858 he published 'Eric, or Little by Little,' a tale of school-life, partly autobiographical, which long retained its popularity; thirty-six editions appeared in his lifetime. 'Eric' lacks the mellowness and the organic unity of 'Tom Brown's School Days,' which appeared a year earlier. But it influences boys through its vividness and sincerity, which reflect Farrar's ardent temperament and unselfish idealism. There followed in 1859 'Julian Home: a Tale of College Life' (18th edit. 1905). In 1862 'St. Winifred's, or the World of School' (26th edit. 1903), was printed anonymously. In 1873, under the pseudonym of F. T. L. Hope, 'The Three Homes: a Tale for Fathers and Sons,' was contributed to the 'Quiver.' It was not acknowledged till 1896; it reached its 18th edition in 1903.
Philology and grammar were Farrar's first serious studies, and he was a pioneer in the effort to introduce into ordinary education some of the results of modern philological research. In 1860 he published 'An Essay on the Origin of Language: based on Modern Researches and especially on the Works of M. Renan.' It was followed in 1865 by 'Chapters on Language,' of which three editions appeared, and in 1870 by 'Families of Speech,' from lectures delivered before the Royal Institution. The last two were re-issued together in 1878 under the general title of 'Language and Languages.' Farrar was an evolutionist in philology, and his first essay caught Darwin's attention and led to a friendship between the two. On Darwin's nomination Farrar in 1866 was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in recognition of his work as a philologist. In order to improve the teaching of Greek grammar he composed a card of 'Greek Grammar Rules,' which reached its 22nd edition, and published 'A Brief Greek Syntax' (1867; llth edit. 1880). He explained his educational aims in two lectures at the Royal Institution, the first of which, 'On Some Defects in Public School Education,' urged the serious teaching of science and the defects in the current teaching of classics. His views elicited the sympathy of Darwin and Tyndall. In 1867 he edited, under the title of 'Essays on a Liberal Education,' a number of essays by distinguished university men advocating reforms. In theology Farrar first came before the public as contributor to Macmillan's 'Sunday Library for Household Reading' of a popular historical account of Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius, which he called 'Seekers after God' (1868; 17th edit. 1902). After the appearance of his first volume of sermons, 'The Fall of Man and other Sermons' (1868; 7th edit. 1893), he was appointed chaplain to Queen Victoria in 1869 (being made a chaplain-in-ordinary in 1873) and Hulsean lecturer at Cambridge in 1870. The Hulsean lectures were printed in 1871 as 'The Witness of History to Christ' (9th edit. 1892).
Farrar was a candidate in 1867 for the headmastership of Haileybury, but was defeated by Dr. Bradby, one of his colleagues at Harrow. In 1871 he was appointed headmaster of Marlborough College in succession to George Granville Bradley [q. v. Suppl. II]. An outbreak of scarlet fever had just caused a panic among parents, but Farrar soon revived confidence and maintained the prestige of Bradley's rule, carried out sanitary improvements and the additional building which had been previously planned, and began the teaching of science in accordance with his principles of educational reform. While at Marlborough he made his popular reputation by writing the 'Life of Christ.' He sought to meet the requirements of the publishers, Messrs. Cassell, Petter & Galpin, who suggested that the sketch should enable readers to realise Christ's 'life more clearly, and to enter more thoroughly into the details and sequence of the gospel narratives.' In 1870 he visited Palestine with Walter Leaf, his pupil at Harrow, and his task was completed after much hard work in 1874. The success was surprising. Twelve editions were exhausted in a year, and thirty editions of all sorts and sizes in the author's lifetime. It has had a huge sale in America and has been translated into all the European languages. Despite its neglect of the critical problem of the composition of the gospels, and the floridity which was habitual to Farrar's style, his 'Life of Christ' combined honest and robust faith with wide and accurate scholarship. The value of the excursuses has been recognised by scholars. Farrar pursued his studies of Christian origins in the 'Life of St. Paul' (1879; 10th edit. 1904), an able and thorough survey of the Pauline epistles and the problems connected with them, and the most valuable of Farrar's writings; in 'The Early Days of Christianity' (1882, 5 edits.), in which the review of the writings of the New Testament was completed; and in his 'Lives of the Fathers: Church History in Biography' (1889), an attempt to bring his survey down to the end of the sixth century.
In 1875 Farrar declined the crown living of Halifax, but next year he accepted a canonry of Westminster with the rectory of St. Margaret's parish. His success as a preacher both at St. Margaret's church and in the Abbey was pronounced, and gave him the means of restoring the church. He thoroughly reorganised its interior, putting in many stained glass windows and spending 30,000l. on the building. At the same time he sought to restore to St. Margaret's its old position as the parish church of the House of Commons, and largely succeeded. In 1890 he was chosen chaplain to the House, and filled the position with distinction for five years. As a parish priest he earnestly faced his parochial responsibilities, and the drunkenness in Westminster slums made him a pledged abstainer and an eager advocate of temperance. In 1883 he was appointed archdeacon of Westminster.
In 1877 he roused a storm of criticism by a course of five sermons in the Abbey (Nov.-Dec.) on the soul and the future life, the subject of a current discussion in the 'Nineteenth Century.' He challenged the doctrine of eternal punishment. The sermons were published with a preface and other additions under the title 'Eternal Hope' in 1878 (18th edit. 1901), and the volumes called forth numerous replies, of which the most important was E. B. Pusey's 'What is of Faith as to Everlasting Punishment?' Pusey and Farrar corresponded, and in some measure Farrar modified his position in 'Mercy and Judgment: a Few Last Words on Christian Eschatology with reference to Dr. Pusey's "What is of Faith"' (1881; 3rd edit. 1900). Farrar's teaching largely repeated that of his master, F. D. Maurice, but he reached a far wider audience. At Farrar's suggestion the offer was made on Darwin's death in 1882 to inter his body in Westminster Abbey; Farrar was one of the pall-bearers, and preached a notable funeral sermon on Darwin's work and character. In 1885 Farrar made a four months' preaching and lecturing tour through Canada and the United States. His lecture on Browning was reckoned the beginning of that poet's popularity in America. His preaching created a profound impression. His 'Sermons and Addresses in America' appeared in 1886. In the same year he served as Bampton lecturer at Oxford, his selection being an unusual compliment to a Cambridge divine. His theme was 'The History of Interpretation,' and was handled with scholarly effect. His broad views long hindered his promotion, but in 1895 he became dean of Canterbury on the recommendation of Lord Rosebery.
He threw himself with enthusiasm into his new duties. Repair and restoration of Canterbury Cathedral were urgent. In three years he raised 19,000l. by public subscription. The roofs were made watertight and the chapter house and crypt thoroughly restored. He improved the cathedral services and made the cathedral a centre of spiritual life for the town and diocese. In 1899 his right hand was affected by muscular atrophy, which slowly attacked all his muscles. After a long illness he died on 22 March 1903. He was buried in the cloister-green of the cathedral, near Archbishop Temple. In 1860 he married Lucy Mary, third daughter of Frederic Cardew, of the East India Company's service, by whom he had five sons and five daughters.
His portrait by B. S. Marks was painted for Marlborough College in 1879, and a caricature by 'Spy' appeared in 'Vanity Fair' in 1891. Dean Farrar Street, a new street in Westminster, is named after him.
Farrar exerted a vast popular influence upon the religious feeling and culture of the middle classes for fully forty years by virtue of his enthusiasm, always sincere if not always discriminating, and of his boundless industry. In his religious views he occupied a position between the evangelical and broad church schools of thought.
In addition to those already mentioned, Farrar issued many other collections of sermons, which were widely read, and separate addresses or pamphlets; he also wrote much for 'The Speaker's Commentary,' 'The Expositor's Bible,' 'The Cambridge Bible for Schools,' and 'The Men of the Bible,' as well as for Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible' and Kitto's 'Biblical Encyclopædia.' Among his independent publications were: 1. 'Lyrics of Life,' 1859. 2. 'General Aims of the Teacher and Form Management,' 1883. 3. 'My Object in Life,' 1883; 8th edit. 1894. 4. 'Darkness and Dawn: a Tale of the Days of Nero,' 1891; 8th edit. 1898. 5. 'Social and Present Day Questions,' 1891; 4th edit. 1903. 6. 'The Life of Christ as represented in Art,' 1894; 3rd edit. 1901. 7. 'Gathering Clouds: Days of St. Chrysostom,' 1895. 8. 'Men I have Known,' 1897. 9. 'The Herods,' 1897. 10. 'The Life of Lives: Further Studies in the Life of Christ,' 1900. Two selections from his works have been published under the titles 'Words of Truth and Wisdom' (1881) and 'Treasure Thoughts' (1886).
[Life by Farrar's son Reginald Farrar, 1905, with bibliography; The Times, 23 March 1903; Memoir by Dean Lefroy, prefixed to biographical edit. of the Life of Christ, 1903; 'Dean Farrar as Headmaster,' by J. D. R[ogers] in Cornhill Mag. May 1903; G. W. E. Russell's Sketches and Snapshots, 1910; Three Sermons preached in Canterbury Cathedral, 29 March 1903, by A. J. Mason, H. M. Spooner, and H. M. Butler; Farrar's Men I have Known, 1897, and other works, contain much autobiography.]