Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Groome, Francis Hindes

GROOME, FRANCIS HINDES (1851–1902), Romany scholar and miscellaneous writer, second son of Robert Hindes Groome [q. v.], archdeacon of Suffolk, was born at his father's rectory of Monk Soham on 30 Aug. 1851. Through his father's mother there was a family connection with East Dereham, and, there is some ground for believing, blood-relationship with George Borrow [q. v.]. In 1861 he was at school at Wyke Regis, near Weymouth. From 1865 to 1869 he was at Ipswich grammar school under Dr. H. A. Holden [q. v. Suppl. I], where he distinguished himself both in Latin prose and in Latin verse. There too he won several cups for rowing, and helped to found and edit a school magazine. He read for a year with Francis de Winton at Boughrood on the Wye, and went up to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, matriculating in October 1870; in 1871 he was elected postmaster of Merton College. Even in early boyhood gypsy life seen in glimpses had exercised a singular fascination over him; an assistant master at Ipswich had given him some real knowledge of Romany and of gypsy lore; and at Oxford he came to know gypsies intimately, a fact which gave a now turn to his life. He left Oxford without taking a degree, spent some time at Göttingen, and for years lived much with gypsies at home and abroad; he travelled on the Puszta with Hungarian gypsies, and elsewhere with Roumanian and Roumelian companies, and he married in 1876 a wife of English gypsy blood, Esmeralda Locke, from whom he afterwards separated.

In 1876 Groome settled down to regular literary work in Edinburgh. He was soon one of the most valued workers on the staff of the 'Globe Encyclopaedia' (6 vols. 1876-9). In 1877 he began to edit 'Suffolk Notes and Queries' in the 'Ipswich Journal.' He edited the 'Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland' (6 vols. 188^5 ; 2nd edit. 1893-5), which took rank as a standard work of reference. In 1886 he joined the literary staff of Messrs. W. & R. Chambers, and as sub-editor and copious contributor gave invaluable assistance in preparing the new edition of 'Chambers's Encyclopaedia' (10 vols. 1888-92). He had a large share in a gazetteer (1 vol. 1895), and was joint-editor of a biographical dictionary, both published by the same house. Meanwhile he was an occasional contributor to 'Blackwood's Magazine,' the 'Bookman,' and other periodicals, wrote many articles for this Dictionary, and did much sys- tematic reviewing for the 'Athenæum.' 'A Short Border History' was issued in 1887. The delightful sketches of his father and his father's friend, Edward FitzGerald, published as 'Two Suffolk Friends' in 1895, were expanded from two articles in 'Blackwood's Magazine' in 1889 and 1891.

At the same time Groome wrote much on gypsies. His article on 'Gipsies,' contributed to the ninth edition of the 'Encyclopædia Britannica,' made him known to the world as a gypsyologist. 'In Gipsy Tents' (1880; 2nd edit. 1881) recorded much of his own experience. He was joint-editor of the 'Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society' (1888-92 ; revived in 1907), and a paper by him on 'The Influence of the Gypsies on the Superstitions of the English Folk' was printed in 1891, in the 'Transactions of the International Folk-Lore Congress.' Mr. Watts-Dunton has said that in Groome's remarkable Romany novel with the oddly irrelevant name of 'Kriegspiel' (1896) 'there was more substance than in five ordinary stories,' the gypsy chapters, with autobiographical elements, being 'absolutely perfect.' 'Gypsy Folk Tales' (1899) contains over seventy tales with variants from many lands, and the elaborate introduction is a monument of erudition and ripe scholarship. He produced also an edition of Borrow's 'Lavengro' (1901), with notes and a valuable introduction. When his working powers failed him, Groome was assisting in the preparation of a new edition of 'Chambers's Cyclopædia of English Literature' (3 vols. 1901–1903); and for more than a year he was a confirmed invalid. He died in London on 24 January 1902, and was buried beside his father and mother in Monk Soham churchyard.

Nothing in Groome's life is more remarkable than that he should have passed so swiftly and cheerfully from a veritable Bohemia of romance into the bondage of systematic labour, and have worked in the new conditions with a rare efficiency. A singularly alert, swift, and eager intellect, he was unwearied in research, impatient of anything less than precision, a frank and fearless critic ; thoroughly at home in wide fields of historical and philological research, and in some of them a master. A man of strong convictions and not a few prepossessions, he had a knowledge of the romantic side of Scottish history such as few Scotsmen possess, notably of Jacobite literature in all its ramifications native and foreign. His vivacious style showed a marked individuality. Men like Swinburne and Mr. Watts-Dunton cherished his friendship, and he maintained a correspondence with eminent scholars all over Europe (e.g. August Friedrich Pott and Franz von Miklosich); some of his many letters to C. G. Leland are quoted in Mrs. Pennell's 'Life of Leland' (1906).

[Who's Who, 1900; Scotsman, 25 Jan. 1902; Mr. Watts-Dunton's memoir in Athenæum, 22 Feb. 1902; information from brothers; personal knowledge.]

D. P.