Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Headlam, Walter George

HEADLAM, WALTER GEORGE (1866–1908), scholar and poet, born in London on 15 Feb. 1866, was son of Edward Headlam, fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, director of examinations in the Civil Service Commission (nephew of Thomas Emerson Headlam [q. v.]), and of Mary Anne Johnson Sowerby. He was educated at Elstree School, Hertfordshire, and at Harrow, in the house of the headmaster. Dr. H. M. Butler, subsequently Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.

In 1884 he entered King's College, Cambridge, as a scholar on the foundation. Both at Harrow and at Cambridge his career was distinguished. At Cambridge he gained many university prizes for verse composition (viz. seven Browne's medals and the Porson prize) in the years 1885-7. In 1887 he was placed in the first class (division 3) of the classical tripos, part i., graduating B.A. in 1887, and proceeded M.A. in 1891, and Litt.D. in 1903. In 1890 he became fellow of King's College, and shortly afterwards was appointed to a lectureship in classics. His best work as a teacher was done with small classes, where his striking personality had free play. In Jan. 1906 he was a candidate for the regius professorship of Greek vacated by the death of Sir R. C. Jebb [q. v. Suppl. II]. His prelection on this occasion made a profound impression. On 20 June 1908 he died suddenly at an hotel in London. He was buried in the churchyard of Wycliffe, Yorkshire. During the last years of his short life his work had gained recognition from a rapidly growing circle, and he was deservedly looked upon as one of the leading Greek scholars of his time; but at the moment of his death the greater part of what he had published consisted of contributions to classical periodicals. For many years the plays of Æschylus formed the central subject of his studies, and he contemplated a full critical edition of them, towards which he had made large collections. One of his most important contributions to learning was a paper on 'Greek Lyric Metres' which appeared in the 'Journal of Hellenic Studies' in 1902. Headlam's writings possess distinction throughout, and give evidence of his fastidious taste and keen sensibility to all forms of beauty. Of his Greek versions of English and other poetry it was said that they are not surpassed, if indeed they are equalled, by any existing productions of the same kind. His English verse also is of high quality. His numerous emendations of Greek texts were founded upon a close study of the causes of textual corruption, coupled with an ahnost unrivalled sense of the genius of the Greek language.

During his lifetime he published: 1. 'Fifty Poems by Meleager, with a translation,' 1890. 2. 'On Editing Æschylus: a Criticism,' 1891. 3. 'The Plays of Æschylus translated from a Revised Text,' 1900–8; republished in a collected form in 1909 (in this volume the translations of the 'Persae' and 'Septem contra Thebas' are the work of his brother, C. E. S. Headlam). 4. 'A Book of Greek Verse,' 1907. 5. 'Restoration of Menander,' 1908. Posthumous publications: 1. 'The Agamemnon of Æschylus,' revised text and English translation, with some notes, 1910, edited by A. C. Pearson. 2. 'Letters and Poems,' with Memoir by his brother, Cecil Headlam, and a full bibliography by L. Haward, 1910.

[Personal knowledge; memoir and bibliography cited; Academy, 8 Oct. 1910, memoir (by Shane Leslie).]

M. R. J.