Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Martin, Theodore
MARTIN, Sir THEODORE (1810–1909), man of letters, born at Edinburgh on 16 Sept. 1816, was only son in a family of ten children of a well-to-do Edinburgh solicitor, James Martin, who was for some years private secretary to Andrew, Lord Rutherfurd [q. v.]. His grandfather, also Theodore Martin, was ground officer on the estate of Cairnbulg, near Fraserburgh. His mother was Mary, daughter of James Reid, shipowner of Fraserburgh. From Edinburgh high school under Dr. Adam he passed to Edinburgh University (1830–3), of which he was created hon. LL.D. in 1875. At the university a love of literature was awakened in him by the lectures of James Pillans [q. v.], professor of humanity, and there he first caught sight of William Edmonstoune Aytoun [q. v.], a student three years his senior, with whom he was to form ten years later a close friendship and a literary partnership. As a young man he studied German and interested himself in music and the stage.
Martin was bred to the law, and practised as a solicitor in Edinburgh until June 1846. In that year he migrated to London in order to pursue the career of a parliamentary solicitor or agent. In 1847 he joined in that capacity, at Westminster, Hugh Innes Cameron, and his business was carried on under the style of Cameron & Martin until 1854. Then Cameron left the firm, and Martin conducted it single-handed for eight years. In 1862 Martin took a partner, William Leslie of the Edinburgh firm of Inglis & Leslie, for whom he had acted as London agent. Leslie died in 1897, when Martin was joined by two other partners, but the firm was known as Martin & Leslie until 1907, when the style was changed to Martin & Co. Martin's parliamentary business in London was extensive, profitable, and important. Among the earliest private bills which he prepared and piloted through parliamentary committees were those dealing with the Shrewsbury and Chester railway and the river Dee navigation. He was thus brought into close relations with North Wales, which he subsequently made a chief place of residence. He also carried the bill for the extension to London of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire (now the Great Central) railway. During 1879 he was closely engaged in negotiating, for Lord Beaconsfield's government, the purchase of the undertakings of all the London water companies, and in preparing a bill for vesting them in a public trust; but the measure was dropped during the last days of Lord Beaconsfield's ministry, and was not revived on Gladstone's return to office in 1880. Martin's parliamentary work was in main occupation through life, and he conducted it with unsparing energy and much ability.
Before leaving Edinburgh he contributed to 'Tait's' and 'Fraser's' magazines and to other periodicals humorous pieces in prone and verse. The poems he ascribed to Hon Gaultier, a 'bon compagnon' whose name had caught his fancy in Rabelais (Prol. livre i.). In 1841 Aytoun was attracted by one of these papers, 'Flowers of Hemp; or The Newgate Garland. By One of the Family,' a satire on the fashionable novel in the style of Harrison Ainsworth's 'Dick Turpin' and 'Jack Sheppard.' At Aytoun's request the naturalist Edward Forbes [q. v.] brought the young men together, and 'a kind of Beaumont and Fletcher partnership,' as Martin called it, was the result. From 1842 to 1844 they wrote together a series of humorous pieces for 'Tait's' and 'Fraser's' magazines. Besides comic poems there were parodied in prose, including a set of prize novels, prior in date to Thackeray's, and a series of humorous colloquies in the fashion of 'Noctes Ambrosiana),' called 'Bon Gaultier and his Friends.' Most of the verse was collected in 1845 in 'Bon Gaultier's Ballads,' a volume which achieved immediate popularity and reached a sixteenth edition in 1903. The attractions of the volume were enhanced by the illustrations — in the first edition by 'Alfred Crowquill' (A. H. Forrester [q. v.]), to whose drawings Richard Doyle and John Leech added others in later editions.
The Bon Gaultier verse mainly parodied the leading poetry of the day, especially the 'new poetry' of Tennyson. A few of the mock poems pretended to be competition exercises for the poet-laureateship vacated by Southey's death. 'The Lay of the Lovelorn,' a parody of 'Locksley Hall,' which was elaborated by Martin out of ten or a dozen lines by Aytoun, was perhaps the most popular piece. Lookhart (in Spanish Ballads), Maoaulay, Mrs. Browning, Moore, Leigh 'Hunt, Uhland, and even Aytoun himself were all among the victims of Martin or his partner's ridicule, together with the German student and the American patriot. Martin was the larger contributor, but Aytoun's work is the better. If the 'Ballads' are more on the surface than the 'Rejected Addresses' with which they invite comparison, they are hardly less amusing. The fun, whatever shape it takes, is always healthy, and the reaction against the extravagance of transitory fashions in literature is generally sound in spirit.
Before the Bon Gaultier partnership ended in 1844, Martin and Aytoun also worked together in a series of translations which appeared in 'Blackwood's Magazine' in 1843-4, and were published collectively in 1858 as 'Poems and Ballads of Goethe.' Martin's friendship with Aytoun continued till Aytoun's death in 1865, when Martin paid him the tribute of a sympathetic, if discursive, 'Memoir' (1867), wliich he subsequently summarised for this Dictionary.
Martin's early affection for the drama developed steadily. Edmund Kean was one of his first theatrical heroes. On a visit to London in 1840 he first saw Helen Faucit [q. v. Suppl. I] act, and after witnessing her performance of Rosalind at Glasgow in Dec. 1843 he wrote some 'prophetic lines,' in which he fancied himself Orlando. In July 1846 he extolled her powers in an article, 'Acting as one of the Fine Arts,' in the 'Dublin University Magazine.' In the same year he translated for her the little Danish romantic drama of Henrik Hertz, 'King Rene's Daughter,' which she produced in 1849. (It was first published in 1850.) The extreme refinement of the piece, and the fictitiousness of a situation impossible in real life, convey an impression of artificiality, but Helen Faucit rendered to perfection its tenderness of touch, to which Martin's verse — some of his best — rendered full justice. The blind Iolanthe was long one of her most popular parts.
Miss Faucit's fascination grew on Martin, who is said to have followed her from place to place until he made her his wife (Mrs. Sellar's Recollections, p. 37). They were married on 25 Aug. 1851 at the old Church of St. Nicholas in Brighton, and spent their wedding tour in Italy. After their return in November she resumed her connection with the stage, which continued practically till 1871. In April 1852 she appeared at Manchester in Martin's adaptation of 'Adrienne Lecouvreur.' In the same year they bought a house, 31 Onslow Square, where Thackeray was their near neighbour, and where they formed the centre of a large and cultivated social circle. This remained Martin's London residence till the end of his life, although he was almost driven out of it at the last by the noise of passing motor omnibuses, a nuisance which, in 1906, he denounced in 'The Times.' The summer and autumn of 1861 were spent at Bryntysilio on the banks of the Dee, about two miles above Llangollen, to which Martin's parliamentary work on Dee navigation had introduced him. Martin was charmed with the place, and in 1865 he bought the house and adjoining grounds, both of which were considerably enlarged as the years went on. Bryntysilio remained the favourite country residence of Martin and his wife. He associated himself effectively with the industrial activities of the locality and took a great interest in Welsh music.
Martin's literary activity increased after his marriage and his reputation widened. In 1859 he was one of the umpires for the prize offered by the Crystal Palace Company at the Burns centenary festival. His literary energies were chiefly divided between essays on the stage for the magazines, and translations from Latin, German, and Italian, with occasional adaptations for the theatre. In 'Fraser's Magazine' (Feb. 1858, Dec. 1863, and Jan. 1865) he lamented the decay of the English drama, subsequently arguing in 'The Drama in England,' a paper on the 'Kembles' (Quarterly Review, Jan. 1872), that a cardinal necessity for the recovery of the English stage was the presence of a governing mind in control of a national theatre. To the 'Quarterly Review' he also contributed excellent biographical essays on David Garrick (July 1868) and Macready (Nov. 1872). Most of his writings on the drama Martin collected for private circulation as 'Essays on the Drama' (1874). At later dates he wrote on 'Rachel' in 'Blackwood's Magazine' (Sept. 1882), while in a paper, 'Shakespeare or Bacon?' reprinted in 1888 from 'Blackwood's Magazine,' he sought to dispel the 'Baconian' delusion. The essays on Garrick, Macready, the Kembles, and Rachel, with a vindication of Baron Stockmar (Quarterly Rev. Oct. 1882), reappeared in a volume of 'Monographs' (1906).
Martin's labours as translator were singularly versatile. In 1854 and 1857 he published, from the original Danish or from the German, English versions of Oehlenschlager's romantic dramas 'Aladdin' and 'Correggio.' In 1860 he printed his translation of the 'Odes' of Horace, which, like all Martin's versions of Latin poetry, is more fluent than scholarly. This was subsequently incorporated in his 'Works of Horace' (2 vols. 1882) with the tasteful rather than learned monograph on the Roman poet which Martin contributed in 1870 to Collins' s 'Ancient Classics for English Readers,' and the substance of two lectures on ‘Horace and his Friends,’ delivered at the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution in Oct. 1881. His ‘Catullus, with Life and Notes,’ followed ‘Horace's Odes’ in 1861, and books i.–vi. of the ‘Æneid’ as late as 1896. In 1862 he published his translation of Dante's ‘Vita Nuova,’ which he dedicated in a charming sonnet to his ‘own true wife.’
German poetry occupied Martin's energies with more marked success. In Nov. 1850 he had printed in the ‘Dublin University Magazine’ a translation of Goethe's ‘Prometheus,’ and in 1865 he published a version of the ‘First Part of Faust.’ The ‘Second Part’ followed in 1886. The ‘First Part’ was constantly reprinted, and reached a ninth edition in 1910. A second revised edition of the ‘Second Part’ came out in the same year. Of the beautifully illustrated edition of the ‘First Part’ (1876) Queen Victoria made a Christmas present to Lord Beaconsfield. Martin's English version—one of many—of Schiller's ‘Camp of Wallenstein’ (Blackwood's Mag. Feb. 1892), although full of spirit and gaiety, wants the dignified atmosphere of the original. In 1878 appeared a translation of ‘Poems and Ballads of Heinrich Heine,’ and in 1889 ‘The Song of the Bell, and other Translations from Schiller, Goethe, Uhland and Others,’ an anthology of modern German lyric poetry. No metrical or other difficulty is shirked by the translator, but there is a lack of precision and finish in the execution. A spirited translation of Friedrich Halm's (Baron von Münch-Bellighausen) ‘Gladiator of Ravenna’ (1854), an essentially theatrical type of German romantic drama, was printed for private circulation. It was reprinted in 1894 with ‘Madonna Pia’ (founded on the Marquis du Belloy's ‘La Malaria’ of 1853), ‘King René's Daughter,’ and ‘The Camp.’ Martin also translated the poems of Giacomo Leopardi in 1904.
Meanwhile, Martin engaged in literary labour of a different kind. In 1866, while he was occupied with his memoir of Aytoun, his friend (Sir) Arthur Helps [q. v.] recommended him to Queen Victoria to write the biography of the Prince Consort. The life had originally been entrusted to General Charles Grey, the Queen's private secretary, and Grey had published in 1868 ‘The Early Years of the Prince Consort,’ only bringing the memoir as far as the Prince's marriage. Grey's other occupations prevented him from carrying the work further, and Helps's health unfitted him for the task. Martin's knowledge of German and his literary facility were his main recommendations. He was not personally known to the Queen, nor had he been acquainted with the Prince. He frankly stated his doubts and difficulties in a letter for the Queen's eye, but in an interview with her on 14 Nov. he accepted the task on his own condition—viz. that he should have a free hand as to both the time and the manner in which the work was carried out (Queen Victoria as I knew her, p. 19). The Queen, who undertook that the sifting of the documents to be placed at his disposal should be the business of herself, Grey, and Helps, placed in Martin the fullest trust. When on 10 Jan. 1868 Martin, while staying at Osborne, was confined to his room through a serious accident on the ice, his wife was invited to the palace and remained there for three weeks. Thenceforth the Queen showed Martin's wife as well as himself unceasing kindness. With him the Queen maintained until her death a very confidential intercourse and correspondence.
The first volume of the Prince's biography was published in 1875, and carried the narrative to 1848. The second volume, which appeared in 1876, largely dealt with the attacks on the Prince in the press, and his vindication in both houses of parliament. The third volume, which covered the period of the Crimean war, came out in Dec. 1877, when English relations with Russia were again strained. Martin's description of the influence which the Prince had exerted against that power and Prussia provoked a controversy as to the authority of the Crown in the constitution; Henry Dunckley [q. v. Suppl. I], writing under the pseudonym of ‘Verax’ in the ‘Manchester Examiner and Times’ and the ‘Manchester Guardian,’ vigorously questioned the right of the Crown to intervene in matters of policy (cf. his ‘The Crown and the Cabinet,’ 1878). Of Martin's fourth volume (1879) the Indian Mutiny formed the political background; and vol. v. brought to a close in 1880 the biographer's devoted labour of thirteen years (see his letter in Queen Victoria as I knew her, p. 8). The biography abounds in letters and papers previously unpublished and is an especially valuable contribution to current diplomatic history. Though the view taken of the Prince is highly favourable, Martin's tone is essentially candid and free from courtly adulation. Martin's services were recognised by the Queen's bestowal on him of the honours of C.B. in 1878 and of K.C.B. in 1880. A cheap edition of the biography (six parts at 6d. each) came out in 1881–2.
Martin followed up his 'Life of the Prince Consort' with a second effort in political biography, 'A Life of Lord Lyndhurst. From Letters and Papers in possession of his Family' (1883). It is an attempt to correct the unpleasing impression given of Lyndhurst by Lord Campbell in 'Lives of the Chancellors' (1869, vol. viii.), and although Martin's refutation wearies by its length he paints a successful portrait.
in 1881 Martin was elected lord rector of St. Andrews University, and in Oct. he delivered his inaugural address on education. During that and the next year some time was spent in Italy. In 1887 Martin and his wife made a final journey abroad to the Riviera. Until that period, when Lady Martin's health began to fail, Martin and she continued their social activities in London and Wales. In their London home between 1882 and 1887 they and their friends, including Henry Irving and Canon Ainger, took part in readings of Shakespeare, whose excellence attracted attention. The summer and autumn were still spent at Bryntysilio, where Robert Browning and other literary friends frequently sought them out. In 1896 Queen Victoria sent Martin, on his 80th birthday, the insignia of K.C.V.O. Lady Martin died at Bryntysilio on 31 Oct. 1898, and Sir Theodore devoted himself to her biography, which appeared in 1900. In 1901 he issued for private circulation 'Queen Victoria as I knew her,' which was published in 1908. His pen continued active till near the end. His last contribution to 'Blackwood' was an article on Dante's 'Paolo and Francesca,' published in 1907. For many years he was an active worker on the Royal Literary Fund, becoming a member of the fund in 1855, an auditor in 1862, a member of the general committee in 1868, and registrar in 1871. He resigned the office of registrar and his seat on the committee in 1907, but was re-elected to the committee next month. In succession to James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps [q. v.] he became a trustee of Shakespeare's birthplace on 6 May 1889, and retained the office till his death. He was a frequent visitor to Stratford-on-Avon, and placed in the church there in 1900, in memory of his wife, a marble pulpit, designed by G. F. Bodley, R.A. In 1906 he celebrated his 90th birthday at Bryntysilio. He died there on 18 Aug. 1909, and was buried, by the side of his wife, in Brompton cemetery. He left no issue.
Martin's industry — literary as well as professional — was exceptional. In all his work he wrote everything to the last in his own hand, never employing an amanuensis. His literary versatility — both in prose and verse — has within its limits been rarely surpassed. His varied translations show unusual receptivity of mind. As a biographer he accomplished, in the 'Life of the Prince Consort,' an important piece of work which needed doing, and he did it well. A staunch conservative, he grew impatient of innovation in his old age. Although a rigorous man of business, he was generous in private charity, especially to unsuccessful authors. His romantic devotion to his wife and his faith in her genius are the most distinctive features of his career.
A portrait by Thomas Duncan of Martin at the age of ten is in the National Portrait Gallery at Edinburgh. A second portrait, painted in 1878 by James Archer, R.S.A., was presented by Sir Theodore to Mr. William Blackwood, and hangs in the 'Old Saloon' in Blackwood & Sons' publishing house at Edinburgh, among those of many other early contributors to 'Maga.' A third portrait, by Robert Herdman, R.S.A., also belongs to Mr. Blackwood. A fourth painting, by F. Dixon, was presented by Martin in 1905 to his partner, Mr. Bernard Hicks, and a fifth painting, by J. Mordecai, was given by him in 1907 to his partner Mr. W. F. Wakeford. Lord Ronald Gower, one of Martin's many friends, presented to the National Portrait Gallery a sixth painting, by F. M. Bennett, which is a bad likeness; it hangs in the east wing. In 1873 a crayon portrait was drawn by Rudolf Lehmann, and a caricature by 'Spy' appeared in 'Vanity Fair' in 1877.
[The Times, the Scotsman, and Western Morning News, 19 Aug. 1909; private information I personal knowledge.]