Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Rawlinson, George
RAWLINSON, GEORGE (1812–1902), canon of Canterbury, writer on ancient history, born on 23 Nov. 1812, at Chadlington, Oxfordshire, was third son of Abraham Tysack Rawlinson by his wife Eliza Eudocia Albinia, daughter of Henry Creswicke, of Morton, Worcester. Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson [q. v.], was his brother. Educated at Swansea grammar school and at Ealing school, he matriculated in 1834 at Trinity College, Oxford, as a commoner, and in 1838 took a first class in the final school of classics, graduating B.A. in that year and proceeding M.A. in 1841. He played for Oxford in the first cricket match with Cambridge in 1836 and was president of the Union in 1840. He was elected fellow of Exeter College in 1840 and tutor in 1841. In 1841 and 1842 he was ordained deacon and priest, and gained the Denyer prize for a theological essay twice — in 1842 and 1843. In 1846 he vacated his tutorship on his marriage, and for a short time (1846–7) was curate of Merton, Oxfordshire. But he soon found ways of renewing his activities and interests in Oxford. He served on the committee of the Tutors' Association, a body formed to consider the proposals of the University Commission of 1852, with Church, Marriott, Osborne Gordon, Mansel, and others. In 1853, with Dean Lake, he laid before Gladstone the views of the Tutors' Association, and thus had an important influence in shaping the Oxford University Act of 1854. Gladstone's interest in Rawlinson may be dated from this interview. In the newly organised examination of classical moderations Rawlinson was a moderator from 1852 to 1854, with Scott, Conington, Mansel, and others. He was an examiner in the final classical school in 1854, 1856, 1867 ; and in theology in 1874. In 1859 Rawlinson succeeded Mansel as Bampton lecturer, his subject being 'The Historical Evidences of the truth of the Scripture Records stated anew, with special reference to the doubts and discoveries of modern times' (1859 ; 2nd edit. 1860). In 1861 he was appointed Camden professor of ancient history. He held that post till 1889, and it left him leisure for writing and research. His interests in Oxford were not wholly academic. He was a pioneer in the attempt to establish friendly and useful connections between the university and the town. From 1860 to 1863 he was a guardian of the poor ; he was a perpetual curator of the University Galleries, and an original member and first treasurer of the Oxford Political Economy Club. From 1859 to 1870 he held the office of classical examiner Tinder the council of military education.
In 1872 the crown appointed him canon of Canterbury. Indistinctness of speech interfered with his efficiency as a speaker and preacher, so that Gladstone's choice must be taken as a recognition of his learning, broadmindedness, and administrative capacity. His interest in Canterbury Cathedral was shown by valuable gifts and more particularly on the occasion of his golden wedding in 1896 by the presentation of a gold and jewelled paten and chalice. He was proctor in convocation for Canterbury from 1873 to 1898. In 1888, the year before he resigned the Camden professorship, he was preferred by the chapter of his cathedral to the rich rectory of All Hallows, Lombard Street.
Early in his career Rawlinson devoted himself to the preparation of an elaborate English edition of Herodotus. He arranged that his brother. Sir Henry Rawlinson, and Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson, should contribute special articles on historical, archaeological and racial questions, while he himself prepared the translation with short notes and other adjuncts of scholarship. The edition was dedicated to Gladstone and superseded all other editions at Oxford for many years ; it was entitled 'The History of Herodotus. A new English version, edited with copious notes and appendices. Embodying the chief results, historical and ethnographical, which have been obtained in the progress of Cuneiform and Hieroglyphical discovery. By G. Rawlinson . . . assisted by Sir H. Rawlinson and Sir J. G. Wilkinson' (4 vols. 1858-60; 2nd edit. 1862; 3rd edit. 1875). An abridgement in two volumes by A. T. Grant appeared in 1897, and the translation, edited by G. H. Blakeney, was reprinted in 'Everyman's Library' (2 vols.) in 1910. Pursuing his researches in this field, Rawlinson summarised for his generation in scholarly form the results of research and excavation in the East, in a series of works of considerable constructive ability which have hardly yet been superseded in English. The first was 'The Five Great Monarchies of the ancient Eastern World ; or the history, geography, and antiquities of Chaldsea, Assyria, Babylonia, Media, and Persia. . . .' (4 vols. 1862-7 ; 2nd edit., 3 vols. 1871). This was followed by 'The Sixth Great Oriental Monarchy ; or the geography, history, and antiquities of Parthia' (1873) ; to which was added 'The Seventh Great Oriental Monarchy ; or the geography, history, and antiquities of the Sassanian or New Persian Empire' (1876). Supplementary to this series were 'The History of Ancient Egypt' (2 vols. 1881) ; and 'The History of Phoenicia' (1889).
Rawlinson was the champion of a learned orthodoxy which opposed the extremes of the literary higher critics by an appeal to the monuments and the evidence of archæology. In 1861 he contributed to 'Aids to Faith,' the volume of essays written to counteract 'Essays and Reviews,' a paper 'On the genuineness and authenticity of the Pentateuch,' and he published in the same year 'The Contrasts of Christianity with Heathen and Jewish Systems, or nine sermons preached before the University of Oxford.' In 1871, at the request of the Christian Evidence Society, he delivered a lecture on 'The Alleged Historical Difficulties of the Old and New Testaments,' which appeared in the volume entitled 'Modern Scepticism.' As a commentator and expositor Rawlinson wrote for the 'Speaker's Commentary' on Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and the two Books of the Maccabees ; and for Ellicott's 'Old Testament Commentary for English Readers' on Exodus. His last work was the life of his brother, entitled ' A Memoir of Major-general Sir H. C. Rawlinson. . . . with an introduction by Field-Marshal Lord Roberts of Kandahar' (1898).
Rawlinson was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a corresponding member of the Royal Academy of Turin and of the American Philosophical Society. His health failed two years before his death, which took place suddenly from syncope on 6 Oct. 1902. He was buried in Holywell cemetery at Oxford. A portrait by his son-in-law, Wilson Forster, was presented to Trinity College, Oxford, in 1899.
Rawlinson married in 1846 Louisa, second daughter of Sir Robert Alexander Chermside [q. v.], and had issue four sons and five daughters.
Besides the works already mentioned, large contributions to Dr. Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible,' pamphlets among 'Present Day Tracts,' and numerous sermons, Rawlinson published: 1. 'A Manual of Ancient History from the earliest times to the Fall of the Western Empire,' 1869. 2. 'Historical Illustrations of the Old Testament,' 1871. 3 and 4 (for the R.T.S.): 'The Origin of Nations,' 1877; 'The Religions of the Ancient World,' 1882. 5. 'St. Paul in Damascus and Arabia,' 1877. 6. 'Egypt and Babylon from Scripture and profane sources,' 1885. 7, 8, 9 (for the 'Story of the Nations' series): 'Parthia,' 1885; 'Phoenicia,' 1885; 'Ancient Egypt,' 1887. 10. 'A Sketch of Universal History,' 1887. 11. 'Biblical Topography,' 1887. 12, 13, 14 (for the ’Men of the Bible' series): 'Moses, his Life and Times,' 1887; 'Kings of Israel and Judah,' 1890; 'Isaac and Jacob, their Lives and Times,' 1890. 15. Large contributions to the 'Pulpit Commentary.' 16. The article on 'Herodotus' in the 9th edition of the 'Encyclopædia Britannica.'
[The Times, 7 Oct. 1902; Athenæum, 11 Oct. 1902; Men and Women of the Time, 1899; Crockford's Clerical Directory.]