Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Wilkins, Augustus Samuel

WILKINS, AUGUSTUS SAMUEL (1843–1905), classical scholar, born in Enfield Road, Kingsland, London, N., on 20 Aug. 1843, was son of Samuel J. Wilkins, schoolmaster in Brixton, by his wife Mary Haslam of Thaxted, Essex. His parents were congregationalists. Educated at Bishop Stortford collegiate school, he then attended the lectures of Henry Malden [q. v.], professor of Greek, and of F. W. Newman [q. v. Suppl. I], professor of Latin, at University College, London. Entering St. John's College, Cambridge, with an open exhibition in October 1864, he became a foundation scholar in 1866, and won college prizes for English essays in 1865 and 1866, and the moral philosophy prize in 1868. He distinguished himself as a fluent speaker at the Union, and was president for Lent term, 1868. In the same year he graduated B.A. as fifth in the first class of the classical tripos. Both as an undergraduate and as a bachelor of arts he won the members' prize for the Latin essay, while his skill as a writer of English was attested by his three university prize essays—the Hulsean for 1868, the Burney for 1870, and the Hare for 1873, the respective subjects being ‘Christian and Pagan Ethics,’ ‘Phœnicia and Israel,’ and ‘National Education in Greece.’ All three were published: the first, which appeared in 1869 under the title of ‘The Light of the World,’ and quickly reached a second edition, was dedicated to James Baldwin Brown the younger [q. v.], congregational minister. The second prize essay (1871) was dedicated to James Fraser, bishop of Manchester, and the third (1873) to Connop Thirlwall, bishop of St. David's.

As a nonconformist, Wilkins was legally disqualified for a fellowship. When the religious disability was cancelled by the Tests Act of 1871, Wilkins was disqualified by marriage, nor was he helped by the removal of the second disability under the statutes of 1882, which rendered no one eligible who had taken his first degree more than ten years before.

In 1868 he took the M.A. degree in the University of London, receiving the gold medal for classics, and in the same year was appointed Latin lecturer at Owens College, Manchester, where he was promoted in the following year to the Latin professorship. For eight years he also lectured on comparative philology, and for many more he undertook the classes in Greek Testament criticism. In the University of London he was examiner in classics in 1884–6, and in Latin in 1887–90, and in 1894–9. He was highly successful as a popular lecturer on literary subjects in Manchester and in other large towns of Lancashire. He was of much service to education in Manchester outside Owens College, particularly as chairman of the Manchester Independent College, and of the council of the High School for Girls.

As professor, Wilkins proved a highly effective teacher and a valuable and stimulating member of the staff. ‘Within the college he was the unwearied champion of the claims of women to equal educational rights with men,’ and ‘an even more vigorous champion of the establishment of a theological department in the university,’ both of which causes were crowned with success. In 1903, after thirty-four years' tenure of the Latin professorship in Manchester, a weakness of the heart compelled him to resign, but he was appointed to the new and lighter office of professor of classical literature.

On 26 July 1905 he died at the seaside village of Llandrillo-yn-Rhos, in North Wales, and was buried in the cemetery of Colwyn Bay. In 1870 he married Charlotte, the second daughter of W. Field of Bishop Stortford; she survived him with a daughter and three sons. His portrait, painted by the Hon. John Collier, was presented to the University of Manchester by his friends in 1904.

As a writer Wilkins did good service by editing Cicero's rhetorical works and by introducing to English readers the results of German investigations in scholarship, philology, and ancient history. In 1868 he translated Piderit's German notes on ‘Cicero De Oratore,’ lib. i., and with E. B. England, G. Curtius's ‘Principles of Greek Etymology’ and his ‘Greek Verb.’ Wilkins's chief independent work was his full edition of ‘Cicero De Oratore,’ lib. i.–iii. (Oxford, 1879–1892). A critical edition of the text of the whole of Cicero's rhetorical works followed in 1903. He also issued compact and lucid commentaries on Cicero's ‘Speeches against Catiline’ (1871), and the speech ‘De Imperio Gnæi Pompeii’ (1879), and on Horace's ‘Epistles’ (1885); he contributed to Postgate's ‘Corpus Poëtarum Latinorum’ a critical text of the ‘Thebais’ and ‘Achilleis’ of Statius (1904); and he produced compendious primers of ‘Roman Antiquities’ (1877) and ‘Roman Literature’ (1890), the first of which was translated into French, as well as a book on Roman education (Cambridge, 1905). In the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica,’ 9th edit., he wrote on the Greek and Latin languages; in Smith's ‘Dictionary of Antiquities,’ 3rd edit., on Roman antiquities, and in ‘Companion to Greek Studies’ (Cambridge, 1904) on Greek education. He joined H. J. Roby in preparing an Elementary Latin Grammar in 1893. Wilkins dedicated his edition of the ‘De Oratore’ to the University of St. Andrews, which conferred on him an honorary degree in 1882; he received the same distinction at Dublin in 1892, and took the degree of Litt.D. at Cambridge in 1885.

[Obituary notice (with complete bibliography) by the present writer, with full extracts from other notices, in The Eagle, xxvii. (1905), 69–84; see also Miss Sara A. Burstall's The Story of the Manchester High School for Girls, 1871–1911 (1911), pp. 148 seq.]

J. E. S.