Head, Edmund Walker (DNB00)

HEAD, Sir EDMUND WALKER (1805–1868), baronet, colonial governor, only son of the Rev. Sir John Head, bart., M.A., of Boughton, perpetual curate of Egerton, Kent, and rector of Rayleigh, Essex, by Jane, only child and heiress of Thomas Walker of London, was born in 1805. He was educated at Winchester, and matriculated at Oriel College, Oxford, 11 June 1823. He took a first class in classics, and graduated B.A. in 1827, and M.A. in 1830. He was elected to a fellowship at Merton College in 1830, which he retained till 1837, and at the same time was appointed principal of the postmasters and tutor, and in 1839 was a university examiner. In 1835 he entered at Lincoln's Inn, but was never called to the bar. In 1831 he formed a close friendship with George Cornewall Lewis, through Edward Villiers, Lewis's brother-in-law, which lasted till Lewis's death. They travelled together in Germany in 1835, maintained a constant and close correspondence, and after Lewis's death Head in 1864 edited his ‘Essays on the Administrations of Great Britain.’ In 1836 he was appointed an assistant poor-law commissioner; Lord Normanby was urged to promote him to be a full commissioner, but shrank from doing so for party reasons. At length, in November 1841, Sir James Graham, having satisfied himself of Head's fitness, disregarded party considerations and gave him the appointment (Greville Memoirs, 2nd ser. ii. 60). An article of his on ‘The Law of Settlement’ was printed in the ‘Edinburgh Review,’ lxxxvii. 451, and when the law of assessment was amended in 1865 was reprinted and circulated by the government. In October 1847 Lord Grey offered him the governorship of New Brunswick, worth 3,000l. a year, which Head accepted, and, having filled the post with much success, was appointed, in September 1854, to the highest office in the colonial service, the governor-generalship of Canada. He visited England in 1857, and was sworn in a privy councillor on 28 Aug., returning to Canada at the end of the year. In 1861 he retired, returned home in November, and in the following year was appointed a civil service commissioner. He died suddenly of heart disease at his house in Eaton Square on 28 Jan. 1868. The baronetcy became extinct at his death. Ticknor says of him: ‘He was one of the most accurate and accomplished scholars I have ever known. … He had been a good deal in Spain and could repeat more poetry, Greek, Latin, German, and Spanish than any person I ever knew.’ He was a K.C.B. and a F.R.S., and was made a D.C.L. of Oxford 2 July 1862. He succeeded his father as eighth baronet 4 Jan. 1838, and married, in November of the same year, Anna Maria, daughter of the Rev. John Yorke, by whom he had one son (1842–1859) and two daughters.

Head edited a translation of Kugler's ‘Handbook of Painting of the German, Dutch, Spanish, and French Schools,’ and thinking the work meagrely done, he wrote a separate handbook of those schools, published in London, 1848, 12mo, and subsequently republished as an additional volume to Kugler's handbook. He published in 1856 a grammatical essay called ‘Shall and Will,’ and annexed to the second edition in 1858 two additional essays from the ‘Philological Museum,’ 1833, and the ‘Classical Museum,’ 1840. He was the author of the review of Cornewall Lewis's ‘Dialogue on the best form of Government’ in the ‘Edinburgh Review,’ No. 241, of ‘The Story of Viga Glum,’ translated from the Icelandic, 1866, 8vo, and of a volume of ballads and poems collected from ‘Fraser's Magazine,’ and published in 1868 after his death.

[Ann. Reg. 1868; Cornewall Lewis's Letters, preface; Ticknor's Life and Letters; Foster's Alumni Oxonienses; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. i. 121, 180.]

J. A. H.