Merivale, Charles (DNB01)
MERIVALE, CHARLES (1808–1893), historian and dean of Ely, second son of John Herman Merivale [q. v.] by Louisa Heath, daughter of Henry Joseph Thomas Drury [q. v.], was born at No. 14 East Street, Red Lion Square, London, on 8 March 1808. His father being a Unitarian and his mother a churchwoman, he was brought up without any very definite dogmatic instruction, but in an atmosphere of sober practical piety. He was carefully taught by his mother, and took kindly to learning, especially to Roman history, which, with his brother Herman, he converted into a sort of game which they played with their hoops in Queen Square. He also attended for a short time a private day school kept by one Dr. Lloyd, at No. 1 Keppel Street, Bloomsbury, and was afterwards grounded in Greek by his father. In January 1818 he was entered at Harrow, where he was contemporary with Charles Wordsworth [q. v.] (afterwards Bishop of St. Andrews), Richard Chenevix Trench [q. v.] (afterwards Archbishop of Dublin), and Henry Edward (afterwards Cardinal) Manning [q. v.] There he wrote an immense quantity of Latin verse, committed to memory the Eclogues and Georgics of Virgil, the whole of Catullus and Juvenal, and the greater part of Lucan. For relaxation he read Southey's 'History of Brazil,' an achievement which gave him courage to attack Mill's 'History of British India,' when it afterwards became his duty to do so. He also passed muster in the cricket field, and in 1824 played in the match against Eton. An Indian writership being offered, he was removed in that year to Haileybury College, where he took prixes in classics and Persian, and was first in the class list when a casual perusal of Gibbon's 'Autobiography' awakened conflicting interests. His bent was at once fixed for the life of a student, the prospect of an Indian career became manifestly odious to him, and his father consented to transfer him to Cambridge. The writership which be should have taken was given to John Laird Muir Lawrence [q. v.]
At Cambridge, accordingly, in the autumn of 1826, Merivale matriculated, being entered at St. John's College. He graduated B.A. (senior optime and fourth classic) in 1830, having in the preceding year gained the Browne medals for Latin verse, and proceeded M.A. in 1833 and B.D. in 1840. He also rowed for the university in the first contest with Oxford at Henley in 1829, and in the following summer accomplished the feat of walking from Cambridge to London in one day. In his early graduate days he belonged to the coterie of so-called 'Apostles,' whose symposia are celebrated by Tennyson in 'In Memoriam' (lxxxvi), and to a smaller society called the 'Hermathenæ.' Among his especial friends were Henry Alford [q. v.] (afterwards Dean of Canterbury), William Hepworth Thompson [q. v.] (afterwards Master of Trinity), Joseph Williams Blakesley [q. v.] (afterwards Dean of Lincoln), James Spedding [q. v.], and John Mitchell Kemble [q. v.], the son of the actor. He was at this time a liberal in politics, and interest in the impending Belgian revolution drew him to the Netherlands in the summer of 1831. On his return to England he trifled with Anglo-Saxon, Saint-Simonianism, and Freemasonry, but on his election to a fellowship in 1833 took holy orders and settled down to historical work. In the reaction which followed the Parliamentary Reform Act of 1832 he went over to the conservative party, to which he thereafter steadfastly adhered ; but the high toryism of St. John's College proved uncongenial, and he was reconciled to continued residence there only by his failure in 1835 to obtain the chair of classics at King's College, London, and subsequent disappointments. Meanwhile he studied German, travelled in Bavaria and Austria (1836), and felt a growing interest in Roman history. Though by no means an enthusiastic, he was a conscientious and efficient, tutor, and in 1836 and the following year was one of the examiners for the classical tripos. His ecclesiastical views were of the moderate type, and the four sermons which he delivered as select preacher to the university in November 1838 were warmly commended by Whewell, and led to his appointment in the following year as select preacher at Whitehall. As a scholar he was more of a Latinist than a Grecian, and little short of a devotee to Latin verse composition. He had no speculative interests, and though he had studied political economy under Malthus at Haileybury, he entertained no respect for that science, and remained throughout life a convinced protectionist. Nevertheless, in matters academic he was a moderate reformer, and helped to establish the law, moral science, and physics triposes, which, however, he afterwards characterised as 'sickly growths.' He was naturally inclined to a recluse life, and, even when fairly absorbed in the study of Roman history, was satisfied with a single brief visit to Rome in the autumn of 1845. The leisure necessary for his historical work he secured by accepting in 1848 the rectory of Lawford, Essex, with which he united the chaplaincy to the speaker (John Evelyn Denison) of the House of Commons from February 1863 until his preferment in November 1869 to the deanery of Ely. He was Hulsean lecturer in 1862, was reappointed select preacher at Whitehall in 1864, and in that and the following year delivered the Boyle lectures. In 1862 and 1871 he examined for the Indian civil service. In 1806 he received the honorary degree of D.C.L. from the university of Oxford.
Merivale made no figure in convocation, and after allowing himself to be added to the committee for the revision of the authorised version of the New Testament in February 1871, withdrew from it in the following October. He identified himself with no ecclesiastical party, abhorred polemics, and as a preacher was solid and judicious rather than eloquent. Though inclined to comprehension as the only means of averting the disruption of the church, he approved the Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874. His later years were spent in almost entire seclusion at Ely, where he enlarged the school and partially restored the cathedral. He also organised the commemoration in 1873 of the foundation of Ely Minster, of which he published an account, entitled 'St. Etheldreda Festival: Summary of Proceedings, with Sermons and Addresses at the Bissextenary Festival of St. Etheldreda at Ely, October 1873,' Ely, 1874, 4to. On 17 Feb. 1892 he had a slight attack of paralysis ; a second, towards the close of November 1893, was followed by his death on 27 Dec. His remains were interred in Ely cemetery, his monument with epitaph by Dr. Butler, master of Trinity, was placed in Ely Cathedral. He married, on 2 July 1850, Judith Mary Sophia, youngest daughter of George Frere of Lincoln's Inn and Twy ford House, Bishop's Stortford, by whom he left issue.
Merivale contributed the version of 'Der Kampf mit dem Drachen' to his father's translation of the minor poems of Schiller (1844) ; but thenceforth his German studies were subordinate to his historical work. He was collaborating on a 'History of Rome,' projected by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, when the fortunate failure of the enterprise set him free to recast and continue the work independently and with other publishers. Such was the origin of his 'History of the Romans under the Empire,' London, 1850-64, 7 vols. 8vo ; new edit. 1865, 8 vols. The sterling merits of this work, which embraces the period from the rise of the Gracchi to the death of Marcus Aurelius, thus forming a prelude to Gibbon's 'Decline and Fall,' are uncontested, while its recognised blemish, neglect of epigraphical sources, was hardly to be avoided in the circumstances in which it was written. The vogue of the first three volumes was such as to induce him to issue a popular epitome of them in one volume, entitled ' The Fall of the Roman Republic : a short History of the last Century of the Commonwealth,' London, 1853, 8vo; 5th edit. 1863. He also edited as parerga 'C. Sallustii Crispi Catilina et Jugurtha,' London, 1852, 8vo, and 'An Account of the Life and Letters of Cicero, translated from the German of Bernhard Rudolf Abeken,' London, 1854, 12mo, and in 1857 contributed the article on Niebuhr to the 'Encyclopædia Britannica.' About the same time he formed a connection with the 'Saturday Review,' which lasted for some years. His 'Boyle Lectures' 1. 'The Conversion of the Roman Empire,' and 2. 'The Conversion of the Northern Nations' appeared in 1864 and 1866 respectively (London, 8vo). More definitely apologetic was his lecture for the Christian Evidence Society, entitled ' The Contrast between Pagan and Christian Society,' London, 1872, 8vo. His 'General History of Rome from the Foundation of the City to the Fall of Augustulus,' London, 1875, 8vo, is a convenient epitome of a vast subject : an abridgment by C. Puller appeared in 1877. 'The Roman Triumvirates' (Epochs of Ancient History Ser.), London, 1876, 8vo ; 'St. Paul at Rome' (S.P.C.K.), London, 1877, 8vo; 'The Conversion of the Continental Teutons' (S. P. C. K.), London, 1878, 8vo ; and 'Four Lectures on some Epochs of Early Church History delivered in Ely Cathedral,' London, 1879, 8vo, complete the tale of his historical and apologetic writings.
Merivale's prize poems are printed in 'Prolusiones Academicæ,' Cambridge, 1828, iii. 27, 35. His 'Keatsii Hyperionis Libri Tres, Latine reddidit C. Merivale,' London, 1863, 8vo; 2nd edit., with a collection of minor pieces from 'Arundines Cami' in 1882, evinces the assiduity with which in after life he cultivated his unusual gift for Latin verse. His 'Homer's Iliad in English Rhymed Verse,' London, 1869, 8vo, did not add to his reputation. His university sermons, 'The Church of England a faithful Witness of Christ, not destroying the Law, but fulfilling it,' appeared at Cambridge in 1839, 8vo, and were followed by 'Sermons preached in the Chapel Royal at Whitehall,' Cambridge, 1841, 8vo. He also published three separate discourses, besides a pamphlet entitled 'Open Fellowships ; a Plea for submitting College Fellowships to University Competition ;' and a memoir of his brother, Herman Merivale, C.B., reprinted from the ‘Transactions’ of the Devonshire Association for the advancement of Science, Literature, and Art, 1884, 8vo. His ‘Autobiography,’ a fragment reaching no further than his ordination, was edited with his epistolary remains by his daughter, Judith Anne Merivale, for private circulation, in 1898 and published in 1899, London, 8vo.
[Autobiography and Letters above mentioned; Tennyson's Life, i. 47; Charles Wordsworth's Annals of my Early Life, p. 56; Goulburn's Life of Dean Burgon, ii. 139; Life and Letters of Dean Alford; Gent. Mag. 1850, ii. 423; Ann. Reg. 1863 ii. 358, 1869 ii. 276; Times, 28 Dec. 1893; Guardian, 10 Jan. 1894, 22 Nov. 1899; Athenæum, 30 Dec. 1893, 17 Sept. 1898; Academy, 21 Oct. 1899.]