Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Michell, Richard

MICHELL, RICHARD (1805–1877), first principal of Hertford College, Oxford, third son of Edward Michell of Bruton and Ann Clements of Wyke Champflower, Somerset, was born at Bruton in 1805, and was educated at Bruton grammar school. He proceeded in 1820 to Wadham College, Oxford, where his uncle, Dr. Richard Michell (1766-1826), was a fellow of some distinction. Obtaining a first-class in lit. hum. (B.A. 1824, M.A. 1827, B.D. 1836, and D.D. 1868), Michell became a remarkably successful private tutor. Many of his pupils afterwards distinguished themselves in the learned professions or politics, among them being Lords Selborne and Sherbrooke, Bishops Charles Wordsworth, Fraser, and Pelham, Deans Church and Liddell, and Professor J. A. Froude. At the previously unprecedented age of twenty-four he was appointed an examiner in the school of lit. hum., an office which he frequently held afterwards, and was elected in 1830 fellow of Lincoln College, where he acted as bursar in 1832, and as tutor from 1834 to 1848. In 1839 he was elected in convocation, by a very large majority, the first prælector of logic, on the revival of the public teaching of that subject. This he held for ten years. In 1849 he delivered the Bampton lectures. His subject, 'The Nature and Comparative Value of the Christian Evidences,' he treated with good sense and felicitous diction. In 1849 also Michell was appointed public orator of the university, and he retained that office till his death. His orations delivered at the annual act or encaenia, alternately with the professor of poetry, were notable for their excellent latinity and conservative sentiment. They were published in 1878, soon after his death, by his eldest son, Mr. E. B. Michell, with valuable notes. The work forms a sort of running commentary on the history of the university for nearly thirty years. In 1856 Michell became rector of South Moreton, Berkshire, but did not reside there. On the formation of the new hebdomadal council under the act for reforming the university in 1854, Michell was elected to a seat, and retained it by frequent re-elections till 1872.

In 1848 Michell became vice-principal of Magdalen Hall, now Hertford College, of which Dr. John David Macbride [q. v.] was then principal. Michell succeeded William Jacobson [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Chester, who had been appointed regius professor of divinity. The hall, under the guidance of these three remarkable officers, held an important place in the university, and sent forth during the sixty years of its existence many distinguished men, but its very limited staff was too small for its numbers and position. In 1868 Michell succeeded Dr. Macbride in the principalship, and he then began to agitate for the conversion of the hall into a college. The design assumed a definite shape in 1873, was approved by convocation, and the expenses required for passing the bill through parliament paid by subscription among the members of the hall. Before, however, the act was passed Michell received a munificent offer from Mr. T. C. Baring, M.P., to endow the college with a large number of fellowships and scholarships, mostly limited to members of the church of England. This offer was accepted, and the new foundation took the name of Hertford College. He became the first principal of the new college in 1874, and died 29 March 1877.

Michell was in politics a tory of the old school, but by no means inclined to obstruct well-considered projects of reform. In religion he was more or less of the evangelical school. In person he was of a commanding figure. There is a good picture of him in Hertford College, a copy of one by Edis, R.A., presented to Mrs. Michell by her husband's pupils about 1860. In 1841 he married the daughter of Thomas Blair, esq., of Walton Grove, Surrey, by whom he had several children.

[Personal knowledge; Orationes Crewianæ, 1849-1875; Oxford Univ. Cal. 1892; Foster's Alumni Oxon.]

M. B.