Osborne, Sidney Godolphin (DNB00)
OSBORNE, Lord SIDNEY GODOLPHIN (1808–1889), philanthropist, third son of Francis Godolphin Osborne, baron Godolphin (1777–1850), by Elizabeth Charlotte Eden, daughter of William, first baron Auckland, was born at Stapleford in Cambridgeshire on 5 Feb. 1808. He was a direct descendant of Godolphin, the fellow-minister of the Duke of Marlborough, and when in 1859 his elder brother, George Godolphin, succeeded his cousin, Francis Godolphin D'Arcy Osborne, as eighth Duke of Leeds, he obtained the rank of a duke's son. He was educated at Rugby and at Brasenose College, Oxford, whence he graduated B.A. in 1830, and, having taken orders, was appointed rector of Stoke-Poges in Buckinghamshire in 1832. In 1841 he accepted the living of Durweston in Dorset, which was in the gift of Lord Portman, and he occupied that incumbency until 1875. He then resigned the benefice and retired to Lewes, where he died on 9 May 1889. He married in 1834 Emily, daughter of Pascoe Grenfell of Taplow Court, Buckinghamshire, and was thus brother-in-law of Charles Kingsley and James Anthony Froude. His wife died on 19 Dec. 1875, leaving two sons and two daughters.
Osborne is chiefly known in connection with the series of 'lay sermons' delivered from the pulpit of the 'Times' newspaper under the signature 'S. G. O.' A philanthropist of a militant and almost ferocious type, he was always lashing abuses and provoking controversy. But the value of much that he wrote is attested by the fact that it has gained in historical that which it has lost in controversial interest. In matters so diverse as free trade, education, sanitation, women's rights, cattle plague, and cholera, he was equally at home, and, generally speaking, in advance of his time. During the Crimean war he journeyed to the East, made an unofficial inspection of the hospitals under Miss Florence Nightingale's care, and published the results in 'Scutari and its Hospitals,' 1855. He was publicly thanked in parliament for his self-appointed task. On the Irish question, in which he took a special interest in consequence of his visit to the west of Ireland during the famine of 1849, he was a strong unionist, and in church matters he regarded sacerdotal claims with frank and cynical dislike. But his special interest was perhaps the agricultural labourer, of whom his knowledge was unrivalled, while his forecast of the villager's social and political emancipation and its results was remarkable for its acumen. The last letters of the series addressed to the 'Times,' extending from 1844 to 1888, were on the subject of the Whitechapel murders. A selection from the letters, which were justly said to be equally a profit and a credit to the writer and to the paper in which they appeared, was published, with a brief introduction, by Mr. Arnold White. 2 vols. London, 1888.
Osborne's other writings include:
- 'Gleanings in the West of Ireland,' 1850.
- 'Lady Eva: her last Days. A Tale,' 1851.
- 'Hints to the Charitable,' 1856.
- 'Hints for the Amelioration of the Moral Condition of a Village,' 1856.
- 'Letters on the Education of Young Children,' 1866.
[Letters of S. G. O., ed. Arnold White, 1888, with portrait; Ann. Register, 1889, p. 143; 'Times,' 10 May 1889; Saturday Review, 24 Jan. 1891; Illustrated London News, with portrait, 25 May 1889; Men of the Time. 12th edit.; Brit Mus. Cat.]