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Barrow
Barrow
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his royal highness the Duke of Clarence; having reason to believe that I have given satisfaction to all and every one of these naval administrations.’ In 1817 Barrow published an account of the movement of icebergs into the Atlantic, and proposed to Lord Melville a plan of two voyages for the discovery of the North-west Passage—a proposal notable in the history of Arctic exploration, and the origin of some of the noblest exploits of seamanship in our century. In 1821 the honorary degree of LL.D. was conferred on him by the university of Edinburgh. In 1827 the Duke of Clarence was lord high admiral, and holding a grand review at Spithead, when ‘a telegraph message from London was handed to Admiral Stopford, which, in the absence of his key, he was not prepared to make out. The duke impatiently called out, “Where is Barrow?” He was at his elbow, and the admiral handed him the message, with “What is it? quick, quick!” “Sir,” was the reply, “it is brief, but painfully distressing—Mr. Canning is dead.”’ After the duke became king he made Barrow a baronet in the year 1835. When Sir James Graham was at the admiralty, and the consolidation of the civil departments of the navy was accomplished, Mr. Barrow was his right-hand man, and drew up a plan for the better management of the dockyards, which was adopted. In 1848 he resigned his office, receiving, on this occasion, the strongest expressions of regard from, among others, Sir Robert Peel. He was asked by Sidney Herbert to sit for his portrait, to be hung up in the room of the secretary to the admiralty. But what delighted him most of all was the present of a service of plate by officers engaged in Arctic discovery. More than any other man not actually employed in its operations, he had contributed to the splendid results obtained in the nineteenth century. Point Barrow, Cape Barrow, and Barrow Straits, in the polar seas, attest the estimation in which his friendship was held by the explorers of his time; and in the interior of the Ulverston monument their names are appropriately engraven with his own. On retiring Sir John asked for favours for only two men. One was Richardson, Franklin's brave comrade, who was knighted. The other was Fitzjames, who was made a captain, and whose name is also inseparable from Franklin's.

Sir John Barrow's ‘Autobiography’ contains an interesting historical sketch of the ‘Quarterly Review,’ and in a supplementary chapter, published after his death, he gives an account of the several presidents of the Royal Geographical Society, of which he may fairly claim to have been the founder, though the idea of such a society was not of his conception. He proposed the formation of it at the Raleigh Club in 1830, and took the chair at all its first meetings. During his long life, half of which was spent in active physical exercise, half in sedentary occupations, Sir John only once (when half poisoned in China) consulted a doctor before he was eighty. His singularly fortunate life was ended by as fortunate a death. After being engaged in literary labour on the previous day, he died suddenly and without suffering on 23 Nov. 1848, in the eighty-fifth year of his age, and was buried in Pratt Street, Camden Town. A marble obelisk marks the spot.

Few men have displayed such combined activity of mind and body as Sir John Barrow. The subsidiary enterprises on which he expended his inexhaustible energy might have been the main occupations of another man's life. When he was at the Cape he suggested and procured a plan for supplying Cape Town with water from Table Mountain. Previously there had been a daily concourse of many hundred slaves, rioting and fighting for the only water procurable. When quite a boy he drew up a plan for a Sunday school at Ulverston, and, as there was neither newspaper nor printing press in the town, wrote it out and stuck it up on the market-cross the night before market-day. He wrote 195 articles in the ‘Quarterly Review,’ on almost every subject except politics, the most generally interesting being on Arctic and Chinese subjects; about twelve in the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica;’ one in the ‘Edinburgh Review;’ a ‘Life of Lord Macartney’ (1807); ‘Travels in South Africa,’ 2 vols. (1801–4); ‘Travels in China’ (1804); ‘A Voyage to Cochin China’ (1806); a ‘Life of Lord Howe’ (1838), of which Southey said he had never read any book of the kind so judiciously composed; in the ‘Family Library’ ‘An Account of the Mutiny of the Bounty’ (1831) and ‘A Life of Peter the Great;’ ‘A Chronological History of Arctic Voyages’ (1818) and ‘Voyages of Discovery and Research within the Arctic Regions’ (1846). Of these writings he modestly says, ‘Sunt bona, sunt quædam mediocria, sunt mala plura.’ In addition to them and to his ‘Autobiography’ he prepared for the press innumerable manuscripts of travellers in all parts of the globe.

[Autobiography; Staunton's Memoir of Sir John Barrow, edited by John Barrow (1852); Private letter from Colonel John Barrow, Sir John Barrow's son; information collected at Ulverston.]

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