Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/214

This page has been validated.

In 1840 Buckland was elected president of the Geological Society for the second time, and in 1848 he received from the hands of Sir Henry De la Beche the Wollaston medal, the highest honour known in geological science. In reply to the address of the president, Buckland expressed his conviction of the high destiny of his science, and he spoke of geologists ‘whose names are inscribed on the annals of the physical history of the globe,’ concluding with some remarks on the incompleteness of human knowledge, of the shortness of life when compared with the vastness of the work upon which the mind of man should be employed.

Shortly after this date Buckland suffered from a mental disease which debarred him from attempting further work. He died 15 Aug. 1856, regretted by all who had listened to his eloquence, or who had been charmed by the strange truths which he had gathered from the works of nature.

[Proceedings of the Royal Society, viii. 264; Philosophical Transactions; Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, 1817 to 1855; Geikie's Life of Sir R. Murchison, 1875; Zoological Society's Journal, v. 1832–4; Thomson's Annals of Philosophy, iv. 1822.]

R. H-t.

BUCKLE, HENRY THOMAS (1821–1862), historian of civilisation, was born 24 Nov. 1821. The Buckle family had long been settled in London. An ancestor, Sir Cuthbert Buckle, originally of Burgh in Cumberland, was lord mayor of London in 1593. Thomas Henry, father of Henry Thomas, born 6 Oct. 1779, belonged to a firm of shipowners, Buckle, Bagster, & Buckle. In 1811 he married Jane Middleton of the Yorkshire Middletons, by whom he had two daughters and Henry Thomas, who was born at Lee during a visit to his father's only brother and partner, John William Buckle. The family lived at this time in the city, and soon afterwards moved to 25 Mecklenburgh Square.

Buckle was a very delicate child, unfit for the usual games. By Dr. Birkbeck's advice his parents were careful not to over-stimulate his brain. His early education was conducted by a most devoted mother, who would read the Bible to him for hours. He scarcely knew his letters at eight, and till eighteen had read little but ‘Shakespeare,’ the ‘Pilgrim's Progress,’ and the ‘Arabian Nights;’ three books, he says (Huth, i. 157), ‘on which I literally feasted.’ For a time he was sent to the school of Dr. Holloway in Kentish Town, on the condition that he should learn nothing but what he chose. He won a prize in mathematics, to which his attention had been accidentally drawn. His father offered him any additional reward he pleased, whereupon he chose the reward of being taken away from school. This was in his fourteenth year.

At home the boy indulged in some childish pranks, but was soon interested by the conversation of his elders. His mother was a strict Calvinist, his father a strong tory, and a man of literary cultivation. The son listened to his father's recitals of Shakespeare, and imbibed his parents' principles in religion and politics, though he was at an early age impressed by free-trade doctrines.

At the age of seventeen Buckle's health had improved. His father insisted upon his entering the business, and the lad spent some months in an uncongenial employment. Meanwhile the elder Buckle's health was declining; he became unsocial and strangely absent-minded. An accident by which his arm was broken gave him a shock, under which he sank in four weeks, dying 24 Jan. 1840. Buckle was seized with a fainting fit on his father's death; frequent attacks followed, and he only recovered after a long stay at Brighton. In July 1840 he left England with his mother and unmarried sister for change of scene. The party travelled through Belgium, Germany, Holland, and Italy, returning through France after a year's absence. Buckle ever afterwards held travelling to be the best education. He studied the languages in each country. In 1850 he could read nineteen languages with facility and converse fluently in seven, though he was incapable of acquiring a tolerable accent even in French. His experience had removed his early prepossessions. He came home a freethinker and a radical. In France he had given proofs of his extraordinary powers as a chess-player. Captain Kennedy thought him as good a player at this as at any later period. He then encountered Kieseritzki and St. Amant and beat them both when receiving the odds of a pawn.

Buckle was left in an independent position at his father's death. He gave up all thoughts of the business, and upon returning to England settled down to serious studies. In October 1842 he took lodgings in Norfolk Street, set up his books, and began a course of mediæval history. In March 1843 he was writing a life of Charles I, which, as Mr. Huth shows (i. 281), was not that given in his fragments. In the same year he again went abroad, having first been presented at court to qualify himself for foreign society. At Hamburg he made the acquaintance of Lord Kimberley, with whom he travelled as far as Dresden. Thence he went by Austria to Italy, and on his return settled for a time at Munich. He there overworked himself and had a rheumatic fever; his mother came out