Open main menu

Palmer, Arthur (1841-1897) (DNB01)

PALMER, ARTHUR (1841–1897), classical scholar and critic, born at Gwelph, Ontario, Canada, on 14 Sept. 1841, was the sixth child of the Ven. Arthur Palmer, archdeacon of Toronto, by his first wife, Hester Madeline Crawford. He was educated, first by his father, then at the grammar school, Gwelph, under the Rev. Edward Stewart. After about four years at the grammar school, he left it in 1856. In 1857 he went to Cheltenham, where he remained less than a year, having had, as he used to say, 'just a sweet taste of English public school life.' The. head-master at the time was Arthur Dobson. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1859, obtained a university scholarship in 1861, and in 1863 he graduated with senior moderatorship and gold medal in classics, as well as a junior moderatorship and silver medal in experimental and natural science. In 1867 he was elected a fellow, and in 1880 succeeded Professor Tyrrell in the chair of Latin. In 1888 he succeeded Judge Webb as public orator. He was M.A. (1867) and Litt.D. of his own university, and honorary LL.D. of Glasgow (1890) and D.C.L. of Oxford (1894). From 1867 to 1880 he was a college tutor, and as such exercised a marked influence of the best kind on a large number of pupils, all of whom remember him with esteem and affection, many of them having received from him substantial help in after life. His contributions to classical scholarship were mainly emendations of the Latin and Greek texts, an art in which he may be fairly said to occupy a foremost place among modern scholars. He was most successful in his corrections of the text of Plautus, Catullus, Propertius, Horace, and Ovid, and he has made many convincing conjectures in Aristophanes, while he aided largely in constituting the text of the editio princeps of Bacchylides (1897), and made many excellent suggestions in the first edition of Herondas (1891). Specimens of some of his cleverest and most convincing emendations will be found in an obituary notice in 'Hermathena,' No. xxiv. 1898.

Palmer had special qualifications for the emendation of poetry. His memory was stored with all that is finest in poetry, ancient and modern, his taste and ear were perfect, and his feeling for style singularly fine and just. His versions in 'Kottabos' and 'Dublin Translations,' few but choice, exhibit his skill in reproducing the idiom and spirit of Latin poetry.

In youth his personal appearance was very attractive. He was a fair cricketer, and for some seasons he successfully captained a team of old university cricketers who assumed the name of Stoics. He was a good racket-player and golfer. As a conversationalist he was delightful, and he greatly enjoyed society until failing health forced him largely to forego it. His health till middle age was excellent, but during the last ten years of his life he suffered much from disease of the bladder, and died of a cancerous growth in the region of that organ on 14 Dec. 1897.

On 4 Oct. 1879 he married Miss Frances Greene of Clevedon. By her he had two sons: Arthur, born on 13 May 1881, and Uther, born on 20 April 1892.

His published works are:

  1. 'Heroides' of Ovid, 1874; new edit, (revised and enlarged, with the transl. of Planudes), 1898, Clarendon Press Ser.
  2. 'Elegies' of Propertius, 1880.
  3. 'Satires' of Horace, London, 1883, 8vo; 5th edit. 1893.
  4. 'Amphitruo' of Plautus, 1888.
  5. 'Records of the Tercentenary Festival of the Dublin University,' 1892.
  6. 'Catullus' in Macmillan's Parnassus Series, 1896.

Palmer also contributed articles, chiefly critical, to 'Hermathena,' the 'Journal of Philology,' 'Classical Review,' and other periodicals.

[Personal knowledge; private information.]

R. Y. T.