Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Payne, Edward John
PAYNE, EDWARD JOHN (1844–1904), historian, born at High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, on 22 July 1844, was the son of Edward William Payne, who was in humble circumstances, by his wife Mary Welch. Payne owed his education largely to his own exertions. After receiving early training at the grammar school of High Wycombe, he was employed by a local architect and surveyor named Pontifex, and he studied architecture under William Burges [q. v.]. Interested in music from youth, he also acted as organist of the parish church. In 1867, at the age of twenty-three, he matriculated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, whence he passed to Charsley's Hall. While an undergraduate he supported himself at first by pursuing his work as land surveyor and architect at Wycombe, where he designed the Easton Street almshouses, and afterwards by coaching in classics at Oxford. In 1871 Payne graduated B.A. with a first class in the final classical school, and in 1872 he was elected to an open fellowship in University College. He remained a fellow till his marriage in 1899, and was thereupon re-elected to a research fellowship. Although his life was mainly spent in London, he was keenly interested in the management of the affairs of his college, and during the years of serious agricultural depression his good counsel and business aptitude proved of great service.
On 17 Nov. 1874 he was called to the bar by Lincoln's Inn, and in 1883 was appointed honorary recorder of Wycombe, holding the office till his death. But Payne's mature years were mainly devoted to literary work. English colonial history and exploration were the main subject of his study. In 1875 he contributed a well-informed 'History of European Colonies' to E. A. Freeman's 'Historical Course for Schools.' In 1883 he collaborated with Mr, J. S. Cotton in 'Colonies and Dependencies' for the 'English Citizen' series, and the section on 'Colonies' which fell to Payne he later developed into his 'Colonies and Colonial Federation' (1904). He also fully edited Burke's 'Select Works' (Oxford, 1876; new edit. 1912) and 'The Voyages of Elizabethan Seamen to America' (from Hakluyt, 1880; new edit. 1907). But these labours were preliminaries to a great design of a 'History of the New World called America.' The first and second volumes (published respectively in 1892 and 1899) supplied a preliminary sketch of the geographical knowledge and exploration of the Middle Ages, an account of the discovery of America, and the beginning of an exhaustive summing up of all available knowledge as to the ethnology, language, religion, social and economic condition of the native peoples. Nothing more was published, and an original plan to extend the survey to Australasia was untouched. Payne contributed the first two chapters on 'The Age of Discovery' and 'The New World' to the 'Cambridge Modern History' (vol. i. 1902). At the same time Payne wrote much on music. He contributed largely to Grove's 'Dictionary of Music and musicians.' His article on 'Stradivari' was recognised as an advance on all previous studies. The history of stringed instruments had a strong attraction for him, and he was himself an accomplished amateur performer on the violin and on various ancient instruments. He helped to found the Bar Musical Society, and was its first honorary secretary.
In his later years Payne lived at Wendover, and suffered from heart-weakness and fits of giddiness. On 26 Dec. 1904 he was found drowned in the Wendover canal, into which he had apparently fallen in a fit. On 6 April 1899 he married Emma Leonora Helena, daughter of Major Pertz and granddaughter of Georg Heinrich Pertz, editor of the 'Monumenta Germaniæ Historica.' She survived him with one son and two daughters, and was awarded a civil list pension of 120l. in 1905. A portrait by A. S. Zibleri is in her possession.
[Records of Buckinghamshire, vol. ix.; The Times, 28 Dec. 1904; Oxford Mag. 25 Jan. 1905; Musical Times, Feb. 1905; private information.]