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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Ward, Mrs. Humphry

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Ward, Mrs. Humphry (Mary Augusta Arnold), now known all over the English-speaking world under her married name, Mrs. Humphry Ward, was born in Tasmania on June 11th, 1851. Her father was Thomas Arnold (q.v.), second son of Dr. Arnold of Rugby, and brother of the late Matthew Arnold, and her mother a granddaughter of Colonel Sorell, formerly Governor of Tasmania. She was born at Hobart, Tasmania, the eldest of a family of six, and was sent to a school at Ambleside, kept by Miss Clough, the late Principal of Newnham College. In 1864 she was sent to Miss May's School at Clifton; and in the following year, on her father renouncing the Church of Rome, she migrated with the family to Oxford. Here the future novelist and religious reformer came under the influence of Mark Pattison, Rector of Lincoln, who advised her strongly to "specialise" her studies. Acting on this advice, she taught herself Spanish, and then set to work to study certain points in early Spanish literature and history, with a zeal to which the Bodleian library ministered. In 1872 she married Mr. Humphry Ward, at that time a Fellow and Tutor of Brasenose College. Mrs. Ward thenceforth embarked on a literary career, contributing during the years that followed to the Saturday Review, the Guardian, the Academy, and the Pall Mall Gazette. At Oxford she produced her first book, "Milly and Olly," a book for children, and assisted her husband in his work on "The English Poets." She also revealed her theological bent and her love of antiquarian subjects by her valuable contributions to Dr. Wace's "Dictionary of Christian Biography," for which she wrote the lives of some of the early Spanish bishops and saints—a work which was entrusted to her on the advice of certain Oxford friends, who sent the learned editor to Mrs. Ward. The result of her research into the semi-legendary material of early Spanish church history may be traced in almost every chapter of "Robert Elsmere." In 1881 Mr. Humphry Ward, having accepted a post on the staff of the Times, left Oxford for London; and Mrs. Ward continued to write for the Pall Mall Gazette, then under the editorship of Mr. John Morley. In 1883 Mrs. Humphry Ward published "Miss Bretherton," a novel which, though it reached a second edition and was favourably noticed in the press, did not attain any very wide popularity. She next contributed some singularly thoughtful and introspective articles to Macmillan's Magazine, and translated the mystical "Journal Intime" of Amiel, whose character suggested Langham in "Robert Elsmere." This last work, the one by which Mrs. Humphry Ward has made her name world-famous, was begun in 1885, and took two years and eight months to write, appearing in Feb. 1888, when it achieved an immediate and phenomenal success, towards which Mr. Gladstone may in some measure have contributed by a critical paper in one of the monthly reviews. In America, and throughout the British colonies, "Robert Elsmere" created almost as great a sensation as in England, where it gave rise not only to serious and protracted controversies, but, in an indirect way, led to the establishment of University Hall, in Gordon Square, Bloomsbury. Of this institution Mrs. Humphry Ward, if not the actual founder, was the chief inspirer; and she delivered a remarkable inaugural address at the Portman Rooms, upon which occasion the Rev. Stopford Brooke presided, and the venerable Dr. Martineau sat beside her on the platform. This address—Mrs. Ward's first appearance as a public speaker—was published in pamphlet form, and received much attention in the English press. Mrs. Humphry Ward published in 1892 her second novel: "The History of David Grieve."