Watson, Albert (DNB12)

WATSON, ALBERT (1828–1904), principal of Brasenose College, Oxford, and classical scholar, born at Kidderminster on 4 Dec. 1828, was fifth son of Richard Watson of that town. Educated at Rugby (1843–7), he entered Wadham College, Oxford, on 21 April 1847 as a commoner. In Easter term 1851 he obtained a first class in literæ humaniores (B.A. 1851), proceeding M.A. in 1853, and for a few months in 1854 was a master at Marlborough College. On 12 March 1852 he had been elected fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford, and took holy orders in 1853, becoming priest in 1856, but never holding any benefice. Settling down to educational work in Oxford he was tutor of his college (1854–67) and lecturer (1868–73). He was also librarian 1868–77 and senior bursar 1870–81, and during the three years 1886–9 served the office of principal. He was again fellow from 1890 till his death. His chief extra-collegiate positions were those of Librarian of the Union Society 1852–3, examiner 1859, 1860, 1864, and 1866, and curator of the University Galleries. He died suddenly from heart failure at Oxford on 21 Nov. 1904. He was unmarried.

A posthumous portrait, based on photographs, is in Brasenose College common room.

Watson's only published work was an edition of 'Select Letters of Cicero,' with notes (Oxford, 1870; 4th edit., 1891; text only, 1874, 1875), a task suggested to him, it is believed, by John Conington, and carried out with conspicuous acumen and industry. 'Watson's Letters' was for many years a household word at Oxford. He also translated part of Ranke's 'History of England' (Clarendon Press, 1875).

With wide reading in all branches of standard literature, but especially historical and political, and with a retentive memory, Watson combined a rare power of coordinating what he knew. The characteristics of decision and determination which his features suggested were quite overborne by his gentleness and benevolence. Reserved and retiring to an unusual degree, he yet in social converse put his stores of wit and learning at the free disposal of his guests. Throughout his life he was a convinced liberal, and a considerable force in Oxford politics.

[Brasenose Coll. Reg. 1909; Foster's Alumni Oxonienses; Oxford Mag. 30 Nov. 1904; C. B. Heberden. Address in Brasenose College Chapel, 27 Nov. 1904, privately printed.]

F. M.