Webster, Wentworth (DNB12)

WEBSTER, WENTWORTH (1829–1907), Basque scholar and folklorist, born at Uxbridge, Middlesex, in 1829, was eldest son of Charles Webster. Owing to delicate health he had no regular schooling, but he was a diligent boy with a retentive memory, and was a well-informed student when he was admitted commoner of Lincoln College on 15 March 1849. He graduated B.A. in 1852, proceeding M.A. in 1855, and was ordained deacon in 1854 and priest in 1861. After serving as curate at Cloford, Somerset, 1854–8, he was ordered by his medical advisers to settle in the south of France. He lived for some time at Bagnères-de-Bigorre, Hautes-Pyrénées, and at Biarritz, Basses-Pyrénées, taking pupils, among them Henry Butler Clarke [q. v. Suppl. II]. An indefatigable walker, he became familiar with the Basque provinces on both sides of the Pyrénées, and with the Basques themselves, their language, traditions, and poetry. At the same time he grew well versed in French and Spanish, and in all the Pyrenean dialects.

From 1869 to 1881 he was Anglican chaplain at St. Jean-de-Luz, Basses-Pyrénées. In 1881 he settled at Sare, in a house which overlooked the valley of La Rhune. There he mainly devoted himself to study, writing on the Basques and also on church history. He contributed much on Basque and Spanish philology and antiquities to ‘Bulletin de la Société des Sciences et des Arts de Bayonne,’ ‘Bulletin de la Société Ramond de Bagnères-de-Bigorre,’ ‘Revue de Linguistique,’ and ‘Bulletin de la Real Academia de la Historia de Madrid.’ He was a corresponding member of the Royal Historical Society of Madrid. With all serious students of Basque, whether French, Spanish, English, or German, he corresponded and was generous in the distribution of his stores of information. He wrote many papers on church history and theology in the ‘Anglican Church Magazine.’ Gladstone awarded him a pension of 150l. from the civil list on 16 Jan. 1894. He died at Sare on 2 April 1907, in his seventy-ninth year, and was buried at St. Jean-de-Luz. He married on 17 Oct. 1866, at Camberwell, Surrey, Laura Thekla Knipping, a native of Cleve in Germany. There were four daughters and one son, Erwin Wentworth, fellow of Wadham College, Oxford.

Webster published:

  1. ‘Basque Legends, collected chiefly in the Labourd,’ 1878; reprinted 1879; probably his best and most characteristic work; many of the legends were taken down in Basque from the recitation of people who knew no other language.
  2. ‘Spain,’ London, 1882, a survey of the geography, ethnology, literature, and commerce of the country, founded mainly on information supplied by Spanish friends of high position.
  3. ‘De Quelques Travaux sur le basque faits par des étrangers pendant les années 1892–4,’ Bayonne, 1894.
  4. ‘Le Dictionnaire Latin-basque de Pierre d'Urte,’ Bayonne, 1895.
  5. ‘Les Pastorales basques,’ Paris, 1899.
  6. ‘Grammaire Cantabrique-basque de Pierre d'Urte,’ 1901.
  7. ‘Les Loisirs d'un étranger au pays basque,’ Châlons-sur-Saône, 1901, a selection from his miscellaneous papers in journals of foreign learned societies.
  8. ‘Gleanings in Church History, chiefly in Spain and France,’ 1903.

[Crockford's Clerical Directory; private information; The Times, 9 April 1907; Guardian, 10 April 1907.]

A. C.