Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wharton, Edward Ross

WHARTON, EDWARD ROSS (1844–1896), philologer and genealogist, born at Rhyl, Flint, on 4 Aug. 1844, was second son of Henry James Wharton, vicar of Mitcham, whose ancestors had long been settled at Winfarthing in Norfolk. His mother was a daughter of Thomas Peregrine Courtenay [q. v.] He was educated as a day-boy at the Charterhouse under Canon Elwyn, and elected to a scholarship at Trinity College, Oxford, in 1862, graduating B.A. in 1868 and M.A. in 1870. Though never robust in health, and suffering at this time from weak eyesight, he had a distinguished university career. In his second year he won the Ireland scholarship, though for the Hertford and Craven he only came out proxime. He was placed in the first class in classical moderations, and also in the final classical school. In 1868 he was elected to a fellowship at Jesus, with which college he was connected almost continuously until his death, as assistant tutor and Latin lecturer. After his election he devoted himself to acquiring an exhaustive knowledge of both Latin and Greek, to which was added a sufficient acquaintance with the cognate languages. The first-fruits of his labour was ‘Etyma Græca,’ an etymological lexicon of classical Greek (1882), in which are given (somewhat dogmatically and without adequate explanation) the derivations of about five thousand words to be found in the standard authors. This was followed in 1890—when he had gained a firmer grasp of the principles of scientific philology—by ‘Etyma Latina,’ constructed on a similar plan, though with some concessions to weaker brethren, notably an appendix showing the changes that letters undergo in the sister tongues as well as in Latin. He also contributed several papers to the London Philological Society and to the French Société Linguistique. His other published works are translations of Aristotle's ‘Poetics’ and Book i. of Horace's ‘Satires,’ in which it pleased him to display verbal fidelity to the original, combined with a mastery of English idiom. During the last few years of his life much of his interest was transferred to genealogy. The results of his researches, largely among original documents, are contained in six manuscript volumes, which he bequeathed to the Bodleian Library, dealing with all who have borne the name of Wharton or Warton. The most illustrious of these is, of course, the baronial family of Wharton of Wharton Hall in Westmorland. A popular sketch of this family, which he had finished just before his death, has been printed by his widow as a memorial volume, with a full bibliography, a portrait, and other illustrations (1898). He died at Oxford on 4 June 1896, and his remains were cremated at Woking. In 1870 he married Marie, daughter of Samuel Hicks Withers of Willesden, but they had no children; the widow died in 1899. There is a portrait of him in the common room of Jesus College.

A younger brother, Henry Thornton Wharton (1846–1895), born at Mitcham in 1846, was educated at the Charterhouse and Wadham College, Oxford, where he graduated with honours in natural science in 1871. He is best known for an admirable book on Sappho—memoir, text, selected renderings, and a literal translation (1885)—which has passed through four editions. He was also one of the joint compilers of the official list of British birds issued by the British Ornithologists’ Union (1883), his special task being to supervise and elucidate the Latin nomenclature; and he contributed a chapter on the local flora to a work entitled ‘Hampstead Hill’ (1889). He died on 22 Aug. 1895 at South Hampstead, where he had practised for some years as a medical man, and was buried in the neighbouring cemetery of Fortune Green.

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J. S. C.