White, Robert Meadows (DNB00)

WHITE, ROBERT MEADOWS (1798–1865), Rawlinson professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University, born on 8 Jan. 1798, was the eldest son of Robert Gostling White (d. 18 Oct. 1828), a solicitor at Halesworth in Suffolk, by his second wife, Elizabeth Meadows (d. 25 Sept. 1831). In 1813 Robert was placed under John Valpy at Norwich, where John Lindley [q. v.], the botanist, and Rajah Sir James Brooke [q. v.] were his fellow pupils. On 26 July 1815 he matriculated from Magdalen College, Oxford, and in the same year was elected a demy, graduating B.A. on 14 Dec. 1819, M.A. on 28 Feb. 1822, B.D. on 21 Nov. 1833, and D.D. on 23 Nov. 1843. He was ordained deacon in 1821 and priest in 1822. In 1824 he was elected a fellow of Magdalen College, retaining his fellowship till 1847. From 1832 till 1840 he acted as a college tutor. On 15 March 1831 he became proctor, and on 23 April 1834 he was chosen Rawlinson professor of Anglo-Saxon, holding that post for the statutable period of five years.

Anglo-Saxon professors at that time were sometimes defined as ‘persons willing to learn Anglo-Saxon.’ White, however, was known as a scholar before he was elected to the chair. He had already contemplated the publication of a Saxon and English vocabulary, and only abandoned the project because it appeared likely to clash with the ‘Anglo-Saxon Dictionary’ then being prepared by Joseph Bosworth [q. v.] On giving up this design, he turned his attention about 1832 to editing the ‘Ormulum,’ a harmonised narrative of the gospels in verse, preserved in a unique manuscript in the Bodleian Library. The task, owing to other demands on his time, occupied nearly twenty years. In the course of his researches he visited Denmark in 1837, and extended his travels to Moscow, where he was arrested and suffered a short detention for visiting the Kremlin without an official order. His edition of the ‘Ormulum’ was issued in 1852 from the university press, and in the following year an elaborate criticism of it was published in English by Dr. Monicke, a German professor.

In 1839, at the end of his term of office, White was presented to the vicarage of Woolley, near Wakefield, by Godfrey Wentworth of that parish, to whose son William he had acted as tutor. After Wentworth's death he left Woolley, and went to Lord Yarborough at Brocklesby Park in Lincolnshire, where he acted as tutor to the baron's grandsons. In 1842 he was presented to the rectory of Little and Great Glemham in Suffolk by the Hon. Mrs. North, Lord Yarborough's sister, and on 29 Oct. 1846 he was presented by Magdalen College to the rectory of Slimbridge in Gloucestershire, which he retained until his death. He died unmarried at Cheltenham on 31 Jan. 1865, and was buried at Slimbridge, in the churchyard, near the chancel south wall.

His younger brother, John Meadows White (1799?–1863), solicitor, was born at Halesworth in 1799 or 1800, and entered into partnership with his father there. He removed to London, where he became the partner of T. Barett in Great St. Helen's Street, and rose to great eminence as a parliamentary solicitor. He was engaged in the preparation of many measures of social, legal, and ecclesiastical reform, such as the new poor law, the commutation of tithes, and the enfranchisement of copyholds. On the subject of tithes he became a great authority, and issued several treatises on tithe legislation. He was a solicitor of the ecclesiastical commission, and died at Weymouth on 19 March 1863. On 17 Sept. 1825 he married at Halesworth Anne, daughter of Robert Crabtree, an attorney of that place, and by her had a large family.

Besides publications on tithe law he was the author of: 1. ‘Some Remarks on the Statute Law of Parish Apprentices,’ Halesworth, 1829, 8vo. 2. ‘Remarks on the Poor Law Amendment Act,’ London, 1834, 8vo. 3. ‘Parochial Settlements an Obstruction to Poor Law Reform,’ London, 1835, 8vo. 4. ‘Remarks on the Copyhold Enfranchisement Act,’ London, 1841, 12mo. 5. ‘The Act for the Commutation of certain Manorial Rights in respect of Lands of Copyhold and Customary Tenure,’ London, 1841, 12mo (Gent. Mag. 1863, i. 667; Brit. Museum Addit. MS. 19168, f. 211).

[Gent. Mag. 1865, ii. 111–13; Allibone's Dict. of English Lit.; Davy's Suffolk Collections in Brit. Museum Addit. MS. 19155, f. 92; Bloxam's Registers of Magdalen Coll. vii. 265–9; Cox's Recollections of Oxford, 1868, pp. 246–7.]

E. I. C.