LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoir of Francis Hodgson
Chapter XXI. 1837-40.

Vol. 1 Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II. 1794-1807.
Chapter III. 1807-1808.
Chapter IV. 1808.
Chapter V. 1808-1809.
Chapter VI. 1810.
Chapter VII. 1811.
Chapter VIII. 1811.
Chapter IX. 1811.
Chapter X. 1811-12.
Chapter XI. 1812.
Chapter XII. 1812-13.
Chapter XIII. 1813-14.
Vol. 2 Contents
Chapter XIV. 1815-16.
Chapter XV. 1816-18.
Chapter XVI. 1815-22.
Chapter XVII. 1820.
Chapter XVIII. 1824-27.
Chapter XIX. 1827-1830
Chapter XX. 1830-36.
‣ Chapter XXI. 1837-40.
Chapter XXII. 1840-47.
Chapter XXIII. 1840-52.
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH

During the later years of his incumbency at Bakewell, Hodgson’s solitary leisure hours were constantly cheered and enlivened by cordial correspondence with his old and faithful friends, of whom Merivale, in particular, continued to write very frequently upon religious and political subjects. On the deeply interesting question of the ‘Intermediate state of departed spirits,’ he writes:—

I have Burnet, and will read him, in order that we
may compare notes; but I think it is since I wrote to you that I read (or finished reading)
Caleb Fleming, as also a MS. essay of my grandfather’s on the same subject, and a sermon of Balguy’s to which he refers; and the result of my meditations has been strongly to aid my inclinations in favour of the affirmative, though not altogether to remove my difficulties—the chief of which relates to the condition of ‘the wicked.’ Are they to be subject to a double sentence, without the intermediate means of obtaining remission? Or are we to infer Purgatory? If the latter be admitted, then does it not follow, as at least extremely probable, that the term αίώνιον, referred to punishment, means the age intervening between death and final judgment, and does not exclude final repentance and restoration?—a high and mysterious question, but one on which I think it quite allowable to speculate, provided it be done with humility and caution, as it is certainly not among those revealed doctrines which are so plain as to forbid dispute. Clarke does not at all satisfy me when he says (slurring over mine and my grandfather’s difficulty), ‘In that state (the intermediate) the righteous cannot but be very happy, through the certain expectation of the crown of righteousness which they know the Lord, the
Righteous Judge, shall give them at the last day; and the wicked, on the contrary, cannot but be made very miserable by a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, though the irreversible sentence shall not be actually executed upon them before the great day.’ This, I say, exceeds my comprehension, unless it be accompanied by the admission of a continued state of probation and the possibility of a future mitigation or reversal of the sentence which it supposes to have been pronounced. To sum up my present impressions on this point, they are these—many passages of Scripture seem to me wholly inconsistent with the sleep of the soul, especially the parable of Dives and Lazarus, the promise to the Penitent Thief, and the article of Christ’s three days’ sojourn in the region of Departed Spirits. But then comes the difficulty, already adverted to, of suffering a double sentence—the last, simply confirmatory of the first; and which (as it seems to me) can only be got over by the hypothesis of a locus penitentiæ being still reserved for the wicked, between death and the resurrection—in other words, a state of purgatory—which may be admitted without implying the corollary, viz. the danger of a falling off for the good, who may be believed to exist
(intermediately) in the certain expectation of ultimate blessedness, implying an exalted, although not perfect, state of present felicity; and this would seem a way of reconciling the expressions of ‘many called and few chosen,’ &c., without recourse either to a Calvinistic interpretation, or to any attempts at evading it—the few being mercy comparative, and applying to those only whose ultimate blessedness is fixed and determined from the hour of their death. Again, without some such qualification, what you say of the happiness Dr misery of the departed being liable to be largely affected by the hope or dread of their respective increase is hard to be understood—since, if their doom is fixed and irrevocable, there can be no room for either hope or dread remaining.

I add the following passage from that odd book, the ‘Doctor,’ which (I believe) nobody now doubts to be Southey’s, as connected (at least in my mind) with the same most interesting subject. ‘It may safely be affirmed that generous minds, when they have once known each other, can never be alienated, so long as both retain the characteristics which brought them into union. No distance of place, or lapse of time, can lessen the friendship of those who are thus thoroughly persuaded of
each other’s worth. There are even some broken attachments in friendship, as well as in love, which nothing can destroy; and it sometimes happens that we are not conscious of their strength till after the disruption.’ And again, ‘Who can bestow a thought upon the pantomime of politics, when his mind is fixed upon the tragedy of human life?’ I need hardly say to what objects1 my own mind is turned by reflecting on these passages, which are to me consolatory in the extreme.

I shall be most happy to receive your primary ‘charge,’ and depend on your promise of sending it me as soon as I reach London. I want also to know somewhat more particularly what you mean by your projected work on Prophecy, of which you have given me sundry obscure intimations. I cannot tell you how much it would rejoice me to possess a treatise on such a subject from one whom I consider, not only so fully competent but, so exactly adapted to the task as yourself. Do you coincide with Coleridge when he says that the old dragon who, with his tail, drew down the third part of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth, is merely typical of the Neronian persecutions, and the apostacy through fear occasioned by them in a

1 Merivale had lost several children.

large number of converts? This is to strip it of the prophetic character altogether and make it a mere piece of enigmatical writing. From whom does he borrow this mode of explaining it? And query if it is much more apposite to
O’Connell and the Whig-Radical ministry? Coleridge, by the bye, is no believer in the personality of Satan. To disprove it he refers to Amos iii. 6, and Isaiah xlv. 7, that God is Himself the sole creator of evil. And adds, ‘This is the deep mystery of the abyss of God.’ And again, as to possessions, he says, ‘Who shall dare determine what spiritual influences may not arise out of the collective evil wills of wicked men? But this is altogether different from making spirits to be devils, and devils self-conscious individuals.’

I am much pleased with another remark of Coleridge’s, in a note on a passage in ‘Robinson Crusoe,’ who is made to say, ‘I must confess my religious thankfulness to God’s providence began to abate upon discovering that all this was nothing but common, though I ought to have been as thankful for so strange and unforeseen a Providence, as if it had been miraculous.’ On which C. observes, ‘To make men feel the truth of this is one characteristic object of the miracles worked by Moses. In them the Providence is miraculous,
the miracles Providential.’ A sufficient answer, I think, for
Milman to have made to the cavillers at his ‘Jewish History,’ who pretended that it convicted him of scepticism by the attempt to attribute them to natural causes.

Towards the end of the week I am in hopes of having the great enjoyment of welcoming Denman at Barton Place,1 where he once before visited me, thirty-four years ago. ‘Quantum mutatus!’ but in station only—not in mind, or heart, or even in fresh and youthful spirit—and, I think, in these respects, the same may in great measure be said of both of us. Oh, how I wish you could make a third at this our reunion!

In the following year Merivale recurs to his previously expressed desire that Bakewell should be exchanged for a London incumbency.

I wish on many accounts that you were turning your face London-ward, in which case you must make our house your headquarters, that we may jointly settle your plan of operations at our leisure. I should indeed rejoice, my dear old friend, and so would my wife, at your pronouncing this feasible. Do write and say that it is so.

1 Merivale’s Devonshire home.


Such an exhibition of pictures as never has yet been produced to greet the opening of the National Gallery—at least so I am told by private viewers. Then a battle of spurs by a young Flemish artist—age twenty-three—worthy of the best age of the school of Antwerp. And then, also, a Westminster election, with that preux chevalier, Sir Francis Burdett, at the head of the Conservatives! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Little did I dream of such a revolution when, thirty-five years ago, I went about canvassing for him as the champion for Middlesex, and was taken for Tom Sheridan by an old Homerton Dissenter. What a mad world, my masters! I have no time now for a chapter on politics or any other subject, only that I cordially concur in your archdeaconry views of the Church-rate question, and regret the stupidity of those who cannot discern that it is merely in the light of an attack on the Church itself that it deserves a moment’s consideration. But if persisted in, avowedly to satisfy the Dissenters, it is the avowal, and not the measure, that calls for opposition.

In a later letter, referring again to Sir F. Burdett’s change of politics, Merivale writes:—

I find myself scarce yet recovered from the dream, as
it really seems to be, of so strange a metamorphosis; nevertheless,
Sir F. B. of 1837 is not so inconsistent with Sir F. B. of 1810 as Sir F. B. of 1810 was inconsistent with himself. Ever one half Tory, the other half Radical—now Tory and nothing else. But, as a test of the turn of the tide, the victory is not to be appreciated; and, as usual, our poor old friends, the Whigs, have only to thank themselves for whatever of mortification or embarrassment the event has caused them. What profligate madness to harness themselves to the coachmaker’s chariot!

The next letter, from the Bishop of Lichfield (Butler), gives a vivid and amusing description of the dangers which are occasionally involved in the due discharge of episcopal duties:—

Calwich Abbey: July 16, 1837.

My dear friend,—All well. Awful thunderstorm yesterday burst over us while laying the foundation-stone of Middleton church—flash and crash together—ʹάμʹ ʹέπος ʹάμʹ ʹέργον—wet to the præcordia in an instant—peppered with hail. Hundredth Psalm well sung; thunder playing bass most gloriously; prayer offered by the Bishop; then, trowel in hand, he began to spread the mortar, when all at
once down came the scaffold with himself and friends, a height of about 12 feet, among lapides quadratos and cæmenta. Nobody hurt on the scaffold, two under it not materially so. Picked up, covered with mud and glory; got back; changed dress; arrived at Calwich to dinner none the worse for fall or wetting. Mr. Harward will send a plain account to the ‘Derby Mercury,’ lest somebody else should send an ornamental one. The scaffold was not struck with lightning. None of the party on it were killed, and brought to life again by swallowing a hundred boxes of Morison’s pills. Of the spectators, not more than every third man had his bones broken, and they were set immediately by the new patent cement for china.

Truly yours,
S. L.

In her next letter Mrs. Leigh describes a party at the house of a lady whom Dickens subsequently immortalised in the character of Mrs. Leo Hunter.

On Saturday, I was persuaded to accompany a friend to dine ten miles out of town. Of course I became very unwell with a cold, and only the fear of disappointing my friend and upsetting her arrange-
ments induced me to exert myself sufficiently to go. To crown all, it was to a
Lion and Lioness Hunter’s mansion—Shirley Park; great friends of Miss Jane Porter (the authoress); and our object was to see her. Imagine an immense long room full when we arrived: the American Minister and his wife; and somebody else and his wife, attaché of this embassy; Mr. Wilkinson, a renowned traveller in Egypt and thereabouts, and a particular friend of Lord King; Mr. and Mrs. Haynes Bayley; a Pole who has written several works in English, and is celebrated in his way. This was the cream of the party; and I was to be gazed at as the sister of Lord Byron! I wished so you could have heard all the tributes of every sort to his memory, at which it was impossible not to be gratified. Mr. Wilkinson is a very agreeable and pleasing young man. Asked me if I had lately seen Lady King. I said, ‘No, I am very sorry to say, not for a long time,’ except at the Exhibition, where I went twice to look at her picture; and then we went on upon the picture, and I inquired after the health of the original, and if he had seen the baby; and he praised Lord K. very much; and I said it had pleased me very much to hear of her marriage with one so highly spoken of by
everybody. We never approached the subject of the mother. This is the second running against of such intimates that I have lately had. I met the other evening at a very tiny party at
Mde. de Montalembert’s, Mrs. Somerville, the scientific Mrs. S., the intimate friend of Ada, to whom Mde. de M. presented me, and said, ‘You know, Mrs. L., that your niece has called her son Byron?’ ‘Yes,’ said Mr. S., ‘Byron King;’ and I exclaimed, ‘I am very glad to hear that!’ and asked after her health and the child, and again we steered clear of Milady B.

Mrs. Leigh’s next letter, together with a touching allusion to the sudden death of her half-brother, the Duke of Leeds, contained matter of a more cheerful character.

Thank God (she writes) for the assurance that you are happy! you, who so well deserve happiness. May it be as lasting and unmingled as this world can render it!

The wish so kindly uttered was fulfilled to the letter. The happiness which was greeted so warmly by the sister of his illustrious and unfortunate friend, was occasioned by the prospect of marriage with the
second daughter of another friend, as highly valued,
Lord Denman, now Chief Justice of England. The delicacy of Lady Denman’s health, and the early marriage of her elder daughter, had brought Miss Elizabeth Denman into very close companionship with her father during some of the most interesting periods of his life—a companionship which no one could enjoy without advantage; while her absolute unselfishness, her tender devotion to her family, and the natural refinement of her disposition could not fail to excite the admiration and regard of all who had the privilege of her acquaintance.

The marriage, which took place on May 3, 1838, from Lord Denman’s house in Portland Place, was solemnised by the Rev. Richard Vevers, at Trinity Church, Marylebone; and the honeymoon was spent at one of the most beautiful and retired of the Duke of Devonshire’s houses, Hardwicke Hall, near Chesterfield, whither, ten days later, Merivale despatched the following cordial effusion:—

My dear Hodgson,—I should indeed be doing the greatest injustice to my feelings, both as they regard yourself and your fair bride, if I delayed a moment to acknowledge the very welcome epistle which I received too late for the post on Saturday,
dated from Hardwicke Hall. I had before (though under strict injunctions of secrecy) heard that place named as your destination during the first days of your happiness, and, from the many descriptions I had heard or read of it, was picturing to myself the enjoyment which you could not fail both to derive from a location (O spirits of
Harriet Martineau and James Jefferson Whitlee!) so full of picturesque, romantic, historical, and imaginative interest. . . . I only fear that in spite of the influence of local emotions, Queen Bess will have altogether supplanted Queen Mary,1 as the object of your devotions; and I beg you to assure her first-named majesty that I am myself far too good an Englishman not to give in my adhesion to her superior claim upon our affections and homage, at least in the person of her present representative.

The confession you have made of your love for ‘Whistlecraft2 transports me beyond all bounds of moderation, so completely justifying, as it does, my presentiment that you would ‘be all the better for something’ to laugh at on your journey. I told your friend, Poet Rogers, that same day, at the

1 Hodgson, in his youth, had been engaged on a poem, of which the heroine was Mary Queen of Scots, an occupation to which Byron alludes in a letter of invitation to Newstead. Vide supra, vol. i. p. 107. 2 By Hookham Frere.

breakfast, of the present I had made you, and of the indignation you expressed at my supposing it possible that you might want, or even admit of, diversion on such an occasion, at the same time that you gravely pocketed the affront I offered. His dry, bachelor-like remark was, not only that I had done quite right, but that he hoped you had taken care, each of you, to provide a travelling library, as he did not see how you were otherwise to get through it. There’s an epithalamium for you, worthy of ‘
Jaqueline’ or the ‘Pleasures of Memory.’

When you have time to read any other books than ‘Whistlecraft,’ and such others as the Duke’s judgment may have selected for your entertainment at Hardwicke, I think you will be much interested in the ‘Life of Wilberforce.’ I have felt great delight in observing, as I have gone on with it, in how many points, especially political and politico-religious, I in fact coincided with him, even while I fancied myself at the furthest distance from him. His was indeed a proud position when the leading men of both parties were beseeching his interference to extricate the country from the extreme embarrassment occasioned by the proceedings against the Queen; and his biographers well
remark upon it as ‘not a little curious’ that the strongest of these supplications came from a man (
Lord J. Russell) whose maxim it was that ‘to abandon party is to forfeit all political importance.’ Very much such a position as his was then, I hold to be my good friend Sir Thomas Acland’s now; and I am accordingly not a little curious to know the result of his motion this evening for rescinding the Resolutions of the House of Commons on “which the present Ministry came into office; not that I consider it as a party question, in which light I feel confident that Acland himself would not have entertained it, but that I am convinced of its having been the falsest and most pernicious move ever made by a party for the attainment of power, and the retractation of which is, in my apprehension, indispensable towards the settlement of the great Irish question on any reasonable basis. And now farewell for the present! I will write to you again when you are at Middleton.1 My wife joins me in every feeling that is most warm and affectionate towards both yourself and your sposa, and

I am, my dear H., ever yours,
J. H. M.

1 Stoney Middleton, near Bakewell, the seat of Lord Denman.


Shortly before his marriage Hodgson had been presented by the Duke of Devonshire to the small donative living of Edensor, in Chatsworth Park, which, at the Duke’s particular request, he held in conjunction with Bakewell, the distance between the two parishes being less than three miles. On hearing of his intended resignation of Bakewell, the Duke of Rutland wrote:—

I thank you very truly for the able, eloquent, and interesting charge to the clergy in this archdeaconry, which you have had the kindness to send me, and I rejoice at the favourable statement you are able to give me of the proceedings for the past year, and of the present funds of the High Peak Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge. It is most satisfactory evidence of the feelings of this district towards our orthodox church. I am much gratified by your observations on the subject of your removal from Bakewell. If I had any instrumentality in procuring for the inhabitants of Bakewell the benefits of your long incumbency, I consider that in such instrumentality I have been even more honoured than honouring.

In acknowledging the above-mentioned charge, Lord Denman writes:—


My dear Archdeacon,—Many thanks for your charge, which I read last night with great pleasure, and sincere admiration of its charitable and liberal principles; both epithets advisedly used, as being, in my opinion, peculiarly characteristic of Christianity itself.

My argument and Holt’s judgments I hope to send in a day or two; meantime, if you feel an interest in the subject, there is a paper of Brougham’s, discussing it in the last ‘Edinburgh,’ to which, for reasons obvious in the perusal, I ought not to call your attention.

On October 1st of this year (1838), the Duke of Devonshire writes from Geneva:—

My dear sir,—Excuse the splendour of my paper;1 it is like the stall of a cathedral, of which I selfishly do not wish to see you in possession. I received your letter to-day, with several others, stating that Paxton would be the bearer of them, but he has not made his appearance, and if he does not make haste this town may be in a state of siege, and I on the other side of the Alps. I am so pleased at your having inhabited Calton Lees.2 What a pretty

1 The paper had a gilt edging in an ecclesiastical pattern.

2 A hamlet in Chatsworth Park, in which Hodgson had taken refuge during the restoration of the rectory-house at Edensor.

village!—after all the beauties of Switzerland the same impression of it remains. I have been much more delighted with my tour than I expected; I had formed quite a different idea of the Swiss mountains, and did not suppose them to have so much wood and verdure and richness. The Lake of Thun is my favourite place. I had the drawback of not meeting the Burlingtons, who were delayed at Baden by the illness of their boy. He is now recovered, and we shall meet next week, on the Simplon or at Milan. I have made up my mind to pass the winter in Italy, with true regrets for Chatsworth; my time is passed in an idle, useless manner. My health will, I think, be improved by it, and I have got into very early habits, really getting up at daybreak. My acquaintances here are very few:
Mr. Decandolle, the botanist, and M. Merle d’Aubigné, who has written a very clever history of the Reformation, are among them; the English and French travellers have hurried away, and troops are said to have left Lyons, all for a very foolish business about a very foolish fellow, the young Louis Buonaparte,1 who must be perfectly happy at being made of so much importance. Pray give my best remembrances to Mrs. Arkwright, when

1 Napoleon III.

you see “her (I hope she is well), and believe me, messages to your wife being always included, ever most truly and faithfully yours,


I am ashamed of sending so dull a letter. Pray write to me; tell me village news. I have been grieved by the death of Lady Elizabeth Harcourt, at Milan,—four days’ illness from eating an ice after a ball. Another death, of the Duchess de Broglie, daughter of Mme. de Staël, has caused great affliction, and Lady Granville particularly laments her. She was a most pious, excellent woman. Both these ladies had daughters near their confinement, travelling in the south—Lady Norreys and Mme. d’Oponville. Just as my letter was going Mr. Paxton has arrived.

The Duke’s next letter is dated from Malta, April 6, 1839:—

My dear sir,—Your letter of February 11 was here when I returned from the East; but in the middle of last month I got the news1 which it announces. If you had seen me at Tophana under shelter of the projecting roof of a mosque—shelter from snow

1 The birth of a daughter.

—dictating to one of the regular letter-writers a congratulation, which he penned in Turkish! I thought he understood me very well, and that, though some Oriental flowers’ of language were introduced, he had truly expressed the pleasure I felt at
Mrs. Hodgson’s safety and your little girl’s; but, on returning home, my dragoman condemned the letter, declared it an imposition, and more about a sister than a daughter; and I unwillingly suppressed it. How happy you must be, and how fortunate it is that both the objects of your care are so well!

Your account of Edensor is most satisfactory. I reproach myself with great selfishness in keeping Paxton1 away so long, but he was so useful to me that I could not do without him. When returned to Italy I shall make him go home without me, for he must really be wanted. My plans will depend on the Carlisles and Burlingtons, both of whom I expect to find at Naples.

You cannot imagine the delight of Athens. The interior of the excavations is beyond everything; there were 200 houses and several churches

1 Sir Joseph Paxton, originally chosen by the Duke from a row of village lads brought before him as candidates for a place in the gardens at Chatsworth; afterwards the architect of the great conservatories on the model of which the Crystal Palace was built.

on the Acropolis. The last war with the Turks entirely demolished these, and now, upon the removal of their remains, treasures of antiquity daily come out. An entire small temple was found in one of the clumsy Turkish bastions; it was one well known by description, but supposed to be quite demolished—the temple of Victory, without wings—but it has been cleared and put together, and is as fresh as in the days of Pericles. The magnificent Propylæa have also been released from the walls that concealed them, and form a building more striking than the Parthenon itself. The same Neapolitan artist who sketched for me in Sicily has been with me now, and I think him very much improved; and his collection will be most valuable to me as souvenirs of a happy time, and I should like to show them to you. Adieu.

Ever most faithfully yours,

During the years 1838-9 Hodgson’s leisure was principally devoted to the study of Hebrew and to theological researches and discussions, into the spirit of which his friend Merivale warmly entered, both in conversation and in several letters, in one of which no less a subject is considered than that universally
interesting and absorbing question which has puzzled philosophers and theologians from the earliest ages to the present day: ‘Unde malum?’

Reading the other day (writes Merivale) Brougham’s essay on the ‘Origin of Evil,’ in his late volumes of illustrations of Paley, I was tempted to set down the following as a summary of my own views respecting it. Tell me if you think the reasoning tolerably perspicuous and substantially tenable.

The power of the Almighty Himself is necessarily limited, because God can do nothing which involves a positive contradiction. Thus God cannot create an uncreated being. He cannot create Himself, nor can He create a being possessing attributes which belong to none but an uncreated being. He cannot create a being having His own peculiar and incommunicable attributes, a being perfectly wise, perfectly good, perfectly happy; a being whose wisdom, goodness, and happiness are self-originated, and self-existent. He may indeed create a being having a capacity for perfect goodness, wisdom, and happiness, capable (i.e.) of attaining them through some certain process the conditions of which are beyond our knowledge or conceptions, though we are thus far informed by experience that the
existence of evil forms an essential part of those conditions. Thus we know that human wisdom and goodness necessarily imply the existence of their contraries. In like manner human happiness is unattainable but through the intervention of evil, nor could it by any possibility have been otherwise. Yet all this is compatible with the belief of a future state in which evil shall no longer exist, but the divine attributes be enjoyed by man in the higher degree to which human nature is capable of them, through the means of that moral agent called evil, which was at first introduced for that especial purpose, though, when once the end is attained, it will have ceased to exist. The highest exertion of which human virtue is capable consists in the reduction of the total amount of human misery. What would it be if there were no misery? if evil had no existence—at least in this present state of trial and discipline? Death is an evil to the sufferer only so far as he is more or less qualified for a state of happiness. In all other respects, the evil, to him, consists in the apprehension only. To surviving friends it is an evil, doubtless, of the first magnitude; but, at the same time, it is an evil, of all others, best calculated to work our moral improvement. In this sense the sufferings and death of infants are
evils of the same nature, and calculated to answer the same wise and benevolent purposes; and as to the unconscious sufferers themselves, we may well imagine that abundant compensation is provided, though probably not of the same nature as that which is awarded to moral agents—passive, not active, still less intellectual fruition. Again, in our total ignorance of superhuman or angelic nature I cannot admit the doctrine of the existence of such beings to contain any argument against the supposed necessity of evil as a means of the greatest attainable good. How can we take on ourselves to pronounce that the virtue and happiness of angelic natures (no less than of human) may not be made dependent on the conflict of evil? considered therefore, both as to them and ourselves, as the instrument of perfection?

Early in the following year (1840) a piece of ecclesiastical preferment fell to the lot of the Archdeacon of Derby, which he would perhaps have chosen before all others, and for which he was fitted in an eminent degree. For several years he had been a candidate for a Fellowship at Eton; but his claims, not having been of late brought prominently before the Eton world, had been passed over in favour of others more immediately connected with the school. That he was
not forgotten at Eton, and that his character and attainments were duly-appreciated there, is proved by the fact that, in 1838, the then Provost,
Dr. Goodall, wrote him an elaborate apology for voting against him at a recent election, assigning as his only reason the desire of co-operating with his colleagues, the Fellows, who were unanimously predisposed towards one of the Assistant-masters. In the same year the failing health of Dr. Goodall gave rise to speculations as to his probable successor, and Hodgson’s high qualifications for the office were duly recognised by the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne. But, having always entertained the opinion that the long service as Head-master of his old tutor, Keate, constituted a paramount claim to the office of Provost, Hodgson determined not to oppose him—a determination which he communicated to Lord Melbourne; and in a letter to Harry Drury, who had encouraged him to canvass the next vacancy, he writes, ‘As to the great office at Eton, there is no human being who deserves it but Keate, and Palmam qui meruit ferat.’ This generous expression of feeling quite won the heart of the great Head-master, whose desire for the Provostship decreased with increasing years; and when, in March 1840, Dr. Goodall died, Keate cordially approved of his old pupil’s nomination by the Crown.


By the Statutes of Eton College it was essential that the Provost should have attained the degree of either Bachelor or Doctor of Divinity, and it was required that the election should take place without delay. Hodgson, at the time of his nomination, was only M. A., and the College proceeded to elect his old friend and former protégé, John Lonsdale. Owing to his absence at the funeral of a friend in the country, Lonsdale did not receive notice of his election until some days later, and, as soon as he heard the name of the Crown nominee, he instantly resolved to refuse the proffered honour. Having obtained the necessary degree by Royal mandate on April 10, Hodgson was duly elected by the College on May 5, 1840, and was installed at the ensuing election.

It was not without a feeling of deep regret that he contemplated the prospect of his departure from the scene of his long-continued labours—a feeling which was fully reciprocated by all classes in the neighbourhood. The Dukes of Devonshire and Rutland wrote as follows:—

House of Lords: April 6, 1840.

Very mixed feelings press upon me when I take up my pen to tell you that I have this moment learnt your appointment to be Provost of Eton. Lord
Melbourne’s wish and intention to do this were told me as long ago as on that evening when you met him at Stafford House.

It would be selfish and wrong of me to think of anything but the honourable distinction and credit of this appointment to you personally, and of its advantages to your family. Grieved I shall be to lose you, and I know that you will also feel regret. Give my love to Mrs. Hodgson, and tell her that I never saw greater pleasure in a countenance than in Lord Denman’s just now, when I told him of the event.

God bless you, my dear sir!
Ever most truly yours,

A few months later the Duke wrote:—

It was necessary to get up all recollections of the prosperity and welfare that await you at Eton, not to feel very melancholy when I went to Edensor yesterday.

Belvoir Castle: April 26, 1840.

My dear sir,—No friend of yours can more rejoice in your well-deserved promotion to the Provostship of Eton than I do, and I cannot help giving
this expression to my feelings. I am well aware of the general regret which will be experienced in the neighbourhood—where you have so long resided, and have been so much beloved—at your departure; but that regret must give way to a sensation of joy at one who is so eminently qualified for an important position, such as is the Provostship, being placed in it. I sincerely hope that
Mrs. Hodgson and your daughter are well.

Believe me, my dear sir,
Yours very faithfully,

The Bishop of Lichfield (Bowstead), who had recently been appointed to the see on the demise of Hodgson’s excellent and warm-hearted friend, Bishop Butler,1 wrote his congratulations, and added:—

I cannot but take this opportunity of expressing my unfeigned thanks for the kind, ready, and frank manner in which you communicated with me on subjects connected with your archdeaconry, and also my regret at the loss which the diocese will sustain by your removal from us, especially at the present moment.

1 Bishop Bowstead lived only two and a half years after his appointment, and was succeeded by Bishop Lonsdale.


Old Etonians were not slow to perceive the advantages which were likely to accrue to Eton from Hodgson’s appointment. Archdeacon Bayley writes on May 13, 1840:—

At the earliest moment I send to wish all possible health and happiness in your new character of Provost of Eton. It is an arduous thing to succeed such a man as Goodall in such a situation. Hallam calls him the Incarnation of Eton. But even in him there was a ‘hoc defuit unum,’ which you, I do believe and hope, may be as willing as you are able to supply. I mean the introduction of various improvements in the school, more especially in the discipline and comforts of the College boys. You will find a willing and able auxiliary, I think, in the Head-master.

Lord Wellesley wrote in still more complimentary terms:—

Kingston House: July 16, 1840.

Sir,—My highly respected and warmly beloved friend, your accomplished predecessor, conferred on me the distinguished honour of desiring to place my bust in the library of Eton College. This request might have been ascribed to an impulse of
long (upwards of sixty years) private friendship, but it was confirmed by the vote of the College. Under these circumstances I should have deemed myself authorised to present my bust to the College without any previous proceeding; but I was anxious to pay every mark of respect and attention to you; and also, I confess, desirous that this high honour should have the additional sanction of your justly established reputation as an accomplished scholar, and as a bright example of virtue, learning and religion. Accordingly, I sent my private secretary,
Mr. Alfred Montgomery, to Eton to ascertain your sentiments, and he has brought me a report so encouraging, and in every way so grateful to all my feelings, that I have no hesitation now in sending the bust to be deposited in the place of its honourable destination. No honour is so valuable in my estimation, nor so deeply touches my heart, as a mark of the esteem and affection of the beloved seat of my early education; which I loved when a child, and in the prime of youth, and when under the discipline of preceptors, who, towards me, discharged all the duties of loving parents; and which I have ever since venerated as the source of all the honour by which my public life has been distinguished.


It is a great satisfaction to me to see the affairs of Eton College entrusted to hands so well qualified to administer them, with that benefit to the Empire which it has so long derived from this noble Institution; the Parent of so many illustrious Statesmen and Heroes. My earnest hope and prayer is that your labours in your high station may prove successful, and that, with the able assistance which surrounds you, you may be enabled to satisfy the public expectations formed upon the solid grounds of your long and firmly established character.

I have the honour to be, with the highest respect and esteem, sir,

Your faithful and obedient servant,

I return you many thanks for your kindness in granting a holiday to the boys at my request.


The expectations thus early formed were speedily realised. The newly-elected Provost, though now in his sixtieth year, was full of energy and spirit, and was delighted at the opportunity which his appointment offered of carrying into effect his long-cherished
wish of seeing the collegers in a position more in accordance with the Founder’s evident intentions. As the carriage, which conveyed him from Derbyshire, passed on the third evening of its journey through the Eton playing-fields into Weston’s yard, and the college buildings came into sight, the Provost exclaimed, with characteristic earnestness, ‘Please God I will do something for those poor boys!’ As soon as the business and festivities of election were over a scheme was formed for the erection of new buildings on the site of the old stables, of the Provost and Fellows, a committee was appointed, and subscriptions solicited from old Etonians towards a building fund. Various other improvements were set on foot, which are duly recorded by the latest and most explicit historian of Eton,
Mr. Maxwell Lyte, and which will be mentioned in the ensuing pages, in the order of their occurrence.

Various must have been the emotions with which the Provost entered his new home. The recollections of boyhood must have mingled strangely with the later memories of early manhood and of middle age, and both must have given way to sensations of gratitude and of hope at the prospect of an old age not less useful than honourable.