Charles Merivale

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Charles Merivale.

The Very Reverend Charles Merivale (8 March 1808 – 27 December 1893) was an English historian and churchman, for many years dean of Ely Cathedral. He was one of the main instigators of the inaugural Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race which took place at Henley in 1829.

Early life

Merivale was the second son of John Herman Merivale (1770–1844) and Louisa Heath Drury, daughter of Joseph Drury, headmaster of Harrow. He was educated at Harrow School under George Butler from 1818 to 1824, where his chief schoolfriends were Charles Wordsworth and Richard Chenevix Trench. He took part in the Eton versus Harrow cricket match in 1824.[1] In 1824 he was offered a post in the Indian civil service, and went for a short time to Haileybury College, where he did well in Oriental languages. Deciding against an Indian career, he went up to St John's College, Cambridge in 1826.[2] Among other distinctions he came out as fourth classic in 1830, and in 1833 was elected fellow of St John's. He was a member of the Apostles' Club, his fellow-members including Tennyson, A. H. Hallam, Monckton Milnes, W. H. Thompson, Trench and James Spedding. Merivale was the main protagonist on the Cambridge side in instigating the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race held at Henley on Thames in 1829. He rowed at number four in the Cambridge boat in the race which Oxford won.[3]

Clerical career

Merivale was ordained deacon in 1833 and priest in 1834 and undertook college and university work successfully. He was appointed select preacher at Whitehall in 1839. In 1848 he took the college living of Lawford, near Manningtree, in Essex. He was appointed Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons in 1863. In 1869, he declined the professorship of modern history at Cambridge, but in the same year accepted from Gladstone the deanery of Ely, and until his death devoted himself to the best interests of the cathedral, also receiving many honorary academical distinctions.

Historical work

Merivale's principal work was A History of the Romans under the Empire, in eight volumes, which came out between 1850 and 1862. He wrote several smaller historical works, and published sermons, lectures and Latin verses. Merivale as an historian cannot be compared with Edward Gibbon, but he takes an eminently common-sense and appreciative view. The chief defect of his work, inevitable at the time it was composed, is that he relies on literary gossip rather than on factual evidence. The dean was an elegant scholar, and his rendering of the Hyperion of John Keats into Latin verse (1862) has received high praise.[4]

Personal life

Merivale married Judith Mary Sophia Frere, youngest daughter of George Frere in 1850. Their son John Herman Merivale was the first English professor of mining.[5]

Merivale died at Ely at the age of 85.

See also


  1. Charles Merivale at Cricket Archive
  2. "Merivale, Charles (MRVL826C)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Walter Bradford Woodgate Boating 1888
  4. Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Merivale, Charles". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Day, Lance; McNeil, Ian, eds. (1996). "Merivale, John Herman". Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-06042-7. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Autobiography of Dean Merivale, with selections from his correspondence, edited by his daughter, Judith A. Merivale (1899); and Family Memorials, by Anna W. Merivale (1884).

External links

Church of England titles
Preceded by
Harvey Goodwin
Dean of Ely
Succeeded by
Charles William Stubbs