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Hallam, Henrylocked

  • Timothy Lang

Henry Hallam (1777–1859)

by George Richmond, 1843

Hallam, Henry (1777–1859), historian, born on 9 July 1777 at Windsor, was the only son of John Hallam (d. 1812), canon of Windsor (from 1775) and dean of Bristol (1781–1800), and his wife, Eleanor (d. 1826), sister (some sources say daughter) of William Hayward Roberts, the provost of Eton College (1781–1791). Hallam came from a family with a strong Lincolnshire connection. His grandfather served twice as mayor of Boston and his father attended the Boston grammar school before moving on to Eton, King's College, Cambridge, and a career in the Church of England. Over the years the family acquired property in the villages around Boston, which Hallam inherited on his father's death in 1812.


As a child Hallam demonstrated a precocious interest in literature, and wrote poetry at an early age. From 1790 to 1794 he attended Eton College, where he was known for his studious demeanour, and in 1795 he matriculated from Christ Church, Oxford. He was tutored by a student of Christ Church, William Wood, under whose guidance he read extensively in the Greek and Roman classics. While at the university Hallam became friends with Lord Webb Seymour, a younger son of the tenth duke of Somerset, and Peter Elmsley, the future Camden professor of ancient history. Hallam left Oxford in 1798, graduated BA in 1799, MA in 1832, and DCL in 1848. In 1858 Christ Church made him an honorary student in recognition of his work as a historian. He was among the first in the university to be elected to this position.

Lawyer and whig

Hallam's first choice of career was the law. He was admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1798, but for unknown reasons chose to move to the Inner Temple, which called him to the bar in 1802. He practised for a number of years as a barrister on the Oxford circuit. He tired of the legal profession, however, and accepted in 1806 a commissionership of stamps, a sinecure with light duties which he held until 1826. It was at this time that Hallam began his association with many leading whig politicians. He had received his position at the stamp office through their patronage and, possibly at the instigation of Elmsley and Seymour, he began to contribute to the whig Edinburgh Review. Between 1805 and 1809 he wrote nine articles on a variety of literary and political topics, including one on the Catholic question, in which he argued the case for emancipation (Edinburgh Review, 8, 1806, 311–26). Perhaps his most notorious contribution was a review of Richard Payne Knight's Principles of Taste (Edinburgh Review, 7, 1806, 295–328). Hallam's failure in the article to recognize some verses by Pindar prompted Byron to quip, 'classic HALLAM, much renowned for Greek' (Complete Poetical Works, 1.245). Hallam's connection with the review lapsed after 1809, perhaps because he disapproved of its democratic tone, perhaps because he was now too busy with his own historical research. He did not resume the connection until many years later, when he reviewed historical works by John Lingard and Francis Palgrave in 1831 and 1832.

Though he never sat in parliament, Hallam always took an interest in political questions. He became associated with the whigs at a time when a number of professional men like himself had joined the party and were encouraging it to take a more active stand on reform. Hallam shared this commitment to reform but tempered it with moderation. He once described his whiggism as a belief in a 'well-ordered liberty', where order would prevent anarchy and liberty would prevent tyranny (Horner, 2.263). He advocated the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, which would grant political equality to dissenters, and Catholic emancipation. He supported the reform of the Irish church, hoping to make it meet the religious needs of the Irish nation, and he advocated the abolition of West Indian slavery and the slave trade. On the issue of parliamentary reform, however, Hallam was at odds with his party. While he was prepared to accept small adjustments to the constitution, he was unwilling to endorse a measure as sweeping as the first Reform Act, which the whigs carried in 1832. Hallam, distrusting democracy, feared the Reform Act would eliminate the aristocratic influence that he valued as a stabilizing force in the House of Commons.

Historical writings

By 1809 Hallam had set to work on the historical scholarship for which he is best-known. His View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages (2 vols., 1818) surveyed the political development of the principal west European countries, paying particular attention to England's Anglo-Saxon and Norman constitutions. In an effort to bring his book up to date with current scholarship he published a set of Supplemental Notes (1848), which were incorporated into later editions. His next work, The constitutional history of England from the accession of Henry VII to the death of George II (2 vols., 1827), continued the discussion of England's political development, and appended to it a brief consideration of events in Scotland and Ireland. Hallam terminated his narrative at the accession of George III because he was unwilling to stir up political passions that were rooted in the recent past. Although these works must be recognized as serious scholarship, they can also be read for their contribution to the ideological debates of the 1810s and 1820s. In his histories Hallam endorsed the moderate whiggism that derived from the revolution of 1688, while he rejected both the radical heritage of the Commonwealth and the tory defence of the Stuarts often associated with David Hume, whose History of England, despite its shortcomings, remained the standard authority. He championed the mixed constitution that had emerged out of the middle ages and survived the vicissitudes of the Stuarts, reaching near perfection after 1688. Hallam paid particular attention to religious issues, which was not surprising given their importance in early nineteenth-century politics. He deplored the persecution of Catholic and protestant dissent during the reigns of the Tudors and Stuarts, and he supported the Erastianism of the church–state relationship, which he considered a guarantee against religious persecution. As a historian Hallam displayed a Burkean appreciation of the continuities in English history that was consistent with his distrust of unnecessary innovation. For much of the nineteenth century his books remained standard authorities, going through numerous editions and earning respect for their sober judgments. Hallam's final work, his Introduction to the literature of Europe in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries (4 vols., 1837–9), one of the most extensive works of literary history to appear during the early Victorian period, was comprehensive in its treatment and adhered to a neo-classical standard of taste.

Though Hallam's reputation rests on his work as a historian, he made other contributions to Victorian intellectual life. Given the breadth of his interests, he was an obvious participant in the learned societies and literary clubs of the day. He became a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1801, and held the office of vice-president from 1824 to 1851; he was also elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1821. He helped found London University, and sat on its council from 1828 to 1831, as well as being a founder member of the Statistical Society, and serving as its treasurer from 1834 to 1840. During the 1830s he also worked with the sixth record commission, appointed in 1831 to organize the national records, and he assisted the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, an organization dedicated to popular education. In 1837 he was elected a trustee of the British Museum. He was a member of the royal commission on the fine arts established in 1841 to oversee the interior decoration of the new houses of parliament. Hallam was an honorary member of the Royal Academy, a vice-president of the Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, president from 1845 to 1849 of the Royal Society of Literature, and a member of the Geological Society. He belonged to three literary clubs: the Roxburghe, the Athenaeum, and The Club.

Family and character

Hallam's family brought him both happiness and sorrow. In January 1807 he married Julia Maria Elton (1783–1840), daughter of the Revd Sir Abraham Elton, baronet, of Clevedon Court, Somerset. Married for thirty-three years, they had eleven children, but only four of their progeny reached adulthood and only one outlived Hallam himself. The family travelled frequently on the continent, visiting many of the countries of western Europe. It was in 1833, during a stay in Vienna, that tragedy first struck. After a walk about the city, Hallam returned to his hotel to find his eldest and favourite son, Arthur Henry, lying dead on a sofa [see below]. One of Arthur's closest friends, Alfred Tennyson, commemorated the loss in the poem In Memoriam. After Arthur's death misfortune continued to plague Hallam's family: his daughter Eleanor died in 1837 and his wife in 1840. Hallam now bestowed his affections on his only surviving son, Henry Fitzmaurice, who was destined to repeat his brother's tragedy. In 1850, just months after the publication of Tennyson's poem had awakened old memories, Henry Fitzmaurice joined his father for an excursion on the continent. He, too, took ill and died. 'There is now nothing to fill the gap, nothing to take off from the solitude of my last days', Hallam wrote to Samuel Rogers later that year (Clayden, 2.379). He was survived by his remaining daughter, Julia.

Throughout this period Hallam frequented whig society. He was a regular guest at Holland House [see also Holland House set] and Bowood, the Wiltshire estate of the third marquess of Lansdowne. He was known for the depth of his learning and his conversation, though he never achieved the brilliance of Macaulay, with whom he was often compared. As a young man he had the reputation of being a pedant—at Holland House he was dubbed the 'bore contradictor'—though in later years acquaintances stressed his broad erudition and gentle manner. On meeting him in 1847, the American George Bancroft reported that

Hallam has a countenance, so full of benevolence, mildly radiant with a most gentle and kindly expression, that he wins very rapidly on those that see him. … His good judgment shows itself as much in conversation as in his books; and his mind takes the widest range.

Correspondence of … Prescott, 625

Hallam died on 21 January 1859 at Pickhurst Manor, near Bromley, Kent, the home of his daughter Julia, who had married John Farnaby Cator. Hallam had suffered a paralytic seizure in 1854, from which he had never fully recovered. He was buried one week later at Clevedon, alongside the other members of his family.

Arthur Henry Hallam (1811–1833), poet and essayist, was born at Bedford Place, London, on 1 February 1811. He was a thoughtful child, and took an early interest in serious literature. From 1822 to 1827 he attended Eton College, where he participated in the debating society and was known as the school's best poet. His letters from the period, many of them to his friend W. E. Gladstone, sparkle with whiggish views on past and present politics. Hallam ‘messed’ with Gladstone, though they were in different houses, and their youthful friendship was, at least for the future prime minister, exceptionally rewarding. Hallam introduced Gladstone to whigs and whiggish views—an important influence on the young tory evangelical. After leaving Eton in July 1827 Hallam travelled with his parents on the continent, where he spent eight months in Italy and fell under the spell of Italian culture. During his stay in Rome he became infatuated with Anna Wintour, the English beauty who inspired eleven of his poems. On returning to England, Arthur entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1828 and became the pupil of William Whewell. He found the study of mathematics uncongenial, however, and turned his attention to metaphysics and modern poetry. He participated in the debates at the Cambridge Union, and once spoke in favour of Wordsworth as a greater poet than Byron. In 1829 he was elected a member of the Cambridge Apostles and he drew most of his friends from among their number. Although he cared little for university honours, he won in 1831 prizes for a declamation vindicating the independents in the English civil war and for an essay on the philosophy of Cicero. In January 1832 he received his BA and left Cambridge.

The most momentous of Arthur's friendships was formed with Alfred Tennyson while the two men were students at Cambridge. A love of poetry drew them together. While at Cambridge they planned to publish jointly some of their poems, but abandoned the project when Henry Hallam objected to it. As a result, Arthur's Poems (1830) was privately printed and distributed. While visiting the Tennysons in 1830, Arthur met and fell in love with Alfred's sister Emily, to whom he later became engaged, despite Henry Hallam's reservations. In the summer of 1830 Arthur and Alfred put their liberal politics into practice by travelling to the Pyrenees in a futile effort to aid the Spanish rebellion against Ferdinand VII.

After Cambridge, Arthur resided with his family in London. He was admitted to the Inner Temple in February 1832 and began to prepare for the bar, a career that his father had chosen for him. During the summer of 1833, he travelled with his father on the continent, visiting the Alps and the Danube. While in Vienna he died suddenly of a ruptured aneurysm at Zur Goldenen Birne, Landstrasse 63, on 15 September. He was buried at Clevedon church, Somerset, on 3 January 1834. Shortly after his death some of Arthur's friends, deciding that his compositions deserved wider recognition, persuaded Henry Hallam to publish a selection of his son's prose and verse and to write an accompanying memoir. Henry Hallam proved a heavy-handed editor, expunging from the record Arthur's infatuation with Anna Wintour, his engagement to Emily Tennyson, and his adventures in Spain. A more complete edition of The Writings of Arthur Hallam, edited by T. H. V. Motter, appeared in 1943. Today Arthur Hallam is still best-known for his association with Tennyson and as the inspiration for In Memoriam, though some now recognize his own talent as a poet and critic.

Henry Fitzmaurice Hallam (1824–1850) was born on 31 August 1824. He was named after his godfather, the third marquess of Lansdowne. According to friends he was reserved, thoughtful, and exhibited a 'sweetness of temper' (Maine and Lushington, 54). From 1836 to 1841 he attended Eton College, where he was known for his intellect and broad learning. He participated in Eton's debating club and competed for the Newcastle scholarship, in which he won the medal or second prize. In October 1842 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was tutored by John Heath and W. H. Thompson. At Cambridge he obtained a Trinity scholarship in 1844 and won first prize for a declamation on the influence of religion on art. He helped to found a historical debating club as an alternative to the Cambridge Union, belonged to the Apostles, and once spoke persuasively at the union in favour of endowing the Catholic seminary at Maynooth. He graduated BA in January 1846, having obtained a first in the classical tripos and the second chancellor's medal. He left the university in December 1846 after failing to win a fellowship; his MA followed in 1849. On leaving Cambridge, he moved to London and began preparing himself for a career in the law. He was called to the bar in 1850 and joined the midland circuit that summer. He died on 25 October 1850 at Siena, Italy, while travelling with his family. He was buried on 23 December 1850 at Clevedon church, Somerset.


  • T. Lang, ‘Henry Hallam and early nineteenth-century whiggism’, The Victorians and the Stuart heritage (1995), 23–52
  • P. Clark, Henry Hallam (1982)
  • The letters of Arthur Henry Hallam, ed. J. Kolb (1981)
  • Remains in verse and prose of Arthur Henry Hallam, ed. H. Hallam (1863)
  • H. S. Maine and F. Lushington, ‘Memoir of Henry Fitzmaurice Hallam’, Remains in verse and prose of Arthur Henry Hallam, ed. H. Hallam (1863), 53–68
  • The complete poetical works: Lord Byron, ed. J. J. McGann, 1 (1980), 227–64
  • Memoirs and correspondence of Francis Horner, MP, ed. L. Horner, 2nd edn, 2 vols. (1853)
  • P. W. Clayden, Rogers and his contemporaries, 2 vols. (1889)
  • The correspondence of William Hickling Prescott, 1833–1847, ed. R. Wolcott (1925)
  • The writings of Arthur Hallam, ed. T. H. V. Motter (1943)
  • P. Thompson, The history and antiquities of Boston (1856)
  • The ‘Pope’ of Holland House: selections from the correspondence of John Whishaw and his friends, 1813–1840, ed. Lady Seymour (1906)
  • G. Ramsden, Correspondence of two brothers: Edward Adolphus, eleventh duke of Somerset and Lord Webb Seymour (1906)
  • H. Holland, Recollections of past life (1872)
  • L. Sanders, The Holland House circle (1908)
  • P. B. M. Blaas, Continuity and anachronism (1978)


  • Bodl. Oxf., letters
  • Christ Church Oxf., papers
  • Trinity Cam., commonplace books, household accounts, letters, and notes for publications
  • UCL, letters to Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge
  • BL, corresp. with W. E. Gladstone, Add. MSS 44353–44373, passim
  • BL, corresp. with Sir Robert Peel, Add. MSS 40495–40599, passim
  • CKS, corresp. with Lord Stanhope
  • GS Lond., letters to Sir R. I. Munchison
  • NRA Scotland, priv. coll., letters to John Swinton
  • Tennyson Research Centre, Lincoln
  • Trinity Cam., letters to William Whewell
  • Wellesley College, Massachusetts, love letters to Emily Tennyson


  • W. Beechey, oils, 1795, Eton
  • T. Phillips, oils, 1835, Clevedon Court, Somerset; repro. in H. Ward, History of the Athenaeum, 1824–1925 (1926)
  • G. Richmond, chalk drawing, 1843, NPG [see illus.]
  • R. C. Lucas, wax medallion, 1851, NPG
  • W. Theed, statue, 1863, St Paul's Cathedral, London; related bust, 1864, Royal Collection
  • G. P. Harding, pencil (after T. Phillips), NPG
  • attrib. G. S. Newton, chalk drawing, NPG
  • J. Partridge, group portrait, oils (The Fine Arts Commissioners, 1846), NPG
  • J. Spedding, sketch, repro. in Kolb, ed., Letters

Wealth at Death

under £60,000: probate, 18 Feb 1859, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

, 63 vols. (1885–1900), suppl., 3 vols. (1901); repr. in 22 vols. (1908–9); 10 further suppls. (1912–96); (1993)
W. E. Gladstone , ed. M. R. D. Foot & H. C. G. Matthew, 14 vols. (1968–94)
Christ Church, Oxford
Eton College, Berkshire