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Scott, Robertlocked

  • Henry Craik
  • , revised by Richard Smail

Robert Scott (1811–1887)

by Samuel Alexander Walker, 1874

Scott, Robert (1811–1887), lexicographer and dean of Rochester, was born on 26 January 1811 at Bondleigh, Devon, the son of Alexander Scott (1781–1847), then rector there, and his wife, Agnes. His father moved to Egremont rectory, Cumberland, and Robert attended St Bees, and afterwards Shrewsbury School, then under Dr Samuel Butler, afterwards bishop of Lichfield. He entered Christ Church, Oxford (of which he was elected a junior student along with Henry George Liddell), in January 1830. He was Craven scholar in 1830, Ireland scholar in 1833, and in the same year graduated BA with first class in the final classical school. In 1834 he won the Latin essay prize, and became fellow of Balliol in 1835, acting as tutor in that college (with Archibald Campbell Tait, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury) until 1840. He was ordained in 1835, and held the college living of Duloe, Cornwall, from 1840 to 1850. He was prebendary of Exeter from 1845 to 1866, and held the rectory of South Luffenham, Rutland, from 1850 to 1854, being select preacher at Oxford in 1853–4. He married, first, on 1 December 1840, Mary Harriet, daughter of Rear-Admiral Thomas Folliott Bough, who died on 5 December 1845, and, second, on 7 June 1849, Mary Jane Ann, daughter of Major Hugh Scott, who died on 6 January 1885.

In 1854 Scott was elected master of Balliol College, in succession to Dr Richard Jenkyns, and in opposition to Benjamin Jowett, whose orthodoxy was questioned. In the election, Scott was the victor by six votes to five, and 'for ten years he was an obstructive, wielding his numerical ascendancy to crush all Jowett's schemes of reform' (W. Tuckwell, Reminiscences of Oxford, 2nd edn 1907, 202). Outside the college he was an active but highly conservative delegate of the university press. Scott held the mastership until 1870, being also Dean Ireland's professor of exegesis from 1861 to 1870. Much of Balliol's success during his mastership must be ascribed to the efforts of Jowett, whose influence seems to have prompted Gladstone to make Scott dean of Rochester in 1870, the appointment in part timed so as to ensure Jowett's election as his successor in Balliol. Scott was again select preacher at Oxford in 1874–5. He died at the deanery, Rochester, on 2 December 1887.

Scott published two sets of sermons and a commentary on the epistle of James, but is best known as joint compiler (with H. G. Liddell, dean of Christ Church) of a Greek–English lexicon (usually referred to as ‘Liddell and Scott’). Work was begun, on the basis of the Greek–German lexicon of Passow, in 1836, and the first edition was published by the university press in 1843. Six more editions, involving much correction and enlargement, appeared in Scott's lifetime, although Liddell, who was always the more active partner, was alone responsible for the seventh edition (1883). The lexicon was largely rewritten for the ninth edition of 1940 and supplements were published in 1968 and 1996.


  • The Times (3 Dec 1887)
  • The Guardian (14 Dec 1887)
  • I. Elliott, ed., The Balliol College register, 1833–1933, 2nd edn (privately printed, Oxford, 1934)
  • G. Faber, Jowett (1957)
  • P. Sutcliffe, The Oxford University Press: an informal history (1978)
  • P. G. W. Glare, Studies in lexicography, ed. R. Burchfield (1987)


  • Pusey Oxf., corresp. and papers
  • Balliol Oxf., corresp. relating to affairs of Balliol College, Oxford
  • Balliol Oxf., letters to Richard Jenkyns
  • BL, corresp. with Samuel Butler, Add. MSS 34587–35068, passim
  • BL, corresp. with W. E. Gladstone, Add. MS 44295
  • LPL, corresp. with A. C. Tait
  • NL Scot., corresp. and papers relating to Revised Version of Bible


  • photograph, 1874, NPG [see illus.]
  • oils, Balliol Oxf.
  • wood-engraving (after photograph by S. A. Walker), NPG; repro. in ILN (17 Dec 1887)

Wealth at Death

£58,203 3s. 11d.—effects in England: probate, 14 Feb 1888, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

F. Boase, , 6 vols. (privately printed, Truro, 1892–1921); repr. (1965)
Calendars of the grants of probate … made in … HM court of probate [England and Wales]
W. E. Gladstone , ed. M. R. D. Foot & H. C. G. Matthew, 14 vols. (1968–94)