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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Froude, James Anthony (1818–1894)

by Ruth Teale

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

James Anthony Froude (1818-1894), by unknown engraver, 1885

James Anthony Froude (1818-1894), by unknown engraver, 1885

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, IAN18/02/85/20

James Anthony Froude (1818-1894), historian and man of letters, was born on 23 April 1818 at Dartington, Devonshire, England, son of Rev. Robert Hurrell Froude (1771-1859), and his wife Margaret, née Spedding. In 1830-33 Froude attended Westminster School and after private tuition entered Oriel College, Oxford (B.A., 1842; M.A., 1843). He became a fellow of Exeter College, and in 1849 was appointed headmaster of the High School, Hobart Town, but did not take up the position.

When Froude arrived in Melbourne on 21 January 1885 in the Australasian, his twelve volume History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada (1856-70) had established his repute as 'one of the greatest English prose writers of the nineteenth century'. In Victoria Froude was lionized; he stayed with the governor, travelled to Ballarat and other gold towns in a special train and visited sheep stations and vineyards. On 14 February he reached Sydney where again he was fêted although his visit was overshadowed by the dispatch of the Sudan contingent. He found William Bede Dalley 'the most remarkable of all the Australian statesmen' and was influenced by his views on imperial federation. On his return to England he published Oceana; or England and her Colonies (1886), hoping to promote imperial federation and a united Oceana.

The book flattered Australians but proved controversial. In a review in McMillan's Magazine, August 1886, Bernhard Ringrose Wise declared that 'Mr. Froude saw nothing of the men and women whose sentiments really compose Australian opinion. He came upon us at a time when the popular imagination had been taken captive by military ardour; and he associated only with the wealthy and official class. Were he to return to Sydney now he would form very different impressions'; the Sudan expedition, which had started with such enthusiasm, became the subject of disenchantment. The Age claimed that Froude's mind was 'an absolute blank' on the federation of Oceana and that the colonies did not want imperial federation. The Australian Magazine, July 1886, referred to Froude as 'our Romantic Historian' and criticized his superficiality, inaccuracies and 'partial and one-sided' observations; Oceana, however fascinating as a travel book, was visionary and useless 'as a serious attempt to grasp and understand a complex political problem'. Only the Sydney Morning Herald reviewed the book with any favour.

In 1892 Froude was appointed regius professor of history at Oxford. He died on 20 October 1894 at Kingsbridge, Devonshire, survived by one daughter of his first wife Charlotte Maria, née Grenfell, and by a son and a daughter of his second wife Henrietta Elizabeth, née Warre.

Select Bibliography

  • W. H. Dunn, James Anthony Froude, vols 1-2 (Oxford 1961, 1963)
  • Age (Melbourne), 22 Jan–11 Feb 1885, 6 Mar 1886
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 26, 27 Feb 1885, 6 Mar, 15, 25 Sept 1886.

Citation details

Ruth Teale, 'Froude, James Anthony (1818–1894)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 23 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

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