Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Strong, Herbert Augustus (1841–1918)

by G. R. Manton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Herbert Augustus Strong (1841-1918), by Foster & Martin

Herbert Augustus Strong (1841-1918), by Foster & Martin

University of Melbourne Archives, UMA/I/1175

Herbert Augustus Strong (1841-1918), classicist and humanist, was born on 24 November 1841 at Clyst St Mary near Exeter, Devon, England, son of Edmond Strong, Anglican clergyman, and his wife Sarah, née Forbes-Coulson. He was educated at Winchester School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford (B.A., 1863). In 1866 he became assistant to the professor of humanity, George Ramsay, and was briefly warden of University Hall at the University of Glasgow.

In 1871 Strong replaced M. H. Irving as professor of classical and comparative philology and logic at the University of Melbourne. He arrived in Melbourne in the Nubia on 31 May 1872, took up his post in June and joined four other professors and fewer than 150 full-time students. The burden of teaching and matriculation examining was heavy, but Strong's requests for the appointment of a lecturer in logic to relieve him of the teaching of rhetoric were refused. He was also anxious to promote the study of French and German. In 1881 approval was given for a lecturer in English, and in 1882 a new chair of modern languages and literature was created, and he remained professor of classical and comparative philology.

Strong entered fully into the life of the university, played in the football team and encouraged athletics among his students as well as debating and wide reading. He contributed frequently to the Melbourne Review and the Victorian Review. A witty and humorous raconteur, he was a popular public lecturer on literary subjects; from 1878 he was also a trustee of the Public Library, Museums and National Gallery of Victoria and in April 1883 successfully moved for the opening of the library and picture galleries on Sundays. In 1882 Strong received the honorary degree of LL.D. from the University of Glasgow; in recommending him, Ramsay wrote that he 'has not only been a most successful and popular teacher, but has never ceased to be [a] diligent student both of literature & language', and added that his publications were marked by 'great taste scholarship and literary power'. In ill health by September 1883, he was given leave of absence and returned to England. He was offered the chair of Latin at the newly founded University College in Liverpool and his resignation was received by the University of Melbourne in June 1884.

In Melbourne Strong had published translations from the Latin poets, notably Plautus and Catullus. With Alexander Leeper of Trinity College he put out A Guide to Classical Reading Intended for the Use of Australian Students (1880) and an English translation of Thirteen Satires of Juvenal (1882). With his close friend C. H. Pearson he produced an edition of the same thirteen satires in 1887 (revised 1892); they had also published a Student's English Grammar and a Student's Primer. At the request of students of the university Strong's addresses to them in 1879 and 1881 were printed. In Liverpool he collaborated with others in several studies of language and in 1896 edited Pearson's Reviews and Critical Essays. His contributions to periodicals were mainly in the field of language.

Strong was a classical scholar in the best English tradition; of a broad humanistic outlook, he was deeply convinced of the value of the humanities. He knew the language and literature of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and, later in life, of Russia. His contributions to classical scholarship were not so original as those of his successor in Melbourne, T. G. Tucker, but both there and in Liverpool he devoted himself to pioneering university education; anxious to extend its benefits, he was generally on the side of reform and keen to broaden the range of traditional studies. Cheerful and warm-hearted, he was fond of walking and golf and was a skilful angler.

Strong died at Farnham Common, Buckinghamshire, on 13 January 1918. He had married Helen Campbell Edmiston of Glasgow in January 1875 at Terang, Victoria; they had a daughter who died in infancy, and two sons who survived him together with his second wife Isobel, née White, artist and academy exhibitor. The elder son, Archibald Thomas (1876-1930), returned to Australia in 1901 and became a well-known poet and scholar. A portrait of Strong by Hall Neale is in the possession of the University of Liverpool.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Blainey, A Centenary History of the University of Melbourne (Melb, 1957)
  • Guild of Undergraduates, University of Liverpool, Sphinx, 14 Feb 1918
  • 'Obituary', Times (London), 14 Jan 1918, p 5, and 'Educational Supplement', 17 Jan 1918, p 26
  • Liverpool Post and Mercury, 15 Jan 1918
  • Argus (Melbourne), 16 Jan 1918
  • George Ramsay, letter to the principal, 4 Mar 1882 (University of Glasgow Archives)
  • Council minutes (University of Melbourne Archives).

Citation details

G. R. Manton, 'Strong, Herbert Augustus (1841–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/strong-herbert-augustus-4659/text7699, published in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 3 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Herbert Augustus Strong (1841-1918), by Foster & Martin

Herbert Augustus Strong (1841-1918), by Foster & Martin

University of Melbourne Archives, UMA/I/1175