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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Way, Arthur Sanders (1847–1930)

by G. H. Gellie

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

Arthur Sanders Way (1847-1930), headmaster and translator, was born on 13 February 1847 at Dorking, Surrey, England, son of William Way, Wesleyan Methodist minister, and his wife Matilda, née Francis. He was educated at the new Kingswood School, Bath, at the Wesleyan Collegiate Institution, Taunton, and the University of London (B.A., 1870; M.A., 1873). In 1870 he returned to Queen's College as classical master and in 1876 to Kingswood School as vice-headmaster.

In September 1881 Way was appointed headmaster of Wesley College, Melbourne. He arrived in the Mirzapore with his wife Rubena Blanche, née Barnicott, and a daughter on 25 January 1882 and began duty in February. Way is spoken of affectionately by those who knew him well, and he seems to have enjoyed pleasant relationships with both boys and masters, but his term at Wesley was not happy. Economic depression had already depleted the number of pupils and he lacked the personality that might have attracted either fresh pupils or contributions of money to the school. Although the curriculum favoured natural science and commerce in the hope of attracting numbers, there was no appreciable rise. In the late 1880s other schools were growing fast, but not Wesley. When the boom burst, the school debt mounted and in 1890 the presidency of the school was abolished; in 1892 salaries, including Way's, were cut and he resigned at the end of the year. He returned to England and there lived on the royalties of his classical translations which continued to appear every few years. In 1913 he served as acting headmaster at Mill Hill School.

Way had been president of the Melbourne Shakespeare Society and a councillor of the Royal Society of Victoria but he moved about little in the community. He had a holiday house at Lorne, and spent much of his leisure time in writing, the activity for which he is remembered. In later life he wrote two novels with ancient settings and produced versions of the 'Song of Roland', the 'Nibelungenlied', St Paul's Epistles and the Psalms. But his reputation was made by his translation of Greek and Latin poetry. In 1876 in London he had published The Odes of Horace … Translated in Metre and, under the pseudonym 'Avia', produced The Odyssey of Homer. Done into English Verse (1880). During his years at Wesley The Iliad of Homer… appeared in three parts. In retirement he produced translations of the works of some twenty Latin and Greek writers.

Way was called by one reviewer the 'translator-general of his time', but even in his own day his work received a mixed reception. He brought to translating much rhythmic flexibility and the capacity to render meaning, despite the demands of rhythm and rhyme, with a crib-like accuracy. But the total effect rarely does credit to the originals. His vocabulary is quaint and stilted. The jaunty anapaestic metre which he used for the translations of Homer, and which owed something to William Morris and Swinburne, was reviewed by a contemporary as 'neither flowing, gliding, rushing, nor leaping, but mere bouncing'. His translations into iambic verse were more successful and are still published in the Loeb Classical Library editions of Euripides and Quintus Smyrnaeus.

Way died at Ventnor, Isle of Wight, on 25 September 1930.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Blainey et al, Wesley College. The First Hundred Years (Melb, 1967)
  • Table Talk, 8 July 1892
  • 'Obituary', Times (London), 26 Sept 1930, p 14.

Citation details

G. H. Gellie, 'Way, Arthur Sanders (1847–1930)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 9 August 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 6

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