|Died||22 February 1904 71) (aged|
Sir Leslie Stephen(28 November 1832 – 22 February 1904) was an English author, critic, historian, biographer, and mountaineer, and the father of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell.
Sir Leslie Stephen came from a distinguished intellectual family,and was born at 14 (later renumbered 42) Hyde Park Gate, Kensington in London, the son of Sir James Stephen and (Lady) Jane Catherine (née Venn) Stephen. His father was Colonial Undersecretary of State and a noted abolitionist. He was the fourth of five children, his siblings including James Fitzjames Stephen (1829–1894) and Caroline Emelia Stephen (1834–1909).
His family had belonged to the Clapham Sect, the early 19th century group of mainly evangelical Christian social reformers. At his father's house he saw a good deal of the Macaulays, James Spedding, Sir Henry Taylor and Nassau Senior. Leslie Stephen was educated at Eton College, King's College London and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. (20th wrangler) in 1854 and M.A. in 1857. He was elected a fellow of Trinity Hall in 1854 and became a junior tutor in 1856.In 1859 he was ordained but his study of philosophy, together with the religious controversies surrounding the publication of On the Origin of Species (1859) by Charles Darwin, caused him to lose his faith in 1862, and in 1864 he resigned from his positions at Cambridge, and moved to London. He recounted some of his experiences in a chapter in his Life of Fawcett as well as in some less formal Sketches from Cambridge: By a Don (1865). These sketches were reprinted from The Pall Mall Gazette , to the proprietor of which, George Murray Smith, he had been introduced by his brother.
The family connections included that of William Makepeace Thackeray. His brother, Fitzjames had been a friend of Thackeray's and assisted in the disposition of his estate when he died in 1863. His sister Caroline met Thackeray's daughters, Anny (1837–1919) and Minny (Harriet Marian Thackeray 1840–1875) when they were mutual guests of Julia Margaret Cameron (of whom, see later). This led to an invitation to visit from Leslie Stephen's mother, Lady Stephen, where the sisters met him. They also met at George Murray Smith's house at Hampstead. Minny and Leslie became engaged on 4 December 1866 and married on 19 June 1867. After the wedding they travelled to the Swiss Alps and Northern Italy, and on return to England lived at the Thackeray sisters' home at 16 Onslow Gardens with Anny, who was a novelist. In the spring of 1868 Minny miscarried but recovered sufficiently for the couple to tour the eastern United States. Minny miscarried again in 1869, but became pregnant again in 1870 and on 7 December gave birth to their daughter, Laura Makepeace Stephen (1870–1945). Laura was premature, weighing three pounds. In March 1873 Thackeray and the Stephens moved to 8 Southwell Gardens.The couple travelled extensively, and by 1875 Minny was pregnant again, but this time was in poor health. On 27 November she developed convulsions, and died the following day of eclampsia.
After Minny's death, Leslie Stephen continued to live with Anny, but they moved to 11 Hyde Park Gate South in 1876, next door to her widowed friend and collaborator, Julia Duckworth. Leslie Stephen and his daughter were also cared for by his sister, the writer Caroline Emelia Stephen, although Leslie described her as "Silly Milly" and her books as "little works".Meanwhile, Anny was falling in love with her younger cousin Richmond Ritchie, to Leslie Stephen's consternation. Ritchie became a constant visitor and they became engaged in May 1877, and were married on 2 August. At the same time Leslie Stephen was seeing more and more of Julia Duckworth.
His second marriage was to Julia Prinsep Duckworth (née Jackson, 1846–1895). Julia had been born in India and after returning to England she became a model for Pre-Raphaelite painters such as Edward Burne-Jones.In 1867 she had married Herbert Duckworth (1833 − 1870) by whom she had three children prior to his death in 1870.
Leslie Stephen and Julia Duckworth were married on 26 March 1878. They had four children:
In May 1895, Julia died of influenza, leaving her husband with four young children aged 11 to 15 (her children by her first marriage being adult by then).
In the 1850s, Stephen and his brother James Fitzjames Stephen were invited by Frederick Denison Maurice to lecture at The Working Men's College. Leslie Stephen became a member of the college's governing College Corporation.
Stephen was an honorary fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and received the honorary degree Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.) from the University of Cambridge and from the University of Oxford (November 1901 L. Stevenson, Thomas Hardy, W. E. Norris, Henry James, and James Payn figured among his contributors.). While at Cambridge, Stephen became an Anglican clergyman. In 1865, having renounced his religious beliefs, and after a visit to the United States two years earlier, where he had formed lasting friendships with Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., James Russell Lowell and Charles Eliot Norton, he settled in London and became a journalist, eventually editing The Cornhill Magazine in 1871 where R.
In his spare time, he participated in athletics and mountaineering. He also contributed to the Saturday Review, Fraser, Macmillan, the Fortnightly, and other periodicals. He was already known as a climber, as a contributor to Peaks, Passes and Glaciers (1862), and as one of the earliest presidents of the Alpine Club, when, in 1871, in commemoration of his own first ascents in the Alps, he published The Playground of Europe, which immediately became a mountaineering classic, drawing—together with Whymper's Scrambles Amongst the Alps—successive generations of its readers to the Alps.
During the eleven years of his editorship, in addition to three volumes of critical studies, he made two valuable contributions to philosophical history and theory. The first was The History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century (1876 and 1881). This work was generally recognised as an important addition to philosophical literature and led immediately to Stephen's election at the Athenaeum Club in 1877. The second was The Science of Ethics (1882). It was extensively adopted as a textbook on the subject and made him the best-known proponent of evolutionary ethics in late-nineteenth-century Britain. He was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1901.
Stephen also served as the first editor (1885–91) of the Dictionary of National Biography .
He was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in the 1902 Coronation Honours list published on 26 June 1902.
As an adult, Stephen was an agnostic atheist who wrote extensively about his views. In Social Rights and Duties, he explained how he came to lose his faith of his parents: "When I ceased to accept the teaching of my youth, it was not so much a process of giving up beliefs as of discovering that I never really believed."His second wife, Julia, was similarly activist in her writings on agnosticism.
He advocated for more people of this view to claim the label "agnostic" for themselves, eschewing the harder associations of the unadorned term "atheist", reflecting the fact that no one who claims a disbelief in gods does so on the basis of professing absolute knowledge about the universe. He concluded his essay "An Agnostic's Apology" with a reply to religious critics who hold atheists and agnostics in contempt:
"Til then, we shall be content to admit openly what you whisper under your breath or hide in technical jargon, that the ancient secret is secret still; that man knows nothing of the Infinite and Absolute; and that, knowing nothing, he had better not be dogmatic about his ignorance. And, meanwhile, we will endeavour to be as charitable as possible, and whilst you trumpet forth officially your contempt for our skepticism, we will at least try to believe that you are imposed upon by your own bluster."
Stephen was very involved in the organised humanist movement, even serving multiple terms as President of the West London Ethical Society (part of the Union of Ethical Societies, which became Humanists UK).He gave numerous addresses and lectures to the ethical society during his tenure as president, which are collected at length across multiple volumes of humanist writing. He was an active organiser in the movement, and in one lecture, entitled "The aims of ethical societies", set about the task of defining the broader social purpose which animated the wider Ethical movement at that time.
Stephen was one of the most prominent figures in the golden age of alpinism (the period between Wills's ascent of the Wetterhorn in 1854 and Whymper's ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865) during which many major alpine peaks saw their first ascents. Joining the Alpine Club in 1857 (the year of its formation), Stephen made the first ascent, usually in the company of his favourite Swiss guide Melchior Anderegg, of the following peaks:
He was President of the Alpine Club from 1865 to 1868 and edited the Alpine Journal , 1868–1872.
He died in Kensington and is buried in the eastern section of Highgate Cemetery in the raised section alongside the northern path. His daughter, Virginia Woolf, was badly affected by his death and she was cared for by his sister, Caroline.Woolf in 1922 created a detailed psychological portrait of him in the fictional character of Mr. Ramsay in her classic novel, To the Lighthouse , (as well as of her mother as Mrs. Ramsay). (Ref: The Diaries and Letters of Virginia Woolf) His probate is worded: STEPHEN sir Leslie of 22 Hyde Park-gate Middlesex K.C.B. probate London 23 March to George Herbert Duckworth and Gerald de L'Etang Duckworth esquires Effects £15715 6s. 6d.
To honour his memory, his friends held a lecture in 1907 at the University of Cambridge, which has been held bi-annually as the Leslie Stephen Lecture since. His friends endowed that it be held with the specification that it be on "some literary subject, including therein criticism, biography and ethics."
For family trees of the Stephens, Thackerays and Jacksons, see Bicknell (1996a)and Bloom and Maynard (1994).
|Stephen family tree|
Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English writer, considered one of the most important modernist 20th-century authors and a pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device.
Vanessa Bell was an English painter and interior designer, a member of the Bloomsbury Group and the sister of Virginia Woolf.
Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, 1st Baronet, KCSI was an English lawyer, judge, writer, and philosopher. One of the most famous critics of John Stuart Mill, Stephen achieved prominence as a philosopher, law reformer, and writer.
Gerald de l'Etang Duckworth was an English publisher, who founded the London company that bears his name. Henry James and John Galsworthy were among the firm's early authors.
The Dreadnought hoax was a prank pulled by Horace de Vere Cole in 1910. Cole tricked the Royal Navy into showing their flagship, the battleship HMS Dreadnought, to a fake delegation of Abyssinian royals. The hoax drew attention in Britain to the emergence of the Bloomsbury Group, among whom some of Cole's collaborators numbered. The hoax was a repeat of a similar impersonation which Cole and Adrian Stephen had organised while they were students at Cambridge in 1905.
Valentine Cameron "Val" Prinsep was a British painter of the Pre-Raphaelite school.
Sir Courtenay Peregrine Ilbert, was a distinguished British lawyer and civil servant who served as legal adviser to the Viceroy of India's Council for many years until his eventual return from India to England. His later career included appointments as the First Parliamentary Counsel (1899–1902) and as Clerk of the House of Commons from 1902 to 1921.
Florence Henrietta Darwin, Lady Darwin, was an English playwright.
Anthony Nicholas George Duckworth-Chad, of Pynkney Hall, in Tattersett near King's Lynn, Norfolk, England, is a landowner, City of London business man, and a senior county officer for Norfolk.
Anne Isabella, Lady Ritchie, eldest daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray, was an English writer, whose several novels were appreciated in their time and made her a central figure on the late Victorian literary scene. She is noted especially as the custodian of her father's literary legacy, and for short fiction that places fairy tale narratives in a Victorian milieu. Her 1885 novel Mrs. Dymond introduced into English the proverb, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for life."
John Bonham-Carter was a British politician and barrister.
Melchior Anderegg, from Zaun, Meiringen, was a Swiss mountain guide and the first ascensionist of many prominent mountains in the western Alps during the golden and silver ages of alpinism. His clients were mostly British, the most famous of whom was Leslie Stephen, the writer, critic and mountaineer; Anderegg also climbed extensively with members of the Walker family, including Horace Walker and Lucy Walker, and with Florence Crauford Grove. His cousin Jakob Anderegg was also a well-known guide.
Adrian Leslie Stephen was a member of the Bloomsbury Group, an author and psychoanalyst, and the younger brother of Thoby Stephen, Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell. He and his wife Karin Stephen became interested in the work of Sigmund Freud, and were among the first British psychoanalysts.
Julian Thoby Stephen, known as the Goth, was the brother of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf, both prominent members of the Bloomsbury Group, and of Adrian Stephen.
Orchardleigh is a country estate in Somerset, approximately two miles north of Frome, and on the southern edge of the village of Lullington. The privately held estate comprises a Victorian country house, the Orchardleigh Lake with its island church, and an 18-hole golf course.
William Henry Brookfield was an Anglican priest, Inspector of Schools, and chaplain-in-ordinary to Queen Victoria. His son was the playwright Charles Brookfield.
Sir George Herbert Duckworth, CB, FSA was an English public servant.
Caroline Emelia Stephen, also known as Milly Stephen, was a British philanthropist and a writer on Quakerism. Her niece was Virginia Woolf.
Julia Prinsep Stephen was an English Pre-Raphaelite model and philanthropist. She was the wife of the biographer Leslie Stephen and mother of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, members of the Bloomsbury Group.
Harriet Marian "Minny" Stephen, was the wife of Leslie Stephen and what her father William Makepeace Thackeray called 'the balance wheel in the family'.