The Twickenham Museum
People : Writers, Poets and Historians

Francis Turner Palgrave
Author, poet and anthologist
1824 - 1897

Francis Turner Palgrave

Becomes a teacher at Kneller Hall training school

Francis Palgrave was the eldest son of Sir Francis Palgrave (1788-1861), historian and antiquary. Sir Francis had been born the son of Meyer Cohen but adopted the maiden name of his wife's mother, converting to Christianity. Despite their Jewish ancestry the family embraced Anglo-Catholicism with some fervour.

After Charterhouse, Francis went up to Balliol College, Oxford and this brought him into contact with Matthew Arnold and Arthur Hugh Clough. After some months, in 1846, as private secretary to W E Gladstone he joined the Education Department where he spent the rest of his active life.

In 1850 he went to teach at the short-lived training school for teachers of delinquent and pauper children at Kneller Hall, Whitton. He was vice-principal to Frederick Temple later Archbishop of Canterbury. The school was not a success: there was controversy over its value in the educational field, and it was closed in 1856.

Assistant Secretary to the Education Department

In that year, 1856, he was appointed Assistant Secretary to the Education Department, a post that he held until retirement in 1884 and which was subsequently held by Francis Cotterell Hodgson. It cannot, at that time have been an onerous responsibility because he is remembered more for his work in the wider cultural field than in education.

The Golden Treasury

Remaining closely associated with the Balliol circle he held the chair of Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1885 until 1895.

While at Kneller Hall Palgrave would come to visit Tennyson in Montpelier Row. Tennyson found him rather heavy going, but they remained friends for many years after Tennyson had left in 1853. It was during holidays spent with Tennyson that his project for The Golden Treasury was developed, leading to publication of the first edition in 1861.

Writing in January 1890, Grant Duff mentioned a visit by Francis Palgrave to Tennyson at Holyrood House in Montpelier Row in about 1851. Duff noted that Palgrave “had at that period said to the poet, whose fame had been recently increased by the wide diffusion of In Memoriam: 'in republishing your works you will probably leave out some of the less mature of your compositions'. Tennyson assented and they proceeded to look through the volumes, finding some eight or ten poems which might be sacrificed. The arrangement was not carried into effect, Moxon, the publisher having suggested certain difficulties”.

When Palgrave made a similar suggestion to Browning, he replied: 'What, leave out anything! No. Quod scripsi, sripsi!'

Further reading:

Brian Louis Pearce, The Fashioned Reed - the Poets of Twickenham from St Margarets to Hampton Court from 1500, Borough of Twickenham Local History Society Paper No67, 1992
Dictionary of National Biography

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