Strong Letters

Scope and Content

Letters from Sandford Arthur Strong and Eugenie Strong to Dr Williamson, concerning works on art history and a proposed biography of Sanford Arthur Strong.

Administrative / Biographical History

Strong, Sandford Arthur (1863-1904), orientalist and art historian, born in London on 10 Apr 1863, was the second son of Thomas Banks Strong, of the War Office, and his wife, Anna, née Lawson, a Hebrew scholar. His elder brother was Thomas Banks Strong. In 1877 he entered St Paul's School, London, as a foundation scholar, but remained there for little more than a year. His next two years were passed as a clerk at Lloyd's, though during this time he also attended classes at King's College, London. In 1881 he matriculated at Cambridge, with a Hutchinson studentship at St John's College. He graduated in 1884, with a third class in part one of the classical tripos, being placed in the second class in part two the following year. He proceeded MA in 1890.

Even in his undergraduate days Strong was inclined towards oriental studies, and on the recommendation of Professor Edward Byles Cowell he worked at Sanskrit with Cecil Bendall. However, he received little encouragement at Cambridge and moved to Oxford towards the end of 1885. There he was employed as subkeeper and librarian of the Indian Institute, and came to know Max Müller, Archibald Sayce, and Adolf Neubauer. Neubauer advised him to visit the continent, and gave him letters of introduction to Ernest Renan and James Darmesteter at Paris. Both were deeply impressed with his attainments, and their testimonials are quoted at length in Lord Balcarres's memoir; he also studied with Schrader at Berlin. Despite his qualifications Strong did not quickly find recognition or remunerative employment on his return to England. To Sanskrit he added Pali, to Arabic he added Persian and Assyrian, and he made some progress in hieroglyphics and Chinese. On all of these he wrote in learned publications, and he also contributed reviews to The Athenaeum and The Academy. He produced editions of the Maha-Bodhi-Vamsa for the Pali Text Society (1891), and of the Futah al-Habashah or Conquest of Abyssinia (1894) for the Royal Asiatic Society's monographs. But he failed in his candidature for the chair of Arabic at Cambridge, made vacant by the death of Robertson Smith in 1894. He was, however, appointed professor of Arabic at University College, London, in 1895 and held this office, largely nominal, until his death.

In the same year a new career suddenly opened before Strong. Sidney Colvin introduced him to the duke of Devonshire, who was then in need of a librarian to succeed Sir James Lacaita. Installed at Chatsworth in 1895, Strong was as much interested in the historic collection of pictures and other works of art there as in the books in the library. He now showed what the scientific training of a scholar could accomplish in a new field, which was in fact the return to an old love. As a boy he had been taught drawing by Albert Varley, who gave him a copy of Pilkington's Dictionary of Painters, and he had acquainted himself with the styles of the different masters in the National Gallery. The discoveries he made at Chatsworth, and no doubt also his personal charm, opened to him other collections-the duke of Portland's at Welbeck, where he also acted for a time as librarian, the earl of Pembroke's at Wilton, and Lord Wantage's at Lockinge. Between 1900 and 1904 he published descriptions of these artistic and literary treasures.

On 11 December 1897 Strong married the distinguished classical archaeologist Eugénie Sellers [see Strong, Eugénie (1860-1943)]; they had no children. Also in 1897 he was appointed librarian at the House of Lords, where he compiled two catalogues, one of the general library and one of the law books. This appointment, while it did not interrupt his studies or his tenure of office at Chatsworth, introduced him to another sphere of interest, where he made himself equally at home. He became absorbed in politics and even dreamed that his ideal career would be in colonial government. But his health was never robust, and he had strained what physical vigour he possessed. After a lingering illness, he died at 7 Queen Anne Street, London, on 18 Jan 1904, and was buried in Brompton cemetery. At his death he was working on the Arabic text of Ibn Arabshah's History of Yakmak, Sultan of Egypt. A full bibliography of his works was included in the 1905 publication of his Critical Studies and Fragments. The Arthur Strong Oriental Library at University College, London, was formed around a nucleus which consisted of the books given in his memory by his widow, and it contained the bust by Countess Feodora Gleichen (1894), presented by a group of his friends. The collection was later redistributed in the library, some of the oriental books being transferred to the library of the new School of Oriental Studies after its foundation in 1916.

Eugenie Strong was born on March 25, 1860. Educated in France, she came up to Girton College in 1879 to read for the Classical Tripos, which she took in 1882. On leaving Girton she spent several years training for a career in archaeology. She taught in London for a time, then spent time studying and working at the British School at Athens and in Germany, where she worked with Adolf Furtwangler.

In 1897, she married Sandford Arthur Strong, orientalist and Librarian to the House of Lords and also Librarian and Keeper of the Duke of Devonshire's books and statuary at Chatsworth. After Arthur Strong's death in 1904 she carried on his work at Chatsworth till 1909, when she was appointed Assistant Director of the British School at Rome. She spent the rest of her life in Rome. During this period she returned to the Roman Catholic faith which was a very strong influence in her later years.

She was elected Girton's first Research Fellow in 1910 and was also a Life Fellow of the College. She received many honours, but in particular she was made, in 1927, a CBE, and in 1938 she was awarded the Serena gold medal for Italian studies by the British Academy. She died in Rome on 16 Sep, 1943.

Sollas, William Johnson (1849-1936), geologist and anthropologist, was born in Birmingham on 30 May 1849, the eldest son of William Henry Sollas, shipowner, and his wife, Emma (née Wheatley). He was educated at the City of London School, the Royal College of Chemistry (under Sir Edward Frankland), and the Royal School of Mines (where, Sollas later averred, he owed most among his teachers to Thomas Henry Huxley). After becoming an Associate of the Royal School of Mines, Sollas proceeded to St John's College, Cambridge, where, under the influence of Thomas Bonney, he specialized in geology, taking a first class in the natural sciences tripos in 1873. From 1873 to 1878 Sollas was engaged in university extension lecturing before appointment as lecturer in geology at University College, Bristol, and as curator of the Bristol Museum, becoming professor of geology and zoology in May 1880.

Already known as a palaeontologist, with unique knowledge of fossil and modern sponges, Sollas was appointed professor of geology and mineralogy at Trinity College, Dublin, in Dec 1883. There the range of his interests broadened to encompass petrology and mineralogy, interests stimulated by problems posed by the study of some of Ireland's igneous rock complexes.

In 1897 Sollas was elected to the professorship of geology at Oxford, succeeding Alexander Green (1832-1896). In 1874 he had married Helen Coryn (d. 1911) of Redruth. Their two daughters, Igerna and Hertha, both collaborated with their father at Oxford, the former in his palaeontological researches and the latter in the translation into English of Eduard Suess's great work Das Antlitz der Erde. As well as his teaching and museum duties, Sollas's researches at Oxford continued to expand and diversify: in a single year, 1908, he published papers on topics as disparate as the internal structures of the isomorphs and polymorphs of titanic acid, and on Neanderthal man.

Sollas was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1889, receiving a royal medal in 1914, as well as the Bigsby (1893) and Wollaston (1907) medals from the Geological Society, of which he was president from 1908 to 1910. He held a fellowship of St John's College, Cambridge, from 1882 to 1884, and a fellowship of University College, Oxford, from 1901 until his death. Sollas held honorary doctorates from four universities. He re-married in 1914, his second wife being Amabel Nevill, daughter of John Gwyn Jeffreys, and widow of Professor H N Moseley. She died in 1928. Sollas died at his home, 104 Banbury Road, Oxford, on 20 Oct 1936.

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