Hampshire Celebrities (letter)
To the Editor of the "Hampshire Post."
Sir, — Would you have the kindness to allow me to point out a few errors of date and fact which appear in your article upon my statistics? In the first place, as regards time, I must repeat that my list is only concerned with what may be fairly called the later Victorian era, and that there is no name which I have mentioned which goes back farther than the year 1859, while the great majority are either living or very recently dead. It is a mistake to suppose that I have been at all elastic in the matter, or have favoured one county as compared with the others.
The Brunel who is mentioned in your article is the father of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who was born at Portsmouth in 1806. The father was the constructor of the Thames Tunnel; but the son is quite as well-known to fame, as the builder of the Great Eastern, the introducer of the broad gauge, and the engineer of the Devonshire and Cornwall Railway. He died in the fulness of his powers in the year 1859; so that he just comes within the limits of my enquiry. The inaccuracy, therefore is not upon my side.
The Hon. Sir J. Pearson was not an architect, but a lawyer. Neither was he born in Durham, but at Elvetham, in Hampshire. In 1882 he became a Judge of the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice.
W. Harness was a Church of England divine and miscellaneous writer. He wrote a memoir of Miss Mitford in 1869. His own Literary Life was written in 1871 by L'Estrange.
Thomas Edward, the Scottish naturalist, who was born at Gosport, has two columns to himself in Men of the Time, (vide 1884 edition). It is not correct, therefore, to say that I included him merely on the strength of Smiles' biography.
So much for those whom the writer wished me to eliminate. Let us turn to those whom he wished me to add. I find that Vaux, the numismatist, and Miss Sewell, the author of the Child's History of Rome, are both upon my original list. Lord Lyons I excluded on the principle that he was famous rather by the accident of his birth than by his individual merits. There is some strange error about Admiral Codrington. If he were born in 1808, he would only be 19 when he commanded at the Battle of Navarino, which would be a remarkable instance of rapid promotion. As a matter of fact, Sir Edward Codrington, who commanded the allied fleet, was born in 1770. Of the other names mentioned I have again consulted all the standard Dictionaries of Biography without finding them; so I am forced to exclude them from my calculations. Of course the reason why I used a Dictionary of Biography as well as Men of the Time was that I might do the work thoroughly, and include the dead as well as the living.
I am quite ready to admit that results got in this way are to some extent arbitrary, and by no means final. They may, however, serve as a basis for more extended researches by some more competent workman. My inferences are open to criticism; but my facts have not yet been in the smallest degree shaken. I hope that the converse proposition to that which is laid down in your article may hold good; and that since I am right in Hampshire, I may be given credit for being right in other counties. It is a curious fact that, among the 200 leaders which have appeared in the provincial Press upon the subject, every paper agrees that, however badly I have treated its own particular county, I have done more than justice to its neighbours. — Yours faithfully,
- A. CONAN DOYLE
Bush Villa, August, 1888.