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CHARLES STUART CALVERLEY (1831–1884)

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Originally appearing in Volume V05, Page 70 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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CHARLES STUART CALVERLEY (1831–1884), English poet and wit, and the literary father of what may be called the university school of humour, was born at Martley in Worcester-shire on the 22nd of December 1831. His father, the Rev. Henry Blayds, resumed in 1852 the old family name of Calverley, which his grandfather had exchanged for Blayds in 1807. It was as Charles Stuart Blayds that most of the son's university distinctions were attained. He went up to Balliol from Harrow in 1850, and was soon known in Oxford as the most daring and most high-spirited undergraduate of his time. He was a universal favourite, a delightful companion, a brilliant scholar and the playful enemy of all " dons." In 1851 he won the Chancellor's prize for Latin verse, and it is said that the entire exercise was written in an afternoon, when his friends had locked him into his rooms, declining to let him out till he had finished what they were confident would prove the prize poem. A year later he took his name off the books, to avoid the consequences of a college escapade, and migrated to Christ's College, Cambridge. Here he was again successful in Latin verse, and remains the unique example of an undergraduate who has won the Chancellor's prize at both universities. In 1856 he took second place in the first class in the Classical Tripos. He was elected fellow of Christ's (1858), published Verses and Translations in 1862, and was called to the bar in 1865. Owing to an accident while skating he was prevented from following up a professional career, and during the last years of his life he was an invalid. His Translations into English and Latin appeared in 1866; his Theocritus translated into English Verse in 1869; Fly Leaves in 1872; and Literary Remains in 1885. He died on the 17th of February 1884. Calverley was one of the most brilliant men of his day; and, had he enjoyed health, might have achieved distinction in any career he chose. Constitutionally indolent, he was endowed with singular gifts in every department of culture; he was a scholar, a musician, an athlete and a brilliant talker. What is left us marks only a small portion of his talent, but his sparkling, dancing verses, which have had many clever imitators, are still without a rival in their own line. His humour was illumined by good nature; his satire was keen but kind; his laughter was of that human sort which is often on the verge of tears. Imbued with the classical spirit, he introduced into the making of light verse the polish and elegance of the great masters, and even in its most whimsical mood his verse is raised to the level of poetry by the saving excellence of style. His Complete Works,• with a biographical notice by Sir W. J. Sendall, appeared in 1901. (A, WA.)
End of Article: CHARLES STUART CALVERLEY (1831–1884)
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