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About Us - Palgrave Family


Sir Francis Palgrave (1788 – 1861) was the son of Meyer Cohen, a wealthy Jewish member of the London Stock Exchange.  When, as a small child, he showed a great interest in books his father stocked a room with them and brought in Dr Antonio Montucci, a well-known Chinese scholar, to tutor the boy on what was in them.  From his tutor he quickly acquired a great facility in Italian, and a fluency in French which enabled him, at the age of eight, to translate the Homeric, Battle of the Frogs and Mice from a Latin version.  His father privately published this translation into French in 1797.  The relentless drain of men and money to feed the Napoleonic Wars resulted in a crash on the Stock Exchange in 1810 and Meyer Cohen was ruined.  By this time Francis had almost finished his articles with the solicitors Loggen and Smith, and it says much for his sense of duty that he devoted all of his clerk’s wages to support his parents.  His leisure time was spent in literary and antiquarian studies and from 1814 to 1821 he was a regular contributor to both the Edinburgh and Quarterly reviews.  The worth of his essays was recognized by The Royal Society which admitted him into Fellowship in November 1821. 

In 1812 Francis began the study of parliamentary history which was to become his life’s work.  He discovered that parliamentary and state papers dating back to Anglo-Norman times were kept in appalling conditions in 56 different repositories.  In 1821 he put forward his plan for the complete compilation in digests and abstracts of the national records and submitted it to the Commission of Records who approved it.  In the same year Francis set up on his own as a lawyer and was torn between continuing his profession or giving it up to concentrate on his beloved Records.  In the event he continued with both.  In 1822 he was appointed a sub-commissioner and edited for the Records Commission the Parliamentary Writs, the Rotuli Curiae Regis, the Kalendars of the Treasury of the Exchequer, Documents and Records illustrating the History of Scotland, and an Essay upon the Original Authority of the King’s Council.  He was knighted in 1832 and in 1838 was appointed Deputy Keeper of her Majesty’s Records, an office which he held until his death.

The outcome of his experience at the Commission led to a further report in 1841 which recommended the consolidation into one building all of the national archives which resulted in the establishment of the Public Records Office.

In 1827, the year of his marriage, he embraced the Christian faith and at the same time changed the surname of Cohen to Palgrave, the maiden name of his wife’s mother.

In the same year he was called to the bar (Middle Temple) and for several years was principally engaged in cases before the House of Lords.

Through his published studies in history Palgrave was pre-eminent “in asserting the great truth” that imperial ideas influenced European politics after 476 AD and there is no question that his commitment to the subject helped to both popularize and promote the critical  study of mediaeval history in England.  In 1851 Palgrave published the first volume of his History of Normandy and England and in 1857 the second volume appeared.  Volumes 3 and 4 were published posthumously by Macmillan in 1864 when we also re-issued the first two volumes.

Francis Turner Palgrave

Francis Turner Palgrave (1824 – 1897) was familiar from infancy with collections of books,  pictures and engravings and when he first visited Italy with his parents at the age of 14 he was already capable of appreciating and being profoundly influenced by what he saw there, both in art and nature.  He was educated at home and later went to Charterhouse as a dayboy.  Francis gained a scholarship at Balliol College, Oxford and went into residence there in 1843 where he joined the brilliant circle which included Arnold, Clough, and Shairp.  He took a first in classics in 1847, having some months previously been elected a fellow of Exeter College.  Early in 1846 Francis spent some time as assistant private secretary to William Ewart Gladstone, who was then Secretary of State for War and the Colonies.

Soon after completing his probationary year at Exeter he returned to public service by accepting an appointment with the Department of Education in which the rest of his active life was spent.  He was vice-principal of a training college for elementary teachers in Twickenham from 1850 until it closed in 1855, and from this time served in the Ministry of Education in Whitehall first as an examiner and then as assistant secretary of the department.

He was for some years art critic to the Saturday Review, and contributed a large number of reviews and critical essays dealing with art and literature to the Quarterly Review and other leading periodicals.

Between 1854 and 1892 he produced four volumes of original poems which did not achieve permanence but his main strength was a powerful critical appreciation and an unusual breadth of knowledge of art and literature, which was used to full advantage in the selections for his most famous book The Golden Treasury of the Best Songs and Lyrical Poems in the English Language.

The Golden Treasury

It was during his years in Twickenham that he met Tennyson who was to become a close friend, and it was during the holidays that they spent together that the plans for The Golden Treasury were evolved.  It was published in 1861 and became a decisive success.  In response to many appeals for the inclusion of later poets, a second series of The Golden Treasury was published in 1895 and became the single most successful anthology in English literary history.  Our records show that up to 1939 more than 650,000 copies were sold and the title was continuously listed in our catalogues until 1990.  But even before publication Macmillan envisaged The Golden Treasury as the forerunner of a series.  The 90th and last title in the series The Poems of Robert Browning was published in 1961, exactly 100 years after the publication of The Golden Treasury, making it the most successful series ever published by Macmillan.

Read more about the Golden Treasury

In 1885 Palgrave was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford after the death of John Campbell Shairp.  He had declined to be nominated for the chair in 1869 as Arnold’s successor and had been a candidate in 1879 but withdrew in Shairp’s favour.  His last published work was a volume of his Oxford lectures Landscape in Poetry which we published in 1897.

He published with us:

  1. The Golden Treasury of the Best Songs and Lyrical Poems in the English Language - 1861
    (ii)        Descriptive Handbook to the Fine Art Collections - 1862
    (iii)       Essays in Art - 1866
    (iv)       Hymns - 1867
    (v)        The Five Days Entertainment at Wentworth Grange - 1868
    (vi)       Lyrical Poems - 1871
    (vii)      The Children’s Treasury of English Song Part 1  - 1875
    (viii)     The Children’s Treasury of English Song Part 2 - 1875
    (ix)       The Children’s Treasury of Lyrical Poetry - 1876
    (x)        The Visions of England - 1881
    (xi)       The Student’s Treasury of English Lyrics - 1885
    (xii)      Landscape in Poetry - 1897

Sir Robert Harry Inglis Palgrave

Sir Robert Harry Inglis Palgrave (1827 – 1919) went straight from Charterhouse at the age of 16 to join the banking business of Gurney & Co, a Quaker banking family in Great Yarmouth.  His maternal grandfather had been a partner in the bank, and Hudson Gurney, a family member, was a close friend of his father.  Inglis himself subsequently became a partner and married Sarah Maria Brightwen who was related to the Gurney family.

As a young boy Inglis was given a copy of The Wealth of Nations by his father which, it is said, he treasured throughout his life.  It certainly fostered an early interest in economics, which evolved and grew with his daily banking activities.

In 1870 he received the Statistical Society’s Taylor Prize for his essay on local taxation in Britain and Ireland.  In 1873, 1874 and 1877 he published three articles which dealt with statistical analysis of central banking and the results are largely summed up in Bank Rate and the Money Market (1903) which was reviewed as, “a masterpiece of the art of making figures speak”.

In 1877 Inglis became financial editor of The Economist and on Walter Bagehot’s death took over the editorship which he held until 1883.  He also edited The Banking Almanac until his death, and for a time was editor of The Bankers’ Magazine to which he was a regular contributor after 1880.

Inglis was also closely involved in the public affairs of the nation.  In 1875 he gave evidence before the House of Commons Select Committee on Banks of Issue, on behalf of the County Bankers’ Association, and in 1885 he was a member of the Royal Commission on Depression of Trade and Industry.  In a memorandum of evidence submitted to the Commission, Alfred Marshall reported that he would not cover matters already dealt with in Mr Palgrave’s memorandum he was, “in broad agreement with that document”.  In 1882 Inglis was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society which was in part due to the support he received from Jevons.

Dictionary of Political Economy
His lasting monument, which will be long-associated with his name, is his Dictionary of Political Economy, which is one of the finest achievements of Victorian scholarship.

The Dictionary was initially planned as a part work, in line with other dictionaries at the time – Dictionnaire d’economie Politique and Handswortsbuch der Staatswissenschaften, which were already appearing in parts.  Inglis argued that “each part of the dictionary as it comes out, may be expected to be noticed”, whereas “each volume would only receive a similar notice”, so that, “parts will be more frequently before public notice”.

This turned out to be a commercial failure.  The first part (Abatement to Bede) was published in 1891 and by March 1892 Inglis had told Macmillan that he was, “extremely disappointed to find that the sale of the Dictionary so small”.  At this stage Macmillan suggested abandoning the existing publishing plan in favour of the format which actually appeared.  The continuing poor sales of parts two and three in 1892 reconciled Inglis to the opinion that his publishers may have been right.

The Dictionary of Political Economy  was published in three volumes, in 1894, 1896 and 1899 but it was not until 1908, when an appendix to the third volume was added, that publication could be said to be complete.  From the signing of the contract in 1888 to completion, it was twenty years in the making.  Inglis was in his sixties when he began the Dictionary and in his eighties when it was finished.  He was given a knighthood in 1909, shortly after the publication of the last appendix to the Dictionary.

The Dictionary was revised in 1923 and the editor Henry Higgs added Palgrave’s name to the title.

Sir Reginald Francis Douce Palgrave (1829 - 1904) was educated at home before going to Charterhouse in 1841.  On leaving school in 1845 Reginald became an articled clerk to Bailey, Janson & Richardson, a firm of solicitors.  He qualified in May 1851 and joined the offices of Sharpe and Field.

All his leisure time was spent in sketching and sculpture, which he practised to the end of his life.  He was a highly proficient water-colourist and an exceptionally skilful sculptor.

In 1853 Reginald was appointed to a clerkship in the House of Commons where he was known to be exact and meticulous in his work and was highly regarded for his detailed knowledge of the practices and procedures of the House;  he was frequently called to give evidence before various select committees.

He was responsible for the eighth to the eleventh editions (1886-96) of the Rules, Orders and Forms of Procedures of the House of Commons, and had great knowledge of the documents of the time.  He was appointed Clerk of the House of Commons in 1886, a position he held until his retirement in 1900.  He was given a knighthood in 1892.

His publications include:  The Chairman’s Handbook:  Suggestions and Rules for the Conduct of Chairmen of Public or Other Meetings (1877), a book based on his experience of the House of Commons which went to thirteen editions.  The House of Commons:  Illustrations of its History and Practice, which was published by us in 1869, and revised in 1878.

William Gifford Palgrave

William Gifford Palgrave (1826 – 1888) was educated at Charterhouse (1838 – 1844) where he won the Gold Medal for classical verse and became Captain of the school.  He went on to study at Trinity College, Oxford where he gained an open scholarship and at the age of 20, graduated taking a first in Greats and a second in Mathematics.  With a brilliant academic record and his father’s influential friends the way was open for a career which promised distinction, but Gifford turned his back on the opportunity and decided to strike out on his own.  He left for India and received a commission in the 8th Bombay Regiment.  This is not as bad as it sounds because at the time India was run by the East India Company and soldiers enlisting for service there and civilians wishing to take up colonial administration did so under its aegis.

Gifford inherited his father’s aptitude for languages, and showed himself to be fearless, energetic and resourceful and appeared to have the prospect of a rapid rise in his profession.  However, “an early passion for mission work among the Arab races, aroused by the translation of an old Arabian romance Antar, now returned upon him with overmastering force”.  He was never happy in idleness which to a large extent the army offered; he needed mental stimulus and an outlet for the spiritual side of his nature.  He became a convert to Roman Catholicism and in 1849 was received into a Jesuit establishment in Madras and ordained as a priest.  For 15 years he continued to be connected with the French and Italian branches of the order, and was employed on the society’s missionary work in Southern India until June 1853 when he proceeded to Rome for a three month study period to prepare for his first visit to Arabia.  He went to Syria where he was for some years a successful missionary, founding numerous schools, making many converts and acquiring an extra-ordinary familiarity with Arab manners and culture.

He barely escaped with his life from the massacre at Damascus in June 1861, and, as the Syrian mission was temporarily broken up, he returned to Europe and was asked by Napoleon III to report to him on the causes of the persecution of the Syrian Christians.

For many years Arabia had remained closed to Europeans.  The Jesuits, great missionary pioneers, were on the fringes but had not penetrated the interior of that vast unknown country.  Gifford returned to Syria and undertook an adventurous journey across Arabia, which he completed in 1862-3.  His main objective was to find out how far a missionary enterprise was possible among Arabs but he also accepted a commission from Napoleon III, who financed the trip, to report on the attitude of the Arabs towards France, and on the possibility of obtaining pure Arabian blood-stock for breeding purposes in Europe.

Because of his great linguistic skills and his intimate acquaintance with Arabian manners Gifford successfully passed himself off as a Syrian Christian doctor and merchant.  In doing so he carried his life in his hands, for in the midst of the Wahabi fanatics of central Arabia detection would have resulted in certain death.

In 1865 we published his two volume account of this adventure, Narrative of a Year’s Journey through Central and Eastern Arabia which received critical acclaim.  It was the most widely read book on the region until the accounts by T. E. Lawrence appeared, and established Gifford as one of the greatest Arabian explorers.  Lawrence, in a letter to the compiler of the History of Exploration, wrote:  I hope your review, however brief, will recognize the great merit of Palgrave as explorer and writer.

Palgrave was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 1878 and became one of its most distinguished members.  He was a regular contributor to the Cornhill Magazine; Macmillan’s Magazine and the Quarterly Review.

In the months prior to the publication of the book Gifford had begun to feel that the Society of Jesus was too constricting to contain him and reluctantly severed his links with them.  He joined the diplomatic corps, and from 1866 served in Abyssinia, Turkey, West Indies, Philippines, Bulgaria, Thailand and Uruguay where he died in 1888.  He should have shone in a diplomatic career but as the obituary in the Athenaeum noted, Certainly those who knew Gifford Palgrave’s special qualifications would have expected that a man with such a command over Eastern matters would not have ended his days as official representative of the British Government in South America.  All his great intelligence and energy had hardly been tapped, he had mostly been dumped in unsuitable posts where his specialist knowledge lay rusting.

Apart from the Narrative we also published:  Essays on Eastern Questions (1872);  Dutch Guiana (1876);  Ulysses, or Scenes and Studies in Many Lands (1887) and A Vision of Life (1891).  All titles were well received by the critics.