Piers Brendon

The Road from Carlyle

James Anthony Froude: An Intellectual Biography of a Victorian Prophet


Oxford University Press 520pp £45 order from our bookshop

James Anthony Froude was an eminent Victorian who has now become a forgotten man. Some students of the 19th century can’t even pronounce his surname correctly (it rhymes with food) and few general readers know more than a couple of stories about him, one of which is apocryphal. The first is that his scandalous novel The Nemesis of Faith (1849) was publicly burned by the sub-rector of Exeter College, Oxford, forcing Froude to resign his fellowship and leave the university in disgrace. The second, cited by Lytton Strachey among others, is that Froude, grown sceptical about hagiography, concluded his contribution to John Henry Newman’s series on the Lives of the English Saints with the words: ‘This is all, and perhaps more than all that is known of the blessed St Neot.’

Actually, as Ciaran Brady confirms in this magnificent monograph, Froude said nothing of the sort. The sentence is a garbled version of Newman’s own verdict on another saint, Bettelin: ‘And this is all that is known, and more than all – yet nothing to what the angels know – of the life of a servant of God.’ Today Newman himself has been beatified and is well on the way to sainthood. And in this scholarly analysis of his subject’s ideas, Brady seeks to resurrect Froude and to place him in the vanguard of the Victorian march of mind.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Why did the 'bold and determined' Empress Matilda never manage to become Queen regnant? Peter Marshall reviews a n… ,
    • From the Archive: Martyn Bedford on Ian McEwan's 'Atonement' ,
    • In 'Silenced Voices' reports the ongoing story of the human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been… ,
    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,