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Leslie Stephen

Leslie Stephen

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Sir Leslie Stephen, KCB
Order of the Bath
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

 (28 November 1832 – 22 February 1904) was an English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 author, critic and mountaineer
-Sports:*Mountaineering, the sport, hobby or profession of walking, hiking, trekking and climbing up mountains, also known as alpinism-University athletic teams and mascots:*Appalachian State Mountaineers, the athletic teams of Appalachian State University...

, and the father of Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf
Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century....

 and Vanessa Bell
Vanessa Bell
Vanessa Bell was an English painter and interior designer, a member of the Bloomsbury group, and the sister of Virginia Woolf.- Biography and art :...



Stephen was born at Kensington Gore
Kensington Gore
Kensington Gore is a street in central London, England, the same name having been formerly used for the piece of land on which it stands. It runs along the south side of Hyde Park, continuing as Kensington Road to both the east and west. A gore is a narrow, triangular piece of land.The road is part...

 in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, the brother of James Fitzjames Stephen
James Fitzjames Stephen
Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, 1st Baronet was an English lawyer, judge and writer. He was created 1st Baronet Stephen by Queen Victoria.-Early life:...

 and son of Sir James Stephen
James Stephen (undersecretary)
Sir James Stephen was the British under-secretary of state for the colonies from 1836 to 1847. He was instrumental in implementing the slavery abolition act.-Early life:...

. His family had belonged to the Clapham Sect
Clapham Sect
The Clapham Sect or Clapham Saints were a group of influential like-minded Church of England social reformers based in Clapham, London at the beginning of the 19th century...

, the early 19th century group of mainly evangelical
Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.Its key commitments are:...

A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 social reformers. At his father's house he saw a good deal of the Macaulays
Zachary Macaulay
Zachary Macaulay was a slavery abolitionist and campaigner.-Early life:Macaulay was born in Inveraray, Scotland, the son of the Rev. John Macaulay Zachary Macaulay (2 May 1768 – 13 May 1838) was a slavery abolitionist and campaigner.-Early life:Macaulay was born in Inveraray, Scotland, the son of...

, James Spedding
James Spedding
James Spedding was an English author, chiefly known as the editor of the works of Francis Bacon.-Life:He was born in Cumberland, the younger son of a country squire, and was educated at Bury St Edmunds and Trinity College, Cambridge; where he took a second class in the classical tripos, and was...

, Sir Henry Taylor
Henry Taylor (dramatist)
Sir Henry Taylor was an English dramatist.Taylor was born in Bishop Middleham, the son of a gentleman farmer, and spent his youth in Witton-le-Wear with his stepmother at Witton Hall in the high street...

 and Nassau Senior
Nassau William Senior
Nassau William Senior , English economist, was born at Compton, Berkshire, the eldest son of the Rev. JR Senior, vicar of Durnford, Wiltshire.-Biography:...

. After studying at Eton College
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

, King's College London
King's College London
King's College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and a constituent college of the federal University of London. King's has a claim to being the third oldest university in England, having been founded by King George IV and the Duke of Wellington in 1829, and...

 and Trinity Hall, Cambridge
Trinity Hall, Cambridge
Trinity Hall is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. It is the fifth-oldest college of the university, having been founded in 1350 by William Bateman, Bishop of Norwich.- Foundation :...

, where he graduated B.A. (20th wrangler) in 1854 and M.A. in 1857, Stephen remained for several years a fellow and tutor of his college
A college is an educational institution or a constituent part of an educational institution. Usage varies in English-speaking nations...

. He recounted some of his experiences in a chapter in his Life of Fawcett as well as in some less formal Sketches from Cambridge: By a Don (1865). These sketches were reprinted from the Pall Mall Gazette
Pall Mall Gazette
The Pall Mall Gazette was an evening newspaper founded in London on 7 February 1865 by George Murray Smith; its first editor was Frederick Greenwood...

, to the proprietor of which, George Smith, he had been introduced by his brother. It was at Smith's house at Hampstead that Stephen met his first wife, Harriet Marian (1840–1875), daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray
William Makepeace Thackeray
William Makepeace Thackeray was an English novelist of the 19th century. He was famous for his satirical works, particularly Vanity Fair, a panoramic portrait of English society.-Biography:...

, with whom he had a daughter, Laura Makepeace Stephen (1870–1945); after her death he married Julia Prinsep Jackson (1846–1895), widow of Herbert Duckworth. With her he had four children:
  • Vanessa
    Vanessa Bell
    Vanessa Bell was an English painter and interior designer, a member of the Bloomsbury group, and the sister of Virginia Woolf.- Biography and art :...

     (1879–1961) married Clive Bell
    Clive Bell
    Arthur Clive Heward Bell was an English Art critic, associated with formalism and the Bloomsbury Group.- Origins :Clive Bell was born in East Shefford, Berkshire, in 1881...

  • Thoby
    Thoby Stephen
    Julian Thoby Stephen , known as the Goth, was the elder brother of several members of the Bloomsbury Group, namely his sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf and his younger brother Adrian....

  • Virginia
    Virginia Woolf
    Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century....

     (1882–1941) married Leonard Woolf
    Leonard Woolf
    Leonard Sidney Woolf was an English political theorist, author, publisher and civil servant, and husband of author Virginia Woolf.-Early life:...

  • Adrian
    Adrian Stephen
    Adrian Stephen was a member of the Bloomsbury Group, an author and psychoanalyst, and the brother of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell...


In the 1850s, Stephen and his brother James Fitzjames Stephen were invited by Frederick Denison Maurice to lecture at The Working Men's College. Leslie Stephen became a member of the College's governing College Corporation. He died in Kensington
Kensington is a district of west and central London, England within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. An affluent and densely-populated area, its commercial heart is Kensington High Street, and it contains the well-known museum district of South Kensington.To the north, Kensington is...


Literary career

While at Cambridge, Stephen became an Anglican clergyman. In 1865, having renounced his religious beliefs, and after a visit to the United States two years earlier, where he had formed lasting friendships with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1902 to 1932...

, James Russell Lowell
James Russell Lowell
James Russell Lowell was an American Romantic poet, critic, editor, and diplomat. He is associated with the Fireside Poets, a group of New England writers who were among the first American poets who rivaled the popularity of British poets...

 and Charles Eliot Norton
Charles Eliot Norton
Charles Eliot Norton, was a leading American author, social critic, and professor of art. He was a militant idealist, a progressive social reformer, and a liberal activist whom many of his contemporaries considered the most cultivated man in the United States.-Biography:Norton was born at...

, he settled in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 and became a journalist
A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

, eventually editing the Cornhill Magazine
Cornhill Magazine
The Cornhill Magazine was a Victorian magazine and literary journal named after Cornhill Street in London.Cornhill was founded by George Murray Smith in 1860 and was published until 1975. It was a literary journal with a selection of articles on diverse subjects and serialisations of new novels...

in 1871 where R.L. Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer. His best-known books include Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde....

, Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, OM was an English novelist and poet. While his works typically belong to the Naturalism movement, several poems display elements of the previous Romantic and Enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural.While he regarded himself primarily as a...

, W.E. Norris
William Edward Norris
William Edward Norris , English novelist, was the son of Sir W Norris, chief justice of Ceylon.He was educated at Eton, and called to the bar at the Inner Temple in 1874...

, Henry James
Henry James
Henry James, OM was an American-born writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sr., a clergyman, and the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James....

 and James Payn
James Payn
James Payn , was an English novelist.-Family:Payn's father, William Payn , was clerk to the Thames Commissioners and at one time treasurer to the county of Berkshire...

 figured among his contributors.

In his spare time, he participated in athletics and mountaineering
Mountaineering or mountain climbing is the sport, hobby or profession of hiking, skiing, and climbing mountains. While mountaineering began as attempts to reach the highest point of unclimbed mountains it has branched into specialisations that address different aspects of the mountain and consists...

. He also contributed to the Saturday Review, Fraser, Macmillan, the Fortnightly and other periodicals. He was already known as a climber, as a contributor to Peaks, Passes and Glaciers (1862), and as one of the earliest presidents of the Alpine Club
Alpine Club
The first Alpine Club, founded in London in 1857, was once described as:Today, Alpine clubs stage climbing competitions, operate alpine huts and paths, and are active in protecting the Alpine environment...

, when in 1871, in commemoration of his own first ascent
First ascent
In climbing, a first ascent is the first successful, documented attainment of the top of a mountain, or the first to follow a particular climbing route...

s in the Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

, he published The Playground of Europe, which immediately became a mountaineering classic, drawing – together with Whymper's Scrambles Amongst the Alps – successive generations of its readers to the Alps.

During the eleven years of his editorship, in addition to three volumes of critical studies, he made two valuable contributions to philosophical history and theory. The first was The History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century (1876 and 1881). This work was generally recognized as an important addition to philosophical literature and led immediately to Stephen's election at the Athenaeum Club
Athenaeum Club, London
The Athenaeum Club, usually just referred to as the Athenaeum, is a notable London club with its Clubhouse located at 107 Pall Mall, London, England, at the corner of Waterloo Place....

 in 1877. The second was The Science of Ethics (1882). It was extensively adopted as a textbook on the subject and made him the best-known proponent of evolutionary ethics
Evolutionary ethics
Evolutionary ethics could be either a form of descriptive ethics or normative ethics.Descriptive evolutionary ethics consists of biological approaches to ethics based on the role of evolution in shaping human psychology and behavior...

 in late nineteenth-century Britain.

Stephen also served as the first editor (1885–91) of the Dictionary of National Biography
Dictionary of National Biography
The Dictionary of National Biography is a standard work of reference on notable figures from British history, published from 1885...



Stephen was one of the most prominent figures in the golden age of alpinism
Golden age of alpinism
The golden age of alpinism was the period between Alfred Wills's ascent of the Wetterhorn in 1854 and Edward Whymper's ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865, during which many major peaks in the Alps saw their first ascents....

 (the period between Wills
Alfred Wills
Sir Alfred Wills PC was a British High Court judge and a well-known mountaineer. He was the third President of the Alpine Club from 1863 to 1865.-Early life:...

's ascent of the Wetterhorn
The Wetterhorn is a mountain in the Swiss Alps close to the village of Grindelwald. First climbed in 1844, the 1854 ascent by Alfred Wills and party is more celebrated and is generally regarded to have marked the beginning of the golden age of alpinism.The mountain is composed of three distinct...

 in 1854 and Whymper's ascent of the Matterhorn
The Matterhorn , Monte Cervino or Mont Cervin , is a mountain in the Pennine Alps on the border between Switzerland and Italy. Its summit is 4,478 metres high, making it one of the highest peaks in the Alps. The four steep faces, rising above the surrounding glaciers, face the four compass points...

 in 1865) during which many major alpine peaks saw their first ascents. Joining the Alpine Club in 1857 (the year of its formation), Stephen made the first ascent, usually in the company of his favourite Swiss
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 guide Melchior Anderegg
Melchior Anderegg
Melchior Anderegg , from Zaun, Meiringen, was a Swiss mountain guide and the first ascensionist of many prominent mountains in the western Alps during the golden and silver ages of alpinism...

, of the following peaks:
  • Wildstrubel
    The Wildstrubel is a mountain in the Bernese Alps in Switzerland on the border between the Canton of Berne and the Canton of Valais.The mountain has three summits, all of similar height:...

     – 11 September 1858 with T. W. Hinchliff and Melchior Anderegg
  • Bietschhorn
    The Bietschhorn is a mountain in the Bernese Alps in Switzerland. The northeast and southern slopes of the mountain are part of the Jungfrau-Aletsch Protected Area listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site that also includes the Jungfrau and the Aletsch Glacier...

     – 13 August 1859 with Anton Siegen, Johann Siegen and Joseph Ebener
  • Rimpfischhorn
    The Rimpfischhorn is a mountain in the Pennine Alps of Switzerland.The first ascent of the mountain was by Leslie Stephen and Robert Living with guides Melchior Anderegg and Johann Zumtaugwald on 9 September 1859. Their route of ascent was from Fluh Alp via the Rimpfischwänge.-External links:* *...

     – 9 September 1859 with Robert Living, Melchior Anderegg and Johann Zumtaugwald
  • Alphubel
    The Alphubel is a mountain in the Pennine Alps in Switzerland. It is part of the Mischabel range, which culminates at the Dom ....

     – 9 August 1860 with T. W. Hinchliff, Melchior Anderegg and Peter Perren
  • Blüemlisalp
    The Blüemlisalp is a massif of the Bernese Alps, in the territory of the municipalies of Kandersteg and Reichenbach im Kandertal.Its main peaks are:*Blüemlisalphorn *Wyssi Frau *Morgenhorn...

    horn – 27 August 1860 with Robert Living, Melchior Anderegg, F. Ogi, P. Simond and J. K. Stone
  • Schreckhorn
    The Schreckhorn is a mountain in the Bernese Alps. It is the highest peak located entirely in the canton of Berne. The Schreckhorn is the northernmost Alpine four-thousander and the northernmost summit rising above 4,000 metres in Europe....

     – 16 August 1861 with Ulrich Kaufmann, Christian Michel and Peter Michel
  • Monte Disgrazia
    Monte Disgrazia
    Monte Disgrazia is a mountain in the Bregaglia range in the Italian Alps. It is the highest peak in the Val Masino group, situated south of the Bernina Range.It has five glaciers and five wild ridges and is a demanding climb....

     – 23 August 1862 with E. S. Kennedy
    E. S. Kennedy
    E. S. Kennedy can refer to :* Edward Shirley Kennedy, alpinist and writer* Edward Stewart Kennedy, historian of science...

    , Thomas Cox and Melchior Anderegg
  • Zinalrothorn
    The Zinalrothorn is a mountain in the Pennine Alps in Switzerland. Its name comes from the village of Zinal lying on the north side and from the German word Rothorn which means Red Peak...

     – 22 August 1864 with Florence Crauford Grove
    Florence Crauford Grove
    Florence Crauford Grove was an English mountaineer and author, sometimes known as F. Crauford Grove.-Mountaineer:Grove became an experienced alpinist in the late 1850s and joined the Alpine Club of London soon after it was formed in 1857, later serving as its President from 1884 to 1886...

    , Jakob Anderegg and Melchior Anderegg
  • Mont Mallet – 4 September 1871 with G. Loppe, F. A. Wallroth, Melchior Anderegg, Ch. and A. Tournier

He was President of the Alpine Club from 1865–1868.


  • The Playground of Europe (1871)
  • Essays on Free Thinking and Plain Speaking (1873)
  • The History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century (1876)
  • Hours in a Library (1874–79)
  • The Science of Ethics (1882)
  • An Agnostic's Apology (1893)
  • The Utilitarians (1900)
  • Studies of a Biographer (1907)
  • English Literature and Society in the Eighteenth Century. Ford Lectures, (1903, 1904)
  • Life of Henry Fawcett (1885)
  • Life of Sir james Fitzjames Stephen (1895)
  • The Poll Degree from a THird Point of View (1863)
  • Social Rights and Duties. Addresses to Ethical Societies 2 vol (1896)
  • The "Times" on the American War: A Historical Study (1865)
  • Biographies of Samuel Johnson
    Samuel Johnson
    Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...

    , Alexander Pope
    Alexander Pope
    Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

    , Jonathan Swift
    Jonathan Swift
    Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet and cleric who became Dean of St...

    , George Eliot
    George Eliot
    Mary Anne Evans , better known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist, journalist and translator, and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era...

     and Thomas Hobbes
    Thomas Hobbes
    Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

External links