BADHAM, Charles (1813-1884)


BADHAM, Charles (1813-1884)
classical scholar
was the son of Charles Badham, M.D., F.R.S., professor of physic at the university of Glasgow, and of Margaret Campbell, cousin of Thomas Campbell, the poet. He was born at Ludlow, Shropshire, on 18 July 1813, and at the age of seven was sent to Switzerland to be educated under Pestalozzi. He went to Eton about 1826, matriculated at Wadham College, Oxford, in 1831, and graduated B.A. in 1837 and M.A. in 1839. Dr Hawtrey, who was headmaster of Eton in Badham's time, said that in all his Eton experience he had never known a more remarkable scholar. But the long period at Oxford before he graduated suggests that his energies were not entirely given to his work and he obtained only third-class honours. He then spent seven years in Europe, and gave much study to Greek manuscripts. In the Vatican library he met the great Dutch classical scholar C. G. Cobet with whom he formed a life-long friendship. He also perfected his knowledge of French, German and Italian, and obtained an intimate knowledge of Dutch. On his return to England he was engaged in private tuition, in 1847 was ordained deacon in the Anglican Church, and in 1848 priest. He was appointed headmaster of King Edward's School, Louth, in 1851, obtained the D.D. degree of Cambridge in 1852, and in the same year published his Five Sermons. Two years later he was made headmaster of the Edgbaston proprietary school near Birmingham and, though he attached the greatest value to the teaching of Latin and Greek, made a feature of modern languages in the school and frequently took French and German classes himself. He had begun publishing critical editions of portions of the works of Euripides and Plato in 1851 which gave him a European reputation; but apparently no fit position could be found for the greatest classical scholar of his time. He was given the degree of doctor of letters by the university of Leyden in 1860, and in 1863 was made one of the examiners in classics at London university. In 1866 he was also appointed classical examiner for the Indian civil service. In the following year he became professor of classics at the university of Sydney.
Badham was nearly 54 years of age when he came to Australia in April 1867. The university had been established some 15 years but had fewer than 40 students, and the professor's official duties were not heavy. But Badham was not content to laze in a backwater and he even went so far as to write to the leading newspapers in New South Wales offering to correct the exercises of students who might be studying Latin, Greek, French or German, in the country. Some years later he travelled over the country holding meetings and endeavouring to get the people to become interested in the university and to found bursaries for poor students. When the government of New South Wales decided to found a great public library at Sydney, Badham was nominated as a trustee and was elected as the first chairman of trustees. He took the greatest interest in the library, and his wide knowledge was invaluable in its early years. He became the representative man of the university, and his speeches at the annual commencements were eagerly awaited. He always insisted that there must be the same standard of examination for degrees at Sydney as in the leading British universities, and he spared no pains in helping his students to reach that standard.
In August 1883 Badham was given a banquet at the town hall, Sydney, to celebrate the completion of his seventieth year, and though his health was then beginning to fail, one of the youngest of those present afterwards recorded that "Badham's speech was unforgettable". On 1 September, in a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, Badham suggested for the first time that evening lectures should be established at the university. He had been ailing all the year and in December became very ill. He died on 27 February 1884, almost his last act being the writing of a farewell letter in Latin to his old friend Cobet. He was married twice and left a widow, four sons and four daughters. A selection from his Speeches and Lectures was published at Sydney in 1890, and there is a bursary in his memory at the university. At his funeral the coffin was carried to the grave by former students who had received the bursaries for which he had worked so hard, and it was they who subscribed for the monument over his grave, severely simple as he would have desired.
Badham was a man of great charm who had many friends, including, in Europe, such distinguished men as Cobet, Dr Thompson, F. D. Maurice, Newman, Thackeray and Theodore Martin; and in Australia, Sir James Martin (q.v.), William Forster (q.v.) and Sir William Macleay (q.v.). He had a high sense of duty and a scorn of meanness or any form of dishonesty, which he did not hesitate to express. A. B. Piddington said of him: "I never knew a public man so open in censure or so little concerned to dissemble anger." His co-examiner in London, William Smith, speaking of Badham in 1816, said he had "never seen him angry or even excited", but Badham evidently grew tired of suffering fools gladly in his later years, as there is general agreement that in Sydney he was quick-tempered. As a teacher his complete absence of pedantry, his vast knowledge, his felicity of illustration and his enthusiasm held his students completely. The classics were living things to him, like most good speakers he was a natural actor, and no one who had ever heard him read great passages from the Greek ever forgot them; while many a relatively dull passage was enlivened by his native wit and humour. It was a remarkable piece of good fortune for the young university of Sydney to have had so great a man and so great a scholar in its early days.
T. Butler, Memoir prefixed to Badham's Speeches and Lectures; The Library Record of Australia, October 1901; H. E. Barff, A Short Historical Account of the University of Sydney, p. 79, A. B. Piddington, Worshipful Masters: The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 February 1884; The Times, 10 April 1884. For a list of Badham's works see British Museum Catalogue, 1934.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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