- Leslie Stephen
Stephen was born at
Kensington Gorein London, the brother of James Fitzjames Stephenand grandson of James Stephen. His family had belonged to the Clapham Sect, the early 19th century group of mainly evangelical Christian social reformers. At his father's house he saw a good deal of the Macaulays, James Spedding, Sir Henry Taylorand Nassau Senior. After studying at Eton College, King's College Londonand Trinity Hall, Cambridge, 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. 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", 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 Marion (1840 - 1875), daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray, 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. By her, he was the father of Virginia Woolfand Vanessa Bell.
While at Cambridge, Stephen became an
Anglicanclergyman. In 1865, having renounced his religious beliefs, and after a visit to the United Statestwo years earlier, where he had formed lasting friendships with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., James Russell Lowelland Charles Eliot Norton, he settled in Londonand became a journalist, eventually editing the " Cornhill Magazine" in 1871 where R.L. Stevenson, Thomas Hardy, W.E. Norris, Henry Jamesand James Paynfigured among his contributors.In his spare time, he participated in athletics and mountaineering. 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, when in 1871, in commemoration of his own first ascents in the Alps, 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 History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century" (1876 and 1881) and "The Science of Ethics" (1882); the second of these was extensively adopted as a textbook on the subject. The first was generally recognized as an important addition to philosophical literature and led immediately to Stephen's election at the
Athenaeum Clubin 1877.
Stephen also served as the first editor (1885–91) of the "
Dictionary of National Biography".
Stephen was one of the most prominent figures in the
golden age of alpinism(the period between Wills's ascent of the Wetterhornin 1854 and Whymper's ascent of the Matterhornin 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 guide Melchior Anderegg, of the following peaks:
Wildstrubel– 11 September 1858with T. W. Hinchliff and Melchior Anderegg
Bietschhorn– 13 August 1859 with Anton Siegen, Johann Siegen and Joseph Ebener
Rimpfischhorn– 9 September 1859with Robert Liveing, Melchior Anderegg and Johann Zumtaugwald
Alphubel– 9 August 1860 with T. W. Hinchliff, Melchior Anderegg and Peter Perren
Blüemlisalphorn – 27 August 1860 with Robert Liveing, Melchior Anderegg, F. Ogi, P. Simond and J. K. Stone
Schreckhorn– 16 August 1861 with Ulrich Kaufmann, Christian Michel and Peter Michel
Monte Disgrazia– 23 August 1862 with E. S. Kennedy, Thomas Cox and Melchior Anderegg
Zinalrothorn– 22 August 1864 with Florence Crauford Grove, Jakob Anderegg and Melchior Anderegg
*Mont Mallet –
4 September 1871with 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)
* Biographies of
Samuel Johnson, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, George Eliotand Thomas Hobbes
* [http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=Leslie%20Stephen%20AND%20mediatype%3Atexts Works by/about Leslie Stephen] at
Internet Archive. Scanned, illustrated original editions.
*Alan Bell, ‘Stephen, Sir Leslie (1832–1904)’, [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/36271 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography] , Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2006
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