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Excerpted from The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911 edition


"FARRAR, FREDERIC WILLIAM (1831-1903), English divine, was born on the 7th of August 1831, in the Fort of Bombay, where his father, afterwards vicar of Sidcup, Kent, was then a missionary. His early education was received in King Williams College, Castletown, Isle of Man, a school whose external surroundings are reproduced in his popular schoolboy tale, Eric; or, Little by Little. In 1847 he entered Kings College, London. Through the influence of F.D. Maurice he was led to the study of Coleridge, whose writings had a profound influence upon his faith and opinions. He proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1851, and in the following year took the degree of B.A. at the university of London. In 1854 he took his degree as fourth junior optime, and fourth in the first class of the classical tripos. In addition to other college prizes he gained the chancellors medal for the English prize poem on the search for Sir John Franklin in 1852,the Le Baa prize and the Norrisian prize. He was elected fellow of Trinity College till 1856.

On leaving the university Farrar became an assistant-master under G.E.L. Cotton at Marlborough College. In November 1855 he was appointed an assistant-master at Harrow, where he remained for fifteen years. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1864, university preacher in 1868, honorary chaplain to the Queen in 1869 and Hulsean lecturer in 1870. In 1871 he was appointed headmaster of Marlborough College, and in the following year he became chaplain-in-ordinary to the Queen. In 1876 he was appointed canon of Westminster and rector of St Margarets, Westminster. He took his D.D. degree in 1874, the first under the new regulations at Cambridge. Farrar began his literary labors with the publication of his schoolboy story Eric in 1858, succeeded in the following year by Julian Home and Lyrics of Life, and in 1862 by St. Winifreds; or, the World of School.

He had already published a work on The Origin of Language, and followed it up by a series of works on grammar and scholastic philology, including Chapters on Language (1865); Greek Grammar Rules (1865); Greek Syntax (1866); and Families of Speech (1869). He edited Essays on a Liberal Education in 1868; and published Seekers after God in the Sunday Library (1869).

It was by his theological works, however, that Farrar attained his greatest popularity. His Hulsean Lectures were published in 1870 under the title of The Witness of History to Christ. The Life of Christ, which was published in 1874, speedily passed through a great number of editions, and is still in much demand. It reveals considerable powers of imagination and eloquence, and was partly inspired by a personal knowledge of the sacred localities depicted. In 1877 appeared In the Days of My Youth, sermons preached in the chapel of Marlborough College; and during the same year his volume of sermons on Eternal Hope, in which he called in question the dogma of everlasting punishment, caused much controversy in religious circles and did much to mollify the harsh theology of an earlier age. There is little doubt that his boldness and liberality of thought barred his elevation to the episcopate. In 1879 appeared The Life and Works of St Paul, and this was succeeded in 1882 by The Early Days of Christianity.

Then came, in order of publication, the following works: Everyday Christian Life; or, Sermons by the Way (1887); Lives of the Fathers (1888); Sketches of Church History (1889); Darkness and Dawn, a Story of the Neronic persecution (1891); The Voice from Sinai (1892); The Life of Christ as Represented in Art (1894); a work on Daniel (1895); Gathering Clouds, a Tale of the days of Chrysostom (1896); and The Bible, its Meaning and Supremacy (1896).

Farrar was a copious contributor of articles to various magazines, encyclopaedias and theological commentaries. In 1883 he was made archdeacon of Westminster and rural dean; in 1885 he was appointed Bampton lecturer at Oxford, and took for his subject The History of Interpretation. He was appointed dean of Canterbury in 1895. From 1890 to 1895 he was chaplain to the speaker of the House of Commons, and in 1894 he was appointed deputy-clerk of the closet to Queen Victoria. He died at Canterbury on the 22nd of March 1903.

As a theologian Farrar occupied a position midway between the Evangelical party and the Broad Church; while as a somewhat rhetorical preacher and writer he exerted a commanding influence over wide circles of readers. He was an ardent temperance and local reformer, and was one of the founders of the institution known as the Anglican Brotherhood, a religious band with modern aims and objects. See his Life, by his son R. Farrar (1904).