Sir Arthur Helps (1813 – 1875)
English writer and dean of the Privy Council, was born in Streatham in South
He was educated at Eton and at Trinity College. He was recognized by the ablest
of his contemporaries there as a man of superior gifts, and likely to make his
mark in after life.
He was one of the commissioners for the settlement of certain Danish claims
which dated so far back as the siege of Copenhagen; but with the fall of the
Melbourne administration (1841) his official experience closed for a period of
nearly twenty years. He was not, however, forgotten by his political friends. He
possessed admirable tact and sagacity; his fitness for official life was
unmistakable, and in 1860 he was appointed clerk of the Privy Council, on the
recommendation of Lord Granville.
His Essays written in the Intervals of Business had appeared in 1841, and his
Claims of Labor, an Essay on the Duties of the Employers to the Employed, in
1844. Two plays, King Henry the Second, an Historical Drama, and Catherine
Douglas, a Tragedy, published in 1843, have no particular merit. Neither in
these, nor in his only other dramatic effort, Oulita the Serf (1858) did he show
any real qualifications as a playwright.
Helps possessed, however, enough dramatic power to give life and individuality
to the dialogues with which he enlivened many of his other books.
His appointment as clerk of the Council brought him into personal communication
with Queen Victoria and the Prine Consort, both of whom came to regard him With
confidence and respect. After the Prince's death, the Queen early turned to
Helps to prepare an appreciation of her husbands life and character. In his
introduction to the collection (1862) of the Prince Consort's speeches and
addresses Helps adequately fulfilled his task. Some years afterwards he edited
and wrote a preface to the Queen's Leaves from a Journal of our Life in the
In 1864 he received the honorary degree of D.C.L. from the university of Oxford.
He was made a C.B. in 1871 and K.C.B. in the following year.
His later years were troubled by financial embarrassments, and he died on the
7th of March 1875.