University of California
No. 8. April, 1902. ciRc^'uIlTfoN.
DEATH OF FRIAR B. F. STEVENS. ^^3i>
It is with deep sorrow we record the death of Friar B. F.
Stevens, which occurred at his residence. The Sheaves, Surbiton
Hill, on March 5th. The funeral took place at Kensal Green
Cemetery on March loth. Amongst those present at the grave-
side were Friars Henry J. Brown (deceased's partner), G. H.
Perkins, Arthur Warren, R. Newton Crane, R. Noyes Fairbanks,
and Arthur Spurgeon. A handsome wreath, bearing the inscription
**A Tribute of Affection and Esteem from the Brotherhood of
White Friars" was placed on the coffin. There were also present
the American Ambassador and the whole of the Embassy staff,
with many representatives of the American Society in London,
the British Museum, and the Public Record Office.
A SKETCH OF HIS LIFE.
Benjamin Franklin Stevens was born at Barnet, Vermont, on
February 19th, 1833. He was educated at St. Johnsbury
(Vermont) Academy, and entered the University of Vermont in
1853, but did not finish the course. After leaving the University
he filled various public offices in his native State and in those
early years laid the foundation of his later interest in historical
studies by arranging the Vermont Historical Manuscripts prior to
1800, and other similar work.
He came to London in i860 to join his brother Henry Stevens
(the noted bibliographer who died in 1886) in the bookselling
business, but soon started on his own account the American
Library and Literary Agency, which he continued to the time of
his death. Through this Agency many of the literary rarities and
treasures of the last forty years have found their way to the other
side of the Atlantic.
In 1866 he was appointed United States Government Despatch
Agent and continued in that position up to his death. His work
in connection with this appointment brought him into contact with
most of the leading American visitors to this country and his
genial manner so endeared him to his countrymen, whether visitors
or residents here, that he was frequently called *'the father of the
American Colony in London." In 1865 he married Charlotte
Whittingham, daughter of the well-known printer, Mr. Charles
Whittingham, of the Chiswick Press, and many of the celebrated
headpieces and ornaments used by the Press were of her design.
2 WHITEFRIARS JOURNAL.
Mr. Stevens himself was for some years a partner in the Chiswick
About 1870 he began to take up the historical work with
which his name will be mostly associated in the future, for,
although he never claimed to be an Historian himself, his publica-
tions and researches have laid the foundations for other students
and writers and have in many cases caused certain episodes in
American History to be almost re-written.
Amongst his most important publications were the " Facsimiles
of Manuscripts in European Archives relating to America, 1773-83,"
with description, editorial notes, transcription, etc., in 25 foolscap
volumes, and a facsimile of the Paris MS. codex, '' Columbus, His
Own Book of Privileges, 1502," with English translation, etc., a
foolscap volume of great typographical beauty.
Undoubtedly, however, his greatest contribution to historical
research is his great '' Manuscript Chronological and Alphabetical
Catalogue Index of American papers in the Archives of England,
France, Holland, and Spain from 1763 to 1784," which, when
completed, will form nearly 200 foolscap folio volumes and make a
splendid monument to his memory. It is pleasant to know that
during the last few months of his life, while he suffered intense
pain, he still was able to put the final touches necessary to com-
plete his scheme. Indeed the last work he was able to do before
his death was the revision of his " Introduction" to the volumes
giving a history of their conception and growth.
He was Chairman of the American Society in London during
the first year of its existence, and subsequently, until his death,
its treasurer. He was also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries
(an honour seldom conferred on an American), F.R. Hist. Society,
Member of the American Antiquarian Society, and a corresponding
member of various American Historical Societies. The University
of Vermont conferred upon him recently the degree of L. H.D.,
and he was also M.A. of Dartmouth College, New Hampshire.
His death is a great loss to his many friends and not least to
his brethren of the Whitefriars Club, for no one ever better
combined the qualities of a gentleman, a scholar, and a devoted
Henry J. Brown.
APPRECIATION BY FRIAR RICHARD WHITEING.
At a weekly meeting of the Brotherhood on Friday, March 7th,
the Prior for the day, Friar F. J. Cross, alluded to the great loss
the Club had sustained by the death of Friar B. F. Stevens, and
called upon Friar Whiteing to propose a resolution of sympathy
with the widow and relatives.
Friar Whiteing said : — Stevens was such a good friar, such
a good Englishman, and, above all, such a good American.
As a friar he was always a mainstay of our meetings by his
geniality and his genuine loveableness. He seemed to have
in perfection an unobtrusive note that was still a positive
note in itself. One felt good near him, to use the expressive
FRIAR B. F. STEVENS.
Americanism. He was so indulgent about others, so entirely
free from all manner of evil speaking, that one always felt
disposed to enjoyment the moment one saw him in the room.
Then he had more marked qualitities of friarhood at need. I
shall never forget how well he carried through a little task of
4 WHITEFRIARS JOURNAL.
brotherly helpfulness which the Club entrusted to him. One of
our members had fallen on evil days, and the Club, after its
custom, undertook to see what it could do for those he had left
behind. They wished to live in more modest circumstances, and
they were ready to part with some books and artistic objects which
they would not want in their new home. It was decided that
these things should be sold, and Friar Stevens undertook to sell
them. So he took us all with him to the house, and there, seated
quietly in a chair in the drawing-room as amateur auctioneer, he
made everything fetch about three times its value, or four times
where he bought it in, ostensibly for the family, but really for
himself. It was a beautiful thing, beautifully done. His exag-
gerations in his new part were so quiet in tone, and so deliciously
extravagant in substance ; a perfect little bit of the fine art of
Then, in another aspect, he always seemed to me to have
been, in some degree, an American by mistake, and to have been
born a typical John Bull. In the first place he looked the character,
and, in the next, he was the character as it exists in the ideal of
our national aspirations, a man of strength and of goodness in
equal proportions, the one finely tempering the other— downright,
his word His bond, and withal of a genial Mive-and-let-live ' that
made the world seem a sweeter place for his presence. And yet
this very best of John Bulls I have ever known was also the very
best of Americans. He served his country faithfully in a high
official capacity. He held a post of great importance as dispatch
agent ; and public documents of the greatest importance con-
stantly passed through his hands. In another department his
business activities brought him into close relationship with the
best minds of his country. He was a sort of living guide to the
great treasures of our literature. He bought whole libraries at
need with knowledge and with judgment. He was a keen com-
petitor for choice editions, and sent many a precious folio to
America which England could ill spare. Above all he made a
liberal use of his fortune — still for the benefit of his own people.
He saw that the one thing inaccessible to him as a buyer was the
treasure of documents bearing on the history of the United States,
that exists in our public archives. But though he could not buy,
he could copy, and he organised a system of copying in facsimile
which gave American scholars at home access to some of our
most precious records, in their entirety, and in their exactness of
For this, and for many other reasons on which it might not
become me to dwell at a moment like this, I feel that the Club has
sustained a very severe loss, and in its name I beg to off'er the
expression of its deep and most respectful condolence to the
relatives of our dead comrade.
Friar W. Senior, in a few appropriate sentences, seconded
the resolution, which was carried in solemn silence.
WHITEFRIARS JOURNAL. 5
A TRIBUTE FROM THE AMERICAN AMBASSADOR.
In the death of Benjamin Franklin Stevens, the American
Colony in London has suffered a serious loss. He had held the
responsible office of United States Despatch Agent for thirty-six
years, and for a still longer period — from i860, when he joined his
brother Henry, a noted bibliographer, in the book selling business,
till the time of his death — he was the purchasing agent of many
American libraries and collectors. His knowledge of books in
both countries was very extensive and valuable, and he was often
consulted by experts in bibliography. But his more unique dis-
tinction was as an antiquarian and historical searcher and
investigator. For a great many years he had been engaged with
a large corps of assistants, searchers, and copyists in examining, in
the archives of Great Britain and other countries, documents
throwing light on English and American history during the critical
period beginning at a date anterior to the first signs of breach
between the thirteen colonies and the Mother Country, and
extending till after the close of the War of Separation. He had
long ago become the highest living authority on the documentary
history of those times. He had made a chronological and
alphabetical catalogue index of American papers deposited in the
public offices of England, France, Holland and Spain from 1763
to 1784, and had extended his work of that nature into many
private collections. To illustrate his reputation as to all such
knowledge — on the very day of his death, in answer to an applica-
tion from the New York Historical Society for record evidence as
to an important event in New York City while the British troops
were there in 1776, I was referred by the War Office to him as
''the most likely person to assist in the question raised," which
had baffled inquiry elsewhere. He had become a Fellow of the
Society of Antiquaries and of the Royal Historical Society, and a
member of the Society d'Histoire Diplomatique, and of the
principal Antiquarian and Historical Societies in the United States.
As material for the future historian, and as a guide to all students
of antiquities and genealogy, his work is of immense importance,
and it is gratifying to know that its results are likely to be pre-
served and transmitted.
On social and personal grounds his loss is deeply lamented.
He was the oldest American man of business of any prominence
resident in London, and was one of the founders and first Chair-
man of the American Society, in whose useful work he took a
O WHITEFRIARS JOURNAL.
deep interest. His happy temperament and genial and sympathetic
disposition made all with whom he came in contact his friends.
Literary men were fond of his society, and he of theirs. Mr.
Lowell in particular was much attached to him, often consulted
him, and relied upon his valuable suggestions and information.
He was a noble man of generous impulses, high character and
pure nature, and devoted a long and busy life to useful pursuits.
I desire to place on record my high appreciation of his fine
character and of the great importance of his life's work. His
charming personal qualities, which made him dear to his associates,
will long survive in their memory.
Joseph H. Choate.
A FEW IMPRESSIONS BY FRIAR ARTHUR WARREN.
Among White Friars none has filled a larger place in the hearts
of men than Benjamin Franklin Stevens. Everybody who knew
this man, and he was known by many men in many countries,
knew him as the embodiment of kindliness. His place in life was
many-sided. Some knew him as an officer of the American
Government ; others knew him as an historian, others as a book-
seller, others as a bibliographer, or a publisher, others — years
ago — as a partner in the Chiswick Press, others as an antiquary,
and others as the purchasing agent in England of important
American libraries, public and private, but everybody knew him
as a sturdy New Englander, one of the most lovable men that
ever gripped the hand and said ''God speed." He was always
doing something for somebody, and doing it wisely.
B. F. Stevens was one of the eight or nine American members
of the Whitefriars Club, and the second of his countrymen to join
our order. He became a Friar in 1890, but long before that his
presence was familiar in our refectory at Anderton's. Of his
sixty-nine years, forty-one were lived in England. He married
an Englishwoman, Charlotte Whittingham, an artist, a daughter
of the celebrated printer Charles Whittingham, whose work with
the publisher William Pickering conferred a lasting honour on the
making of printed books in England.
Historical research was his chief delight. But he had another
delight which matched it, although it is not set down in official
records, nor capable of cataloguing — the cultivation of friendly
understanding between American and English folk. His energy
as an historian was indefatigable. Appreciation of his work will
increase with time as the results of it are utilised. For more than
WHITEFRIARS JOURNAL. 7
thirty years he directed a staff of trained assistants in the compila-
tion of a monumental index to Documents Relating to America in
the archives of England, Holland, France and Spain. These
documents, concerning the years from 1763 to 1784, are numbered
by tens of thousands, and they had first to be discovered, rescued
from neglect and dust. His work in this direction led him to
publish facsimiles of some of the manuscripts, with editorial notes,
descriptions and translations. He selected and published 2,107 of
these facsimiles, in 200 sets, comprising 25 volumes. For most
men this would have been the work of a lifetime. With our Friar
it was an incident.
A few years ago he photographed, at the Foreign Office in
Paris, the MSS. codex, " Christopher Columbus, His Own Book
of Privileges," reproducing the original with transliteration, trans-
lation, and notes, in a large volume which is justly regarded as a
triumph of scholarly editing, and of typography and process work.
He published "The Campaign in Virginia, 1781," dealing with the
Clinton Cornwallis controversy, and General Sir William Howe's
Orderly Book, with precis of the correspondence between the
British Government and Sir William Howe. He calendared for
the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, the American
portion of the Earl of Dartmouth's papers ; and the Headquarters
papers of the British Commanders-in-Chief in America, Generals
Sir William Howe, Sir Henry Clinton, and Sir Guy Carleton.
These ''headquarters papers" are preserved in the Royal
Institution. A year ago — January, 1901 — he published a map
(loft. by 4ft.) of New York and Environs, a.d. 1782. The
original coloured drawing of this map he discovered at the War
Office in London. It was made for the British military authorities
of the time, and is a very interesting and important work, the best
map of the place, they say, up to that time.
Mr. Stevens was a member of a dozen societies, American,
English, and French. He was the first Chairman of the American
Society in London. His name and word were honoured, his
knowledge and advice sought by governments, and bibliographers,
and students on both sides of the Atlantic. No man of our time
had more friends. The traveller who went to any capital, or any
seat of learning, in the Old World or in the New, with letters from
Mr. Stevens had all doors opened for him. And yet this was a
man of modest nature and simple living ; not a courtier, a speech-
maker, or a seeker of fame. He thought straight, as Lowell said,
and he thought truth and lived it.
During the past two years he suffered much. In the past year
he suffered greatly ; there was hardly a moment without sharp
physical pain. But his mind was as clear as ever, and he
It is difficult to write about B. F. Stevens. The loss is too new
and great. One hears the cheery voice, and sees the genial
face, and remembers a thousand deeds of friendship. And the
8 WHITEFRIARS JOURNAL.
pen stops. Here was a man who loved his fellow men ; and
they loved him.
A PERSONAL NOTE BY FRIAR FAIRBANKS.
Next to his thoughtlessness of self certainly came his simplicity
and straightforwardness of character. If a perplexing problem of
vexed self-esteem or strained relations were brought to him to solve
he simply cut the knot, or untied it so deftly that one wondered if
it had ever been.
I hesitate to speak of the way he sought out occasions to lend a
helping hand, or give a still more helpful word, of how he anti-
cipated the wants of friendship and met them before they were even
realised, because there are so many scores of others equally
indebted to him who can phrase their gratitude much better. But
his unfailing kindness, his endless resources on behalf of others, his
tact and sound common sense were gifts so gracefully offered that
they could not be refused, and I cannot forbear adding my own
He seemed to have the rare gift of reaching the hearts of all
men equally, without distinction of country, rank, or position.
Although he left his home in Vermont some forty years ago, it
was most touching to me to find among the country people of his
native village an affectionate remembrance which time did not
erase. I doubt if any man were more successful in keeping a hold
on all who had ever known him.
These Vermont people, too, were much in his thoughts in his
last years. I recall, with keen pleasure, a long afternoon he spent
reading to me the diary of his grandfather's experiences, as he
rode on horseback into the then wilderness of Upper New
England, and founded a home in the clearing he made in the
forests. He often talked with me as to ways and means to
supply the people of his native town with the opportunities for
reading of which he had felt some lack in his boyhood, and
ended by selecting and giving a large number of books to help
found a library for them. In all his years of life here, he never
allowed himself to lose the homely phrases of New England
life, and I have before me the very cordial letter in which he
said he was ''real glad" to welcome a new-comer from his
native State ; and he never failed to ask me for news of his old
home and the friends he had left.
Surely in this unassuming simplicity and loyalty lay much
of the secret of his hold on the hearts of those who knew him.
Robert Noves Fairbanks.
WHITEFRIARS JOURNAL. 9
The Committee have devoted the greater portion of this issue
of our little Journal to appreciations of our dear friend Friar
B. F. Stevens. He was a member of the Committee until Decem-
ber last, when he asked to be relieved of the position, as he was
convinced, so he wrote to his colleagues, that the rest of his days
would be spent in a sick chamber. He suggested that his friend
and partner. Friar Henry J. Brown, should take the place of the
*'old invalid" as he described himself, and at the annual meeting
Friar Brown was unanimously elected in his place. Friar Stevens
held a very warm place in the affections of the members of the
Brotherhood, and his memory will long be green in our midst.
A LETTER has been received on behalf of Mrs. Stevens thanking
the members of the Club for the resolution of sympathy passed at
the weekly meeting on March 7th.
The portrait of our late brother is reproduced by the courtesy
of Mr. Robert Marston, Editor of the *' Publishers' Circular."
Owing to illness, Mr. A. Birrell was unable to fulfil his engage-
ment on February 7th to open a conversation on *' The Commerce
of Men versus the Commerce of Books," and his place was taken
at short notice by Friar Richard Whiteing. Two guests, Mr.
Maurice Hewlett and Mr. Benjamin Swift, greatly contributed to
the interest of the evening. Mr. Birrell has accepted an invitation
to dine with the Club on the occasion of the Shakespeare Com-
memoration on April 25th, when Friar Winston S. Churchill,
M.P., will preside. The guests that evening will include Mr.
Alfred Tennyson, grandson of the late Poet Laureate.
We are much indebted to the American Ambassador for so
kindly acceding to our request to contribute the short article which
appears elsewhere on Friar B. F. Stevens.
Two House Dinners held on February 21st and March 21st,
presided over respectively by Friar J. Bloundelle Burton and
Friar Commander Robinson, were a great success. After the first
dinner, members balloted for seats at the Club windows to view the
Coronation Procession. It is proposed to erect a staging on
Friday, June 27th, capable of accommodating thirty-seven persons,
and luncheon will be provided in St. Dunstan's Room.
Friars who wish to have the refusal of any tickets which may
not be taken up by those who were successful at the ballot are
requested to send their names at once to the Hon. Secretary.
Of the Friars who are on the sick list, it is satisfactory to
report that Friar J. Farlow Wilson is recovering from a severe
rO WHITEFRIARS JOURNAL.
attack of bronchitis. He celebrates his semi-jubilee of member-
ship this year. Friar A. J. Fuller, who has been at Nordrach-on-
Mendip since last September, has returned to his home at East
Twickenham for a little change. According- to present arrange-
ment he will go back to Nordrach after Easter. Friar Spurgeon
was allowed to see him for a short time last week. He was
pleased to hear all about the '' dear old Club," and was much
touched when he was told that constant inquiries were made about
him at the meetings of the Brotherhood.
A PROPOSAL, made at a special Club meeting, to modify the
rule limiting the town membership to one hundred, was rejected by
an overwhelming majority. Since this meeting three vacancies
have occurred, and these have been filled by the election of Shan
F. Bullock, novelist ; W. H. Helm, Literary Editor of the
M(yrnirig Post ; and Benjamin Swift, novelist.
A MOTION that guests should be invited to the House Dinners
was withdrawn. An excellent suggestion was made during the
discussion that the younger members of the Club should make a
point of attending the House Dinners with a view to becoming
better acquainted with the older Friars. The Committee hope
this will be acted upon.
As Sir William Richmond was unable to attend the meeting
on February 28th through illness, Mr. Holman Hunt entertained
the Club with some interesting reminiscences.
** The Americanisation of England" was the topic introduced
by Mr. Sidney Low on February 14th, and on March 7th Mr.
John Murray opened a conversation on ''Author, Publisher, and
The last *' At Home " for the Session will be held on Monday,
April 14th, when Mrs. Max Pemberton has kindly promised to act
as hostess. An invitation will be sent to every Friar for himself
On April 4th Friar Charles Pearce, who has been a member of
the Club for twenty-seven years, will open a "talk" on Penny
Fiction — a subject on which he is an admitted authority. Health
permitting the chair will be taken by his old comrade, Friar
J. Farlow Wilson.
A DOZEN members of the Richmond Club are to be entertained
by the same number of Friars at the weekly dinner on April nth,
when Friar John Foster Eraser will preside, and the Club guests
will be Sir Clements R. Markham, President of the Royal
Geographical Society, and Mr. F. T. BuUen. *' Travellers' Tales
will be the order of the evening-.
Friar Max Pemberton will lead off a symposium on *'How
I got into Print" on April i8th, and Friar L. F. Austin will take
the chair. '
The arrangements for the Annual Ladies' Banquet at the Hotel
Cecil, on Friday, May 2nd, are practically complete. The Club
guests will be the Countess of Warwick, John Oliver Hobbes
(Mrs. Craigie), Lucas Malet (Mrs. St. Leger Harrison), Madam
Sarah Grand and Mrs. Florence Annie Steel. The chair will be
taken by Friar Anthony Hope. Mrs. Craigie will respond to the
toast '* Sovran Woman" and Lady Warwick will propose *' Mere
Man." The dinner will be held in the Victoria Room, to be
followed at ten o'clock by a Conversazione in the Grand Hall. An
excellent musical programme has been arranged. Further par-
ticulars will be given in a circular.
The Committee invited the American Ambassador and Mrs.
Choate to the Annual Ladies' Banquet, but official engagements
unfortunately prevent Mr. Choate's acceptance. The Hon. Sec-
retary has received the following letter :
"i, Carlton House Terrace, S.W.,
" 2o/^/z March, 1902.
" Dear Mr. Spurgeon,
'* Mrs. Choate and I had hoped to be able to accept the kind
invitation of the White Friars to dine with them on the 2nd of May, and to
enjoy the many good things promised for that occasion, but I regret to
say that other engagements of an official character have supervened for
that very evening, which will make it quite impracticable for us to accept
your very cordial invitation. — Yours very truly,
"Joseph H. Choate."
The Committee of the Richmond Club, having arranged to give
a Pastoral Play in the beautiful old riverside garden adjoining
their Club House, on Saturday, June 7th, send a cordial invitation
to Friars to become honorary visiting members for that day, with
the privilege of introducing guests, ladies or gentlemen. Full
particulars concerning this invitation, which we are sure will be
greatly appreciated by the Friars, will be posted in due course.
Our Annual Pilgrimage this year, fixed for Saturday, June 21st,
will take the form of an Excursion on the Thames, with Marlow
as the centre. Saloon carriages will be attached to the ordinary
train leaving Paddington for Taplow at 10.10 a.m., or will be
run *' special" if necessary. Two electric launches have been
chartered on which the party will embark at Maidenhead Bridge.
A short stay will be made at Marlow, and thence we shall
proceed to Henley, Wargrave, and possibly Sonning Lock.
Luncheon and afternoon tea will be served on the launches by
12 WHITEFRIARS JOURNAL.
Messrs. Kingston and Miller, the well-known caterers of Oxford-
street. Dinner will be provided at the Red Lion Hotel, Henley.
A special train will leave Henley at 9.15 p.m., arriving at
Paddington shortly after 10 o'clock. Friar Clement Shorter has
kindly promised to contribute the letterpress for an illustrated
booklet on "The Literary Associations of Mario w." Friars are
requested to make a note of the date — ^June 21st — in their
diaries. Ladies cordially invited, as in previous years.
Those Friars who have joined the Club in the last year or two
and who have not yet given a ** sitting " to Friar Russell, of Baker-
street, are requested to make an appointment as soon as possible.
There is no charge for the ** sitting." It will interest members to
know that the portraits of some of the old Friars which show signs
of fading are about to be reprinted in carbon, the negatives having
been carefully preserved by the late Friar Valentine Blanchard.
They are now in the possession of Friar Russell. The Whitefriars
Club prides itself on the fact that it has the most complete collec-
tion of Club portraits in the country.
Members will receive the usual dinner cards for April with this
It is gratifying to report that every Town Member has paid his
subscription for the current year. Those Country Members who
have not yet remitted are reminded that the Treasurer's address
is — 39, Christchurch Avenue, Brondesbury, N.W.
Friar Charles Pearce has kindly promised to prepare a
** Who's Who " for the Club Portrait Gallery, the biographical
notes being confined to the Friars who have passed away. It is
felt that the younger generation of Friars will like to possess some
particulars of the men who did so much for the Club in its early
days, and whose portraits adorn the Club-room walls. All the
portraits have been identified with the exception of one. Perhaps
some of the older members will be able to help Friar Charles
Pearce in identifying ''The Unknown."
Members are reminded that a Bohemian luncheon is provided
n the Club-room between i o'clock and 2.30 p.m. each day.
An excellent portrait of Friar Thomas Hardy will be added
shortly to the Club collection through the kindness of Friar Clive
Holland. We possess a splendid autograph portrait of Friar Mark
Twain ; but we have not one of Friar George Meredith. Verb. sap.
By kind permission of Lord Salisbury, the Committee hope
to arrange for a Saturday afternoon jaunt to Hatfield some time
during the summer. The duties of Prior will be undertaken by
Friar Gilbert Parker, xM.P.
Printed by the National Press Agency, Ltd., Whitefriars House, Carmelite Street, London, E*C I
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