William Rathbone Greg - Encyclopedia

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WILLIAM RATHBONE GREG (1809-1881), English essayist, the son of a merchant, was born at Manchester in 1809. He was educated at the university of Edinburgh and for a time managed a mill of his father's at Bury, and in 1832 began business on his own account. He entered with ardour into the struggle for free trade, and obtained in 1842 the prize offered by the AntiCorn Law League for the best essay on "Agriculture and the Corn Laws." He was too much occupied with political, economical and theological speculations to give undivided attention to his business, which he gave up in 1850 to devote himself to writing. His Creed of Christendom was published in 1851, and in 1852 he contributed no less than twelve articles to fourleading quarterlies. Disraeli praised him; Sir George Cornewall Lewis bestowed a Commissionership of Customs upon him in 1856; and in 1864 he was made Comptroller of the Stationery Office. Besides contributions to periodicals he produced several volumes of essays on political and social philosophy. The general spirit of these is indicated by the titles of two of the best known, The Enigmas of Life (1872) and Rocks Ahead (1874). They represent a reaction from the high hopes of the author's youth, when wise legislation was assumed to be a remedy for every public ill. Greg was a man of deep moral earnestness of character and was interested in many philanthropic works. He died at Wimbledon on the 15th of November 1881. His brother, Robert Hyde Greg (1795-18 75), was an economist and antiquary of some distinction. Another brother, Samuel Greg (1804-1876), became well known in Lancashire by his philanthropic efforts on behalf of the working-people. Percy Greg (1836-1889), son of William Rathbone Greg, also wrote, like his father, on politics, but his views were violently reactionary. His History of the United States to the Reconstruction of the Union (1887) is a polemic rather than a history.

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