The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

II. Historians, Biographers and Political Orators

§ 16. John Richard Green

John Richard Green, though of a younger generation than either Freeman or Stubbs, was not only, in his labours, closely associated with both, but, to Freeman, he stood in a relation of intimacy which made the younger man the chosen companion, philosopher and friend of the older, while he was regarded with an almost equally affectionate, if, perhaps, more critical, interest by Stubbs, who, from the first, gave much attention to the design of A Short History of the English People. On the morrow of the actual publication of this book, Green (really very wide-awake already) awoke to find himself famous; and Stubbs pronounced that he “knew no one who had the same grasp of the subject and the same command of details combined.” Himself the most accurate of writers, he was not in the least perturbed by the onslaughts made on Green’s incidental lapses. The previous literary career of the author of A Short History had been that of a periodical writer of extraordinary freshness and ability. In none of his contributions to The Saturday Review (which extended from 1867 to 1872, with one or two later articles) was he so successful as in the half-descriptive, half-historical “middles,” which species Freeman, more or less, had originated, but which, in Green’s hands, was brought to a mastery not reached by anyone but himself: these were afterwards republished under the title Studies from England and Italy (1876). In addition, he wrote a number of “social” middles, which flowed spontaneously from his facile pen, and were, in part, reminiscences of clerical life in its humorous, as well as in its serious, aspects. He had quitted Oxford “with the full intention of becoming the historian of the church of England,” and it was through a lecture on Dunstan that he first arrested Freeman’s attention. His design was, characteristically, changed into that of the history of the development of Christian civilisation in England, and, before very long, into first thoughts of a short history with a still more comprehensive scope. Soon after the first forming of this plan, he was made aware of the seeds in him of an all but incurable disease.