William John Loftie

Birth: 1839


William John Loftie (1839-1911), antiquary, born at Tandraghee, co. Armagh, Ireland, on 25 July 1839, was eldest son of John Henry Loftie of Tandraghee by his wife Jane, daughter of William Crozier. After private education he entered Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated B.A. in 1862. Taking holy orders in 1865, he served curacies at Corsham, Wiltshire (1865-7), St. Mary's, Peckham (1867-8), and St. James's, Westmoreland Street, London (1869-71). He was assistant chaplain at the Chapel Royal, Savoy, from 1871 to 1895, when he retired from clerical work. He was elected F.S.A. in 1872.

Loftie early devoted himself in London to literary and antiquarian study, and wrote voluminously in periodicals. At the outset he contributed frequently to the 'People's Magazine,' of which he became editor in 1872. He also wrote in the 'Guardian' from 1870 to 1876, joined the staff of the 'Saturday Review' in 1874, and of the 'National Observer' in 1894, and occasionally contributed to the 'Quarterly' and other reviews. During many winter vacations in Egypt he visited out of the way parts of the country, and described one tour in 'A Ride in Egypt from Sioot to Luxor in 1879, with Notes on the Present State and Ancient History of the Nile Valley' (1879). He sent papers on Egyptology to the 'Archaeological Journal,' and described a fine collection which he formed of scarabs in an 'Essay of Scarabs: with illustrations by W. Flinders Petrie' (1884).

Loftie at the same time issued many volumes on British art and architecture, editing from 1876 the 'Art at Home' series (twelve volumes). 'Inigo Jones and Wren: or the Rise and Decline of Modern Architecture in England' (4to, 1893) is a volume of merit. He found his chief recreation in exploring unrestored churches, and was one of the founders of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. It was on his advice that Kate Greenaway devoted her energies solely to the illustration of children's books.

The history of London was, however, Loftie's longest sustained interest. His books on the topic combine much research with an attractive style. The chief of them are his 'Memorials of the Savoy: the Palace, the Hospital, the Chapel' (1878) and 'A History of London' (2 vols. 1883-4; 2nd edit, enlarged, 1884). The latter work was a first attempt to give an accurate yet popular account of recent research in London history; the later periods are treated hurriedly, but the early chapters remain an indispensable authority.

Loftie died on 16 June 1911 at his residence, 3a Sheffield Terrace, Kensington, and was buried in Smeeth churchyard, Kent. He married on 9 March 1865, at St. George's, Hanover Square, Martha Jane, daughter of John Anderson and widow of John Joseph Burnett of Gadgirth, Ayrshire, and had issue one daughter. Mrs. Loftie was the author of 'Forty-six Social Twitters' (16mo, 1878), 'The Dining Room' in 'Art at Home' series (1878), and ' Comfort in the Home' (1895).

Besides the cited works on London, Loftie published:

[1] 'In and Out of London: or the Half-Holidays of a Town Clerk,' 1875.; [2] 'Round about London,' 12mo, 1877; 6th edit. 1893. [3] 'The Tourists' Guide through London,' 1881. [4] 'London' (in the 'Historic Towns' series), 1886. [5] 'Authorised Guide to the Tower,' 1886; revised edit. 1910. [6] 'Kensington, Picturesque and Historical.' 1888. [7] 'Westminster Abbey,' 1890; abridged edit. 1894. [8] 'London City,' 1891. [9] 'The Inns of Court and Chancery,' 1893: new edit. 1895. [10] 'Whitehall' ('Portfolio' Monographs, No. 10), 1895. [11] 'London Afternoons,' 1901. [12] 'The Colour of London,' illustrated by Yoshio Markino, 1907.

Loftie's books on art include:

[1] 'A Plea for Art in the House' 12mo, 1876.; [2] 'Catalogue of the Prints and Etchings of Hans Sohald Beham,' 16mo, 1877. [3] 'Lessons in the Art of Illuminating: Examples from Works in the British Museum,' 4to, 1885. [4] 'Landseer and Animal Painting in England,' 1891. [5] 'Reynolds and Children's Portraiture in England,' 1891. [6] 'The Cathedral Churches of England and Wales,' 1892.

Other publications were:

[1] 'A Century of Bibles, or the Authorised Version from 1611 to 1711,' 1872. [2] 'Windsor: a Description of the Castle, Park, Town, and Neighbourhood,' folio, 1886.

[The Times, 17 June 1911; Men of the Time, 1899; Allibone's Dict. of Eng. Lit, Suppl.; Crockford's Clerical Directory; private information.]


W. B. Owen, Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement. pgs. 474-475.

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