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Frederic William Henry Myers

Frederick William Henry Myers (February 6 1843 - January 17 1901) English poet and essayist. He was the son of Frederic Myers (the author of Lectures on Great Men (1856) and Catholic Thoughts (first collected 1873)). He was born in Keswick, Cumberland, and educated at Cheltenham and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he won numerous honours, and in 1865 was appointed classical lecturer. He had no love for teaching, which he soon discontinued, but he took up his permanent abode at Cambridge in 1872, when he became a school inspector under the Education Department. Meanwhile, he published, in 1867, an unsuccessful essay for the Seatonian prize, a poem entitled St Paul, which met at the hands of the general public with a success that would be difficult to explain, for it lacks sincerity, and represents views which the writer rapidly outgrew. It was followed by small volumes of collected verses in 1870 and 1882; both are marked by a flow of rhetorical ardour which culminates in a poem of real beauty, "The Renewal of Youth" in the 1882 collection. His best verse is in heroic couplets.

Myers is more likely to be remembered by his two volumes of Essays, Classical and Modern (1883) The essay on Virgil, by far the best thing he ever wrote, represents the matured enthusiasms of a student and a disciple to whom the exquisite artificiality and refined culture of Virgil's method were profoundly congenial. Next to this in value is the carefully wrought essay on Ancient Greek Oracles, Scarcely less delicate in phrasing and perception, if less penetrating in insight, is the monograph on Wordsworth (1881for Mr. John Morley's "English Men of Letters".

In 1882, after several years of inquiry and discussion, Myers took the lead among a small band of explorers (including the Sidgwicks and Mr Hodgson, Mr. Gurney, and Mr. F. Podmore) who founded the Society for Psychical Research. He continued for many years to be the mouthpiece of the society, a position for which his perfervidum ingenium, still more his abnormal fluency and alertness, admirably fitted him. His proficency in the neo-hermeneutic jargon evolved by the society excited the admiration of all who frequented the psychical meetings in Westminster town hall. He contributed greatly to the coherence of the society by steering a mid-course between extremes (the extreme scepticism on the one hand, and the enthusiastic spiritualists on the other), and by sifting and revising the cumbrous mass of Proceeedings, the chief concrete results being the two volumes of Phantasms of the Living (1886). Like many theorists, he had a faculty for ignoring hard facts, and in his anxiety to generalise plausibly upon the alleged data, and to hammer out striking formulae, his insight into the real character of the evidence may have left something to be desired. His long series of papers on Subliminal Consciouness, the results of which were embodoied in a posthumous work called Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death, constitute his own chief contribution to psychical theory, and this, as he himself would have been the first to admit, was little more than provisional. The last work published in his lifetime was a small collection of essays, Science and a Future Life (1893). H died at Rome, but was buried in his native soils, at Keswick.

Text slightly modified frpm a 1902 volume of a famous encyclopedia