SUGDEN, Edward Holdsworth (1854-1935)


SUGDEN, Edward Holdsworth (1854-1935)
master of Queen's College, university of Melbourne
was born at Ecclesfield, near Sheffield, Yorkshire, on 19 June 1854, the eldest son of the Rev. James Sugden, minister of the Wesleyan Methodist church, and his wife Sarah. He was educated at Woodhouse Grove school, and in 1870 passed the London matriculation examination, gaining first place on the list, which entitled him to the Gilchrist scholarship of fifty pounds a year for three years at Owens College, Manchester. There he studied, among other things, Greek testament textual criticism, Hebrew, and English poetry. He was always grateful to his school for having taught him to sing by note, and at Manchester he studied harmony and counterpoint under (Sir) John Frederick Bridge, afterwards known as "Westminster Bridge", then organist at Manchester cathedral. But most important of all Sugden at Owens College was liberated from sectarian prejudice, and realized that there were good men in other churches than the Methodist. He took his degree with honours in classics at London university in 1873, and a year later was accepted for the Methodist ministry and appointed assistant tutor at Headingly theological college, Leeds. While in this position he took the degree of B.Sc. He was seven years at Headingly college, was then appointed a junior circuit minister, and spent six successful years at this work. He continued his interest in music and became a member of the Leeds festival chorus, and he also did some experimental work in psychical research and particularly in thought reading. In 1887 he was appointed the first master of Queen's College, Melbourne, and began his duties early in 1888.
The decision of the Methodist Church to found Queen's College had been made in 1878, but nearly 10 years passed before sufficient funds were collected to allow of the building being begun. The foundation-stone was laid on 19 June 1887, and on 14 March 1888 the college was formally opened. There were only 12 students in the first year; for many years there was a heavy debt on the building and an annual loss on the working of the college. Valuable gifts and bequests, however, came in, and though four additions were made to the building during Sugden's term as master, he left it free of debt. His methods were based on his appreciation of the value of sympathy and understanding, and the keeping of formal regulations in the background. The all-round development of the students was encouraged by reading circles and the performance of plays in the college, and musicians were welcomed in his home circle where Sugden himself would play the cello in a quartette. In 1890 the dining-hall and several students' rooms were added to the college building, and 20 years later the eastern façade was completed. In 1919 the main tower, which houses the library, and a new front wing including the chapel, were built. In 1927 Sugden was invited to deliver the annual Fernley lecture in England, and early in 1928 he was given leave of absence with the understanding that he would retire at the end of the year. His stay in England was made pleasant by the gift of a motor-car from a Melbourne friend which met him when he landed. He returned in November, left Queen's just before Christmas, and spent his retirement at Hawthorn, a suburb of Melbourne. At Queen's College it had been the custom of the students to meet outside the master's residence on the evening of his birthday, and serenade him. Though new generations of students came who had not known Sugden, this custom was continued at his new home.
Sugden did not confine his work to the college. He took much interest in Methodist affairs, frequently preached, in 1906 was elected president of the Victoria and Tasmania conference, and in 1923 was president-general of the Methodist Church of Australia. He was elected to the council of the university in 1899, and was a valuable member of it until its re-constitution in 1925. He was a member of the committee of the university conservatorium of music and later its chairman, played the cello in amateur orchestras, and as choir master of the Palmerston-street church discovered the well-known singer, Florence Austral, then Florence Fawaz. From 1904 to 1912 he was musical critic for the Argus and Australasian. He was appointed a trustee of the public library, museums, and national gallery of Victoria in 1902, was elected vice-president in 1928, and president in 1933. He made no claim to a knowledge of art, but took much interest in the books committee work. He did a considerable amount of writing during his life. Before leaving England he had done voluntary work for volume I of the Oxford dictionary. In 1893 appeared Comedies of T. Maccius Plautus, translated in the original metres. This was followed by Miles Gloriosus, by T. Maccius Plautus, translated in the original metres (1912), The Psalms of David, translated into English verse (1924), A Topographical Dictionary to the Works of Shakespeare and his fellow dramatists (1925), Israel's Debt to Egypt, Fernley lecture (1928), John Wesley's London (1932). He wrote "Part I. The Private Life" in George Swinburne, A Biography (1931), contributed a chapter on the "Settlement of Tasmania and Victoria" in A Century in the Pacific, 1914, and one "In Australasia" for A New History of Methodism, 1909. He also prepared Festal Songs for Sunday School Anniversaries in five series, and in 1921 edited with notes Wesley's Standard Sermons in two volumes. This list does not include a number of studies and addresses published as pamphlets. In his later years Sugden became very lame. He preached his last sermon in 1933, but until a few weeks before the end, was able to attend most meetings of the trustees of the public library. When in 1934 the trustees were entertaining Masefield, the poet assisted his host to his feet, and Sugden with characteristic wit remarked, "Well, that is not the first uplift I have received from John Masefield." He was confined to his room when the Queen's College students serenaded him for the last time on his eighty-first birthday, and he died about a month later on 22 July 1935. He received the degree of Litt. D. from the university of Melbourne by thesis in 1918. He married (1) Miss Brooke who died in 1883 leaving him with three young children, and (2) in 1886 Ruth Harmah, daughter of John Thompson, whom he afterwards described as "my incomparable helpmate in every part of my work". She died in 1932. There is a memorial window to Dr and Mrs Sugden in Queen's College chapel, and a portrait of Sugden by Charles Wheeler is in the national gallery at Melbourne. He was survived by six daughters.
Sugden was tall and burly, with a countenance that inspired affection and respect. He was always kind and cheerful and ready to give play to a keen sense of humour. For a time he had to tread warily and use all his tact, as there was a narrow section of his church always ready to condemn and forbid recreations which he himself considered harmless. He showed great courage in writing to the press taking the side of Marshall Hall (q.v.) who had offended the churches with one of his publications. But he wore down all opposition by sheer fineness, sincerity of character and cheerful piety. He was an excellent preacher and teacher and his influence among his students was great; all who had met him, in connexion with his own church, when he was a padre among the soldiers, on the golf links, or as a member of a committee had an abiding memory of his kindliness and wisdom.
Mary F. Sugden, Edward H. Sugden; The Argus, 23 July 1935; C. Irving Benson, A Century of Victorian Methodism; private information; personal knowledge.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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  • Edward Sugden (methodist) — Edward Holdsworth Sugden (19 June 1854 – 22 July 1935) was the first master of Queen s College (University of Melbourne). He was, in partnership with the Methodist Church, responsible for laying down the foundings of the college including the… …   Wikipedia


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