Edouard Valpy

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Edouard Valpy

Edouard Valpy followed his brother Richard into the teaching profession


Born at St John in 1764, Edouard Valpy was educated at Bury St Edmund's Grammar School, where his brother Richard was then Second Master, and at Trinity College, Cambridge.

From 1781 to 1810 he was his brother's assistant at Reading, serving at the same time the church of Stanford Dingley, Berkshire. In 1810 he applied for the High-Mastership of Norwich. It was a closely contested election, and he only gained the post by the Mayor's casting vote.

"He determined", wrote Dr Cox, an old pupil, "to make by means of this appointment a name and a fortune and, when once he had come to a determination, he was not easily turned from it. His ambition was to supersede all the existing Suffolk and Norfolk Grammar Schools, and in two or three years scholars were obtained from all parts of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire, and even from places far beyond, notably from London, Surrey, and Middlesex".

This was certainly a feat. When he took over the school it had eight pupils. By the end of two years he had 180 boarders and more than 100 day-boys.

Scholastic successes

His scholastic successes were remarkable. Under him the school turned out an unusually large number of boys who made their mark later in various spheres of life.

But it is still a debated point whether he was a great headmaster. He was a merciless flogger. "He secured his fame", wrote H W Saunders in his History of Norwich Grammar School, "by terrorisation and mental torture". "For five years my life was little else than a continual round of torture. On one ever-to-be-remembered morning he flogged me so brutally and so long, because I missed a word in saying the Greek irregular verbs, as to be unable to wield his cane any longer".

But Henry Reeve defended him: "Mr Valpy was a man of keen and sensitive temperament, passionately devoted to classical literature. It surprises me to think how much he combined genuine poetical enthusiasm with the drudgery of class teaching. When the dullness of his scholars failed to reflect the glowing spirit of their guide, he may have last his temper ; but schoolmasters are human, and Mr Valpy suffered from gout".

In 1819 he became Examining Chaplain to Bishop Bathurst, who had presented him to the living of Thwaite All Saints, which he held until his death. In the same year he was appointed Vicar of St Mary, South Walsham. He was also Vicar of Swardeston from 1819 to 1822.

He married Anne, daughter of Thomas Western of Great Abington, Cambridgeshire, and widow of Chaloner Byng Baldock, Vicar of Milton Abbey, Dorset. They had one son, Edward John Western Valpy. He died at Yarmouth on 15 April 1832.

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