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Paget Toynbee

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Toynbee photographed by Walter Stoneman in 1921

Paget Jackson Toynbee, FBA (20 January 1855–13 May 1932)[1] was a British Dante scholar.[2] Robert Hollander has described Toynbee as 'the most influential Dantean scholar of his time'.[3]


He was born in Wimbledon, London, the third son of otolaryngologist Joseph Toynbee and his wife Harriet.[4] One of nine children, he was the brother of the economic historian Arnold Toynbee and Grace Frankland; and the uncle of universal historian Arnold J. Toynbee and Jocelyn Toynbee.

He was educated at Haileybury College,[5][6] and matriculated at Balliol College, Oxford in January 1874, aged 19 where he read Classics; B.A. 1878, M.A. 1880;[4] he gained a D. Litt in 1901.[2] After spending some years as a private tutor, including periods in Cape Colony in 1881 and Japan and Australia 1886–87,[2] he decided to concentrate on literary research and writing. Beginning with Old French language and literature, he turned to Dante, compiling the index to Tutte le opere di Dante Alighieri, the "Oxford Dante", edited by Edward Moore. He continued to publish significant works about Dante and papers in academic journals between 1898 and 1924.[1] According to C. M. Ady, "his exhaustive memory and tireless energy won him a worldwide reputation as a Dantist."[2]

He was the honorary secretary of the Oxford Dante Society from 1916 to 1928; he was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 1919,[2] and Honorary Fellow of Balliol in 1922, and later donated some books to the college library.[7] He was awarded an honorary degree of LLD by the University of Edinburgh in 1923.[2]

Toynbee also provided thousands of quotations for the Oxford English Dictionary.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Toynbee married Helen Wrigley (19 October 1868–18 April 1910) on 23 August 1894 in Burnham, Buckinghamshire, where they later built a house named Fiveways.[1] She spent the rest of her life editing the letters of Horace Walpole, but died suddenly in 1910 after an operation.[1] The couple had no children, and apart from a tame robin for company he became a virtual recluse for the rest of his life although he sometimes stayed in Oxford with another Dante specialist, William W. Jackson.[2]

It seems that Toynbee had been assisting his wife in her literary endeavours for many years, and after her death he completed her three unfinished volumes of letters from Marie du Deffand to Walpole, published in 1912. He also edited the three supplementary volumes to her edition of Walpole's Letters, published 1918–1925.[1]

  • Walpole, Horace (1903–1925). Toynbee, Helen Wrigley (ed.). Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford. (16 vols. 1903-5, Supplement, ed. Paget Toynbee, 3 vols., 1918–1925). Oxford: Clarendon Press. Vol. 1 • Vol. 2 • Vol. 3 • Vol. 4 (bound with Vol. 3) • Vol. 5 • Vol. 6 • Vol. 7 • Vol. 8 • Vol. 9 • Vol. 10 • Vol. 11 • Vol. 12 • Vol. 13 • Vol. 14 • Vol. 15 • Vol. 16 • Suppl. Vol. 1 • Suppl. Vol. 2 • Suppl. Vol. 3
  • Toynbee, Helen Wrigley, ed. (1912). Lettres de la Marquise du Deffand à Horace Walpole (1766–1780). 3 vols. (Completed by her husband Paget Toynbee after her death in 1910) (in French). Methuen & Co. Vol. 1 • Vol. 2 • Vol. 3



Journal articles[edit]


In the years immediately before his death, Toynbee donated manuscripts, papers and correspondence relating to Dante and to Horace Walpole to the Bodleian Library and other Oxford libraries.[9] Further papers were bequeathed by him in 1932.[10]

The Paget Toynbee lectures on Dante have taken place annually in Oxford since 1995.[11]

The current Paget Toynbee Lecturer in Italian Medieval Studies at Balliol College (as of 2024) is Professor Elena Lombardi.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e Markham, Sandra (February 2022). "Guide to the W. S. Lewis Collection of Helen and Paget Toynbee" (PDF). The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University. pp. 4–5. Retrieved 7 February 2024.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Ady, C. M. (May 2006). "Toynbee, Paget Jackson". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Revised by Diego Zancani (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/36545. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ Robert Hollander in 'Introduction' to Paget Toynbee, Dante Alighieri His Life and Works (New York: Dover Publication, 2005) ISBN 0-486-44340-X
  4. ^ a b Foster, Joseph (1888–1892). "Toynbee, Paget Jackson". Alumni Oxonienses: the Members of the University of Oxford, 1715-1886. Vol. 4. Oxford: Parker and Co. p. 1432.
  5. ^ Milford, L. S. (1909). Haileybury College Past and Present. London: T. Fisher Unwin. pp. 116–7.
  6. ^ "The Archives and Special Collections". Haileybury Information and Knowledge Service. Retrieved 8 February 2024.
  7. ^ "Correspondence Collection". Balliol College Archives & Manuscripts. 29 March 2017. Retrieved 7 February 2024.
  8. ^ Mugglestone, Lynda (ed.), Lexicography and the OED: Pioneers in the Untrodden Forest (Oxford, 2000) "Appendix II. OED Personalia" Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Dante Scholars in Oxford". Cabinet. Retrieved 8 February 2024.
  10. ^ 'Collection Level Description: Paget Toynbee Manuscripts', Bodleian Library catalogue, University of Oxford, 21 January 2009.
  11. ^ Martin McLaughlin and Michelangelo Zaccarello (eds.) Dante in Oxford: The Paget Toynbee Lectures. 1995–2003. (Oxford: Oxbow, 2010) ISBN 978-1-900755-99-3
  12. ^ "Professor Elena Lombardi". Balliol College. Retrieved 8 February 2024.

External links[edit]