Hugh Clifford

(1866—1941) colonial governor and author

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(1866–1941), KCMG (1909), married, first (1896), Minna A'Beckett (d. 1907) and, secondly (1910), Mrs Henry De La Pasture. Clifford's father was a general, a VC, of a grand Roman Catholic family, and lived abroad because of a scandalous affair with a servant girl. Clifford went to a Catholic school, Woburn Park, and joined the Malay Civil Service in 1883. He rose to be Governor of North Borneo (1899–1901), Colonial Secretary of Trinidad and Tobago (1903–7) and of Ceylon (1907–12), and Governor of the Gold Coast (1912–19), of Nigeria (1919–25), of Ceylon (1925–7), and of the Straits Settlements (1927–8). He clung to an ideal of benevolent imperialism untainted by commerce, while emphasizing the strains of the clash of culture in fiction about both native Malayan life and the experience of the white man in the colonies. He has been claimed as a significant precursor of and influence on his friend Conrad, who praised his work, for its truth rather than its art, in a review of Clifford's Studies in Brown Humanity (1898). His Edwardian fiction includes Sally: A Study, and Other Tales of the Outskirts (1904) and Saleh: A Sequel (1908), both of which deal with the predicament of a Malayan raja educated in England; Bush-Whacking and other Sketches (1901); A Free-lance of To-day (1903), a novel set in Sumatra, which bears signs of the influence of Rider Haggard; and Malayan Monochromes (1913). The first of the latter collection describes a colonial governor who returns, as Clifford did, to his first posting at the end of his career. Many of his stories were first contributed to Blackwood's, Temple Bar, the Graphic, and other magazines. His first wife was the only child of Gilbert à Beckett (1837–91), the Punch writer. Clifford was afflicted periodically with manic depressive illness, which led to early retirement. From 1931 to his death he was confined in a convent at Roehampton. There is a biography by Harry A. Gailey (1982).

From The Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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