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George Benjamin Maule

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George Benjamin Maule (1811-1850)

1851 Obituary [1]

Mr. George Benjamin Maule, born on the 31st of March, 1811, was the eldest son of the late Mr. George Maule, Solicitor to the Treasury.

He was educated at Westminster School, entered at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1829, and took his degree there in 1832. On that occasion he attained the distinguished position of a first class, both in classics and mathematics, the highest honours the University could bestow, and in acknowledgement of his merits he was, in the same year, elected a student of Christ Church.

Having determined to adopt the profession of the law, he became a member of Lincoln’s Inn. He was called to the bar in the year 1838, and pursued his profession with an application and energy which gave promise of high distinction.

Steady and indefatigable in the pursuit of knowledge, he spent a considerable portion of the University vacations, and subsequently of the intervals of leisure permitted by his professional avocations, in foreign travel. He had acquired the languages and carefully studied the literature of France, Italy, Germany, and Spain; and in the course of his repeated visits to those countries, as well as to Greece, he collected much accurate information and made many valuable and judicious observations, which his friend Mr. John Murray induced him to give the public the benefit of in improved editions of several of the Hand-books, especially in those of North Italy and North Germany.

His highly cultivated taste and sound judgment in the fine arts and belles-lettres, his extensive and solid learning, his general information, practical views, and good sense, were highly valued by an extensive circle of acquaintance, comprising many distinguished men in literature and art while his manly, earnest, and upright character and kindly disposition endeared him to all his friends.

The natural bent of his mind was towards mechanical science, as applied to engineering; and having been elected an Associate of the Institution in 1843, he was constant in his attendance at its meetings, evincing on all occasions, the liveliest interest in the welfare and advancement of the Society.

His untimely death which occurred on the 14th of September 1850, was occasioned by a sudden and frightful accident during a tour in Spain.

Mr. Maule, accompanied by his friend Mr. G. H. Nicholson, were passengers along with thirteen other persons in a diligence, travelling from Barcelona to Valentia. The weather was stormy, with much rain, which had swelled the mountain torrents, called barrancos, by the channels of which the road along the sea-coast was in several places intersected. In the early part of the evening, the diligence had been seriously impeded in crossing the Chinchilla torrent, and was extricated by the assistance of some of the Guardas Civiles (a kind of military police), who accompanied it onwards and eventually perished with it.

The diligence left the station of Oropesa at about half-past ten at night, and as is presumed from the stopping of the watches of the passengers, must have reached, in about an hour, a spot called the barranco of Bellver, where there is a slight dip and depression of the road to allow of the passage of the water. The ground lies on the landward side, like an amphitheatre, with several small water channels converging towards the barranco. The seaward side of the road is supported by a wall 6 feet high, without a parapet. This wall had been partially broken down by the water, on the previous day.

The fall of the ground, towards the sea, increases from 6 feet to about 20 feet, in a distance of twenty, or thirty paces from the road. The channel, which is usually dry, is there not more than a yard broad, but subsequently widens, and winding over and through rocks, reaches the sea at the distance of about 500 yards from the road. It is conjectured, that the diligence was first upset at the broken part of the road, and was subsequently hurled down the rocky channel by a sudden swelling of the waters, which must have advanced with a head like a river bore, and have afterwards as suddenly subsided; for the return diligence passed the place within an hour afterwards, and found no impediment and no trace of the accident.

All this, however, is conjecture, for not a human being survived to tell the tale, nor was anything known till the next morning, when the authorities, alarmed at the non-arrival of the diligence, arrived at the spot, and found one horse, the only survivor, grazing by the sea side, and a few fragments of the diligence in the bed of the torrent and along the shore, where ten mangled corpses (including that of Mr. Nicholson) were found.

The body of Mr. Maule was discovered two days afterwards, at some distance along the coast, near Castellan, in the Campo Santo, in which town it was interred.

Thus suddenly and awfully closed, at the early age of thirty-nine, the life of one whose great natural talents and mental discipline, gave promise of an honourable and useful career.

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