Helps, Arthur
b. 1813-07-10
d. 1875-03-07
Born 10 July 1813, Arthur Helps grew to become an important literary figure and key presence within the British government.1 Although Helps held many notable positions in his youth - such as private secretary to Lords Monteagle and Carlisle and commissioner of French, Spanish, and Danish claims - Helps became particularly respected for his time as a clerk of the Privy Council (the sovereign's private council).2 From the 1860s until his death, Helps led the Privy Council under six governments and handled issues like the American Civil War, health and civil service reform, and management of the colonies.3
Known for his likeable and trustworthy nature, Helps frequently acted as a confidant to others. Everyone from leaders of the opposition to the Queen sought Helps' advice. Helps' friendship with the Queen and Prince Albert deepened considerably during his time at the council: he offered to edit her journals for publication, which later led the Queen to request Helps edit Prince Albert's speeches after the prince's death. However, despite this famous company, Helps never cared for class distinctions. He lent a similar ear to neighbours in his rural community and frequently offered his private library to the town.4
Historians believe Helps was one of the defining literary figures of his time. With over twenty major publications, Helps frequently wrote essays on social topics from health reform to violent conflicts abroad and class issues. His prose style and dialogue techniques became staples of his work.5 However, Helps' impact is largely forgotten now, apparently by his own design. After his death, Helps requested all his private correspondence be burned (excluding his correspondence with the Queen, who seized their letters) and hoped to leave little trace of his life behind. Helps' son, Edmund Helps, later published leftovers of his father's more official correspondence.6
Later in life, Helps entered financial strain after a failed clay-production venture. The Queen offered Helps and his wife a place at Kew Gardens, one of the Queen's private estates. Helps lived here until his death on 7 March 1875.7
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