He was educated at Repton, St. Bees School and Christ's College, Cambridge.
After a distinguished career (Craven Scholar, Senior Classic and First Chancellor's Medallist), he became Fellow and Tutor of his college, Reader of Comparative Philology in the university (1884-1891), and in 1887 was elected Master of Christ's. He took a great interest in the higher education of women and became president of Newnham College. He was the first to introduce the great philological works of Georg Curtius and Wilhelm Corssen to the English student in his Introduction to Greek and Latin Etymology (1869).
He died at Cambridge in October 1910, leaving practically completed his exhaustive history of Christ's College (publ 1913).