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Richard Hurrell Froude

London: The Catholic Literature Association, 1933.

EXCEPT to students of the Oxford Movement, the name of Hurrell Froude is not nearly so well known as the names of Keble, Newman, and Pusey. Yet no story of the Movement would be complete without some account of him. Indeed, without him the Movement (humanly speaking) would have been impossible.


Richard Hurrell Froude was born at Dartington, Devonshire, on the Feast of the Annunciation, 1803. He Was the eldest child of the Rev. Robert Hurrell Froude, Rector of Dartington. As a child he seems to have been something of a problem to his parents. In a letter addressed to an imaginary correspondent, his mother thus describes him: 'From his very birth his temper has been peculiar; pleasing, intelligent, and attaching when his mind was undisturbed, and he was in the company of people who treated him reasonably and kindly; but exceedingly impatient under vexatious circumstances: very much disposed to find his own amusement in teasing and vexing others; and almost entirely incorrigible when it was necessary to reprove him.' His first school was at Ottery St. Mary. From there he went to Eton at the age of thirteen. When he was nearly eighteen, his mother died. She was the first great influence in his life. A casual glance through his journal reveals the power of her influence: 'Read my mother's journal and prayers, two hours . . . I pray God the prayers she made for me may be effectual.' 'Read my mother's journal. I hope it is beginning to do me some serious good.' These are typical of many similar entries which constantly recur in the pages of his own journal.

Within a few weeks of his mother's death, Froude matriculated at Oriel College, and there he came under the second great influence of his life; for his Tutor at Oriel was John Keble. Keble was a Churchman of the old High-Church type, the Churchmanship of the Prayer Book and the Catechism. From him Froude learned the doctrines of the Real Presence, the Holy Catholic Church, the Apostolical Succession--all those forgotten doctrines which it was the work of the Oxford Movement to revive. But more powerful than any teaching was the influence of Keble's own life. Keble was regarded in Oxford almost with awe and adoration: to be addressed by him was an honour indeed. Yet men saw the foremost man in Oxford taking up a country curacy, to minister to a few hundred peasants, with no thought that he was doing anything out of the ordinary.

In the summer of 1823, when Keble was leaving Oxford for good, Hurrell Froude, Isaac Williams, and Robert Wilberforce Went with him to Southrop to read during the Long Vacation. Isaac Williams has told how this stay proved a turning-point in his career. Its influence Would be scarcely less over the other two pupils. Probably to this period belongs an incident which made a lasting impression on Froude. He relates that, before parting, Keble seemed to have something on his mind which he wished to say, but shrank from saying. At last he said, 'Froude, you said one day that Law's Serious Call was a clever book: it seemed to me as if you had said the day of judgment would be a pretty sight.'

In the following year (1824) Froude took his degree with a double second class (in Classics and Mathematics). In 1826 he became a Fellow of Oriel, and in the following year Tutor, having as colleagues Newman and Robert Wilberforce. Thus begins the close and intimate friendship with Newman, which lasted until the end of Froude's life. Newman was at this time moving away from the Evangelicalism in which he had been brought up. From an older Fellow of Oriel, the Rev. William James, he had learned the doctrine of the Apostolical Succession. At first Froude was a little shy of him on account of his supposed Liberalism. 'Newman is a fellow that I like more the more I think of him; only I would give a few odd pence if he were not a heretic'; so he wrote to Robert Wilberforce. But the two men were gradually drawn together. All that Froude had learned from Keble he passed on to Newman. From Froude Newman learned to look with admiration towards the Church of Rome, and in the same degree to dislike the Reformation; and gradually Froude led him to believe in the Real Presence. Finally, about 1828, Froude brought Keble and Newman together, and thus made possible the Oxford Movement. Towards the end of his life Froude said, 'Do you know the story of the murderer who had done one good thing in his life? Well; if I was ever asked what good deed I had ever done, I should say that I had brought Keble and Newman to understand each other.'

The next few years constituted a time of great anxiety to all keen Churchmen. 1828 saw the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, followed a year later by the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act. In 1832 came the great Reform Bill, and a year later the Whigs were in power. The Church had always been regarded in these years--and to a great extent rightly regarded--as the ally of the Tory Party. With the Whigs in power, she could look to receive small mercy. The position of the Church was desperate. It was singularly unfortunate that, just when the storm-clouds were gathering, and threatening to burst at any moment, Froude should have to go away. The consumption, which was ultimately to prove fatal, showed itself unmistakably, and in December, 1832, he set out in the company of his father and Newman to spend the winter in the Mediterranean.

Their removal from the scene of the conflict had this advantage, that it enabled them to see things from a more detached point of view. It gave them time to think, and to decide on a course of action. They both wrote verses which were sent home to be published in the British Magazine--a paper founded in 1832 by Hugh James Rose, a distinguished Cambridge scholar, as an organ of Church Principles. The verses were afterwards collected together and published as Lyra Apostolica. The motto, which was selected by Froude, shows the feeling of the two men. While they were in Rome, Froude borrowed a Homer from M. Bunsen, and selected the passage in which Achilles, on returning to the battle, says, 'You shall know the difference now that I am back again.' That motto expresses the spirit of the whole work. 'It has throughout a touch of defiance, a breath of war.' 'With the defiance goes also a strong note of confidence. The men who write, however dark their outlook seems to be, speak as those who see their way, and have made their choice. . . . Hurrell Froude was the embodiment to them of this spirit of confidence, with its tinge of audacity. He had the glow and fascination of a man consecrated to a cause. He wrote very little of the book, but his touch is on it everywhere. And . . . we can see how the subtler brain of Newman was swept by the fire and force of the man who was to him like an inspiration.'

Froude's contributions appear under the letter b. They reveal his stern self-discipline, especially such a poem as 'Weakness of Nature':

Lord, I have fasted, I have prayed.
And sackcloth has my girdle been,
To purge my soul I have essayed
With hunger blank and vigil keen;
O God of Mercy! Why am I
Still haunted by the self I fly?

Froude and his father returned to England some little time before Newman, whose arrival was delayed by a serious illness in Sicily. He did not reach England until July 9, 1833. On the following Sunday, Mr. Keble preached his Assize Sermon on National Apostasy, and the Oxford Movement had begun.

Ten days later a Conference met at Hadleigh in Suffolk, of which place Hugh James Rose was Rector. The other members present were the Rev. William Palmer, a graduate of Dublin, and author of Origines Liturgicae; the Rev. the Hon. A. P. Perceval, a pupil of Mr. Keble, and a Royal Chaplain; and Hurrell Froude. Two things were agreed upon--to fight for the doctrine of the Apostolical Succession, and for the integrity of the Prayer Book. The only practical outcome was the presentation of two addresses to the Archbishop, one signed by the Clergy and one by the Laity.

Such methods as these were much too slow and respectable for Hurrell Froude's ardent spirit. Lord Blachford has told of a council in Newman's rooms, when Palmer was speaking of securing the support of dignitaries; Froude stretched out his long length on Newman's sofa, and broke in with, 'I don't see why we should disguise from ourselves that our object is to dictate to the Clergy of this country, and I, for one, do not want any one else to get on the box.' Or, as he put it to Isaac Williams, 'Isaac, we must make a row in the world. . . . Church principles, forced on people's notice, must work for good. However, we must try. . . . We must have short tracts. . . .'The first of the short tracts, the beginning of the Tracts for the Times, appeared in September of the same year, 1833. But in November Froude sailed for the Barbados, and from this time he was out of the fight. As he said to Newman, 'I am like the man who "fled full soon on the first of June, and bade the rest keep fighting."' He kept in touch with the Movement in letters to his friends. He wrote four of the Tracts for the Times: No. 8, 'The Gospel a Law of Liberty'; No. 9, 'On Shortening the Church Services '; No. 59, 'Church and State '; and No. 63,'The Antiquity of Existing Liturgies.'

Froude remained in the Barbados for a year and a half, acting for part of the time as mathematical tutor at Codrington College. He returned to England in May, 1835, and died on February 28, 1836, at his old home at Dartington. So passed 'the bright and beautiful Froude,' whom a modern writer has described as 'the lost Pleiad of the Oxford Movement.'


Hurrell Froude made possible the Oxford Movement by bringing Keble and Newman together, and in its earliest stages he was its driving force and inspiration. But he was more than that. He was a prophet with a wonderfully clear insight into ecclesiastical problems. ' Events have been continually happening, which have tended in a remarkable manner to illustrate the Author's remarks and confirm his prognostications; so that already many things, which sounded paradoxical and over-bold when he first uttered them, may be ventured on with hope of a reasonable degree of acceptance. His sagacity, it begins to be found, did but anticipate the lessons of our experience.' So Keble wrote in 1839, in the Preface to the Second Part of Hurrell Froude's Remains. If that was true within so short a time of Froude's death, it is infinitely more true now, when nearly a hundred years have passed since his short life came to an end. It is proposed now to trace out Froude's suggestions for Church Reform, dividing them into two groups--those which have been achieved, and those which are still subjects of discussion.

Frequent Communion

In Hurrell Froude's day, the Holy Communion was infrequently celebrated and infrequently received. Even in 1854, twenty years after the beginning of the Oxford Movement, there were only 128 churches in the whole of Great Britain and Ireland in which there was a weekly Celebration, and only three in which there was a daily Celebration. Since that time there has been a steady advance. According to the Official Year Book of the Church of England, there were in 1926 some 1,447 Churches in which the Holy Communion was celebrated daily, and 11,884 with a weekly Celebration. These figures refer to England alone, and do not include Wales, Scotland, or Ireland. Yet this reform was suggested by Hurrell Froude as early as 1834, when a daily Celebration was probably quite unknown. Writing to his father from the Barbados, he says:

'There is another reform which I have been thinking of lately . . . and it is one which every clergyman can make for himself without difficulty. I believe it to be the most indispensable of all the duties of external religion that everyone should receive the Communion as often as he has opportunity; and that if he has such opportunity every day of the week, it is his duty to take advantage of it every day of the week. And further ... I think it is the duty of every clergyman to give the serious members of his congregation this opportunity as often as he can without neglecting other parts of his duty. . . . I daresay you will think my view overstrained, and very likely it may be a little. I know that neither N. (Newman) nor K. (Keble) when I left England, saw the thing in the light in which it now strikes me. . . . But it really does seem to me that the Church of England has gone so very far wrong in this matter, that it is not right to keep things smooth any longer.'

Pew Rents

It is generally admitted now that the system of private pews and pew rents is indefensible on any ground of principle, yet the continued existence of the Free and Open Church Association suggests that the abolition of this system, though taking place slowly, is by no means complete. When that Association dies a natural death, we may take it that the abuse has been finally removed. The Association was established in 1856, but twenty years before that date Hurrell Froude was pouring scorn on the system, and advocating its abolition. In a letter to Keble dated February 25, 1835, he writes:

'So-and-So hopes P. will not be so inconsiderate as to get pews done away with, for that the feelings of the rich ought not to be shocked.' And later in the same letter:

'I don't like------'s want of candour about the Voluntary System; as if there was only one voluntary system, that of pew rents.. . . If R. does away pews, I think it will be a real step gained towards ecclesiastical emancipation.'

The Supply of Clergy

In Hurrell Froude's day, and indeed until quite recent times, the Clergy were drawn entirely from the middle and upper classes. This is admittedly a grave defect, and certainly lays the Church open to the charge of having a class ministry. In the Report of the Archbishop's Fifth Committee of Inquiry (Christianity and Industrial Problems), which followed the Lambeth Conference of 1920, it is stated that 'it is eminently desirable that candidates for Holy Orders should be drawn from all classes of the community, and that they should not necessarily be required to sever themselves from the persons and surroundings of their earlier life.' And in the Appendix is printed a letter on the subject from the present Bishop of Southwark, then Vicar of Portsea, who urges the Committee to consider the failure to enable the sons of the working class to enter the Ministry. The present system, he says, 'causes real resentment, and encourages the idea that the Church of England has a class ministry.' Of recent years, something has been done to remedy this abuse by societies such as Mirfield and Kelham. But the number of men ordained through these societies forms only a small proportion of the total number of Ordinands, and much remains to be done before the stigma of a class ministry is finally removed.

This seems a very modern policy, but Hurrell Froude was advocating it a hundred years ago. His keenest shafts are directed against what he calls 'the gentleman heresy' --that is, the notion 'that the clergy must be fit to mix in good society. 'The gentleman heresy' is one of his favourite topics.

'They would be contented certainly with a state of things short of what I would ever acquiesce in, and have the old prejudice about the expediency of having the clergy Gentlemen, i.e., fit to mix in good society, and about prizes to tempt men of good talent into the Church, and the whole train of stuff which follows these assumptions.' (To Keble, August 10, 1833.)

'------seems to think anything better than an open rupture with the State, as sure to entail loss of caste on the clergy. Few men can receive the saying that the clergy have no need to be gentlemen.' (To Keble, February 8, 1834.)

'The notion that a priest must be a gentleman is a stupid exclusive protestant fancy, and ought to be exploded.' (To his father, August 22, 1834.)

'Church discipline, too, though only affecting the clergy, will be something, as it will remove the only good objection to the ordination of people below the caste of gentlemen.' (To Newman, January, 1835.)

We turn now to the second group of questions. This consists of reforms which have not yet been carried out: they are still in the stage of discussion.

Work in Large Towns

The large towns are still a great problem. The policy of the past has been to carve new parishes out of old ones, giving them an entirely separate existence. This policy can hardly be said to have succeeded, and the reasons are not far to seek. It is a policy of disintegration. It perpetuates the parochial system, where the parochial system has admittedly broken down--there are not many town churches which draw their congregations from the actual parish itself. It may be that an entirely new policy will have to be adopted for the solution of the problem. The policy advocated by Hurrell Froude was the exact opposite of that which has been pursued. His scheme is outlined in a letter to Newman (August 31, 1833):

'It has lately come into my head that the present state of things in England makes an opening for reviving the monastic system. I think of putting the view forward under the title of "Project for reviving religion in great towns." Certainly colleges of unmarried priests (who might, of course, retire to a living when they could and liked) would be the cheapest possible way of providing effectively for the spiritual wants of a large population.' There is much to be said in favour of this policy. It is a policy of unification and concentration as opposed to disintegration. It is not dependent upon the parochial system, and would, as Froude suggests, be much more economical than the present system. He has already proved himself a true prophet in respect of other Church Reforms; possibly he may yet prove himself to be a true prophet in this also.

The Clergy and Secular Employment

The War, and circumstances arising out of the War, added to the financial burden, already sufficiently grievous, which many of the clergy were bearing. The problem is still with the Church. In the days which immediately followed the War, the suggestion was frequently made that the clergy should be allowed to follow some secular occupation in addition to their spiritual Work. Is there any objection in principle to a scheme of this kind, provided that such occupation is subsidiary to the work of the ministry? Opinions will inevitably differ on the point. Had Hurrell Froude been alive, it is probable that the suggestion would have had an enthusiastic supporter in him. He himself made the same suggestion, although it should be noted that he advocated it only for the Mission field. Writing to Keble on May 2, 1834, he says:

'It might be advantageous to point out, by the way, that in a missionary church, such as that in Yankee land, it is very stupid to insist on the clergy having no secular avocations; honest tradesmen, who earn their livelihood, would be far more independent and respectable presbyters than a fat fellow who preaches himself into opulence.'

And again, in a letter to his father, dated August 22, 1834, he reverts to the subject in an account of the work of Codrington College, Barbados:

'If I was Bishop, I should not make it a place for the exclusive education of gentlemen. ... I will not even insist on their giving up their trades; for if a priest can keep a school, I am sure he may make shoes without giving up more of his time; and if St. Paul could maintain himself by tent-making, while he discharged the duties of an Apostle, I don't see why other people should not be able to maintain themselves as well, while they do the duties of a Parish Priest.'

The Appointment of Bishops

There is no more serious problem in the Church today than the method by which her Bishops are appointed. That method is indefensible on any ground of principle. Hitherto, very few voices have been raised against it, though the abuse has existed for a hundred years. Admittedly, the system has worked well on the whole, and so long as a system works well, the average Englishman cares little or nothing about principles. But on principle it is utterly indefensible. The Bishop is nominated by the Prime Minister, who may be of any religion or none; and the Dean and Chapter must accept that nominee, or incur the pains and penalties of Praemunire. Much attention has been drawn to the question in recent years, and it is now very much a matter of practical politics, so much so that it is regarded almost as a modern discovery. But the appointment of Bishops was Hurrell Froude's favourite theme. Time after time he refers to it in letters to his friends, and it occupies a prominent place in a series of papers which he wrote for the British Magazine in 1833, on 'State Interference in Matters Spiritual.' He does not, it is true, put forward any definitely constructive proposals. The abuse was a new thing, and had been created by the legislation of the years 1827-1832--the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act, the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, and the great Reform Bill. Prior to the passing of this legislation, the House of Commons might in some sense be regarded as a lay synod of the Church of England; the Prime Minister would of necessity be a member of the Church of England, and the abuse would not be so glaring. But all this was changed by the legislation of those years, and Froude spoke and wrote with all the fire and anger of a prophet in the face of a new abuse. He savagely attacked the system as he knew it, and strove with all his might to rouse his apathetic fellow-churchmen and fellow-countrymen.


It may be that no change can take place in the method of appointing Bishops so long as the Church of England remains an Established Church. The question of the Establishment is one on which there has been a remarkable change of opinion in recent years. At the time of the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales, the great majority of Churchpeople were opposed to it. Those who were in favour of Disestablishment were very few and far between. But now there is a very strong body of opinion in favour of the Disestablishment of the whole Church of England. The movement would seem to have taken its rise from the upheaval of the War, and was already flowing strongly when it received a new impetus from the attitude of the House of Commons on the question of Prayer Book Revision. Hence it might be thought that the desire for this reform is something quite new.

But once again the reform was suggested by Hurrell Froude a hundred years ago. It ought, however, to be pointed out that Froude was not alone in his opposition to the Establishment. Probably the chief credit should go to Davison, who was a senior Fellow of Oriel. He exercised a powerful influence over Keble, and he was strongly opposed to the whole idea of an Established Church. Keble also shared that opposition; so that Froude may have derived his views from Keble, who, in turn, derived them from Davison; but Froude had a way of putting forward views which was bound to arrest attention, even if it did not arouse opposition. His method of stating his views about the Establishment was no exception. Writing to Keble on March 16,1833, he says:

'To be sure it would be a great thing to have a true Church in Germany; in Scotland it seems to be thriving; and if the State will but kick us off, we may yet do in England.'

His strongest statements, however, occur in some papers, written in 1834, and headed, 'Remarks on Church Discipline.' 'If,' he says, 'a national Church means a Church without discipline, every argument for discipline is an argument against a national Church; and the best thing we can do is to unnationalize ours as soon as possible.' And again: 'The body of the English nation either are sincere Christians or they are not; if they are, they will submit to Discipline as readily as the primitive Christians did. If not, let us tell the truth, and shame the devil: let us give up a national Church, and have a real one.'

Some ten years ago, the writer after considerable difficulty procured a copy of Froude's Remains, Of the four volumes only one had the leaves cut. This is symbolical of the treatment meted out to Hurrell Froude. The Remains was never a popular work, and never passed on to a second edition. The prejudice of the day was too strong to permit of either the writer or his writings receiving what was due to them. But a consideration of Froude's opinions on all the questions of Church reform mentioned in this booklet will lead to the conclusion that a great prophet has been among us. He was treated as prophets usually are treated. Our fathers despised the prophet, but surely the time has come when at least some attempt might be made to build his tomb.

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