Project Canterbury

The Life of John Travers Lewis, D.D.
First Archbishop of Ontario

By His Wife

London: Skeffington and Son, no date.


John Travers Lewis was born on 20th June, 1825, and great rejoicings followed at Garry Gloyne Castle, co. Cork, in the parish of Blarney, Ireland, because of the birth of an heir to the estate. Colonel Travers, the owner of the castle, was childless, and John Travers Lewis, his nephew, was baptised by the rector of Blarney.

The boy grew up. He was over six feet in height, handsome, had a good voice, an acute and able brain, and was Irish to the core. He won the Irish Hebrew prize at Trinity College, Dublin, and was the gold Medallist of his year. He was ordained deacon at Christ's College, Cambridge, and bis first curacy was at Newton Butler, Fermanagh. In 1849 he was ordained priest by the Bishop of Down. After his father's death his mother had gone to Canada, and at last he went there.

His first parish was Hawkesbury in Canada in 1850, and in 1862 at the age of thirty-six, when he was rector of Brockville, he was made Bishop of Ontario. He was not a High Churchman or a Ritualist, and he had qualities which made him a conspicuous figure in the newly founded diocese of Ontario. The income of the Bishopric was only five thousand dollars a year, and he had little besides.

[x] Let this be said for Bishop Lewis: his earnest suggestion founded the first Lambeth Conference in 1867. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Longley, at the time was extremely doubtful, as were most of the clergy of the Church, but they were all at last convinced; and Lord Davidson, late Archbishop of Canterbury, has written an account of the foundation of the Conference. It was due to this Irish Bishop from a far corner of the world, that the Archbishop of Canterbury presided at the first Conference on the 24-26th September, 1867, at Lambeth.

Soon another conference will be held in London, and lately I met on a Canadian Pacific steamer the able Bishop of Athabaska. He has no servant, but he and his wife do the housework, and there are 80,000 white people in that vast, quickly settling region. The bishops come to the Conference from five continents, and will confer for a month from 7th July. In 1867 only seventy-six attended, but in 1920 there were two hundred and fifty-two. They meet about every ten years, and now they will discuss marriage, sex, race, education, governments and peace and war.

John Travers Lewis was made Archbishop of all Canada, and remained Archbishop of Ontario, but he yielded the Primacy of all Canada to the Bishop of Ruperts Land before he passed away, yet remained Primate of Canada to the end. He was big and deep and broadminded. The world does not fully realise how great the debt is to this Irish clergyman who did not die until 1901.

The Bishop of Nova Scotia, who helped to make him [x/xi] Metropolitan of Canada, was to have attended the coming Conference of Lambeth and to have written this Preface, but because of illness he cannot come, and the duty falls upon me.

I know Kingston, the centre of his diocese, where his Cathedral was and is. I know Ottawa, the capital of the great Dominion where he lived for many years. I know something of the sorrows of his life, the loss of his son by drowning, his first wife's death--she was the daughter of Hon. Henry Sherwood of Toronto--and the patient struggle he had when the Bishop of Huron challenged Trinity College, Toronto, on its leanings towards Rome. No one ever went to the Church of Rome through the teaching of Trinity, Toronto. She is now incorporated with Toronto University, and her record, as Archbishop Travers Lewis knew, has more than justified her existence. She has produced many notable men. We all recognise the spiritual legislature of the Church which meets at Lambeth this year, and to the wide vision of this boy is due this world-wide Assembly.

In the authoress of this book he had a powerful helpmate. She knows the profound and beautiful nature that gave the great Dominion the best of his life. He sleeps his last sleep in the churchyard of Hawkhurst, Kent. There should be erected in the hearts of the people of the Church of England a monument to him, who against great doubt founded this Conference now playing a vast and beneficial service to the future of the Episcopal Church throughout the world. Acute of intellect, modest of mind, spiritually [xi/xii] patriotic, temperate, yet strenuous, gentle, yet strong--we owe him endless gratitude for his eloquence, his quiet power and his enduring faith.


2 Whitehall Court, S.W.

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