Chapter I. 1801-1843
"Mark'st thou in him no token true
Of Heaven's own Priests, both old and new,
In penitential garb austere
Fix'd in the wild, from year to year,
The lessons of stern love, to teach,
To penitents, and to children preach,
Bold words and eager glances stay,
And gently level Jesu's way?"
EDWARD FEILD, the subject of this memoir, was born at Worcester, on June 7, 1801, the third son of James Feild, Esq., the representative of an ancient family long settled in the county of Worcester. Nothing specially worthy of notice has been chronicled concerning his boyhood; the performances of maturer years are generally in inverse proportion to the promises of a precocious childhood, and it is not surprising that, in the case of one whose subsequent life was so exceptionally noble, his nearest surviving relative should say that in his early years there was nothing remarkable about him. Having spent some years at a school at Bewdley, he went in 1814 to Rugby, and in 1820 carried off the first prize out of four awarded for Latin composition, the subject being, "Mulierum legatio ad M. Coriolanum patriae suae arma inferentem." From Rugby he took an Exhibition to Queen's College, Oxford, where he gained a Michel Scholarship. He graduated B. A. in Easter Term, 1823, obtaining a second class in the classical school, and his name stands alone in the first class of the mathematical school. He became a Fellow on the Michel Foundation as a matter of course, and in due time was appointed Lecturer of the college. The present Dean of Wells, who shared his labours in that capacity, says, "I recollect very well that he worked very hard, and threw a deal of vigour into the system as far as was possible in the then state of things. There was one tutor and three lecturers, and the system was as bad as could be." [Very Rev. G. H. S. Johnson.] For the system it is obvious that the lecturers were not responsible.
In the spring of 1826 he was an unsuccessful candidate for a Fellowship at Oriel; there were two vacancies and twelve competitors, the fortunate ones being Richard Hurrell Froude, and Robert Isaac Wilberforce. But it is with his life and work as priest and bishop that these pages are chiefly concerned; on May 21, 1826, he was admitted to the Diaconate by Bishop Legge, then Bishop of Oxford, his fellowship being his title; at Christmas, 1827, he was ordained priest by Bishop Lloyd, having a few weeks previously been licensed to the curacy of Kidlington; and here commenced that course of ministerial activity, guided by profound learning and simple devotion to duty so undeviating and unhesitating as to seem to have been rendered without effort, which marked his whole career of service for nearly fifty years.
These pages will have been written to little purpose if they do not show how, at all times, and in all respects, he was in advance of his contemporaries in his estimate of duty and in his treatment of the many problems, social and political, as well as moral and ecclesiastical, which must occupy the thoughts of every intelligent clergyman, however humble may be his sphere. The standard of ministerial obligations in 1827 was very different from that which is demanded now; fifty years ago even those saintly men, with whose memories we connect the origin of that glorious movement which, under God, has made the Church what now we see it, were content to reside in Oxford, going out to their parishes, in some instances twelve or fifteen miles away, for their Sunday duties, and when otherwise required by their parishioners. But Mr. Feild set a better example; although his parish was only five miles distant he made it his chief work and lived on the spot, coming to Oxford for his lectures, which he regarded as a parergon. A friend writes to me, "When I went into residence at Wadham in 1829 Mr. Feild was soon pointed out to me riding past the college every morning from one of the northern parishes, of which he was curate, reversing the practice of clerical fellows, for instead of living in college he lodged in his curacy." The result of his residence and his teaching remarkable. At this distance of time it may be stated, without offence it is hoped to any, that Kidlington was reputed to be a bad parish; its village green was noted for fights, and these the courageous curate made a point of attending; and at length, by suasion, by force of personal influence, by loving interference, and where all other means failed, by the strong arm of the law, he wrought a real change in this and other respects among his parishioners. He was a pioneer in the work of education, and built schools at Kidlington which were regarded as models for the neighbourhood. I am indebted to the kindness of a contemporary of Mr. Feild's for the following account of his work in this his first charge:--
"The energy with which Feild commenced his work rather grated on the good, though high and dry feelings of his rector; nevertheless he had no reason to complain of want of support and assistance either from him or the college. When I accepted this small college living (and before that), I was anxious to learn lessons in school keeping, of which I had already seen something elsewhere, but which was then completely in its infancy. I paid many visits to Kidlington. Feild did not rest till he had seen efficient schools built. He was the master, and, so to speak, the mistress of the schools. His influence over the children was surprising. Infant schools were then few and far between. From what I saw at Kidlington I at once organized one when I became vicar here. Whenever I think of infant schools, which I have always made an indispensable part of the school system here, I think of Feild and his, so to speak, magical power over the infants; his whole soul seemed to be cast into the work. I feel sure that I never should have done what I have done in that direction but for him at starting. A visit to Kidlington was always one of the bright days of his visit to England, as, no doubt the well-being of the parish was the object of his prayers. I fancy that I can now see the infant children in the school contending for his caresses whilst he held one in his arms."
Another friend writes--
"I visited his schools at Kidlington, and at times met him at the house of the late Rector of Exeter College. I used also to see him often, but as we both had our own work to do, and he never lost time, little then passed between us. He readily made up his mind, and was firm in execution; he was no talker, made no display, and all proceeded from him earnestly indeed, but naturally from the sober temperament and habit of his mind. He was what the French would call 'entier'; but in the best sense.
"I was remarking upon the difficulty I found in composition, making frequent corrections, &c. 'I never,' said he, 'change what I write, and could not do so.' At the time I was much surprised at his answer, but I afterwards thought it characteristic of himself."
Those were stirring times, and Mr. Feild's active mind was keen to take in all that was going on around him and to direct the minds of his parishioners. The "Swing Riots" were in full vigour, and burnings, and other acts of violence were of frequent occurrence. None occurred in Kidlington, but the neighbouring parishes were not so exempt. Cavalry were stationed at Otmoor and elsewhere, and the whole of the rural population was in a state of ferment. In the schools which he had been instrumental in building, he was wont to assemble his people and to deliver to them addresses on subjects in which they were concerned, but which were not so suitable for being dealt with in the pulpit. On November 28, 1830, he delivered an address on the state of the country, in which the prevalent delusions concerning the mischievous effects of the use of agricultural machinery were exposed with manly courage and cool common sense. The address was printed, and found readers far beyond the circle for which it was written, running through six editions.
The whole pamphlet is full of the soundest political economy, and shows how in all matters the future bishop was in advance of the position which the clergy of those days assumed. The address was given at a period of unusual panic, and in their fear passion usurped the function of argument among all classes; but the curate of Kidlington was quite calm, and was able to appeal to principles. In the first place he appealed to the patriotism of the villagers. "It used to be our boast and our blessing that every one in this free land could go where he pleased, and act as he pleased, without fear of danger or interruption. Every one could lie down at night and rise in the morning secure both of his life and his property. But now matters seem for a moment to be very much changed; every day brings us some fresh account of property destroyed and of lives threatened: the soldiers are called out to protect us, and almost every second man, who can be trusted, is sworn to act as a constable for the preservation of the king's peace and the general safety of us all." He then showed that whatever the distress of individuals might be, the destruction of the food of the people must increase that distress, and that, as the immediate consequence of these disturbances, labour was at a standstill, the farmer was driven from his property, labourers were without employment, the well-to-do people quitted the country for the towns, and only desolation and nakedness were to be seen. "For myself," he said, "nothing, I hope and believe, would drive me from my post; and as long as I can serve any of you I am bound to do it, and, by God's help, so I will; but if such disturbances should happen here as have happened in some places, could I, with any propriety, keep the rest of my family here? Could any ladies remain here I and if all these should remove to the neighbouring town, would not the poor man lose many a kind and valuable friend? "Some people drew a distinction between destroying corn and burning or breaking machines; Mr. Feild could see none. "A man's machine;' said he, "is his property, and what right can I or any person have to destroy another man's property? . . . What country is this to live in, if a man's property is to be destroyed at the whim of every ignorant and selfish person who would bring all men to a level, not by raising himself but by keeping every one else down? It would be quite as wise and quite as just to say to some man of great talents and great education, 'Sir, I find your head is a much better head than mine, for I find that you are getting rich by it, while I remain poor; and therefore I desire you will use your headpiece no more, for if you do I shall certainly come and break it.' . . . You say liberty! liberty! and I say liberty! liberty! but what liberty is that when a man may not keep his own property, or use his own machines, or enrich himself by his own inventions?"
He then proceeded to prove that machines were a blessing to the country, and that if they injured the poor, although that circumstance would not lead him to assist in their destruction, yet it would certainly make him regret their introduction; but he was convinced that so far from injuring they greatly benefited the poor, and this he proved by the history of printing, by which where 1,000 persons were formerly engaged in writing books, 10,000 were now engaged in printing them. So with spinning, paper-making and the like, the increased facility of production caused increased expenditure, so that before the introduction of printing-presses there were probably not more than four Bibles in Kidlington, and any one who could read was regarded as a wonder. Now there were at least 400 Bibles and everybody could learn to read, and almost all were able to do so. So with clothing: the poorest now had articles which but a few years before were to be obtained only by people of property. "Last winter," he said, "I sold a blanket to a poor person between sixty and seventy years of age, who told me she never before had possessed one in her life. And how is it that you can possess these comforts which your fathers could not? Why, they are cheap! And what has made them cheap? Why, machines."
The lecturer went on to prove that if machines were destroyed the manufactures would go to France and Germany and other foreign countries. "You have heard, and heard truly," he said, "that England is the richest country in the world. But what has made her so? Why, chiefly her machinery. I have travelled myself in other countries where machines are not so much used, and the poor there are beyond comparison worse fed and worse clothed than in our own country. In some parts of France all the poor wear wooden shoes. Would you like to wear wooden shoes? I am sure you would not. Yet these people have few machines; if they had more machines they would buy the other necessaries of life cheaper and would have more money to spare for shoes; so you see how much better we are off with machines than they without." These were easy lessons in the first principles of political economy, but they were such as only an able man would have dared to give. It will be observed that the arguments used were such as would fall within the experience of the audience, who literally would know where the shoe pinched. The lecturer next tried to show that the obnoxious thrashing-machines themselves were a direct benefit to the poor, and to enforce his argument he quoted facts within the cognizance of all. He said--
"You all know very well that soon after harvest you generally find your bread rise somewhat in price; sometimes a penny, sometimes three-halfpence, sometimes two-pence the loaf. You don't like this advance in price. I have often heard you complain of it. But what is the occasion of such a rise in price just at the time when we should suppose corn was most plentiful? The occasion is that it is impossible to get the grain to market so fast as it is wanted for use, and so the price rises of course. Labourers are employed, some getting in the late harvest, some ploughing, some in other field work; and they don't like to be shut up in the barn at that season of the year. Some labourers, I know, refuse to thrash during the season of harvest. "What then is to be done? The corn rises in price, and this, of course, is very unpleasant, but especially to the poor man. To remedy this evil thrashing-machines were invented, which can bring a large quantity of corn into the market in a short time, and so help to lower the price and save us from want, and I believe if they were laid aside we should all suffer more or less in consequence."
But having exhausted all the arguments which political economy supplied, Mr. Feild took higher ground, and appealed to the Christian fellowship which they were bound to recognize as binding all classes together in the only sure bonds, and so his well-meant lecture in politics developed, as was right and proper, into a terse and practical sermon on the duties of Christian citizenship. Mr. Feild's arguments are not yet obsolete, and his lecture might in the present day be circulated with advantage among the thoughtful but discontented and illogical people who organize strikes and trade unions. While wholly on the side of order and law, Ms sympathies were ever with the poor; no pseudo-aristocratic prejudices warped his judgment or influenced his mind as he studied the social problems of the day.
He took a keen interest in the then new Poor Laws, which were the outcome of the Swing Riots, and his answers to questions of the Commissioners on the Poor Laws appear in the First Report of that body. The questions were forty-six in number, the last in the series being, "Can you give the Commissioners any information respecting the causes and consequences of the agricultural riots and burnings of 1830 and 1831?" The answers given to so very wide a question are, as may be supposed, extremely varied in terms and character, but having looked through some hundreds I have not found one which for boldness and acuteness approaches Mr. Feild's. It was as follows: "The causes appear to have been the mal-administration of the Poor Law, and the inefficiency of the clergy: the consequences, however injurious to individuals, have beyond question been greatly beneficial to the community."
In June 1831 he delivered another address in the schoolroom, which was also printed and largely circulated. A labouring man in an adjoining parish, stung by the reproaches of his wife and of his own conscience, but unable to conquer his intemperate habits, which had brought his family to beggary, had committed suicide, calmly and deliberately. The sad event made a great impression and the zealous curate seized the occasion, "to say things which could not so properly have been said in church, but which are nevertheless of the utmost importance to your best and everlasting interests." And as in his previous address he had advanced principles which subsequent events have proved to have been sound, so now he pleads for wholesome liberty, and looks to moral improvement rather than to Acts of Parliament to lessen the crime of drunkenness.
"Many persons ask, What shall we do to check the evil? Shall we ask Parliament to make beer dear again, and to put down the beer-houses? Shall we put our hands to a paper saying we think cheap beer a nuisance and the beerhouses a nuisance? I know many good and worthy persons have done so, and already many petitions have been forwarded to Parliament; but I have never signed any such petition and I never will. I always rejoice and always shall rejoice, when any of the necessaries or comforts of life are brought within reach of the poor, and therefore instead of wishing to make beer dearer, I heartily hope it may be cheaper still. ... I don't, however, mean to deny that the cheapness of beer may for a time encourage and increase the mischief.
If you have curbed in a horse too tight, when you loosen the rein it is likely he will at first go a little too free; but this is soon over, and when we see his powerful action and free paces, who will not confess that he goes better and safer now than when curbed and cramped and deprived of his liberty? It is just so when an indulgence has been newly granted to those who have been deprived of it too long; but let them have time to recover themselves and to understand their privileges, and the mischief will cease. The good will overcome the evil."
The sanguine hopes of the curate of Kidlington in 1831 have not, it is to be feared, been realized, but it will be observed that a famous dictum of the present Bishop of Peterborough, when speaking on this subject in the House of Lords, was but an echo (unconscious no doubt) of the words of Mr. Feild spoken more than forty years previously. His great antipathy to what he called "the Self-righteous absurdities of teetotalism," appears on several occasions in his letters and reports: intemperance caused him great anxiety both in England and in Newfoundland, and he was himself almost a total abstainer, but he objected to the pledge as superfluous and immoral. ^ In 1834 he became rector of English Bicknor, a college living in the most beautiful part of Gloucestershire. It seemed as though this were likely to be the scene of his life's labours; unselfish to the last degree, without any thought of worldly advancement, and happy in the sphere in which he found himself, it may truly be said of him
"The calm delights
Of unambitious piety he chose,
And learning's solid dignity."
Within the limits of this parish and in the performance of his pastoral duties, he found occupation that amply satisfied his highest ambition, and here the next ten years of his life were spent. They were not uneventful years, and his peculiar gifts were called forth for the benefit of an area much wider than that of his small parish; he pursued as rector the same policy which had marked his residence at Kidliugton. His successor, the Rev. J. Burdon, who is still rector of English Bicknor, has been so good as to send me the following description of the results and traditions of Mr. Feild's incumbency:--
"The bishop is remembered with affectionate regard to this day by a great many people of the neighbourhood. His great influence was through schools, which he built at a time when nobody troubled themselves about such things, and he exercised wonderful influence over the children, though strict even to severity in his management of the school. They were afraid of him, and yet they liked him very much. The last time he was over, several of the rather elderly people had stories about their school days, and how the bishop had thrashed them, and such like agreeable reminiscences, which I retailed to the bishop, greatly to his amusement. Some of them he remembered. He listened to the stories with a quiet smile, half grim and half jocose, which one often noticed in him. He had a very strong sense of humour.
"One fact I remember regarding his management of the school, which has always struck me as very singular. He had not the slightest ear for music, and yet he contrived to teach the children music by note. They sang in parts, and formed the choir. None but the children sang in church, and really the singing was very fair. The schoolmaster had little or nothing to do with the singing, the bishop did it all or nearly all himself, and yet he was utterly deficient both in voice and ear. He had printed a little book for teaching singing, of which I think I still have copies by me. This was quite of a piece with his character, which took delight in grappling with difficulties.
"I should think there were no such schools in Gloucestershire as these at Bicknor while under the bishop's superintendence, and yet if any clergyman attempted to carry out so strict a discipline in these days he would be had up before & magistrate before three months were over. Nevertheless his pupils remember him with the utmost respect."
From another correspondent, a lady well qualified to give an opinion, I have received testimony to his labours as a parish priest, which is the more valuable as it gives the impression made by them on the mind of a young child:--
"My recollections of Bishop Feild, as rector of English Bicknor, are those of a little child, who delighted in him as the most genial and pleasant of playfellows--and who was more proud of than frightened at being catechized by him with the village children, 'after the second Lesson at Evening Prayer' on the Sundays in Lent. This catechizing was of the simplest and most literal kind, 'saying the Catechism' in fact--yet it was the revival of that strict and accurate attention to the rubrics of the Prayer-book, love for and obedience to which he was the first to instil into the minds of many children of the Church. This description of his catechizing in church would give little notion of his powers of teaching, which of course was one of his special gifts in those days, and which I even can recollect in Sunday school lessons when I was often present. He not only organized, but created schools--day and Sunday schools, unknown in this district till he came into it. His love for children was intense, he never passed one without a smile or a pat; at the same time even with little children he could be severe, when occasion required. His own energy and power of work was so great that he was apt to be exacting, perhaps, from others of feebler powers both as pupils and as workers in the parish; he could not tolerate work of any sort imperfectly or half done, if it was possible for the doer to do it better. He never spared himself, and the stern self-denial so conspicuous in his long and noble episcopate was equally remarkable in the softer, easier life of his much-loved parish."
The Rev. E. Machen, of Eastbach Court, has enabled me to add his reminiscences of the bishop as a parish priest, and the testimony thus collected from three distinct sources will, it is supposed, clearly show what proof he made of his ministry as an English vicar:--
"My earliest remembrances of Bishop Feild date from the year 1834, when he came to take possession of the rectory of English Bicknor. It was very soon seen what manner of man he was. He had not been many weeks in the parish before all felt that they had a real man among them, to whom they could look up with respect and reverence; but it was only by degrees that the gentle tender nature made itself felt through a certain sternness and ruggedness of exterior, and we found that we could not only esteem him highly but love him heartily. I was a boy at Rugby at the time, and he delighted me by his ready sympathy with all Rugby doings and pursuits. He would look over the Oxford class-lists with great interest, and take delight in finding the names of any Rugbeians who had been doing honour to the old school. Shortly after his arrival, I remember, he was invited to preach a school anniversary sermon at a neighbouring church. I have no recollection of the sermon, except that he drew a comparison between the waste uncultured forest land around and the barren untaught minds of children who were receiving no religious instruction. There was a large gathering of the neighbouring clergy and gentry, and all were invited, the preacher of course amongst the rest, by the clergyman of the parish to luncheon. But Feild declined. He had heard of a sick person in a distant part of his own parish, which he had not yet explored, and I well remember his asking me to point out the road to it. This may seem a trifle to put on record. But it exactly shows the manner of the man--always duty put before pleasure in small things as well as great. He built schools in English Bicknor, at considerable cost to himself (there had been no day-school before his time), rebuilt the church, and left many external marks of his ten years' residence in the parish. But he left far deeper, more enduring marks in the hearts and affections of those committed to his charge, many of whom to this day, after an interval of thirty-five years love to dwell upon his sayings and doings. He had a very special love for children. I often now meet with rugged men and toil worn women who speak of lessons learned from Mr. Feild at Bicknor School. He could be severe at times, he may occasionally have erred on the side of severity--for his righteous soul was specially vexed at anything like deceit or falsehood or irreverence in a child.
"Mr. Feild was a man of very strong constitution and active habits, but the parish of English Bicknor is a widely scattered one, and many of the hamlets and outlying cottages can only be reached by very rough and steep roads, so that he employed a curate during the greater part of his incumbency, and two or three young men to whom he gave a title have ever had reason to bless the day in which they became associated with Feild in the charge of a parish. He taught them their work--saw that they were diligent and regular in their visits to the sickbed and the school, and did not shrink from criticizing their sermons, and pointing out any deficiencies in statements of doctrine, and any errors in matters of taste. Nor did he take it too much to heart if they sometimes winced a little under his treatment.
"I can well remember the universal and genuine regret that were felt and expressed throughout the parish, when it became known that he had decided to accept the Bishopric of Newfoundland. Rich and poor alike felt that they were losing a true pastor and a friend indeed. The state of society at English Bicknor, when Feild came to the parish, was at a very low ebb. There were two or three disreputable public-houses, and the noisy contention of drunken men in the streets was by no means uncommon. The farmers did not generally set a good example--the ringers and singers were a troublesome lot. He had to do a good deal of rough work, and his unflinching courage--his utter contempt for what is commonly called popularity, his steady purpose in all that he did and said to please God rather than man, exactly fitted him for it. It had long been the wish of his heart to obtain possession of the 'Old Bear,' a public-house close to the church and the rectory (and which was the scene of frequent drunken brawls) for the purpose of building almshouses on the site. This wish was never accomplished during his stay at Bicknor, but when he paid one of his rare and hasty visits to England, he had the pleasure of seeing a suitable and commodious building, erected on the site of the 'Old Bear,' tenanted by six aged parishioners, who were spending a peaceful old age, 'fast by the church, whose aisles in youth they trod.' This was a great satisfaction to him, and he often used to say playfully, 'that when he was worn out and past work he should ask for a room in the Bicknor almshouses in which to end his days.'"
The fame of his powers in school matters was now widely spread. Education was becoming, what it has since continued to be, a foremost and pressing question. Existing schools were known to be as bad as it was possible to conceive; the teachers were ignorant, and aimed at nothing beyond teaching by rote; Diocesan Boards of Education had begun to be established in several places, and the National Society determined to appoint a number of inspectors whose duty it should be to visit all the schools in a particular diocese with the sanction of the bishop. The first person selected for this tentative position was Mr. Feild. From May 10 to August 19, 1840, he was engaged in the diocese of Salisbury, and on October 9 in the same year until May 31, 1841, he was engaged in similar work in the diocese of Worcester. Thus he gained experience both in a rural and in a manufacturing diocese. He considered his duties to be, "(1) to ascertain the actual state of each school: (2) by encouragement and counsel to suggest remedies for apparent defects or deficiencies as experience might enable him, remembering always that an inspector should know the difficulties and hindrances of parochial education as only a parish minister can." How true is the foregoing passage many a school manager will feel who has smarted under the unsympathetic demand of a Government Inspector to whom, although perhaps in Holy Orders, none of the trials and difficulties of parochial life are known. How sore was the need of some inspection may be gathered from Mr. Feild's report, that in many places no registers of attendances were kept, and no explanation was given of what was read. "Often master and children stand aghast together when I propound any question; the very easiest, being new and strange, are difficult to them."
The inspection was thorough and minute, extending to questions of drainage, ventilation (little thought of in those days), even to the supply of hat-pegs, and the like: in every school he inquired about the private prayers of each child, and found that in Dorsetshire they generally said the Lord's Prayer, the Creed (which was regarded as a prayer, the children kneeling and holding up their hands while repeating it), and one of the many versions of "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John:" these versions were so many and different that he made a collection of them, which finds a place in the Appendix of his report. In Warwickshire he was "pained to hear of the spread of Teetotalism among the schoolmasters;" one refused to continue to communicate because he was pledged to total abstinence, and another "suspended in his schoolroom a sheet almanac headed (with a kind of parody on the sacred title of all Christian almanacs) 'The Temperance Almanac, in the Year of Total Abstinence, 8.' Surely persons of such unstable minds (he adds) are most unfit to be intrusted with the education of children in the obligations of the Christian covenant."
His two reports (which were in addition to the confidential reports sent to the bishop on each parish) occupy 76 pages of closely-printed matter in the Reports of the National Society for 1840 and 1841 respectively, and it may fairly be doubted whether the Privy Council Office contains more statesmanlike documents on the great question with which they deal; certainly the armed host of Inspectors who are sent out from Whitehall with all thy authority which the State can give them, might study with advantage both to their own work and to the schools which they visit, these two reports of Mr. Feild. The documents, it is fair to add, brought to the writer an offer of a Government Inspectorship, which he declined, stating as his reason that he had resolved to give himself up wholly to what he conceived to be his proper work. There is a tradition among his friends that the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had no personal knowledge of him, was so struck by the reports, and his conduct in refusing the Government appointment, that he said, "this man ought to be a bishop."
In other parts of the country where education was attracting the thoughts of the clergy, men looked to Mr. Feild and his experience before venturing on plans of their own. Among those who thus sat at his feet was the writer of the following letter, now the honoured Primus of Scotland, and the friendship thus commenced secured, as will be seen hereafter, the most valuable sympathy and material assistance when the famous Inspector became Bishop of Newfoundland. Bishop Eden writes to me thus:--
"I had been for some time joint secretary with the present Dean of Winchester of the Essex Board of Education, when the late Bishop of London (Blomfield) asked me to inspect the schools in Essex. At that time there was no Government Inspection of schools. Mr. Feild, the first inspector of schools, was just then engaged in his inspection of the schools in the diocese of Worcester. I had heard of the admirable way in which he had accomplished his work the year before, and I asked the Bishop of London to allow me to go down to the diocese of Worcester, and, with Mr. Feild's permission, to accompany him for a short time, that I might learn the then novel lesson of school inspection before venturing to undertake the task to which he had invited me. The bishop most readily entered into the proposal, and having obtained Mr. Feild's permission, I went down and accompanied him in his inspection of several schools. He was a most kind instructor, and as able as he was kind. His system of inspection was at once so simple and so thorough, that he soon made me master of it; and thus armed, I was emboldened to accede to my bishop's request, and conducted my inspection entirely in accordance with the 'Feild Organization.' So thorough was his system that heexamined, I may say, every child in each class, beginning from the lowest to the highest, dismissing from the school each class as he examined it, and having given occupation to the other children who were not under examination. He entered the result of his examination of each class when he had completed it, in a little paper hook which he had prepared under different headings, and from these books he framed the daily report of ea.ch school."
The diocese of Worcester having been thus inspected, Mr. Feild returned to his parish in 1841, and there continued until, in 1844, he was summoned to Newfoundland, where for thirty-two years he was abundant in labours which may, without exaggeration, be said to have been uninterrupted and unparalleled.
On the fact of his nomination being known, offers of material help came to him from all sides. The Provost and Fellows of his college immediately commenced the formation of a fund for ecclesiastical purposes, to be placed at his disposal, "feeling confident that the well-known character of Mr. Feild, his sound judgment and discretion, his past labours in the Church, and his zealous performance of the duties of a parish priest for many years, afford a sufficient guarantee that his office as chief pastor will be efficiently discharged whilst health and strength are afforded him, and that the sum placed in his hands will be employed in the best way calculated to advance the spiritual welfare of those committed to his charge." This was testimony as creditable to those who offered it as to him who was the subject of it; and certainly, if faithful and long-continued labours for God and the Church, if simple piety and hardness endured not only voluntarily but without complaint, if statesmanlike forethought, and practical wisdom in the founding and subsequent government of a church, and a life lived as in the very presence of God and guided always by the Spirit and teaching of the Gospel, be subjects of legitimate admiration to those who witness them, Queen's College, Oxford, has had no nobler or more distinguished member in this generation than he to whom his contemporaries united in doing honour before he left his native country for the sterile shores of Newfoundland.
To the fund thus raised his parishioners contributed largely; but his letter of thanks and acknowledgement shows that, pressed for money as all colonial bishops are, specially at the commencement of their work, he valued the prayers and intercessions of his poor village flock far above silver and gold. Thus he wrote:--
April 2, 1844.
"My dear Friends and Parishioners,
"I desire to thank you most heartily and sincerely for your very liberal contribution to the fund for ecclesiastical purposes in my future charge, and for the affectionate declaration of your regard and good wishes which accompanies it. This is not an occasion for many words; if you do not give me credit for feeling, deeply and gratefully, you would not, I am sure, be better convinced and satisfied by set forms and phrases. I can but thank you, and you will believe I do it from the bottom of my heart, in all simplicity and sincerity.
I must be allowed, however, to assure you, that the amount of your donation, and the manner of collecting and presenting it, are very gratifying to me. While so considerable a sum of money (78l.) will materially assist the good works which our brethren in Newfoundland, my appointed future charge, have in hand (and such assistance is greatly needed), the long list of contributors, names so familiar and dear to me, will remain in. my possession a pleasing memorial of your dutiful regard and goodwill. I can honestly assure you no piece of silver or gold plate, however costly or beautiful, could be regarded by me with more gratitude and satisfaction, or preserved with greater care, than this simple record of so many dear friends and parishioners, of every rank and degree, associated in common design of acknowledging my past poor services among them, and of strengthening my hands and comforting my heart in my distant and more arduous sphere of labour. If I might venture so to apply the holy Apostle's words, 'I seek not yours but you;' I value far more than any silver or gold your list of many names, hoping and believing that they are the token and assurance of many good wishes for my success and welfare, and of many prayers. And what is the power of silver and gold in comparison of effectual fervent prayer? I will then hope and believe, whenever I look at your list of names, that you remember me at the throne of grace; that as you have helped together in your contributions, so you do and will help together in your prayers to God for me.
There is not at present time, neither, I would hope, necessity, to declare my earnest good wishes and sincere love for you. Words are at best but poor evidence in such a matter, and with respect to my actions and labours among you, it little becomes me to speak, and God knows, and I know, there is nothing to boast of. Yet, however feeble or imperfect they were, and however small the measure of success attending them, they were done (if it be not too bold to say so) for the glory of God and the love of you. And I shall ever rejoice and praise God that I have been permitted to assist in several good works in the parish, which, if you retain and use them in a spirit of Christian faith and patience, may, under the divine blessing, help you forward, and your children after you, in the way of righteousness and peace.
I conclude with my most earnest desire and prayer that all your works may be begun, continued, and ended in God, that so you may glorify His holy name, and by His mercy obtain everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Your most affectionate and grateful
Friend and Servant in Christ,
"To the Parishioners of English Bicknor."
To one, a kindred spirit, whose acquaintance accidentally made while Mr. Feild was inspector of schools, ripened into friendship which ended only with life, the bishop designate wrote the following grave and thoughtful letter:--
"Feb. 28, 1844.
"It is a source of great encouragement and comfort to me, on undertaking an arduous and responsible office, to be assured of the sympathy and good wishes and effectual fervent prayers of many kind and highly esteemed friends, and more especially of those who are called to and engaged in the same ministry. For such assurances on your part accept my warmest thanks. I am well aware of the interest you have felt and shown in the Colonial Church; and it is therefore peculiarly pleasing to me that you can speak of my appointment with so much satisfaction, well knowing that you would not express satisfaction, where you did not really feel it. My visit to K--------- is, and always will be, one of the green spots in my bygone journey. Of the many acquaintances it was my privilege to make in my tour of inspection, I can truly say there was not one it would have given me more pleasure to cultivate, or from which I should have expected more profit as well as pleasure, than yours, if it had pleased God to allow it. I remember well your giving me some little papers containing among other things, an extract from one of your sermons which pleased me much; but I little thought that I should be personally and peculiarly interested in your pleadings for the Colonial Church as a minister of that Church, and much less as chief pastor of an important, and (till lately) much neglected branch of it. I should rejoice very much to have an opportunity of talking with you of my plans and projects, and to have the benefit of your opinion and advice. The late bishop made some great and good beginnings, but was removed before any of his works received their completion. I shall earnestly desire to carry them on and, if it please God, to reap the fruits of them. I expect that my consecration will take place at Lambeth the 21st or 28th of April."