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The Oxford Movement
Twelve Years 1833-1845

by R. W. Church, M.A., D.C.L.,
Sometime Dean of St Paul's, and Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford

London: Macmillan & Co. 1894

Transcribed by The Revd R D Hacking
AD 2003


CHARLES MARRIOTT was a man who was drawn into the movement, almost in spite of himself, by the attraction of the character of the leaders, the greatness of its object, and the purity and nobleness of the motives which prompted it. He was naturally a man of metaphysical mind, given almost from a child to abstract and indeed abstruse thought. He had been a student of S. T. Coleridge, whom the Oriel men dis?liked as a misty thinker. He used to discuss Coleridge with a man little known then, but who gained a high reputation on the Continent as a first-rate Greek scholar, and became afterwards the head of the University of Melbourne, Charles Badham. Marriott also appreciated Hampden as a philosopher, whom the Oriel men thoroughly distrusted as a theologian. He might easily under different conditions have become a divine of the type of F. D. Maurice. He was by disposition averse to anything like party, and the rough and sharp proceedings which party action sometimes seems to make natural. His temper was eminently sober, cautious and, conciliatory in his way of looking at important questions. He was a man with many friends of different sorts and ways, and of boundless though undemonstrative sympathy. His original tendencies would have made him an eclectic, recognising the strength of position in opposing schools or theories, and welcoming all that was good and high in them. He was profoundly and devotedly religious, without show, without extravagance. His father, who died when he was only fourteen, had been a distinguished man in his time. He was a Christ Church man, and one of two in the first of the Oxford Honour lists in 1802, with E. Copleston, H. Philpotts, and S. P. Rigaud for his examiners. He was afterwards tutor to the Earl of Dalkeith, and he became the friend of Walter Scott, who dedicated to him the Second Canto of Marmion; and having ready and graceful poetical talent, he contributed several ballads to the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border ,The Feast of Spurs , and Archie Armstrong's Aith . He was a good preacher; his sympathies--of friendship, perhaps, rather than of definite opinion--were with men like Mr. John Bowdler and the Thorntons. While he lived he taught Charles Marriott himself. After his death, Charles, a studious boy, with ways of his own of learning, and though successful and sure in his work, very slow in the process of doing it, after a short and discouraging experiment at Rugby, went to read with a private tutor till he went to Oxford. He was first at Exeter, and then gained a scholarship at Balliol. He gained a Classical First Class and a Mathematical Second in the Michaelmas Term of 1832, and the following Easter he was elected Fellow at Oriel.

For a man of his power and attainments he was as a speaker, and in conversation, surprisingly awkward. He had a sturdy, penetrating, tenacious, but embarrassed intellect--embarrassed, at least, by the crowd and range of jostling thoughts, in its outward processes and manifestations, for he thoroughly trusted its inner workings, and was confident of the accuracy of the results, even when helplessly unable to justify them at the moment. In matters of business he seemed at first sight utterly unpractical. In discussing with keen, rapid, and experienced men like the Provost, the value of leases, or some question of the management of College property, Marriott, who always took great interest in such inquiries, frequently maintained some position which to the quicker wits round him seemed a paradox or a mare's nest. Yet it often happened that after a dispute, carried on with a brisk fire of not always respectful, objections to Marriott's view, and in which his only advantage was the patience with which he clumsily, yet surely, brought out the real point of the matter, overlooked by others, the debate ended in the recognition that he had been right. It was often a strange and almost distressing sight to see the difficulty under which he sometimes laboured of communicating his thoughts, as a speaker at a meeting, or as a teacher to his hearers, or even in the easiness of familiar talk. The comfort was that he was not really discouraged. He was wrestling with his own refractory faculty of exposition and speech; it may be, he was busy deeper down in the recesses and storehouses of his mind; but he was too much taken up with the effort to notice what people thought of it, or even if they smiled; and what he had to say was so genuine and veracious, as an expression of his meaning, so full of benevolence, charity, and generosity, and often so weighty and unexpected, that men felt it a shame to think much of the peculiarities of his long look of blank silence, and the odd, clumsy explanations which followed it. He was a man, under an uncouth exterior, of the noblest and most affectionate nature; most patient, indulgent, and hopeful to all in whom he took an interest, even when they sorely tried his kindness and his faith in them. Where he loved and trusted and admired, he was apt to rate very highly, sometimes too highly. His gratitude was boundless. He was one of those who deliberately gave up the prospect of domestic life, to which he was naturally drawn, for the sake of his cause. Capable of abstract thought beyond most men of his time, and never unwilling to share his thoughts with those at all disposed to venture with him into deep waters, he was always ready to converse or to discuss on much more ordinary ground. As an undergraduate and a young bachelor, he had attained, without seeking it, a position of almost unexampled authority in the junior University world that was hardly reached by any one for many years at least after him. He was hopeless as a speaker in the Union; but with all his halting and bungling speeches, that democratic and sometimes noisy assembly bore from him with kindly amusement and real respect what they would bear from no one else, and he had an influence in its sometimes turbulent debates which seems unaccountable. He was the vir pietate gravis . In a once popular squib, occasioned by one of the fiercest of these debates, this unique position is noticed and commemorated--

Oud elathen Mariota, philaitaton Oreielon
Elthe mega gronon, Mariskois kai pas' agapetos,
Kai smeilos, prosephe pantas keindois apeesin.

His ways and his talk were such as to call forth not unfrequent mirth among those who most revered him. He would meet you and look you in the face without speaking a word. He was not without humour; but his jokes, carried off by a little laugh of his own, were apt to be recondite in their meaning and allusions. With his great power of sympathy, he yet did not easily divine other men's lighter or subtler moods, and odd and sometimes even distressing mistakes were the consequence. His health was weak, and a chronic tenderness of throat and chest made him take precautions which sometimes seemed whimsical; and his well-known figure in a black cloak, with a black veil over his college cap, and a black comforter round his neck, which at one time in Oxford acquired his name, sometimes startled little boys and sleepy college porters when he came on them suddenly at night.

With more power than most men of standing alone, and of arranging his observations on life and the world in ways of his own, he had pre-eminently above all men round him, in the highest and noblest form, the spirit of a disciple. Like most human things, discipleship has its good and its evil, its strong and its poor and dangerous side; but it really has, what is much forgotten now, a good and a strong side. Both in philosophy and religion, the mathetes is a distinct character, and Charles Marriott was an example of it at its best. He had its manly and reasonable humility, its generous trustfulness, its self-forgetfulness; he had, too, the enthusiasm of having and recognising a great master and teacher, and doing what he wanted done; and he learned from the love of his master to love what he believed truth still more. The character of the disciple does not save a man from difficulties, from trouble and perplexity; but it tends to save him from idols of his own making. It is something, in the trials of life and faith, to have the consciousness of knowing or having known some one greater and better and wiser than oneself, of having felt the spell of his guidance and example. Marriott's mind, quick to see what was real and strong, and at once reverent to it as soon as he saw it, came very much, as an undergraduate at Balliol, under the influence of a very able and brilliant tutor, Moberly, afterwards Headmaster of Winchester and Bishop of Salisbury; and to the last his deference and affection to his old tutor remained unimpaired. But he came under a still more potent charm when he moved to Oriel, and became the friend of Mr. Newman. Master and disciple were as unlike as two men could be; they were united by their sympathy in the great crisis round them, by their absorbing devotion to the cause of true religion. Marriott brought to the movement, and especially to its chief, a great University character, and an unswerving and touching fidelity. He placed himself, his life, and all that he could do, at the service of the great effort to elevate and animate the Church; to the last he would gladly have done so under him whom he first acknowledged as his master. This was not to be; and he transferred his allegiance, as unreservedly, with equal loyalty and self-sacrifice, to his successor. But to the end, while his powers lasted, with all his great gifts and attainments, with every temptation to an independent position and self-chosen employment, he continued a disciple. He believed in men wiser than himself; he occupied himself with what they thought best for him to do.

This work was, for the most part, in what was done to raise the standard of knowledge of early Christian literature, and to make that knowledge accurate and scholarlike. He was, for a time, the Principal of the Theological College at Chichester, under Bishop Otter. He was also for a time Tutor at Oriel, and later, Vicar of St. Mary's. He was long bent on setting on foot some kind of Hall for poor students; and he took over from Mr. Newman the buildings at Littlemore, which he turned into a place for printing religious works. But though he was connected more or less closely with numberless schemes of Christian work in Oxford and out of it, his special work was that of a theological student. Marriott had much to do with the Library of the Fathers, with correcting translations, collating manu?scripts, editing texts. Somehow, the most interesting portions hardly came to his share; and what he did in the way of original writing, little as it was, causes regret that so much of his time was spent on the drudgery of editing. Some sermons, a little volume of Thoughts on Private Devotion , and another on the Epistle to the Romans, are nearly all that he has left of his own. Novelty of manner or thought in them there is none, still less anything brilliant or sharp in observation or style; but there is an undefinable sense, in their calm, severe pages, of a deep and serious mind dwelling on deep and very serious things. It is impossible not to wish that a man who could so write and impress people might have had the leisure to write more.

But Marriott never had any leisure. It has been said above that he placed himself at the service of those whom he counted his teachers. But the truth is that he was at every one's service who wanted or who asked his help. He had a large, and what must have been often a burdensome, correspondence. With pupils or friends he was always ready for some extra bit of reading. To strangers he was always ready to show attention and hospitality, though Marriott's parties were as quaint as himself. His breakfast parties in his own room were things to have seen--a crowd of undergraduates, finding their way with difficulty amid lanes and piles of books, amid a scarcity of chairs and room, and the host, perfectly unconscious of anything grotesque, sitting silent during the whole of the meal, but perfectly happy, at the head of the table. But there was no claimant on his purse or his interest who was too strange for his sympathy--raw freshmen, bores of every kind, broken-down tradesmen, old women, distressed foreigners, converted Jews, all the odd and helpless wanderers from beaten ways, were to be heard of at Marriott's rooms; and all, more or less, bad a share of his time and thoughts, and perhaps counsel. He was sensible of worry as he grew older; but he never relaxed his efforts to do what any one asked of him. There must be even now some still living who know what no one, else knows, how much they owe, with no direct claim on him, to Charles Marriott's inexhaustible patience and charity. The pains which he would take with even the most uncongenial and unpromising men, who somehow had come in his way, and seemed thrown on his charge, the patience with which he would bear and condone their follies and even worse, were not to be told, for, indeed, few knew what they were.

"He was always ready to be the friend of any one whose conduct gave proofs of high principle, however inferior to himself in knowledge or acquirements, and his friendship once gained was not easily lost. I believe there was nothing in his power which he was not ready to do for a friend who wanted his help. It is not easy to state instances of such kindness without revealing what for many reasons had better be left untold. But many such have come to my knowledge, and I believe there are many more known only to himself and to those who derived benefit from his disinterested friendship."

Marriott's great contribution to the movement was his solid, simple goodness, his immovable hope, his confidence that things would come right. With much imaginativeness open to poetical grandeur and charm, and not without some power of giving expression to feeling, he was destitute of all that made so many others of' his friends interesting as men. He was nothing, as a person to know and observe, to the genius of the two Mozleys, to the brilliant social charm of Frederic Faber, to the keen, refined intelli?gence of Mark Pattison, to the originality and clever eccentricity of William Palmer of Magdalen. And he was nothing as a man of practical power for organising and carrying out successful schemes: such power was not much found at Oxford in those days. But his faith in his cause, as the cause of goodness and truth, was proof against mockery or suspicion or disaster. When ominous signs disturbed other people he saw none. He had an almost perverse subtlety of mind which put a favourable interpretation on what seemed most formidable. As his master drew more and more out of sympathy with the English Church, Marriott, resolutely loyal to it and to him, refused to understand hints and indications which to others were but too plain. He vexed and even provoked Newman, in the last agonies of the struggle, by the optimism with which he clung to useless theories and impossible hopes. For that unquenchable hoping against hope, and hope unabated still when the catastrophe had come, the English Church at least owes him deep gratitude. Throughout those anxious years he never despaired of her.

All through his life he was a beacon and an in?citement to those who wished to make a good use of their lives. In him all men could see, whatever their opinions and however little they liked him, the simplicity and the truth of a self-denying life of suffering--for he was never well--of zealous hard work, unstinted, unrecompensed; of unabated lofty hopes for the great interests of the Church and the University; of deep unpretending matter-of-course godliness and goodness--without "forth or comeliness" to attract any but those who cared for them, for themselves alone. It is almost a sacred duty to those who remember one who cared nothing for his own name or fame to recall what is the truth--that no one did more to persuade those round him of the solid underground religious reality of the movement. Mr. Thomas Mozley, among other generous notices of men whom the world and their contemporaries have forgotten, has said what is not more than justice. Speaking of the enthusiasm of the movement, and the spirit of its members, "There had never been seen at Oxford, indeed seldom anywhere, so large and noble a sacrifice of the most precious gifts and powers to a sacred cause, he points out what each of the leaders gave to it:

"Charles Marriott threw in his scholarship and something more, for he might have been a philosopher, and he had poetry in his veins, being the son of the well-known author of the 'Devonshire Lane.' No one sacrificed himself so entirely to the cause, giving to it all that he had and all that he was, as Charles Marriott. He did not gather large congregations; he did not write works of genius to spread his name over the land, and to all time; he had few of the pleasures or even of the comforts that spontaneously offer themselves in any field of enterprise. He laboured day and night in the search and defence of Divine Truth. His admirers were not the thousands, but the scholars who could really appreciate. I confess to have been a little ashamed of myself when Bishop Burgess asked me about Charles Marriott, as one of the most eminent scholars of the day. Through sheer ignorance I had failed in adequate appreciation." In his later years he became a member of the new Hebdomadal Council at Oxford, and took considerable part in working the new constitution of the University. In an epidemic of smallpox at Oxford in 1854, he took his full share in looking after the sick, and caught the disorder; but he recovered. At length, in the midst of troublesome work and many anxieties, his life of toil was arrested by a severe paralytic seizure, 29th June 1855. He partially rallied, and survived for some time longer; but his labours were ended. He died at Bradfield, 25th September 1858. He was worn out by variety and pressure of unintermitted labour, which he would scarcely allow any change or holiday to relieve. Exhaustion made illness, when it came, fatal.

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