Project Canterbury

The Mind and Work of Bishop King

By B.W. Randolph and J.W. Townroe

With a preface by the Bishop of London.

London: Mowbray, 1918.

Chapter VI. The Bishop at Home

FOR many years the Bishops of Lincoln had lived at Riseholme--a large country house with somewhat extensive grounds, three miles away from the station at Lincoln. It was in many ways an inconvenient and unsatisfactory arrangement. Bishop King was anxious to live nearer the cathedral, and in a house which would be more accessible to people who wished to see him. The Diocese of Lincoln covers a very large area. Parts of it are a great distance from the cathedral city, and the railway communications are such as make a journey to Lincoln a whole day's business; in many places the clergy live miles away from a station. The Old Palace, which, in the thirteenth or fourteenth century, had been the residence of the bishops, was in absolute ruin. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it had practically been used as a stone-quarry when repairs were needed at the cathedral. It was impossible to restore the ruins, but the architect to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners designed a large and useful house, which was built in 1887 as an enlargement of a house which had stood in the Old Palace grounds since 1737. It stands on the hillside, and from its south front commands a striking view of the city and the open country beyond. The cathedral stands on the highest level of the hill, and the Palace-grounds occupy three levels or terraces below--one where the north front of the house and the chief entrance are found; a second from which the south front has been built up facing a moderate-sized lawn and garden, with a few good trees, and having the Palace ruins to the left; and a still lower third level, with tennis-lawns and gardens. Although there are other houses on nearly all sides, the Palace stands in a fairly retired position, and can hardly be seen from any part of the city, built as it is on various levels and dominated by the cathedral in the background.

The chapel has been built by an ingenious use of a portion of the Old Palace ruins. It is connected with the house by a picturesque, but not very convenient, corridor; but the chapel itself, designed by Mr. G. F. Bodley, is worthy of its place and position. It is very lofty, and has a stately altar and sanctuary; and there is an admirably-designed oak screen, with stalls, at the west end. The east window is high up over a canopied dossal, and has lights illustrating the Annunciation, the Nativity, and the Crucifixion, with figures of St. Remigius, St. Hugh, St. Christopher, and St. Edward, the two last as being patrons of Bishop Wordsworth and Bishop King. The entire furnishing and decoration of the chapel was undertaken by members of the English Church Union, in response to an appeal made by the President of the Society. The consecration took place in 1888. In his letter of thanks to Lord Halifax the bishop, after an expression of personal gratitude, wrote in words which have been often called to mind:--

"And yet the real pleasure of the kindness is not simply personal, but rather the reverse. The real ground for rejoicing at this great act of kindness is surely this--that it shows how grateful people are for the sacramental blessings of the Church. . . . It has been the great and undeserved privilege of my life to have had friends amongst (what is called) all classes of society; from your lordship to one (of whom I felt quite unworthy) who died in gaol; and I know, by a blessed experience, what the heart of a man is when in sacramental union with his God.

"The real want of England is to make English hearts happy with the happiness for which God made them what they are. Money, rank, political power--these are well enough, and should be given to men as God may direct, in His own time and in His own way. But the real want of England is to know the peace and blessedness of the love of God and the love of man in the sacramental life of Christ."

The chapel was in constant use. Here the bishop celebrated daily--when he did not celebrate himself he always communicated (when he could) every day. Even at the very end of his life, when ill, he would say, "I must get up if I can but crawl down to the celebration." Here institutions to benefices often took place, and assistant curates were licensed. Private Confirmations were not seldom held here, and occasionally the bishop ordained in the chapel. At Ember seasons it was, of course, used all day.

Opening out of the chapel itself was a good-sized sacristy, which contained a very small portable altar which had belonged to Dr. Pusey, and which the bishop had used for two years at Hilton House before the Old Palace was ready for him. There was a chasuble of Dr. Pusey's, which he had apparently used at this little altar. Turning to the house, the big drawing-room, with its magnificent view overlooking the city, contained portraits of Bishops Wordsworth, Jackson, and Kaye, and pictures of Bishop King's mother and of his soldier brother who was killed in the Crimea. In the dining-room Bishop Sanderson's portrait was given the place of honour over the chimneypiece; the bishop was very insistent on this, and used constantly to point it out to visitors.

In the entrance-hall there were views of Wheatley, Cuddesdon, and Christ Church--an illustrated epitome of the bishop's career. Opening into the hall was the bishop's study, the room in which he habitually lived. "It was here," writes one who knew well the inner life of the Old Palace, "that the honey was stored, all the other rooms were more or less empty cells." It was a large, well-proportioned room, almost all the furniture of which was the gift of friends. Two great windows looked over the city, which lay below the terraced gardens and the houses just beyond. Bookcases full and overflowing ran round two sides, and there was a grate at the far end where the fire seemed always to burn brightly. The bishop loved warmth--fire in the winter and the sunshine that filled the room in summer, for it faced due south. Books and papers and pamphlets littered a large desk which stood where the light from one of the windows fell sideways upon it, and the warmth of the fire reached it easily. A sofa piled up with books, mostly new volumes of theology, was near the window. On an easel in the middle of the room was a striking portrait of Sailer, formerly Bishop of Ratisbon. His works in forty-two volumes on a shelf of the book-case near at hand had been for years, since Dr. Dolllinger had first introduced them to the bishop, in frequent use for reference.

A massive oak writing-table, which had been a present from Cuddesdon students, stood in the centre of the room; this was always littered with letters and papers and books and writing-paper; but, standing on it amid all the apparent confusion, there could always be seen a small mother-of-pearl crucifix (which had belonged to Dr. Pusey), and a photograph of Dean Church. On the prayer desk were Dr. Pusey's book of private prayers, and Dr. Bright's Ancient Collects. On a little table close by his arm-chair, and on one side of the fireplace, there was a miniature of the bishop's mother, with a small vase of flowers always in front of it. On the wall close by hung a picture of Dr. Pusey, a photograph from a sketch made when he was preaching; and also one of the doctor's study.

Over the chimneypiece hung the Arundel reproduction of Perugino's "Crucifixion," and on one side of it, framed, was the word KopoV ("labour"), which had been suggested by Bishop Wilberforce's life of untiring energy. On either side of the fireplace were two bookcases, mostly filled with French and German theological books, except one corner which was reserved for his books on Dante. On one of these book-cases stood an oil-paining of St. Hugh, which was the work of the Rev. Canon Frederick Sutton, Rector of Brant Broughton. Elsewhere on the walls were to be seen portraits of Bishop Wilberforce and Charles Marriott, and above the door a picture of "Bethel." I On a table close to the sofa stood a beautiful engraving of Millet's Angelus, which Francis Paget, his successor in the Pastoral Chair at Oxford, had given to the bishop, who loved the devotion expressed in the picture as suggesting ideals which he hoped that the farm lads and girls in the Fens might one day reach.

In the great bow-window, on the construction of which the bishop had insisted (it was not in the original design of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners' architect), stood a straight-backed, tall, grandfather's arm-chair, the gift of his dear friends Mr. and Mrs. T. M. Kitchin. Here the bishop constantly sat in summer as he worked at his letters, looking up from time to time to watch the birds on the lawn, or to look across the houses and high chimneys of Lincoln to Canwick Hill. On the chimney-piece itself were two oak goblets carved from the timber of a tree which had formerly stood in the north-east corner of the Minster Yard. Here too was an ostrich-egg, which had been given to the bishop by the blacksmith at Wheatley, and a small wooden box, which a carpenter in the parish had presented to him when he left. The bishop delighted in showing this to his friends as an example of completeness, quoting as he did so the words of the donor, "I knew you would like it, sir, because it is the same on each side." It was an exact square.

There was an atmosphere in the room--a sense of faith, devotion, sympathy, friendliness. "It was really a home room," one writes; "it was always a happiness to find the bishop there as he rose from his chair to meet you. It all fitted in, so to speak--the purple cassock, the pectoral cross, the friendly look, the bright word of welcome, the warm grasp of the hand. There might have been nothing else that mattered but you and what you had come for; and really for the time there was not; unless, perhaps, he was tired or had some anxious business on hand, and a strained look came over his face, and you tried to get away without letting him know you had seen it." It was a home, and not a business or committee-room. Papers and letters were often, it must be admitted, in much confusion, and it was not always easy for the bishop or his chaplain to put hands at a moment's notice on a letter or a paper needed for reference. A hunted and troubled look would come over his face, but at last it was sure to turn up, and some happy word of apology and self-depreciation put every one at ease.

People came on many different errands, and never really in vain; they might not get exactly what they sought, but they found the keen interest, the sympathy, the wise counsel, the strong guidance and direction, the delight of the visit, the things that really counted and helped and mattered. The bishop was almost too accessible; but he had once, when an undergraduate, learnt a lesson from Charles Marriott, and he never forgot it. He had gone one day into Marriott's room at Oriel and, finding him apparently absorbed in work, was leaving with an apology, when he was called back: "What is it, King?" "I will come another time, sir; you are too busy." And then came the lesson: "Do you know what 'being busy 'means? If what you want is of more importance to you than what I am at is to me, I am not busy. What is it, King?" The bishop always remembered it, and he used to tell the story with much glee. Yet he had ways of avoiding the too frequent visits of people who were, perhaps, ready to take advantage of his open doors; and he knew how to bring a useless interview to a close so easily that the greatest bore could hardly feel injured.

Perhaps he was not a great student in his later years. He had read much of his own subjects, and also of other things at Cuddesdon and Oxford. He knew the Faith. He knew what Christian Ethics stood for. Now he was the scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, who had to bring forth out of his treasures things new and old. Those books had largely served their purpose. There were three or four thousand volumes, and amongst them the great tomes of the Fathers, Dr. Pusey's books, Dr. Liddon's volumes of sermons, marked and marked again; the Dante books; Bishop Butler in Mr. Gladstone's famous edition; a large and curious assortment of bishops' charges and pastorals--he was an inveterate reader of these at home and abroad; some, perhaps unexpected, volumes of Archbishop Magee, greatly treasured, "the most reasonable of all reasoners," as he said in the sermon he preached at Peterborough after the archbishop's funeral; a large assortment of French and German and Italian theology--volumes often evidently just bought and read and marked for a certain purpose and then laid aside; a special basket for the latest French and Italian pastorals, notably those of the Bishop of Cremona, Geremia Bonomelli, with whom he had slight but happy ties of friendship; a certain number of books dealing with Higher Criticism--a line of study he regarded with anxious interest but with little real sympathy. Charles Marriott had taught him that "the utmost criticism can do is to prepare a correct text for the reading of the spiritual eye"--a maxim he often quoted. The books were there, the books of the great leaders he had known in the past, the men whose influence lived within him.

And the books too of the younger men. They were read and marked often most carefully--the primary charge of a new bishop, a study by an old Cuddesdon man, a new formulation of ethics, a passing pamphlet. There they were, often with a note of query in the margin, read probably on a railway journey--to judge by the shaky lines of the markings--or in the early morning after a wakeful night. He got out of them what was best, what was of use to him. There are books which are friends and others which are the craftsman's tools. He had both--Dante and Butler and Wordsworth among the first, and always the Christian Year. They had served him well. He knew the great passages that had found and helped him. He was a teacher of the Faith that was in him, not an echo of other men's thoughts--a disciple, but a "disciple" (like Marriott) with an independent mind. He had no desire to restate the Faith for the modern world; but he had an intense and almost passionate desire to state Christian ethics in the language of the day, in words easy to be understood by the simplest people--and he often went great lengths in doing so.

The Faith was one; but the fruits of the Faith in life and conduct were manifold as the individual life of humanity. It was this that gave such steadiness and strength, and, at the same time, such delight and appeal to his sermons. You always knew the Faith--almost the very words in which he would express it. You never knew, and never could know beforehand, the new and manifold ways in which he would appeal for the expression of that Faith in human life. The Faith was one; the life was manifold; and it was the Faith that made possible and certain the life and conduct.

"Yes," a busy woman once said; "Yes, as soon as I saw him in the pulpit, I felt I wanted to be good, and I knew I could be."

When at home, as has been said, the bishop would celebrate the Holy Eucharist in his own chapel every day about 8.15 o'clock. [He always wore the Eucharistic vestments, generally-white ones, except on great festivals. "For twenty years, within a few days, I have worn them [i.e. the vestments] as a rule every day in my private chapel."--Charge, 1907, p. 64.] Family prayers followed, and then breakfast at 9 o'clock. A little before 10 o'clock, if he were not going out in the diocese, he would retire to his study and begin his letters. At 10.30 he would say his office with his chaplain, and at 11 o'clock he was ready to receive his secretary--Mr. W. W. Smith, on whose constant and wise help the bishop relied with absolute trust. [He never missed saying his office. It was very often said in the train; and, if starting on a journey in the morning before he had had time to say it, he would not open the newspaper until he had recited Matins.] The morning passed in interviews and writing. "Accessibility" was one of the mottoes of his life; and no one who came to see him would fail to be asked to luncheon, so that he almost always had some guests with him at that time; while, on market-days, his table would be crowded, as the more frequent trains into Lincoln made it easier for the clergy and others to come and see him then. It was not often that he could get out after luncheon; but, when he could do so, he went for a short walk, always coming back in time to attend Evensong in the cathedral at 4 o'clock. After that he would go back straight to his study and go on with his letters or other work, a cup of tea being brought to him as he wrote--for no man was ever more free from the thraldom of 5 o'clock tea; and he very seldom was known to have more than one cup of tea and a slice of bread and butter at this meal. At 7.30 came dinner, and afterwards he would sit alone in his arm-chair and read. At 10 o'clock he had prayers in chapel, after which he would read or write till nearly n, and then bed.

But it was in reality only quite seldom that he spent the whole day at home. He was constantly out in the diocese, and the more he could visit the small country parishes the happier he was. He delighted in anything which took him amongst the country people; he revelled in harvest festivals, for they gave him an opportunity of speaking to many who were not always in church at other times.

It must not be supposed that the bishop had any special purpose in view when people were asked to luncheon or dinner, any diocesan or other business purpose, neither was it done simply as an act of deliberate kindness. There was, so to say, no conscious effort about it. It was all a matter of happy friendship and delight in people and things and social intercourse. It was a real refreshment to him, although of course there were times of exception. His house, his table, flowers, garden, peacocks, fantail-pigeons were a simple delight to him; and he loved to have people to share things with him. He sat and talked and listened and learnt and laughed and wondered, and was perfectly happy. At times, when some trouble, or sorrow, or wrong, or sin was mentioned, his face grew grave, and the lines marked themselves more deeply. It was bound to be so, for he, more than most men, realized what Wordsworth meant by "the burthen of the mystery, the heavy and the weary weight of all this unintelligible world." He lived in via; it was only in patria, that it would be lightened. And yet it was never allowed to gloom or darken times of refreshing and happy social life. The bishop was an admirable talker, but he never aimed at being a raconteur; and he certainly never reached the "years of anecdotage."

His interests were interests of the present; the things that were happening day by day; the things he had seen and delighted in; the methods, perhaps, at times of pastoral life, but these only when a number of clergy were gathered round him. He had no axes to grind, no desire to "improve the occasion," no mission to preach in social life. Sermons had their place elsewhere. He looked rather for the surprises and delights of social intercourse, and he always found them. He never seemed bored unless, perhaps, a man began to talk in a too self-satisfied way about his work and its success. At times reminiscences of friends and people he had known in the past dropped out; but unless he happened to be with some one who had shared them, or unless some special appeal was made to him, he did not seem to care to talk about such things. They were many of them too deep and serious a part of his life and experience; or if they were unpleasant, or things that involved criticism, or matters of a controversial nature, he was not anxious to recall them. He had had no small part in some of the "Church troubles" of the past, but it was on the rarest occasions that he referred to them. Had he written any pages of autobiography, such matters as the Lincoln Trial would hardly have appeared. He was always easy and happy in conversation, and he had a great gift of expressing his thoughts in perfectly worded phrases, which dropped so naturally from his lips, that for the most part people simply enjoyed them and hardly realized the intellectual power and large experience of life and thought that must have gone to make them such easy possibilities of ordinary conversation. He was a perfect host at a dinner party, and thoroughly enjoyed either large or small gatherings of people at such times. He is credited with the saying that dinner parties rank next in importance to General Councils! At the Old Palace they were certainly times of happiness and perfect concord and unity. The end of December and the whole of January were practically given up to them. The bishop was given to hospitality. The arrangements of the parties and dinners were a matter of real interest to him; and night after night past Bishops of Lincoln looked from their pictures upon the walls over assemblies of happy guests.

Occasionally there were contretemps; once at Hilton House (the small house in which the bishop lived during the alterations at the Old Palace), when Sir Walter Phillimore (then Chancellor of the Diocese) and Lady Phillimore were staying with him, the bishop had intended to ask ten people to dinner on two successive evenings. On the first evening none of the guests turned up. Next day it was discovered that they had all been asked for the second day. The room, however, could only hold fourteen people, so the unfortunate chaplain was sent round to explain the situation to some of the best-known guests, and to ask them kindly not to come!

The last party in January was always a family party for the household, when the bishop came in and thanked them, and told them how they had helped him all through the year, and that he simply could not have got on without them, and that he wanted them to have a happy and enjoyable evening. On his eightieth birthday they gave him a new hat and gloves, thinking, as they said, "it would be nice and warm for him during the spring Confirmations." A day or two after, to their great delight, they were all sent for into the study, and found framed and signed copies of the bishop's last photograph as a present for them. The whole household was absolutely devoted to him.

No picture of the bishop would be complete without a word about guests staying in the house. Constantly there were visitors coming and going, for he loved to have friends, young and old, about him; and he spared no pains to make them feel at home. Even when he was nearly eighty he would sometimes insist on escorting a guest to his bedroom, returning to his own study to finish his letters. But there was one special feature which no one who stayed at the Old Palace can have forgotten--that is what one who knew him intimately has called, "the radiance of his good-byes." "I can see him now standing at the door in his cassock and skull-cap as the carriage drove away, cheering and uplifting you with that wonderful smile on his face." "This world," he would say, "is the place in which to make friendships, but it is in the next world that we shall really enjoy them."

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