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A Sketch of the Life of the Right Reverend George Augustus Selwyn, Late Bishop of Lichfield, and Formerly Bishop and Metropolitan of New Zealand.

By Mrs. G. Herbert Curteis

London: J. Parker and Co., and Newcastle: G. Hickson, 1878.




The following circular, drawn up by Bishop Selwyn at the beginning of the current year and sent by him to every Parish in the Diocese, is here reprinted as a specimen of his annual scheme of work.

B. DESCRIPTION OF THE ALMS BASON. (From an American Journal.)

"In the centre is the hemisphere, showing the Atlantic Ocean, with the Old World on the east of it and the New World on the west A scroll on the oceans bears the inscription, which expresses the spirit of the gilt: "Orbis veteri navas, occidens orienti, Filia Matri,' At the South Pole is the date, 1871, of the Bishop's visit. In the upper part of the hemisphere is a circular chased medallion, which covers nearly the whole of Great Britain, and bears a ship typical of the Church, having the Cross at its prow, the Labarum on its sail, the Pastoral staff of the Apostolic Episcopate at its mainmast, upheld by two ropes on either side for the other two orders of Priests and Deacons; and 'S. S.' on the rudder, for the `Sacred Scriptures.' This ship is leaving England, and is headed towards the New World, indicating that our Church received its existence from the Catholic Church through the Church of England.

Outside of this hemisphere is a band about an inch wide, with the names of the six undisputed General Councils of the ancient Church, separated from one another by six hemispheres of lapis lazuli. As the word 'Catholic' signifies 'all the world over' so this band runs all around the globe.

From this band, on the outside, spring twelve oak leaves, and between them are twelve twigs, each bearing three acorns with burnished kernels. This use of the English oak sets forth the English Church growing outwards, and carrying her Catholicity with her wherever she goes, in every direction. The twelve is the number of Apostolic fulness and perfection, and the three is reference to the doctrine of the Trinity. From behind the oak leaves and acorns spring alternate maple leaves and palmetto leaves, the former symbolizing the North, and the latter the South,--thus representing the historical truth that both parts of our American Church are the outgrowth of the Church of England.

[86] The rim bears the inscription, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' It begins and ends at a jewelled cross, composed of five amethysts, four topazes, eight pearls and eight small garnets, all clustered within a circle, the cross itself thus forming a crown of glory. The words are divided by large stones, more than an inch in diameter. As they refer not to the faith, but to gifts, which are of infinite variety, no two are alike. They are all (within one exception) American stones, the one exception being a species of praise from New Zealand, which was found in a lapidary's shop in Philadelphia. As Bishop Selwyn has done more than any other one man to organize the system of the Colonial Episcopate, the piece of that New Zealand stone was secured, to be placed first in the series.

Outside the inscription is a very bold cable moulding, the finish of which shows that it is a threefold cord, not easily broken. This means the three Orders of the Apostolic ministry; one strand being burnished bright to represent the Episcopate, the next under it having twelve cross threads representing the Priesthood, and the next below that having seven longitudinal threads, signifying the Diaconate, the original number of the deacons being seven. Outside this cable moulding, again, is a margin of leaves all growing outward, showing a vigorous outward growth of the Church all the world over.

On the under side of the rim is a plain Latin inscription, more specifically detailing the circumstances of the occasion which called forth this gift from the American to the English Church. It runs thus:

"+ Ecclesiae Anglicanae matri, per manus Apostolicas reverendissimi Georgii Augusti Selwyn, Dei gratia Episcopi Lichfieldensis, pacis et benevolentam internuncii, ejusdemque auctoris, hoc pietatis testimonium filii Americani dederunt. +"

On the case there is a circular silver plate; in the centre is a shield, bearing the Union Jack and the American arms quartered [86/87] upon a Cross (shaded gules), and with a dove for a crest, whose rays of light and heat fill the circle. This means that the true unity of England and America is a spiritual unity, in maintaining the doctrines of the Cross of Christ.


The following letter, amongst many others, received whilst these sheets are passing through the press, testifies to the deep sorrow which the news of Bishop Selwyn's death caused to the Bishops and other members of the American Church.

Faribault, (U.S.)

June 3, 1878.

Dear Brother,--I have received your kind letter announcing the death of that noble servant of God the Bishop of Lichfield. It was very sad news to us. For among the pleasantest memories of my Diocese is the memory of his visit, and his name will long be a household word. Few men in our day and generation have so intertwined their memory with the Church, and none have wielded a greater power in deepening her spiritual life.

We shall miss him everywhere save from our hearts. It will be a work of love for American Churchmen to unite with their Brethren in England in rearing some fitting memorial of this great and good prelate. Owing to the straitness of the times and the condition of our missionary work we can do but little, but that little will be an offering of grateful love.

I regret that I shall not be able to attend the Lambeth Conference, partly on account of my health, and pressing claims which I cannot disregard.

[88] I pray God that it may be over-ruled for His glory and the prosperity of His Church.

Assuring you of my love, I am,

Faithfully your Friend and Brother,


Rev. E. J. Edwards.



The following words may be regarded as an honourable testimony to the loss, which it was known beforehand the approaching Pan-Anglican Synod must sustain from Bishop Selwyn's absence. And letters from those who had come from 'afar to attend this Synod bear witness that, after its meetings were closed, none had been found to take that leading place in its counsels, which all were prepared to assign to one whose practical wisdom and long experience had been recognised for the last thirty seven years on all questions affecting the organization of the Church and her Missions.

"At this our first anniversary meeting since the death of the Bishop of Lichfield, I should forget my duty if I did not in the presence of the Church testify what we owe to him. Other men may have had as difficult a sphere of work: other men,--as Bishop Broughton when he undertook his work in Australia, or, as Bishop Middleton when he planted an Episcopal See of our Church on the vast continent of India,--may have had as difficult a task before them, and may have done it as conscientiously. But there was [88/89] something in the man we deplore which bears us beyond calculations of the exact work he did, and which stamped him as one of God's heroes. His personal appearance, his look, his mien, his voice carried away the young and enthusiastic, or at least made them ready to follow him in any difficult work. He has left a great inheritance to the Church of Christ, and we shall endeavour in the work which is before us in this Society to follow him in that large-hearted spirit which characterised all he did."


"The Committee appointed to give effect to these Resolutions desire to lose no time in submitting them for the approval and liberal support of the members of the Church of England, and of all the Churches in communion with her, and of all those every where to whom the memory of Bishop Selwyn is dear.

The First Resolution speaks for itself. It aims at providing a Monumental Effigy, to be placed in one of the Mortuary Chapels in the Lady Chapel of Lichfield Cathedral, which shall hand on a faithful likeness of the great Missionary Bishop to future generations, long after those who have known him on earth shall have passed away. This Proposal will include the restoration of the Mortuary Chapels, so that they may furnish a suitable setting for the Bishop's Monument. It may be added that the restoration of these Chapels was an object which the late Bishop had much at heart.

With regard to the Second Resolution, the Committee desire earnestly to recommend the establishment of a College in the University of Cambridge, to be called the "SELWYN COLLEGE." [89/90] The distinctive features of the proposed College would be that it should be founded upon the broad but definite basis of the Church of England, neither less nor more; and further that its aim should be to encourage habits of simple living, and to develope the Christian character, in the Students. The Committee have reason to think that large numbers of the Clergy and Professional classes generally would be glad to have it in their power to give to their Sons the advantages of a University Education at Cambridge, in a College founded on these principles. It would also include provision for the special training of those who may desire to devote themselves to Missionary work, whether at home or abroad.

The Committee believe that there is room for such an Institution in the University of Cambridge; and they have already received encouraging assurances of support from some distinguished residents in the University, and from others who, though non-resident, may be supposed to be acquainted with the circumstances. They confidently recommend this proposal to found in the University, of which the late Bishop was so illustrious a member, a College which shall aim at fashioning its students after the example of the burning zeal, the high courage, and the manly Christianity, of GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN."

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