Project Canterbury

Life of Edward Bouverie Pusey
by Henry Parry Liddon, D.D.

London: Longmans, 1894
volume one

Transcribed by The Revd R D Hacking
AD 2002








                                                 'But Thou, dear Lord,

Whilst I traced out bright scenes which were to come,--

Isaac's pure blessings, and a verdant home,--

Didst spare me.           Lyra Apostolica, xxix.


DURING his stay at Brighton in the early months of 1828 an event occurred of great practical interest to Pusey, and, as events have shown, of even momentous importance to the Church. A vacancy in the see of Llan–daff was filled by the appointment of the Provost of Oriel, Dr. Copleston. If the Welsh see was the more dignified, the Provostship of Oriel was to be, in the ensuing years, the more important position; but this would not have been obvious at the time either to the departing Provost or to the electors of his successor. For some weeks, however, the impending election occupied the minds of the Fellows as an event of at any rate the highest domestic importance; and Pusey was at heart as much interested as anybody else.

Three candidates were in the field; their names stood in the subjoined order as fifth, sixth, and seventh Fellows:-- Rev. John Keble, Rev. J. E. Tyler, and Rev. Edward Hawkins. From the first the issue really lay between Keble and Hawkins. It appears in a letter from Keble to Hawkins, that when the vacancy first occurred Keble could not make up his mind. It is certain that 'if there had been anything like an unanimous call of the Fellows' he would have undertaken the duties of the office. But he thought that he was 'very likely to be left in a minority,' and being. indifferent to prominence of any kind, he appears to have written that 'a Headship at Oxford, though no doubt a comfortable respectable concern, would by no means realize my beau ideal of life.' That something like 'an unanimous call,' which as the voice of duty might have overcome this hesitation, was not addressed to him, was a result to which, in after years, Pusey sadly felt that he had contributed. On December 28th Keble wrote a playful and characteristic letter to Hawkins, to announce that he was no longer a candidate for the vacant Provostship. He did not shrink from its duties; he did not think it a much more difficult trust than any other pastoral employment; he had no wish to be supposed to be 'eaten up with a morbid distrust of himself.' But private and family reasons led him not to wish for it; and there was no reason, when his correspondent was a candidate, for troubling the College with any difference of opinion in the matter. The result was that on February 2nd, 1828, Hawkins was unanimously elected Provost of Oriel.

This situation is so historical, and so much has been written about it, that it may here suffice to describe Pusey's exact share in what took place. He made up his mind, early in the day, that Hawkins would make the best Provost. His reasons are given in the subjoined letter to one whose equitable care had secured his own election as Fellow in 1823.


                                                                      5 Eastern Terrace, Brighton, Dec. 11, 1827.

... Without further preface, then, ever since I have well known the three individuals from whom our future Provost is likely to be selected, T., H., and K., I have been very anxious that H. should be the person who should fill the office. This is not a question of the comparative merits of the individuals in themselves, but with relation to an office of a peculiar character, and requiring peculiar habits and talents for its right discharge. Were personal excellence, high talents, a pure and beautiful mind, alone necessary, H. himself would not compete with K.; yet requiring as it does a great knowledge of human nature, and a general practical turn of mind, I cannot but think that K. is most deficient in the very points which are here perhaps of primary importance, and that in these same points H. peculiarly excels. The very beauty of K.'s mind, removed as he has been from the opportunity of acquiring an enlarged experience of the minds of others, and especially of those of the common age of undergraduates, seems to diminish his fitness for the office: viewing their minds in the almost speckless mirror of his own, he not unfrequently seems to propose measures, whether of improvement or discipline, the very last which are likely to have effect upon minds of an ordinary, or of no extraordinary, stamp. I fear, too, from K.'s general character, we should have to anticipate too little of system in the manner to be pursued. H., on the contrary, joins with a very rare acuteness an uncommonly practical character, and has by his long service in the tuition very materially improved his naturally quick perception of character; and I know no one who either seizes these points so acutely, or is more successful, by a constant reference to right principle, in improving them. I can myself acknowledge with gratitude that there is no individual with whom I have been permitted to hold intimate intercourse from whom I have derived so much benefit. I may just add, that an apparent austerity, which formerly created some prejudice, against him, has partly worn away, partly been subdued, and that now he is the object of personal regard as well as of respect. As a member of the board of Heads of Houses, which we are. also electing, I can conceive no one whose practical, moderate, and unbiased views, yet not slavishly adhering to everything hereditary, would, as far as a single opinion and voice have influence, be more serviceable to the University. Though less directly, we may also take into consideration the benefit likely to accrue to the Church, by obtaining leisure for one who has a decided taste for theological enquiry, whose enquiries are characterized by the same comprehensiveness, acuteness, steadiness, and practical purpose, and likely to prove of extensive ability. I believe I need hardly say that in these statements I have every reason to believe myself free from personal bias: I am (as every one must be who is acquainted with him) extremely attached to K.; my attachment to him commenced and was much increased by circumstances which I cannot now explain: and at the time that I first formed these views, though H. had my highest esteem and respect, I individually unquestionably had more regard for K. At the time when the decision became necessary I felt (though I am now decidedly better) my health so precarious that I was not likely, then at least, to be swayed by anything but principle. Of T. I have said nothing, because I believe that with regard to him the question is already decided, as the seven votes which I know (and this is already a majority) are divided indeed between H. and K., but prefer both to T...

I may add that I suspect that the other residents entertain the same view of the relative fitness of H. and K.: D. and N. unquestionably do, and though W. and Fr. would give their first vote to K., I suspect it to be from personal attachment, and, what perhaps is more to the purpose, I understand that such of our former Fellows as are likely to be best acquainted with the matter take the same view.

I have been obliged to remove to this place for health, but am getting better, and should at all events be at the election.

Believe me, my dear Jenkyns,

                 Yours most sincerely,

                                                   E. B. PUSEY.

This was followed by a letter to the person principally concerned.


                                                               5 Eastern Terrace, Brighton, Dec. 14, 1827.

A feeling of (perhaps false) shame has prevented me hitherto from writing to you. Yet it did seem an uncalled-for, if not presumptuous, undertaking, to tell you that for the office about to be vacated I did prefer one other to yourself. Yet finding that, at least in Hawkins' case, the same has been done and kindly taken, I have resolved upon the unwelcome task for fear of a worse evil-- of having my views mistaken. It is, however, still with reluctance that I say anything. And I believe it were best to confine myself to the simple and sincere assurance that though I have thought it my duty to decide in this instance to vote for Hawkins, and to explain to some others the grounds of that vote, should the choice of the majority finally fall upon you I should anticipate from your promotion high and extensive benefits to our College. I think, indeed, in common with all, that we are singularly fortunate in having two such individuals from whom to select our Head. Were Hawkins not your competitor I should have voted, without any mixture of pain, for you against any third person, which I cannot flow, for Hawkins against you. It is difficult on this subject not to appear to say too much or too little. I will therefore only add that it is not upon any comparison of the individuals in themselves, but in relation to a peculiar office, that I have formed my decision. You will not, on' account of that decision, I am sure, think that I am less sincerely

Your affectionate and obliged

                                                                                     E. B.  PUSEY.

On January 3 Edward Pusey writes to Miss Barker:--

'This morning has brought me intelligence that would (dare I be selfish) be disappointing. There is to be no election at Oriel, Keble having withdrawn, partly as thinking Hawkins a fitter man, partly from domestic circumstances at Fairford. Any difference of opinion which there might have been is now over. There is no third to compete with Hawkins, and therefore the election, being only nominal, will not require the presence of the Fellows.'

Never in the later years of his life did Dr. Pusey refer to the decision which he took on this occasion without adding a word of self-reproach on the score of what he afterwards considered his failure to read the true significance of character. Of this feeling the most deliberate expression occurs in the sermon which he preached at the opening of Keble College Chapel on St. Mark's Day, 1876. After referring to Mr. Keble's willingness, 'had minds been one,' to accept the Provostship, and to his saying 'I should not have shrunk from it as from a Bishopric,' Dr. Pusey adds:--

'Unhappily, some of us who loved him did not know the power of his deep sympathy with the young heart, and thought another more practical. He could not bear division, so withdrew. The whole of the later history of our Church might have been changed had we been wiser: but God, through our ignorance, withdrew him, and it must have been well with him, since God so overruled it. To us it became a sorrow of our lives .'

His self-reproach on this head was not shared, at least by all his colleagues. 'I recollect,' wrote Cardinal Newman to Pusey in 1882, 'making Jenkyns laugh by saying in defence of my vote, "You know we are not electing an angel but a Provost. If we were electing an angel, I should of course vote for Keble; but the case is different."I voted, however,' he adds, 'for Hawkins, from my great affection for and admiration of him. I have never ceased to love him to this day. I certainly was sorry I had helped to elect Hawkins; but I can't say I ever wished the election undone. Without it there would have been no Movement, no Tracts, no Library of the Fathers.'

Pusey's connexion with Oriel was soon to be terminated by his marriage, which was fixed for April 17.  But he had one more duty to discharge towards the College. The last examination for Fellowships in which he took part ended on Friday, April 11th. He had expressed to Newman his dissatisfaction at the accounts which he had received of the intellectual qualities of the candidates. But there was, as the event proved, no reason for his anxiety in this regard. The result of the examination added to the Fellows' list George Anthony Denison, afterward Archdeacon of Taunton, one of the most accomplished Latinists and most vigorous champions of Church principles that Oxford has ever produced; Charles Neate, the friend of Sainte Beuve, who many years after represented the city of Oxford in Parliament; and Walter John Trower, who, as Bishop of Glasgow, lived to be in opposition to Pusey on questions which were then very remote from the minds of men. Writing to Miss Barker, Pusey describes the general result of this election as 'advancing liberal principles.'

The Oriel election being over, Pusey hastened back to town. He reached his father's house late on the evening of the day of the election--Friday, April 11th. It was now less than a week to the day fixed for his wedding. On Low Sunday, April 13th, there was a family dinner in Grosvenor Square. All Mr. Pusey's children were present, excepting Mrs. Luxmoore. Contrary to his usual habit, which was undemonstrative and taciturn, Mr. Pusey made a little speech in view of the approaching wedding. He had been ill in the winter, but his health was now, as it seemed, completely restored.

'Things,' he said, 'had lately gone very well with him; and he had much to be thankful for. Philip was very happily married; Edward was happily engaged; and he himself could wish for nothing more in this world.'

During the night that followed he died very unexpectedly from a sudden failure of the heart's action. Lady Lucy was with him; and there was just time to call her son Edward, but no other member of the family was present.

The body was taken to Pusey on Friday, the 18th, and was buried in the family vault on the following Sunday.

The eldest son went to the funeral, but Edward remained with his mother in London. He could not share 'this first sorrow,' as he called it, even with Miss Barker--at least, not at once. 'In a few days,'--so he wrote on the morning after his bereavement,--

'I trust I shall be able to think of my loved father principally, in a few more perhaps solely, as he now is--a pure, and holy, and happy spirit in the presence of his God and his Redeemer, admitted to a portion of that happiness which commenced in his holy life even here...

'·Do not think of me as bowed down by my loss. Sudden as it is, and painful the contrast with my late exultation in his apparently restored health, yet we have every source of comfort; though one must wish to have had a few last words, which one might have treasured, from him...He died, if one may dare so to say, just as he should have died. . . .Excuse these broken lines. I shall soon be happy again in his happiness.'

Each day in that week he wrote to Miss Barker. The language of sorrow is only not monotonous when it is perfectly unstudied. He is chiefly concerned about his mother. There is little about himself. Only on the 17th,--the day which had been fixed for their wedding,--does he refer to its postponement.

'Since it has been thus ordered, it is best for me... . I may mourn that the person whose lot you have consented to share is such as to require so heavy a trial, yet it will, I trust, make him more worthy of you.'

The next day he writes:--

'I feel my father nearer to me now that the earthly remains are gone to their last resting-place than when they were here. Now, whenever one thinks (and in these days, at least, one must very often think) of his and our God and Father and Saviour, one seems again united with him. All the dreary past seems a dream. . . . Could but faith entirely prevail over sight and memory, one would be quite happy, even now.'

Pusey's Ordination had been again and again postponed. In 1823 it was delayed by the consequence of his election at Oriel; in 1824 by his absorbing controversy with his unbelieving schoolfellow; in 1825 by the philological studies connected with his visit to Germany. In 1826 he was abroad, and in 1827 he was an invalid at Brighton. Now, however, it seemed that the purpose of his life might at last be realized: yet he still felt that he could not undertake the direct cure of souls. He would work for souls, but indirectly, by removing, through literary labour, difficulties in the way of faith: this would satisfy his Ordination. vow and enable him to engage in the occupations for which he believed that God had designed him. When in Germany even he wrote to Newman, 'The cure of souls I dare not undertake.' Moreover, he shrank from being 'paid' for such work. He looked upon his ordination at this date mainly as furnishing a consecration of learning, by keeping before him the one sacred object which secures for learning its true dignity. Yet he was not without other thoughts.

'I at times look with regret at the active professional labours, the direct winning souls to Christ, which is the crown of all theology, and which I have for the time abandoned.'

He remained with his mother in London until the beginning of May. Then he returned to Oxford and read for his Ordination. With the change of scene and resumption of work his spirits revived. He walked out daily, generally on Foxcombe Hill: he had, as he wrote, recovered his elasticity, and could appreciate the beauty of the scene and the blue hyacinths in the copse between Foxcombe and Cumnor.

His days were now spent in the study of theology. St. John's Gospel he found 'permanently tranquillizing to his mind' after his recent sorrow. The standard of knowledge required of candidates for Ordination seventy years ago was not a high one, even in the diocese of Oxford. Pusey almost thought that he need not have read for it. 'It was over,' he tells Miss Barker, 'on Wednesday, and turned out to be one which I could have answered as well eight years 'ago.' He was ordained deacon at Christ Church on Trinity Sunday, June 1, 1828, by Bishop Lloyd. Two days afterwards he describes his impressions: --

'Sunday was a very solemn day. It would have been so anywhere. But The ordination taking place in the part of the Cathedral which I used to frequent for four years, and in which I had not now been for five, brought a tide of recollections of former life--a strong comparison of myself with my former self. Yet it had been in itself one of the most solemn days of life. However one had before purposed to devote one's best powers to the glory of God and the good of "the Church which Christ purchased with His own Blood,"one had not, by any open act, pledged oneself to it. One seemed more a free agent, a volunteer who had still liberty (though there was no possibility of the wish) to employ himself in any other way.

'It is now otherwise. If I do not now dedicate all my strength to it, if I do not exert every power to purify my heart and improve my mind, as may most tend to advance His kingdom, I shall have broken my faith solemnly pledged--be a deserter, a renegade, a worse than slothful servant. I cannot now in anything offend without producing a proportionate offence in others. If the ministers of the Church, which still ought to be the salt of the earth, lack saltness, there is no external means by which they can recover it. They are fit only to be cast out. Yet these thoughts, though solemn, are not depressing. With every fresh responsibility fresh strength is given.'

On the day of his Ordination, he said the evening service in the parish church of St. Mary the Virgin, which since the preceding February had been held by his friend Newman. On the following Sunday he assisted Mr. Newman at the altar by administering the chalice. On the preceding day he had written to Miss Barker:--

'I am in a few hours going to assist for the first time in administering the Communion. . . . The person whom I am going to assist is a very valued and dear friend, with whom I should most wish to be joined in this holy office.'

At length the many anxious years of waiting were at an end, and Edward Pusey was married to Miss Barker at St. Mary's, Bryanstone Square, by his friend R. W. Jelf, on June 12th. The wedding tour lasted three months. They visited Derbyshire and then passed to the Lake district, calling on Mrs. Southey and Mrs. Coleridge. They explored a large portion of the Western Highlands and some of the Hebrides. On their return journey, after a narrow escape from being drowned in the Tweed, they spent two days with Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford; and a day or two more at Rokeby Castle, the home of Miss Morritt, to whom Pusey had been introduced at Brighton as 'Walter Scott's Minna.'

On September 4th they reached Badger Hall, Shropshire. Badger Church is memorable as the building in which on September 7th, 1828, Pusey preached his first sermon. His text was Heb. xii. 14: 'Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.' The sermon, after the fashion of those days, was preached again elsewhere: at Cuddesdon at the end of October 1828, and at Tytherly in 1832. It contains many additions in a later handwriting, and many erasures, as though the preacher had endeavoured in after years to adapt it to his later and fuller thoughts, and had at last abandoned the attempt. But it is marked by the characteristics which belonged to his sermons to the last, intensity of moral purpose, reiteration, exhaustiveness, manifest determination to make his hearers understand the importance of the point he was enforcing, and a complete indifference to method and rhetorical effect. It is remarkable that the first of Mr. Newman's published Parochial Sermons is on the same text and subject. The movement in which they both took so leading a part was, before all things, a call to 'holiness.' Of this sermon and visit an interesting account is given by Mrs. Pusey's cousin, Miss Boddington, who was living at Badger Hall:--

'Edward Pusey was extremely kind to me: his affection for his wife is quite unbounded, his amiability and kindness to every one is very pleasing, but not more than might well be expected from one so deeply imbued with the spirit of Christ's religion. He went about with us into all the cottages and shook hands with all the old people, saying as they were acquaintances of Maria's they ought to be of his, and having a word of advice or comfort for every one: he gave wonderful satisfaction to all the neighbourhood, but above all to me, by preaching his first sermon in this church. It was a most truly excellent and beautiful discourse on the words, "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." I seldom hear the sermon at all, and if I do, you know how little it is worth hearing; it therefore was a bright spot in a barren waste, and its coming from one in whom from his relation to my very dear friend I was so deeply interested, made it the more impressive.. I was quite overcome, but mine were not the only tears shed. Mrs. Dorothea Whitmore came over to hear him, and her Expectations were wonderfully surpassed: she said she had nearly been deterred from coming by a showery morning, but could she have foreseen what she was to have heard no weather, however bad, would have made her hesitate. If you like, I can read it to you when we meet, for I took a copy, though it is very true that a sermon read is nothing in comparison to a sermon preached; the words from the pulpit fall with tenfold weight upon the heart. He is entirely engrossed with the subject of Divinity, and, unless upon that point, is a silent man: he listens and makes great observation on character, and always leans to the most amiable side in his judgement; but he is not by. the generality thought agreeable--Tom and Reginald think him very stupid.'

From Badger Hall they journeyed to Oxford, where they arrived on September 12th, 'exactly three calendar months from the day on which we left London.' They were welcomed at the Bishop of Oxford's house in Christ Church Quadrangle for a lengthy visit.



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